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Real Estate Prices Rise

By Robert Goodier - Tico Times Staff

The country is in the midst of a real estate boom and experiencing the effects of a maturing influx of construction projects and foreign investment. Though real figures are hard to come by in each region, a spot check with realtors revealed prices have risen around the country over the past year by as much as 20% or more, and buying trends are shifting to previously less sought-after regions, both because of a simple lack of availability in some areas and as a reaction to soaring prices.

Guanacaste
There is a movement away from the beachfront in the northwestern province of Guanacaste because most of the land has been bought and is not for sale. What is available is astronomically priced compared to nearby lots several street blocks from the beach.
Ron Douglas, owner of Surfside Properties (www.surfsidepropertiescostarica.com, 654-5567) near Playa Flamingo, on the northern Pacific coast, estimated the average price for a lot at $100 per square meter.
“ There’s a major difference between title property and concession property,” Douglas said. “Your average lot value is $550,000 (for 1,000 square meters) if you can find one that’s titled.”
Property titles and concessions are amongst the greatest issues plaguing real estate purchases, especially in the rural and coastal areas away from the seat of national government. Zoning plans have not been made for much of the country, and the strip of coastal land 50-200 meters inland from the high-tide mark cannot be owned; it must be “borrowed” in a sense, through a concession. Without zoning plans, however, neither titles nor concessions are granted. The titling and concessions process is slow and bungled by bureaucracy and a lack of government funds, which sometimes leads prospective owners to pay for the zoning plans themselves. Lots in Tamarindo, south of Flamingo, go for $950,000, Douglas said, “if you can find one.”
That “if” is his caveat for most beach front properties.“ Flamingo has no beachfront lots available, just condos at the back end,” he said. This, combined wit the scarcity in the midst of such high demand, has led to major subdivisions, such as hillside ocean-view lots, springing up to fill the void.
“ It concerns me, the number of subdivisions coming in,” Douglas said. “That might undermine the value of the existing ocean-view lots. I would recommend not investing in an ocean-view lot,” unless the purchase is not an investment, but something for the buyer to enjoy, he added.
Lately, he said, more buyers are in this category, meaning fewer buyers are speculators. He estimates the shift has been from 75% speculation a year and a half ago to 50% now. This clientele is bolstered by retiring U.S. citizens who shy away from the high prices in Hawaii and hurricane danger in the Caribbean.
“ People are looking to invest now and relocate when they sell out of where they are in North America,” he said, “There is a big demand for condos – There are zero available in surfside, for example (because they are sold out).”
Off-the-beach two-bedroom condominiums cost about $175,000-250,000, and beachfront condos run from $475,000.
Buyers are primarily from the United States, predominately from California and Florida, judging by who looks at Douglas’ offerings online. He estimates the demand is 85-90% North America.

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Hunting for Affordable Homes in Guanacaste
By María Gabriela Díaz - Tico Times Staff

The northwest province of Guanacaste has been highly coveted for its endless pastures, spectacular beaches and orange sunsets. These days investors of all nationalities want a piece of the pie – and the pie is not cheap.
Over the past two to three years, property in Guanacaste has soared. According to Scott MacDougall, owner of Century 21 at the Beach in Playa Hermosa (672-0273, c21@discovercostarica.com), on the northern Pacific coast, ocean-view lots in Hermosa ranged from $85,000-115,000 in 2003. Today, the same properties are valued at $255,000-400,000.
“ (Guanacaste) property value has increased with a decent consistency in the past two years; it’s directly related to the Liberia international airport,” MacDougall said, referring to Daniel Oduber International Airport, which started receiving international flights in December 2002 (TT, Dec. 6, 2002).
The opening of the luxurious Four Seasons Resort at Peninsula Papagayo in January 2004 also “helped to bring in a different clientele,” added MacDougall, who has 13 years of experience in the real estate business.


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