Home vs Land-Which Costa Rica Real Estate Purchase Is Right For You

By Casey | Buying Real Estate In Costa Rica

The time has finally come—you’re ready to find your dream Costa Rica real estate opportunity! Maybe you’ve always imagined sweeping ocean views and year-round sunsets from the luxury of your private infinity pool. Or perhaps it’s a home surrounded by lush jungle, where toucans replace alarm clocks and howler monkeys traipse by on the regular.

Whatever your perfect Costa Rica vacation home looks like, a likely next question is:

Do I buy an existing home in Costa Rica, or do I find land and build my ideal home from the ground up, exactly the way I want it?

Home vs Land What To Buy In Costa Rica

We’ll be honest—it’s not an easy question to answer! While most Costa Rica real estate agents will warn against building a home in Costa Rica, we’ve had many clients who enjoyed the experience immensely. Of course, there are also our clients who thought they might build and are incredibly grateful they instead opted to buy one of the luxurious homes already for sale in our Costa Ballena region.

So what’s an eager prospective homeowner in Costa Rica to do?

Inform yourself of all the pros and cons of building in Costa Rica.

Our go-to mantra is “an educated buyer is a happy buyer.”
There are advantages to building your dreamy tropical home in Costa Rica, but it’s certainly a process that’s not for everyone. The only way to know if it’s for you? Do your homework. Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get started.

The Pros And Cons Of Building A House In Costa Rica

Since buying an existing house is a little more straightforward, let’s start with the pros and cons of building a house in Costa Rica.
Dominical Point building lot

The Pros Of Building A House In Costa Rica

1. Personalization

One of the top benefits of building your home—and likely the primary reason you’re considering this avenue—is personalization. Maybe you’ve already had a look at the Costa Rica real estate market, and you’re just not finding the perfect match within your budget. Or perhaps you’ve always imagined something quite specific in your dream vacation home, and this is your opportunity to see it to fruition. Whatever the case, purchasing land for sale in Costa Rica is an incredible opportunity to get your creative juices flowing and build your picture-perfect sanctuary.

2. Possibility to save money

In some cases, you can save money by building instead of buying a house in Costa Rica. We say in some cases because, well, a lot could also go wrong that ends up costing you way more than initially expected. (More on this in the cons below.) But with proper planning + due diligence, the right architect, and a good build team, it is possible to build an incredible home for less than the listing price of some similar properties.

3. You control the quality

If you’re involved in the building process, then you’ll have control over the quality of the materials used in your new home. Assuming you’ve done your due diligence on your building team, then that means less expensive repairs and other surprises down the road.
Building A Home In Costa Rica Cons

The Cons Of Building A House In Costa Rica

1. You need to ask a lot of questions

We cannot stress how important it is to do your homework before purchasing a lot for sale in Costa Rica. Does the property have legal water? Is there year-round access to the property? Does public infrastructure exist? What about building requirements? Zoning laws are almost non-existent in Latin America—how do you know your neighbor won’t decide to start a farm?

These are just a handful of the questions you must ask before purchasing land in Costa Rica. For a deep dive into all you need to know before buying property in Costa Rica (including pre-existing houses), we highly recommend downloading our FREE Buyer’s Guide.

Download our FREE Buyer’s Guide and get access to over 50 pages of information on purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. 

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2. It’s a lot of effort

You’ve done your research on the epic piece of land you found. Now comes the fun part—designing and building your dream home! This part of the process truly can be enjoyable if you have the right mindset and team supporting you.
Know that you’re building a home in the jungle, likely far removed from Home Depot, Amazon, and other conveniences to which you’re accustomed. Finding the right furniture or appliances might require driving all over the country, and high-end finishings are much more expensive than back home. Many opt to ship a container to Costa Rica to save money on electronics and ceiling fans, but this is another step that adds to the time and stress of building.
Remember that you’re also building a home in the tropics. It pays big rewards to use a trusted local architect who can take the local elements into consideration. Will the breeze travel through the house to cool things off? Will the rain soak through your outdoor living area every afternoon? Sure, that sunset is gorgeous, but does that mean the sun will be glaring through your kitchen every evening while you’re trying to prepare dinner? What about mold and rust? An expert developer or architect can help you navigate all this and more.

3. It’s a lot of time

Everything in Costa Rica moves a bit slower. It’s best to embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle in all its aspects and know that building your home will take at least a year. Many builders like to make big promises—don’t be surprised if your actual timeline is much slower (and pricier) than your initial quote. (Selecting a developer with a proven track record of delivering on promises with built quality homes and thriving communities is one way to mitigate this!)
Consider your timeline for moving to Costa Rica. Even if you don’t plan to move to Costa Rica for a few years, you could be renting out your home and earning passive income instead of juggling building headaches. Each month your build drags on is another delay in the Costa Rica lifestyle you imagined.

The Pros And Cons of Buying An Existing House For Sale In Costa Rica

We touched on the many pros of buying an existing home in Costa Rica above, but let’s briefly run through the benefits and drawbacks of house hunting.
Pros To Purchasing A Home In Costa Rica

The Pros Of Buying An Existing House In Costa Rica

1. Move-in ready

Barring massive renovations, your vacation home in Costa Rica is move-in ready. Even if you’re not prepared to come to Costa Rica at this moment, you can immediately rent your home for additional income.

2. You know exactly what you’re getting

We’ve got another saying we love around here:
“You get what you inspect, not what you expect.”
You’ll still want to take the time to perform due diligence on the home and property, of course, but there’s no imagining what you’re getting. And if you are equipped with our Costa Rica Buyer’s Guide, you’ll know what questions to ask, so you need only inspect for the concrete answers already available to you.
This goes for pricing as well. No surprise expenses from your builder means you could end up saving money on buying a home rather than building from the ground up. And if you’re looking for financing opportunities in Costa Rica, a pre-existing home could be your best bet.

3. Feel confident in your investment

Buying real estate in a foreign country can be scary. Mitigate risk when you buy what you see—especially when you know and understand the purchasing process in Costa Rica.

Cons To Buying A Home In Costa Rica

The Cons Of Buying An Existing House In Costa Rica

1. Less opportunity for customization

If you can’t find precisely what you’re looking for on the market, then the only option is to build it, right? We get it. If you can’t renovate or find something close enough to what you want, building might be the only way to achieve your unique Costa Rica vacation home.

2. Older homes require more work

Following our due diligence protocols, you’ll know exactly what conditions you’re getting when purchasing your house. But if it is a place older than five years, that could mean maintenance projects or significant renovations.

3. Less opportunity for larger-scale projects

Are you dreaming of building a yoga retreat center, a boutique hotel, or an off-grid eco development? In these cases, of course you’ll be searching for the right land for investment opportunities. This is something we have ample experience with and we are happy to assist you.

To Tie It All Up In A Pretty Red Bow

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want to buy or build in Costa Rica. The non-negotiable is to fully educate yourself on the right questions to ask before purchasing anything. Download our free Buyer’s Guide, so you know what questions to start asking. Better yet, get in touch with us today so we can guide you through the process ourselves. We’ve been helping people just like you find the right property in Costa Rica for over 40 years, and it would be our honor to support you, too!
We were born out of a passion for helping people enhance their quality of life by achieving their real estate dreams in Costa Rica.

Download our FREE Buyer’s Guide and get access to over 50 pages of information on purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. 

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It would be our honor to help you find the perfect Costa Rica real estate opportunity that matches your lifestyle and interests. Use the contact form below to ask us any questions or to get started on your real estate in Costa Rica journey!

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Thinking about buying property in Costa Rica, but not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed and wondering what information is trustworthy and accurate?

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