Real EstateCentral America

Costa Rica Real Estate Guide: Foreign Buyer Purchasing 101

Anyone can buy real estate in Costa Rica with only a few restrictions placed on foreigners that don’t apply to the average vacation home buyer. By following our guide to buying property in Costa Rica, you can learn all the ins and outs of the real estate process here. As you gain more knowledge, you can better assess the options available to you and make a wise decision on your final purchase.

Foreigner Purchase

Costa Rica is a very welcoming and friendly country where non-residents can enjoy almost all the same rights as natural-born citizens, other than the right to vote.

The real estate sector in Costa Rica is currently experiencing a high degree of growth, and it’s mainly due to increased foreign investment.

For those looking to invest, all buyers have the same right to purchase and sell property with two exceptions

  1. Foreigners cannot own more than 49% of concession land located with the Maritime Zone. There are, however, some legal workarounds where concessions can be 100% owned by proxy.
  2. Foreigners cannot own any INDER (formerly IDA) property that was donated to poor farmers within the first 15 years of ownership.

Titled Property

Almost all property for sale in Costa Rica is found on titled land, although there is a very small amount of untitled land. This is a reference to land where the people who live on it and have possession, but where no title rights exist.

Squatters, on the other hand, can request title ownership after 10 years. Once they’re granted title, they have full rights to sell.

High-Tide Line

Any property located within 50 meters of the high tide line is considered public and protected. Nothing can be built on this land, not even by natural citizens.

Maritime Zone

Any property located within 150 meters adjacent to the high-tide line (200 m total) is considered to be part of the Maritime Zone (ZMT/Zona Maritima). There is very little titled property within this zone throughout Costa Rica, and it is mostly all concession land managed by the local municipality.

Non-citizens can own only up to 49% of the concession within the ZMT. You can, however, do some legal maneuvering via ownership proxy to secure the full 100%.

Concession Land

No matter where you want to purchase concession land, the local municipality will have property records that your attorney will check during their due diligence process.

Agricultural Land

Any land that was donated to the farmer through INDER (formerly IDA) cannot be sold until after 15 years of ownership.

Title Insurance

While it is available through a few companies, purchasing title insurance is not a requirement for property purchases in Costa Rica, nor is it a common practice.

The due diligence that real estate lawyers are required to perform here in Costa Rica makes title insurance somewhat redundant. But when foreigners started requesting title insurance, some options started appearing to fill the vacuum. Do note that many of these new Costa Rica title insurance companies come and go, or change names, and there are no long-standing options at present worth recommending.