Buying a Farm or Property in Costa Rica? Things to Think About

Things to think about before you buy a farm in Costa Rica

Not everyone comes to Costa Rica with a pension, finds an awesome condo right over the sunset studded Pacific Ocean and lives happily ever after. Some people seek out a different lifestyle all together. Some people choose Costa Rica for the cheap farm land, year round harvest and abundance of wildlife. I am writing this based on our own experience or experiences of people we know.

Which Farm to Buy?

My advice is to know yourself and your habits. For example, I can be easily distracted socially. To change from a city girl to a farm hand I needed to be far away from other expats. If we lived in a little beach town that had all the things I love within walking distance, I could easily find myself ordering dinner and having drinks with friends, EVERY NIGHT. It would be easy to slip into old ways and spend all of our money on experiences and good conversation. As much as I would love this, it doesn’t fit into our master plan of living frugally and off the land.

When looking at a farm, does the terrain have problems with erosion, nutrient loss or has it been compacted by cattle for the last 25 years. This is important! The weight of cows over time can ruin perfectly good soil. So if the farm doesn’t have really tall overgrown plant life, chances are cows are keeping it clear and you can plan on working the soil for the next 3 years before anything good will grow.

Brown White Calf

This little baby loves your carefully planted flowers

Where is your water coming from? Sure, it’s a great source but are you downhill from a mono-culture farm. There are a lot here. It took a whole bunch of people getting sick before people in Pocora, Limon realized that the pineapple plantation had ruined the towns water supply by putting chemical- laden waste into the ground. The company ended up paying for a new source but that was after they were forced to do so, at first they denied the claim. We use a spring that comes down in a plastic tube about a kilometer long from up in the mountain. It’s a very clean and reliable source but when we have downpours and our filter bobbles and fills our line with air, it is us who have to travel through the dense jungle (in the middle of the downpour) to submerse the filter once again. When I say us I mean Barry.

This Farm is SO Beautiful

There are many “unimproved” lots available here. You must be able to afford it. If there is one farm available in the area there are 50. Do not feel like the property that you are looking at is a once in a lifetime great deal. However, we did get an awesome price on an awesome farm that has everything we want.

At first, it’s SO beautiful. You are wearing your rose colored glasses. It’s because you are not responsible for taking care of it yet! Make a list of the care this farm will need. Do you know that the land in Costa Rica has  a lot of rocks? Unless you clear all the rocks off by hand you can not use a riding mower to clean it. You must use an industrial weed whacker or you could opt for horses, cows or goats but then you will not have any if the pretty flowers that made this place so attractive to you in the first place. A farm here is a commitment in time and physical labor. This picture shows what I wear when I cut our grass.

Using weed whacker on Farm

We chose DIY instead of farm hands

Road Access and Access to Utilities

If you are from the U.S. you know that the seller of a piece of land would have to tell you that your farm was land-locked and there was no available public road access. You would be told if there is no available electricity, septic, etc., all before the sale. Not here, you can buy a lovely 50 hectare mountain top and have no way to get the necessary utilities or road access. We know some people that are in that exact situation. They “trusted” the seller with a crap load of their money to buy their dream farm, site unseen. They are currently looking into hydro-electric and solar but still can’t drive on to their farm. You might think “I would never do that” but for some reason this place puts a crazy spell on many people.

Farm in Siquirres

Turrialba Volcano on a clear day

New Road to Farm

Building an Access Road

Your must-have farm may need a a $5000+ bridge to get to on to it. This happened to us. We have a lot of road frontage but it is on the other side of the creek. When we bought we were assured by the current owner (car-free) that “by law” we should have land access to the public road. We should have asked a lawyer instead of taking the guys word for it. Later after we bought, we learned that the guy who had the property next to us, along the public road, wanted $8000 for less than the 1/4 acre of land that we needed for access. We opted for the cheap route and to drive through the creek. We can’t leave the farm a few times a year when the river gets really high. This has actually turned in to a benefit for us. Barry has a moat around his house like he always wanted and the Jehovah’s Witnesses have to leave the pamphlet at the gate because they don’t want to get their dress shoes wet.

So the next question is, what kind of gate does your property have? A gate is essential in keeping unknown vehicles off your land, without a lockable gate all of your stuff can be loaded up and taken away. That leads to the next question, does the fence encompass the entire farm and does it need immediate maintenance? If some of these things are missing you must factor that into your initial costs.

Neighbors

No matter how big your farm is you will have neighbors. In fact, your neighbors will play a crucial role in your new life. These people know what and when to plant, they know which offices to go to for what and they can find you peons to help with projects when the need arises. In hard times, they will bring you food and if you are a good neighbor you will help someone with English. These will be the people (just like in your current neighborhood) you wave at when you leave, that know when your house is alone, invite you to baby showers and fight with you over property lines. You, more than likely, will not have your entire family down here so these people become your closest support system.

There is no way to properly test all your neighbors before buying your farm but you can visit every single one. Ask them what they know about the farm you are looking to purchase, who lived there before, etc, etc.

These are our closest neighbors Don Israel and Dona Virginia and I at their New Years Eve party last year. The video is here.

Neighbors in San Miguel

Ticos & Gringos can get along

I have a lot more that I could say about buying a farm in Costa Rica and I may in a future post.

You might also be interested in the Value of $4.50 in 2012.

 

15 comments on “Buying a Farm or Property in Costa Rica? Things to Think About”

  1. A member of our global community of fellow humans Reply

    I’m just stunned at your “neighbors can help find peons” comment. Wow, that’s what you think of the locals, peons to do your bidding? Who exactly are you that you consider another human a peon? I’m sure the locals are thrilled you’ve invaded their home, I hope the peons rob you, elitist scum.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Dearest Loyal Reader,
      Costa Rica commonly uses the word peon for un-skilled labor. There are you more comfortable that I said un-skilled labor. The word peon is specifically used in the Costa Rican labor code. When I go to pay insurance in the Social Security database for each worker I click on ‘Peon de Construccion’. Look it up and then when you realize that you are passing judgement without clear understanding I will be open to an apology. Here is a direct link to the schedule of minimum wages for CR employees, scroll down until you see ‘Peon de xxxxxx’ there are several. http://www.crtrabajos.com/salarios-minimos.php

      Wishing you the best – Kim

      • Don Reply

        “Right On Kim” to many times people that don’t know the language, terms and culture make silly assumptions. I’m stepping out but assuming they like to read print?

  2. Vince Reply

    Well the Hire Act potentially could have interference into all of our lives. I do not have more details at this time, however I am in business here in Florida and have definitely had more government interference in the last several years from bureaucrats just looking for anything they can find so they can justify their jobs. my opinion on the way these government regulations are in reality was told to me by a bureaucrat inspector who I befriended . He confided in me that the regulations are written in such a broad way that they are purposely designed to get the individual on a number of broken rules very easily, but only if they choose to. Here in business the stress is heightened when a new bureaucrat opens your door and ask you to prove all of his questions. So, I wonder where this Hire Act will settle so we even know what it means. I think there are many folks like me who love our country but we are exasperated walking on crocodile backs just to advance a little.

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Vince – Just this morning I read an article that stated that the US Senate just approved a 5 year extention to collect the e-mails, phone calls, etc. of expats. For what reason, I don’t know. It means that I can place a call here within Costa Rica and they can record and file it. Why the US taxpayer is paying for records of my telephone calls is beyond my comprehension.

      • Vince Reply

        Yes, our privacy is the only thing we had left and now that is taken away. It’s so sad to see our beautiful country divide and strong arm it’s citizens.So many folks are in denile and simply ignore the chipping away of freedoms, thinking it won’t effect them…. But power spawns abuse . Here in my area local governments were caught shortening the computer times of green lights so more tickets were given out. So our goals should be to get the info out here so more people are aware as a low information person can’t understand the concept of taking away rights incrementally. Having said that I’m still always optimistic as ultimately we are all responsible for our own happiness.

  3. Joseph Reply

    Wow. Excellent things to consider when buying a property. Thanks, Kim. I didn’t know that having cows on the land would hurt it. I thought it would help because of the manure fertilizing everything. Tamping down the ground would definitely prevent plants from sprouting up.

    I am saving up and plan to visit Costa Rica to see if this is where I want to move my family. I enjoy your blog and all the valuable info and beautiful photos you provide.

    The Hire Act is something I will look into. I didn’t know about it. Thanks for shedding some light on it.

  4. Pingback: House Building Costa Rica Road & Septic Cost | 10 Degrees Above

  5. busco trabajo en costa rica Reply

    Excelent post Kimberly. I’m biulding right now a house in Tamrindo’s beach and the materials are really cheap in comparison with the U.S. I love Costa Rica’s people, food, beaches, etc.

  6. Kim Deprenger Reply

    Kim and Barry,
    I read all of your blogs. I really liked this one. I am interested in politics and how things run in a country.

    Kim in Ethiopia

  7. Cindy Reply

    Wow, you are so brave! I’d be at the nearest ex-pat community having a drink:-) Seriously, good advice, for anyone contemplating such an adventure/authentic way of life!

  8. Vince Reply

    Just had to tell you how much I love your advice and your photos. It is such a great education for me. I want to move in about 5 years but I have concerns about the Hire Act that wants to tax expats at very high rates. Do u know anything about this or know anyone that has researched it?
    Thanks so much, Vince

    • Kimberly Beck Reply

      Vince – Thanks for the kind words. I have asked my bank in the States about the HIRE act. So far, what I can tell is that for international wire transfers the bank is required to hold 30% of the total transfer amount in order to make sure that the money has been properly taxed. I, of course, asked my bank why they should be responsible for my taxes. They said they didn’t know but they had to implement this by Jan. 2013. I then asked “How does one prove that your money has already been taxed”? They also did not know the answer to this. They ASSURED me though that even though they would hold back 30% of my income I could file with the IRS to get it returned by the END of that calendar year! So they don’t know anything about the program but the IRS should be able to help me. You have obviously hit on a very important subject and one that I am spitting mad about. It’s a good thing that I can walk the farm to calm me down this morning : ). I will post more when I know and if you have any additional information please post. Holding 30% of our money could extinguish our flame.

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