It’s easier than you think to build your dream home in Costa Rica
For so many would-be expatriates, the allure of daily life in lushly exotic Costa Rica beckons like a fairytale. Dreams of building your perfect house near the beach are exciting and it’s actually fairly easy, but you shouldn’t gloss over the challenges.
As with new construction anywhere, you need a reputable architect, reliable contractor and expert legal advice. Ask your Realtor, as well as ex pat neighbors who have built homes, for their recommendations. Building any home is rife with pitfalls, delays and surprises. With the right support when the inevitable occurs, you’ll have the resources at hand to help you to deal with the problems.
Hopefully you already have clear ideas about the size and quality of your new home and you have some opinions about layout and design.
Communication is key: take your time selecting an architect; discuss the layout and features you want, look at other homes he or she has designed, and check references. Consider hiring a supervising architect, who will submit plans, obtain permits (wildly important), do the paper work (including the legally required on-site log), and work closely with the builder. Often your architect will recommend a building contractor he’s used to working with, which is fine but your due diligence should be as thorough with the builder as it was with the architect.
Above all before the architect puts pen to paper or the builder hammers the first nail, be sure to have a firm agreement on fees, fixed costs, allowances and payment schedule. That means you’ve reviewed and approved the builder’s quotes for labor and materials. You, not the builder, pay ICE, CNFL, AyA, and other utility providers directly for any costs incurred to supply service to your house. Be sure to iron out the details of change orders, punch lists and payment milestones. Get it all in writing, and hire an attorney to advise you and draw up the contract agreements.
A word about security: be sure to have and use a secure location to keep building materials and tools under lock and key when no one is on-site.
Finally, plan to visit the building site daily or to have someone you trust implicitly do that for you. While daily site visits from the homeowner might drive a U.S. contractor insane, in Costa Rica it’s good practice and quite normal. It helps to avoid extensive delays when problems do crop up and misunderstandings arise about exactly where that skylight should have gone.
Things work differently in Costa Rica and move more slowly. You’ll need to relax your expectations. You’re not building on your home turf; you’re building in Costa Rica where the culture and ways of doing business are different. If you consider construction as an adventure-in-living instead of a race to the finish, you’ll experience less stress, fewer frustrations, and you’ll minimize delays.
Building your dream home in paradise is totally doable with the right team in place and there are a number of beautiful, prime ocean and forest view lots just waiting for the right person to come along and make them home. Reach out to your real estate team at HRG; they can point you in the right direction.