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Everything posted by Marsrox

  1. May clear skies rule the night. Look west towards the horizon between 6:16 -6:45 pm. Support efforts to avoid light pollution. Street lights can be shielded to point down and not spray light into the skies above. https://www.space.com/21485-moon-venus-mercury-configuration.html Marsrox
  2. For the next couple of weeks, go out in cloudless skies fifteen minutes after sunset, and for the next forty-five minutes look west and just above the horizon to view a rare event. The bright object is the planet Venus. At 'one o'clock', two-fingers thickness at arm's length to the right, the dimmer object is planet Mercury, the planet closest to the sun at 88 million miles. 99% of the human race has never purposely viewed Mercury as it rarely gets very far from the horizon. For people living away from the equator with longer twilight, it is lost in the glow. Get out the glass and binoculars will reveal two round objects, not point-of-light stars. Venus may have a slight yellow tint. Mercury is waning like our moon and is slowing shrinking to less than full. For the best of reasons this is the rarest of events, only duplicated by total solar eclipes. As you look west, place yourself in time and spce. You are standing on the Earth near a north-south line where you are slipping into darkness as the planet rotates. Imagine the proximate location of the sun below the hoizon. Earth, Venus and Mercury are lined up. Earth-size Venus is obviously closer than moon-size Mercury and it is easy to imagine this moment their curving orbit around the sun. It's not a flat two-dimesional sky for you now. That's the point. It's a a three dimensional sky. Earth, Venus and Mercury are chasing each other in their orbits. Watch night-to-night and their positions will change amplifying the effect. You might not know that both Venus and Mercury show phases similar to our moon. But wait! There's more!! At sunset, March 18, our moon will be seen in between the two. Although a lifelong sky-watcher that subscribes to Astronomy, I am unaware of the last time this all lined up for we viewers on Earth. While I suspect this event will be also noted on news Internet sites the event day, I will remind every one March 18. Do. Not. Miss. Marsrox
  3. Dear E2: It has very much to do with LIVING (caps are yours) here because it relates the maximum amount that US govt employees can be reimbursed as they travel around the country or while residing here on assignment short term. It is not meant to describe the allowance for long term rental housing which would be covered elsewhere in an 'employment contract' and subject to that employees job position, length of service and whether a rural or urban work site. I am suggesting that it allows a person pondering foreign retirement to review the relative cost-of-living in various countries and use these published allowances to compare them with every other country in the world. I'll oblige you with an example. If 'lodging' has a max payment of $147 here and $109 for three meals/day but $87 in Managua for a hotel and only $65/day for food it seems obvious that one can gain some reasonable baseline perspective of the cost-of-living between the two countries. My conclusion from a study of the data for Costa Rica v favored alternative 'retirement options' like Ecuador and Panama showed that CR was in line and not excessive as claimed by some. According to their website, rooms are advertised for $73 - $199 depending upon which of 7 Marriott locations you select in Costa Rica.
  4. Since it seems one cannot copy and paste certain links (?) because of the way this site is formatted, for the benefit of those interested in the cost of living comparisons based on US State Department employee per diems, I'll type the link as it appears. Please delete the spaces meant to keep it from looking like a link. Don't forget the periods! http:// aoprals. state.gov /web920/per _diem_ actionasp? menuhide= 1&countrycode =1048
  5. I clicked on the link this moment and there's the State Dept page as expected. I have Norton installed and received no warning. Perhaps if this topic interests you, go directly to the State Department website and search 'per diems'. Marsrox
  6. The US State Dept publishes a per diem for their employees in-country and thus is an excellent way to compare what it may cost to live in selected countries. Flip around their website to view comparisons. https://aoprals.state.gov/web920/per_diem_action.asp?MenuHide=1&CountryCode=1048 MARSROX
  7. induna has presented an clear, solid and factual academic description of the past, present and future state of the colon currency exchange v the US$1. I hope that readers will make the effort to gain from his insights and honor his contribution by reviewing this fine work. This type of exchange is why I read the ARCR Forum. Together, our joint experiences and knowledge can help us make our lives here better. In the interim since I posted yesterday, I wondered if there were formulas/calculations that could be made to attempt to forecast currency velocity changes and their direction by inputting directional movements of a country's economic variables. Nope, not on my abacus, there are too many unknown variables. But I did find this excellent site which really opened my eyes about this country, and I site I will now reference monthly. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/costa-rica/balance-of-trade induna has done well trying to predict the future, apparently his crystal ball isn't suffering the cataracts mine seems to have. The initial take away from the data revealed at the above link, and I went down the list one economic stat after another while comparing the data with countries of comparable developing nation populations, suggests that whatever forces are presently levitating the colon are having their heads twisted back by the headwinds. Nearly every economic data point points to a weak and getting weaker colon. - Unemployment is expected to rise from around 9% to 10.5% by the end of the year. - CR has its lowest growth rate since 2009. - CR's competitive business ranking v the worlds country's has fallen since 2008. - CR'S 'corruption index' v other country's has risen for years and is now at its all-time high. - External debt (as noted by induna) is at its highest % of GDP. The most crucial support of a strong currency is to have a positive 'balance of payments' and YOY (year over year) exports are down -22.2%, imports are down -10.8%, making for an August, 2015 balance of payment deficit of -$538 million/yr compared to a historic average of -$243 million/yr, even with the drop in the price of oil. Should the US Fed raise interest rates, even +0.25% would represent a serious challenge to CR's weakening economy. One can wonder now if some tipping point would be reached. Most alarming was that Costa Rica in August- though having a +2.90% YOY 'food inflation' rate- has a negative growth rate of -0.74%!!! Costa Rica has a deflationary environment at the moment. This is alarming should it continue. Deflation feeds on itself and is the most difficult economic cycle to break. Public consumption behavior in an deflationary environment means "I'll wait to buy it tomorrow when it is less expensive." The economy shrinks. This is evident already from the slowing purchase of imported goods reflected in the index (see link). For the purpose of this thread, consider that if people slow purchases, sales tax revenues to the govt shrink. The govt already can't pay their bills. Will this lead to forced govt budget frugality? Will the govt cut pensions? Shrink the bureaucratic workforce? Cut services like the police? On this bucolic Sunday afternoon I'll leave everyone to ponder the result of these possibilities. Marsrox
  8. "I would just like to make one factual observation with respect to the value of the Colón. Virtually all of the central bank's interventions have been to prop up the value of the dollar, not the Colón. Without intervention the tipo de cambio would be lower than it is now, not higher." Induna was kind enough to provide a link (see his contribution) to an article in La Nacion that included a chart of the recent currency interventions by the CR Central bank. I had not seen this and it was the opposite of what I would have expected. All actions were to to apparently to buy dollars by selling the colon thus weakening the colon. Astounding. I set out the case yesterday that the govt seems anti-business and borrows 46% of the budget. I mentioned other factors that collectively are the kind that hinder growth, which we are seeing, and thus it could be expected that the colon would weaken. Why does this matter to you, or even Eleanor the Second? Do you spend any money here? If one believes the colon will remain stable and inflation low, one might drop a large chunk of their investment money into a 8% interest paying colon-denominated CD. If one believes the colon is due for a correction, one would temporarily limit the amount of US$1 they change or postpone a major purchase in anticipation of a better rate later. Like keeping up with FATCA and FUBAR and changing regulations for your house-helps bi-annual salary adjustment and Caja payments, none of this has to do with 'bemoaning' anything and everything to do with keeping wary of what might jump out of the bushes and bite you. Happily, most info of this nature could be gained from a laptop propped up next to the bird feeder. :>) Back to the colon (named after Christopher Columbus) and of most interest to me was induna's comment, "There are many structural reasons for the Colón being too strong, but the central bank's policies are not one of them." Again that's contrary to my understanding but one reason is that according to this April article in Bloomberg, the drop in oil prices are saving Costa Ricans about $1 billion/yr. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-30/costa-rica-currency-outperforms-region-as-oil-cuts-dollar-demand Marsrox
  9. First, a note of thanks to Paul (eppicat4) for helping me navigate the path through the apparently un-mapped maze enabling me to post a 'new topic' to the ARCR forum. I could find no directions for this task. 'Right click' failed me. Humbled, I. In the past there has been unvarnished derision against one contributor that fears for the economic future here. He's got a point. Developing economies worldwide are falling like cards leaving Costa Rica as seemingly the last man standing. Or maybe just leaning for support against the extinguished volcano still claimed 'eruptive' in Fortuna resort advertisements. I'm reminded of Dali and the bizarre crutches he liked to use to support his hallucinations. The simile says something of my perceptions of the place. *********************************************************************************************************************** None of us own a crystal ball - mine is cloudier than a mountain top during the rainy season. We've all read how export and tourist industries here wish for a lower valuation for the CR colon. We residents selling dollars would be advantaged, too. The colon, an inexplicably pricey currency causes CR products to become noncompetitive on the world market. Discourages investment. No new jobs. Yesterday, President Solis voiced his pledge that he will allow the CR Central Bank to remain 'independent' and he will not attempt to influence their currency peg. Has he found a 'bully pulpit'? So one can therefore assume that the colon will continue trading in its present tight range. Solis' actual lack of influence regarding this pledge recalls the very nature of CR's unbacked, turn-the-printing-press-on-a-little-faster-please currency. (Yes, we can discuss the US$1 characteristics later, but it is the worlds' 'reserve currency', a different beast). US Dollars, Euros, Swiss Francs, Swedish Kroner, Thai Baht, are very liquid and convertible currencies that trade on the world market. The Colon does not effectively trade outside of the border of this country that's 1/3 the size of Florida with a GDP equivalent to a large American city's combined education and police budgets. Normally, a country's anticipated economic condition going forward determine its currency value. Job growth (and its quality) is the main engine for economic growth. Certainly, Costa Rica enjoys advantages in climate, relatively good security and a population segment of well-educated people that are striving to create a world-class location. But they are forced to take two steps forward to counter everyone back on their road to success. The govt is not supportive but a drag on production. Costa Rica has recently lost many high-quality jobs from companies leaving the country. Por ejemplo, Intel chip-maker had the worlds' 2nd largest factory here, and computer chips for years were CR's largest export, more than bananas, coffee and pineapples. What happened? CR's electrical/power costs are about the highest in the world, even while ICE brags that they just enjoyed a period of sourcing (free-to-low-cost) 100% renewable energy. Intel cites these extreme costs as one reason they grossly shrunk their operations here. I note that it seems businesses are charged a higher 'commercial' rate, perhaps triple (?) then the already grossly high rate for households. Air conditioning in hotel rooms or power to run machinery shouldn't be a crippling cost. Large businesses should be given price breaks to encourage expansion and job growth, not putative charges. Costa Rica is very slow to allow business creation because of tramites. I seem to recall it takes around 150 days to open the doors of your store here, but only about two days in Singapore. Your business can't hire if it can't even get the doors open. The unsettling tax situation while the legislators ponder the value-added scheme doesn't support job growth. Last years' attempt to charge hotels five years back taxes doesn't support job growth. Contract law and property ownership are negative factors here for siting businesses or attracting residents because breaking a contract or squatting on illegally-obtaining title is tolerated. Should one be so unlucky to fall into this hole, be prepared to wait years and years for the courts to even hear the case. And any judgement is liable to endless appeal. How can one consider opening a business here? The govt needs to borrow 46% of next years budget, not the highest % for a country, but reflective of the lack of will to cut fat pensions and duplicated govt workers. Humans everywhere seem to suffer this debilitating malady, though. The conditions I've noted of falling employment, monopoly pricing of electricity, unbridled bureaucracy, uncertain contract law, coupled with high national debt do not support a strong currency. So one could look around and wonder if the housing and commercial construction sectors are pulling the country ahead? I'll not share my opinion on how some/many of these projects are 'funded'. Please note that published govt statistics show a decline in all types of construction during the last 'trimester' across all provinces of the country. Is there a condo bubble? One developer is offering to finance your down-payment without interest for 18 months for his 'preventa' project. Wow. Right. He has not broken ground, may not even have los permisos in hand, but will happily pocket your monthly funds while you accumulate your 20% down payment. Once complete, you better have your 'hipoteca' in hand from a bank to close the deal. The developer's sales pitch? "You will enjoy locking in the (lowest) sales price now while your property value increases". As every ad states in our free bienes raices magazine, "Real estate is your best investment" (see 'US HOUSING BUBBLE OF 2008-9'). ********************************************************************************************************************************************** As an example of how job growth influences a nations economy and therefore its currency, today the US released job data for September which revealed a slowing rate of job growth. One of the US Fed's two mandates is to control inflation, and the target is to stay under 2%. Rising wages from job growth that leads to competition among employers to pay more to higher qualified workers is one of the most powerful forces to cause inflation. Less jobs, like today's data revealed, mean lower wages and low inflation going forward. The announcement of slowing job growth in the US set off a worldwide chain reaction. One nano-second after the release of today's job data the worlds ever-alert financial computer algorithms spit out buy/sell orders and caused the US Dollar to trade lower because low inflation will force the Fed to wait to raise the Fed funds rate, a persistent 'fear' for some time. Had there been more jobs created, the dollar would have strengthened with an assumed higher Fed funds rate to come. Stronger currencies are indicative of a disciplined Central Bank trying to keep growth and inflation under control. Bottom line, while any country's Central Bank can briefly 'support its currency' (making it stronger by buying it up with dollars on the open market creating a 'shortage') or deflate its' own currency by selling it for (usually) dollars, outside forces also move it, and rarely if ever can any country long afford to overwhelm 'international opinion' when going against the financial resources of the entire world. Uniquely, the colon is lightly-to-not traded on the open world market, so the CR Central Bank marches to its own drummer. Interestingly, nothing happening outside these borders matters to affect its value. Russians meeting with Iraqi officials to share intelligence and expand the war? Hohum. Coffee prices collapsing? Pura Vida. One could use the words 'artificially' or 'by fiat' when describing how the colon's value is derived. Interestingly, while Scotiabank pays more or less for dollars than the BNCR, there is no 'black market' to change dollars here like exists in many other countries. I once sat down in a puro-campo cantina with the VP of the CR Central Bank and over a Rubia asked him why CR didn't just follow Ecuador, Panama and other countries and dump the colon for the US$1. "Patria." I understand how job growth supports an economy and influences currencies. Strong currencies allow for low inflation environments, weak currencies help exporters, make imports expensive. But I'm sitting on top of that cloudy mountain with the rest of you trying to part the vapors to see what direction this train we're riding is taking us. It would seem likely to become an increasingly bumpy ride. Marsrox I've attached a supporting opinion piece of comparative economics that will further inform the discussion. "Seeking Alpha" is a worthy addition to your daily reading regimen. http://seekingalpha.com/article/3544636-deflation-warning-the-next-wave
  10. After a night of shakin' the bees out of the honey hive, "The Hill Bear" (El Oso del Cerro) shared his thoughts with me/us at 3:56 this morning writing: "Wow. That's a lot of words to say that you sound very scared to live in Costa Rica. May I ask what area you live in? Is it San Jose'? Is it a bad neighborhood of San Jose'? I ask because it does sound like either you're kind of paranoid or else you have had some very bad experiences in Costa Rica with robbers etc. Honestly, I thought my security ideas were pretty extreme but yours make mine sound like nothing. If I had to live in fear like it seems like you do, I'd definitely move somewhere where I felt safer. Just sayin'. That said I really don't think MOST areas in Costa Rica warrant the kind of security you're talking about having!" ********************************************************************************************************************************************** It was the best/worst of times, it is the best/worst of times since I chose CR over certain Caribbean islands, Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia as the place to hang my last sombrero. Bear, here's a "lot more words" (what do you expect from a writer?) I've lived in San Pedro (rented apartment), Los Yoses (rented condo), Alajuela (rented apartment), Ciudad Colon (rented mansion), Tambor de Alajuela (owned a 6,000m2 walled estate with 800m home w/'full amenities'), Santa Ana (rented home in gated community), and am now building a modest home outside of Puriscal on a 1,750m lot with a mountain-top sunset view of the Golfo de Nicoya. 'Unfortunately' for me, since I prefer to live in Campo Tiquicia, the area nearby is surprisingly and quickly filling with retired, wide-eyed newbies, mostly American pensionados, overbuilding the place with spectacular homes sure to eventually attract 'attention'. You rob the bank because "that's where the money is." I wanted to be in the middle of no-where, but its turning into the middle of some-where. At each of those places I once lived, I endlessly heard Tico/Extranero stories of break-in, theft, cars stolen from front yards while the owner's timidly hid behind the doors, bodily threats of every sort. Far more nastiness than anything I heard in my younger days in Ft Myers or Cleveland. For awhile I considered that from the Tico POV there had been so little crime throughout the country's non-militant, peaceful history (not including financial crimes of past Presidents or imported crime from the likes of Robert Vesco) that ANY crime was blown out-of-proportion. But since the turn of the century, I no longer believe that. Crime in Costa Rican is most often unresolved and should the police even catch a perpetrator they practice 'catch and release'. People arrested for forty armed robberies now walk the streets looking for victims. I note that on 'Canal 7 at 7' last night, video taken outside of a Jaco club showed a man shooting and killing another right on the street. There was a small crowd, the guy pushed the 'victim' onto the road, and shot him in the head. Wow. Shield the eyes of the little babies. If I understood correctly, the killer was captured and is presently serving 30 days of 'preventive detention'. Then what? And then what 'detention' does the person who stole your new 55" Samsung flat-screen receive based on that scale of justice? Smells like the laws here were written by Robin Hood. BREAKING NEWS! Dateline Ciudad Colon (July 2, 2015) Truck stolen from Gated Community An American contractor woke yesterday morning to see his recently purchased Toyota truck missing from his locked, gated driveway. "I don't know how they got past the guardhouse, let alone broke the lock on my personal gate and somehow started the truck and drove it out past the guard. I just bought it and thought the past owner said the insurance was still good, but now I see its not. I am a condo builder here and there were six laptops full of all my work on the front seat of the truck." The truck has not been recovered. The owner says that in the future he will install a GPS tracking system and a device to remotely cut the engine. Update: Officials have learned that a young girl cleaning the home of an American contractor while he and his wife were at work, was visited by her boyfriend who allegedly stole copies of keys used to open the owner's gate and drive off with his truck. Although the man has been identified, the whereabouts of neither he nor the truck are known. ***************************************************************************************************************************** This contractor has worked for me. Maybe the events that change the lives of people you know should color your decision making. Ryan of ARCR is a friend of mine, too. I'm unaware of any reason why he was targeted for kidnapping other than he's a 'Gringo'. A past next door neighbor who was affiliated with the CR 'Mafia' had his dogs poisoned and his fancy car stolen from his driveway. He didn't call the cops, he waited for the ransom call, paid it outside the La Sabana McD, and drove it home. When I bought my house he was the caretaker and offered me a loan of a .45 caliber pistol, "You shouldn't live here alone without protection." I didn't want to own a heavy obligation to him and declined. This same neighbor also for some weeks secretly housed WWII war-criminal Bohdan Koziy who was wanted for extradition to Poland, Israel, the United States and Germany. Police from several countries were here looking for him. I know all this because I bought Koziy's estate in Tambor de Alajuela. My interest was first piqued regarding this extraordinary circumstance when my neighbors told me I never needed to worry about being robbed. "Your house is haunted." By the spirits of the hundreds of dead Jews Koziy was accused of having a part in massacring. I sat on the back steps of a house at night that was more ruin then B&B with a beer and called for the spirits to join me. Disappointingly, they never did. Otherwise, one would say that it's a very tranquil neighborhood. I had been in the house for several years when after cleaning up boxes of papers and documents one New Year's Eve day, 2005 back in Ft Myers I came upon a 1985 copy of the Tico Times. I had saved it as a souvenir of my first visit to Costa Rica, here for one week. I saw a headline about a missing Nazi war criminal on p1. I turned to p2 to read the rest of the story and there was a 1/4 page photo of my house. *************************************************************************************** Published government crime statistics reveal the 'percentage of households by canton' that suffer various forms of crime. I consider my move from the Central Valley over the mountains one that will serve me well as I approach my twilight years since the area around Puriscal is statistically the safest in the country. Many of my soon-to-be neighbors don't even have window bars. I talk to workers at the pulperias and businesses and most are proud of the 'tranquility' found in this bucolic place. But in the next years that could change for the worse. I'm building a house for both the present and the future and am acting on that sad possibility now. I won't wait until I am robbed, kidnapped for ransom or murdered to protect my property or life. The measures I mentioned in this thread for the information of 'new-comers' reading this forum were to balance some of the naive, but hopeful commentary found here, not to exhibit unreasonable personal paranoia. Of course most Ticos, like people everywhere, are not dangerous. Just a few. Every apple orchard has some rotten fruit. For those who haven't heard of or experienced bad behavior and luckily wake up and go to bed with the same smile, I'll mention these givens. Point #1 to ponder is that it is probable that the police are not going to respond to your call in a timely fashion, assuming they even answer the phone. Assume that your personal safety is 100% your responsibility. Point #2 is that anyone depending on an INS Hogar policy to replace stolen items hasn't read the policy. Most kind contributors here seem to have the attitude that if things go missing in a home invasion they will simply purchase more. Fine. There are cases where the robbers literally 'back up the truck'. My funds are more limited, many items have sentimental value, so I need to have a different strategy, and mine is pro-active. It has nothing to do with paranoia, nothing scares me anymore. I perceive this threat as a challenge, another cost of living here (along with paying for the Caja). I like to 'win' challenges. Actually, the many challenges here are one of the reasons I love the place, v the vanilla life found elsewhere, although that casts doubt on my sanity with people who must use disinfecting wipes on the handles of supermarket carts at Publix. I could live without the challenge of public buses passing me going uphill around a curve. I'll roll my own dice, thank you. While a lot of break-in theft occurs when the home is known to be unoccupied - and why even a helpless female teenager is considered 'security'- countless break-ins involve people with guns that tie you up with duct tape. Hopefully, all readers here are aware of this. Of course, like winning El Gordo, your personal odds of 'tasting the tape' are < 1% (the flavor is NOT like chicken). But does this sense of reality define me as 'paranoid'? Were you paranoid back in the States when you purchased homeowner's insurance that covered theft? Where you paranoid and fearful living somewhere only calmed knowing the police would respond in two minutes to your 911 call of 'strangers walking in the yard'? Were you paranoid and terrified - even having neighbors suggest that you ought to consider 'living elsewhere' - because you posted an 'ADT' sign in your front yard even though you didn't even pay for ADT? I am not going to pay a guard to sit in a little box all day by my front gate or walk the lot at night. I am not installing electrified barbed wire. I will not purchase a shotgun although I qualify. I'm not putting in a camera security system. I'm not asking someone's maid's daughter to watch TV in my sala while I go to town to shop at Super-Pali. My goal for investing in this limited security is to influence any bad guys to pass by my house since they can't see it to know if anyone is home. My goal is to not wake up at 3am with a gun stuck in my ear. I'm sure that the foreigners I've read about in the media didn't think they would be kidnapped, robbed at gunpoint, carjacked driving back from the beach and permanently missing or murdered. "I'm nice to people!" I'll reiterate my words from the first post to this thread. A wall won't keep out the bad guys no matter how high or radioactive. But blocking the view of your home will create a doubt that only a really stupid burglar will ignore. A wall will keep someone from walking or driving in uninvited. Window bars won't keep someone wanting to get into your home and steal the silverware from backing up a truck, attaching a chain and pulling them off. But they will defeat 'cockroach crime, which is the majority of offenses. I have already installed the 'malla' in my home, which is similar to sheets of rebar used in road/sidewalk construction. It goes under the tin roof and will slow/foil the badguys from moving away from the 'difficult' window bars to pulling off the roof for entry in my absence. I have had the workers, the contractor, and Ticos who know me applaud this 'street smart' action, then tell me countless tales of themselves and others who's homes were violated through their roofs. This work cost me about $100. Solar-powered Motion lights will light up the area and bad guys like darkness. Another $100. A battery backup motion alarm with wireless sensors outside the homes' entry points will wake me up from my slumber so I can at least grab my machete and run at the perp, naked like a crazy man. Maybe he shoots and kills me out of utter terror. If I remember to wear my 'Go Pro' you can watch my flaming but proud demise on You-Tube some day. I bought the alarm system a few years ago for the other house for $500, but this is much less expensive now. I forgot that I need to have a heavy metal ring sunk into the concrete garage floor to shackle down my Toyota Prada Land Cruiser (full extras :>) so it can't be hotwired and driven away the same day I take two buses (because they're fun) to SJO to shop for Chinese groceries. BTW - When I park I use 'The Club'. The one-time costs of these measures is small compared to the deterrence and 'sleep well at night' benefits they offer. Compare them to the annual cost of homeowner's insurance which covers theft, ADT monitoring service, and the taxes you pay for police protection in the US. So six of this and a half-dozen of the other. Does this all work? After 18 years I haven't had a loss. I have had one attempted and unsuccessful home invasion. So far, so good. I will not share other personal danger 'adventures' in Costa Rica, other countries I've lived in or the USA, but I've lived my very full life mostly as a single man (scorned women are sometimes revengeful), a political activist for the environment and human rights (publicly named government agency officials and evil people that want to dig gold mines in the jungle can cause you direct harm) and have owned legitimate and 'hobby' businesses (oddly, not all customers and competing businesses will always be satisfied). I have been targeted by more than my share of the 'slings and arrows' of outrageous fortune because I have strong convictions, offer researched opinions that I hope are not biased by stupidity, and I am not bashful about sharing the good news. That's all fine, you pay to play and its too be expected when I'm in public. Some here will probably share their somewhat different perceptions. But this is about home sweet home, don't invade my castle, knave. The workers building my home have been living in their on-site shack for two months now and tell me that the streetlight at the end of my driveway attracts more than swirling bats eating bugs. My home-to-be is located at the end of a dirt road that peters out to a cow path. Friday and Saturday nights for the last two months of construction has seen late night gatherings of jovens driving up in cars and motorcycles who smoke pot and drink. Probably benign. I'll bet a lot of them wear black clothes and even have tattoos! If I call the police they probably won't respond to this non-issue, but word will get out of my call and I'll make enemies. If my house sat naked on the road, un-walled, un-barred, un-alarmed, and they gathered outside my sala I'd consider it a gross invasion of privacy with the potential to escalate to unknown heights. But there will be a bit of a moat. So I could ignore them, but I'd stew in my juices twice a week since I sought privacy and not midnight regaetton blasting from their cars. What would you do? Me being me, I already know that the first night I live there and they show up I am destined to 'meet and greet'. I love people. Maybe I'll meet a new girlfriend. And maybe if I insist on hanging around asking questions about their lives and cars and making jokes about President Solis' economic austerity plans and tax increases while describing my fears of water shortages and coffee blights they will decide talking to this ole' Gringos not much fun and will go elsewhere. I'll tell them I'm allergic to smoke, "If you don't mind..." Ticos are naturally respectful of the elderly. Maybe I bring out my 'ghetto blaster' and share my favorite Mozart horn concertos (check them out!) Pro-active. So there you go, Bear. A lot more words. I hope they help someone. I wasn't kidding about the horn concertos. French horns rock.
  11. Just a note based on personal experience and observation regarding living securely in Costa Rica - or any other place on Planet Earth. Maybe this dialogue will help some newcomers take steps to live safely in this particular place. We all seek/enjoy 'immersing ourselves' in the flavor of the local culture. It's not a 'vanilla' one like we left behind, but a kaleidoscopic salsa. Of course, no one likes to discuss or worry about their personal safety, that's not fun. But 'pura vida' has both positive and negative connotations. This forum allows us to share experiences that at first seem unique to us, but we learn they are common to all. I write this believing I have no more enemies here than you, maybe less. As a US Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 1975-78 I was thoroughly immersed in the barrio life. 'Twitter'? I received hand-delivered telegrams teletyped on brown, recycled rag paper. The first year I lacked electricity and the first six months I carried water in buckets from down the street for flushing the toilet, showering and washing dishes. The landlady kept pigs outside my kitchen window making food scrap disposal easy. Crying babies, arguments between spouses, sewing machines pumped by foot at 4am and loud sex was all part of it. The next-door houses were one meter away on either side of my plywood walls. For awhile, young children would stand around my open wood-louvered windows (no screens or glass) to observe myself and my American room-mate go about doing what people go about doing when only their basic needs are being met. We read a lot. Drank San Miguel at room temperature. Played chess by candlelight. The kids, some butt-naked, were entertained until they finally got bored. My first assignment was in Santa Domingo, Albay working with the World Bank/Central Bank of the Philippines in coordination with three rural banks. My task was to locate qualifying small businesses and offer expansion loans. 'Small' meaning a guy growing 100 m2 of rice or two ladies selling abaca (a fiber) place mats to an exporter filling a container parked under the pili-nut tree. The interest rate was 18% and the micro-loan had to be backed by 400% collateral. I wrote contracts (in Bicol) pledging water buffalo and 125cc motorcycles. The process took months but I helped a few people. Then I received two separate assassination threats in the form of notes slid under the door and into my sala. I took the second one very seriously. Certain school-teacher-type friends informed me that these messages were from either the chief of police or maybe the mayor, who didn't want 'competition' to their power/influence from any newly successful business people. Maybe I should find a 'better' job. I was re-assigned by PCorps-Manila and became a track and field coach at a University. The only theft during my years - and I owned nothing besides clothes and snorkeling gear and a Frisbee - occurred one night when I saw an arm extending through the louvered bedroom window searching for things laying on the rattan bed. I grabbed the guys' arm and started pulling, ending up with his T-Shirt which ID'd him as being from the local police dept. Maybe he was not a cop, just someone wearing the shirt. He got away, jumping over the cement block wall with broken glass cemented on top. Ouch. The take-away from this experience and some similar neighborly-deeds here in CR is that foreigners believing that 'acting generously' in their adopted community will inoculate them from theft or danger is not a certainty. And I'll go rogue here for a moment with my opinion that its hypocritical to 'teach English for an hour a week in the school' or express a need to 'give back to the community' as a strategy to gain protection from theft. Do these things because you enjoy helping, teaching and meeting people. Otherwise its just a cynical ploy to avoid being robbed. And it will make no difference anyway. Most of the nice people you help are not the 'dopers' or 'for-profit' thieves who will visit your home with bad intent. I read a statement here from one revered contributor that she "lets people see how much she doesn't have" as a way to avoid home invasion. I won't argue with the success she's had so far. But I note that conversations between Tico house-wives take place with one party inside the bars, the other outside the bars. Why? I must have a different circle of acquaintances after 18 years here, but the advice I hear is to not let anyone inside your house. Maybe I hear this advice because I'm a nosy journalist and ask the question 'differently' then you would to the wise abuelas I know. The Ticos I know believe that for personal safety anonymity is the best shield. The warmest cocoon is found surrounded by family inside the walls of the homestead. I'll suggest that keeping a low profile would best serve the majority of foreigners living here. We've all read the methods some have written about for self-protection. Guns (a true magnet for thieves while increasing your likelihood of your suicide by 1,200%). Warning signs (as if the crooks can read). If you want warning signs, why not install some on outside walls with a red lightning bolt and a black 'skull-and-crossbones' signifying electrocution? Tell your neighbors you have hidden wires on the inside. Obviously, unlike in Dubuque, the police aren't usually responding in a timely manner, and paying INS for insurance for stolen items leaves everything to be desired. I've paid neighborhood gardeners and 'watch people' to hang around my house when I was out of the country. They didn't fulfill the job description, sometimes bringing over others to party. I over-paid the gardener and he could and did hire others to mow the lawn. Then everyone knew I was gone. Over-paying for goods and services here (or anywhere not involving asking Sherpas to cross the Ice Fall again) is not a sign of 'kind generosity' but of ignorance of local prices and hence...... My present security strategy focuses on blocking others from a home invasion which would cause me bodily harm. Especially an event commencing when I sleep. I read one comment here that the writer would wait to increase security until AFTER he had suffered his first problem. Could be his 'last problem'. I live alone. Geese would make a better 'alarm' than a dog that could be poisoned but I'll have neither. I will have narrow, screen windows mounted above eye level (with bars) for my bedroom. The door to the bedroom will be heavy metal and double dead- bolted. Are we all aware of the thriving business here in massive, if beautiful, quadruple-dead-bolted, metal but wood-looking doors costing over $1,000? The dead bolts extend deep into the door. Sure, I won't outrun an earthquake. Above my bedroom teak ceiling will be a 'malla' which is a metal grid, used as reinforcement when pouring a driveway, so anyone outside climbing up and prying off the tin roof when I'm not home will still have an obstruction to saw through. And yes, I will have rolled fiberglass insulation in between it all to keep the rain quiet and the room cool. All other house outside windows will have bars. I know, I know. People don't like burglar bars. Me either. My mother in Fort Myers, 85, mocks me, "I wouldn't live anywhere I needed to have bars on the windows." Jaja. She lives in a gated, check ID, over-45 community with guards driving around at night in golf carts. Last month, someone robbed the next door Wal-Mart and she found 5 police cars parked in her cul-de-sac. I asked her if they caught the guy. She was afraid to ask the cops. So here in Costa Rica, if you live lacking guards on golf carts, gate ID checks and cops who show up en masse in 120 seconds or less for a shoplifter, bars are OK. Here's an idea. Have them custom made, i.e. 'Arte hiero'. For the second time here I'm copying the ornamental bars found protecting the 17th century cathedral in Reims, France. Elegent. On moonlight nights the shadows they cast are beyond romantic. I consider them a fantastic upgrade on all levels. Yeah it cost money, and you won't do it if you rent. My every good night's sleep is worth the investment. If you have a large lot, a wall high enough such that the bad guys can't know if someone is home is critical. And no need to break the bank as any wall can be climbed. Just do enough wall, edged by some healthy, pointy veranera for privacy and you'll dissuade all but the most incorrigible. I reject the concept that by 'building walls' or 'having bars' one increases one's risk by targeting you as someone with special wealth. 'Being Gringo' in Costa Rica has commonality with 'Being Black' in Baltimore. You are at risk. Lastly, an outside, motion-activated wireless alarm system with back-up battery can 1.wake you up if your property has been invaded while the bad guys are still outside of the house and 2. likely cause them to retreat to a quieter place. Am I being unduly paranoid or hysterical? Ask Ryan Piercy. He's got more street smarts than the collective knowledge of this forum. And in the 'nice guys finish last' category I'll reference the late shop-owner in Guanacaste who was Santa for the neighborhood kids and murdered at his hotel. Market demographics show Ticos now prefer living in gated/guarded condo communities. Its not just for the swimming pool. Next up, delicious jacote recipes embellished with ants.
  12. Hola Terry: I do not know what a 'PM' is, but whatever it is, I don't have it. Or maybe I do and its buried under some electrons somewhere with my name in quarks. Feel free to resend your wisdom to Marsrox@gmail.com Thank you for the help. Hola Gayle: It was around 1994, when I first needed an email address (for aol.com dial-up). I was dealing, researching and writing about meteorites, specializing in those from Mars. I needed something remarkable enough I could develop as a 'brand'. MARSROX hit me in the noggin. Little did I know that this interest would lead me on a journalistic voyage interviewing the world's museum curators for a NZ science journal, while honored to preview the cabinets of Europe's priceless historic collections. In the Paris NHM i viewed an electron 'scope projection of a fragment of Antarctic Mars meteorite ALH84001 and observed the carbonates and alleged fossil cell fragments it was said to contain. All while discussing the evidence for life on Mars with the very researchers claiming this in 1994. I have certain of my original research on NASA websites. I've organized and led two month-long Bolivian govt-sponsored expeditions around the Altiplano (and you think dealing with Migracion is difficult?) to recover that country's first authenticated meteorite, which my team did in 2001. Of course, the best part has been the worldwide friendships I now have. If this subject interests you, check out my book "The Art of Collecting Meteorites" on Amazon. It all started as a hobby... And of course I would be remiss not to celebrate being part of this great community. Thanks to all.
  13. This regards dealing with the aftermath of dying in Costa Rica while owning your 'dream house', or any other real estate and tangible property, all unencumbered by liens. I realize that I should have an atty help me write a will. I have a home and lot worth low six figures and a used vehicle worth (today) about $20K, all in my name (no S.A.'s). There are personal effects in the house. My financial accounts in the US have beneficiaries which I believe keeps those funds segregated from being included here. I searched the arcr archives and found no threads to suggest the best type of will or what the atty will charge. I suspect that in my case a will should be the type submitted to the Registro Nacional. I have no heirs other than my 85 yr old mother and a younger brother who will be named beneficiaries for the property here. Neither has a passport, neither travels anywhere beyond where a tank of gas will take them or has any inkling of how to deal with anything more complicated than renewing their license plates - a concern. On line- for example the go-to site of Roger Peterson- the various types of wills are described. The only atty's fee for this work I could find was mentioned elsewhere to be based on a % of the assets starting at a 1% fee when almost nothing is in the estate. In my case, it seemed my fee would be 2% of $2,000 for a one-page document witnessed by four people. I'll guess the colegio de abogados probably has something listing minimum fees. Can anyone share their experience and wisdom regarding this eventuality? As part of the will, it will be mentioned that I have arranged and pre-paid cremation.
  14. re: Ownership of Home I am a US citizen, a permanent resident of CR, single without dependents, with an above average nest age. Since I moved to CR in 1990, with a 'break' from 1996-2002, I've - - rented a condo in Los Yoses, - a house in a gated community in Ciudad Colon, - an apartment in Alajuela, and... - presently a 2/2 house in Santa Ana in a private compound. It's $750/mo with cable, internet, garbage, a landline, water and electric. It is private and I have tall trees and gardens, an atrium off of the bathroom. For nine years I owned an 800m2 home on a 6000m walled in lot w/ pool, rancho and an indoor basketball court in Tambor de Alajuela. Although that house had been remodeled at a cost of +$200K and was incredible with several indoor gardens, teak and almendro and Colombian marble in the baths, there are few cash buyers for homes 'worth' over $500K (real estate agents wanted to price it at $1.2 million) and it was sold after five years on the market at a $50,000 loss to a Tico. Several other Ticos were interested and couldn't qualify for mortgages. Although six established real estate companies advertised it (both , only one hustling (well-known to members of ARCR)) Tico showed it. And he was threatened by other agents for 'stealing their clients' creating the possibility of a multi-year law suit holding up the closing. Meanwhile, because it was in an S.A. the books had to have a new entry and an error was made (and discovered, then deleted) that could have made me liable for any future 'discoveries of damages'. When the closing was attempted with the buyers funds going directly to my bank acct in the US, Banco Nacional couldn't get on the internet to transmit the funds and my atty recommended putting them overnight in his local acct to close the deal. The next day he invented over $1,500 in alleged charges which I refused to pay and demanded he transmit the funds, which he did. Three years of rental bliss have passedReaders may recognize
  15. Anyone pondering building a 'normal' size home here (160m2 in my case) may want to remember my experience. I've been here 18 years and have remodeled two 'mansions' (I owned one) which were not 'blessed' with building permits or municipal government inspections. So that process was unknown to me. I have purchased a lot with a view of the Pacific Ocean..... from just outside of Puriscal at 1,100m/3,300' altitude:>) No aircon needed. There are a couple of 'American' areas there already because it is peaceful and natural. This lot is in a new one. My norteamericano neighbors recommended a builder they were pleased with and he offered me his preferred architect. I figured 'home field advantage' for the permits/inspections ruled over bringing in an outsider, so away we go. I designed a 2/2 home of two stories perfect for me and the architect rendered it, submitted the plans to the 'Colegio' which were rubber-stamped in less than two weeks with a cost estimate. This price for materials and labor constrains your future real estate taxes, your needed INS policy for the workers, and the architects fee. The architect didn't inform me that a windowless, detached one-car garage of cement floor, block walls, one electric light bulb and tin roof would be appraised the same as the home construction, which is a little more 'lux'. The colegio says "$20,000" for this garage is the appraised value. Why? Based on the footprint. I expect it will be built for around $8,000. An 3m x5m atrium outside the bath consisting of a three 7' high cement block walls, a window looking into the bath, a dirt floor since I'll be growing plants, no ceiling, no electric, no water, just a metal door is 'worth' $5,000 according to the colegio. I guestimate material of 200 cement blocks, some rebar and the workers glue it together in one day costing me about $500. The 1.5m x10m cement sidewalk in front of the house is 'worth' almost $8,000 as per the colegio's $550m2 construction estimate, same as the kitchen. Imagine....a sidewalk costing $550m2! For 15m2 of cement? I expect this item to cost south of $1,000 if I embed a border of semi-precious gems. The house itself is about $90,000, but these other three items add $33,000 to the colegios cost estimate. So what? The property tax will be based on this price. Not much, maybe $80 extra per year. The INS insurance 'should be' $1,000 @ 1.2% of the colegio value, but is $1,600 when including the garage, sidewalk and atrium. The architect wants $1,000 more above his $7,500 fee for the 'extra area'. The architect could have warned me about this 'concept', but he wants his increased fee more. He also refuses to build me 11' ceilings, even after several meetings. The plans are drawn and approved for 8.5' even after several reminders after reviewing his earlier iterations. That is dumbfounding, his story is that we'll "just build it higher and no one will care". I'll be working it all out tomorrow, and expect a satisfactory outcome. I'll delete the three 'expensive luxury areas' for later days to save at least $1,600. I'll get my 11' ceilings. After the final inspection, I'll have the builder put up the garage, etc. But I write so others can be aware of planning to build in stages, the so-called 'poco a poco' method.
  16. First to Paul: I took the time to write because most folks willing to pull up roots and move here based on a 'dream' often wake up to a nightmare. It doesn't have to be that way. It is a little more difficult to 'just live a life' in Costa Rica then it is in some other countries, like the one they left, because the govt 'keeps moving the cheese'. Most (foerign born) people I know don't watch Canal 7 news or read La Nacion because they don't understand Spanish, and don't even read AMCosta Rica which is about the only source of 'hard' news available in English, the other websites, even the Tico Times- for which I wrote for many years, mostly 'good-time tourist' reads. Some sources claim that at least half the people who arrive to 'retire' here permanently leave in one year because of the challenges. It's also true that some of the 'foreigners' living here never worry about a thing, can't speak Spanish past BUENO and thrive. Ignorance is bliss. Maybe because I am not a pensionado with some fixed-income guaranteed, nor am I a wealthy person as defined by some of the palaces hidden here and there around the country, and since I live alone without a special someone to lean on and share expenses, I stay in 'survival mode'. I have to count on me, period. I don't want to run out of money because I did something stupid through ignorance or carelessness. Does anyone? By that I mean that while I really enjoy life, have friends that I relax with and am glad for 2x1 dvd day, I have no $ that 'doesn't matter'. I can't just say 'no importe' over another large financial loss. I'm too old to go back and work in the USA. No one expects their marriage will end, that the unprecedented market crash of 2008-2009 would take 50% of retirement investments earned and saved over 40 years. I didn't think in Costa Rica I'd own a fantastic home here that I would sell at a $50k loss after nine years and $250,000 in remodeling. But we all have our 'adventures'. :>) So its good that the feria is full of excellent and inexpensive foods and that I cook better than what's served in most restaurants, even rolling my own sushi eliminating that 'need'. My main source of enjoyment are hobbies like 'hiking', 'bird watching' and 'reading' eliminating the need for yachts and owning a Rolex. I'm thoroughly 'cured' of chasing Ticas which keeps me 'on budget' and out of trouble. I am also glad for those of us who can visit the Four Seasons and just toss plastic at the bill when it comes without a care. I'm sure they earned the right. But I am bothered to see each new wave of foreigners show up of which to a degree some will be predators, the rest are the prey. And its not just about real estate, there are small dangers lurking behind every toucan. When I had my B&B, fully 50% of every guest 'lost' or had something stolen while here for just a week or two. I was always fascinated by how little they worried about it, as if having something stolen in Costa Rica earned them the 'rite of passage'. But my point in writing those articles was to review my latest experiences in real estate, and this is the proper forum. Had I not lived here as a renter (and Rentista) from 1990-95, then spent years 2000-2003 looking at properties again, especially those being fire-sold by 'investors' who lost everything ($6 million collectively?) with 'The Brothers' (you give them money, you get no receipt but they promise 3%/mo interest.... until they don't pay that or return the principle) before buying an underpriced bargain, had I not had a half dozen brokers price my home at THEIR PERCEIVED VALUE, trying to sell it for $1.2 million, until I cut the price to $799,999 ("Are you crazy?" they asked me), then $599K, while discovering that large properties for big bucks outside of Villa Real have few takers, I wouldn't feel qualified to discuss this at length. This tome isn't hearsay, I'm not writing about 'urban legend'. Please note that most of the real estate agents I mentioned were not Costa Ricans. Most of them show you one house and if you don't purchase it, they don't pursue you. Newcomers to foreign countries are naturally prone to trust other foreigners in transactions, thus they migrate to websites in English. If incomplete or incorrect info is shared, it's not questioned because they are not competent to do so. Every foreign real estate agent brags on their local expertise. Some have expertise, too. In my experience, even after I've discoverd a material defect with a property, the fact it has no water or electricity or has a dedicated public road planned to cross it, the agent continues to advertise the property without revealing these issues. In Florida, during the 1980's - 2005, I was at times licensed to sell health, life, long term care, fire insurances and annuities. I was twice licensed to sell real estate. There were rules/regulations/penalties/licensing fees and continuing education. Here there is NOTHING to prove your real estate competence, no barriers to entry and basically no penalty for fibbing, mis-representing or stealing. The courts do not effectively offer recourse to right a wrong. Possession becomes 99+% of ownership. How dangerous is it to own property in Costa Rica? Imagine that it is suggested by respected Lic. Roger Peterson that to protect your home you 1. pay for the monthly review of the Registro for changes to the paperwork ... 2. Take out a mortgage on your own property so that a lien is registered that will need to be paid before the transfer ... 3. Add a second clause that requires that if the lien IS somehow paid off there is a 30 day waiting period. Enough time for you to act to block the transaction before it becomes fatal. These steps will make it cumbersome for dishonest notaries and atty's to literally take your property away. I wrote about one example I just witnessed this year in my other message. Because if you don't keep track of what's in the registro as a routine, and the title changes hands and is subsequently sold to an 'innocent third party', buene suerte amigo/amiga ever getting it back. I really enjoy home ownership and its challenges or I wouldn't be looking again. But here a pig farm could move in next door because there's no zoning, a new neighbor could open a dance hall with your front yard becoming a parking lot and garbage can. The govt could decide to tax you out of your CR residency status through the Caja requirment. And while these issues add to your decision whether to buy or rent, anyone could suffer a home invasion. Does anyone want to praise the work of the police here and their response time? When the tranquil 42-bed resort 'Las Orchideas' in Cacao, Alajuela was held up at 10:30pm a few years ago, the tourists robbed as the thieves went room-to-room, the staff locked up, one manager got the police on the phone leaving the line open. He told the police to hurry, "they have guns!" The police waited outside the walls until the robbers left. There had been a brief exchange of gunfire and the bullet holes remian on the front wall. This story is direct from the mouths of the owners/managers who were my friends. I lived nearby, and stopped one day with a box of doughnuts from PriceSmart, gathering up the chief and his main deputies private cell numbers, since they never answer the station phone. I offered to pay whoever I called c20,000 if I called them during an emergency and they showed up in 10 minutes or less, c10,000 if they showed up at all. When I had my 'girl problem' and locked myself inside my house they came muy pronto. Stuff can happen here that wouldn't happen in Cleveland, so before you buy, you better learn the lay of the land. I'm happy if I can find (another) dream home, but I will go slow, meet the neighbors, inspect the property with a qualified contractor for needed repairs, check with the muni for any possible changes to the neighborhood and for other possible defects with the subject property. And most importantly, I will not invest so much that any sale/loss in a couple of years will keep me from ever again buying jumbo shrimp (c13,000/kg in Santa Ana) :>) to Jesselongworth: If you want to start a discussion, state your issues. Commenting "your post is so full of holes I don't even know where to begin" is unproductive sniping and offers no insight into your thoughts. I believe a lot of people will reference this website for current opinion and I welcome a discussion that leads newcomers here arriving with eyes full of visions of Pacific sunsets some help in avoiding the rip tide.
  17. Part Two of a 'sad but somewhat similar' story.... So you get off the plane here, either to look around at property after making a connection with an agent, or you already have a place in mind and money in the pocket. In the last two years of 'looking' at homes throughout the Central Valley, I have yet to meet a qualified, professional broker/agent. Of course there must be one or two. Otherwise expect to hear, "This is the kitchen"... I have an eager agent calling me with listings since Friday and they have not yet arrived today. Another lisiting of a German agent that I want to see 'asap', has not been seen by me for three weeks, as he has 'family problems'. He will not tell me exactly where it is though, to protect his commission. (Imagine that YOU hear about this as the seller of this home.) An agent in Santa Ana with an actual storefront, not just an internet presence, and a USA passport holder here for thirty years, wanted ME to drive US 'behind Volcan Poas' (her car is not operating) for a 'fantastic bargain 30 minutes from the airport'. Maybe 30 minutes by helicopter, but more like 1 1/2 hours by car. I had told her that I wanted to look around Santa Ana/Ciudad Colon, so why she thinks I would want to live beyond cable or Automercado is a mystery. But OK, I wanted to know exactly what she had. She hasn't sent me the listing link, although it turns out to be above Zarcero, not Alajuela. She's never been there actually, so after we had arrived at Waterfall Gardens, I might have realized we were not close. Another Dutch foreigner selling here for years took me up to the wind towers above Santa Ana, I hike there frequently, and showed me a $200K log cabin in the woods with a (noisy and ugly) windmill towering and grinding away just off the lot line. Note - If you don't ask the right questions here, you definitely are left to assume the best. And if you haven't lived here a long time you won't know what questions to even ask! I go down my 'mental check list of possibilities'. There seems to be an HOA of three houses up here paying the owner $200/mo for (drum role) ....water coming off of his property. Otherwise this is the restricted zone for building and better check if you can drill for water. But this house, with chandeliers and a refrig and a new 4 person hot tub in the master would lead anyone flying in from Peoria to assume there must be electricity, even if it is turned off. Houses have electricity in 2014, even in Costa Rica. Right? But I asked anyway. "Electricity? You'll just have to ask CNFL to hook you up, it's nothing, they can do it immediately." The house WAS off the grid, good that I asked at the CNFL office. And better that I talked to CNFL to discover that I was three power poles and 100m of cable strung across the property from the last new pole on the road from having electric. Thousands of dollars worth of poles and cable in fact. When informed of this, the agent shrugged, small matter. Another agent shows me a building lot above Santa Ana. I bring an engineer and interview the neighbors. The lot of 5,600m2 with two steep hillsides was listed at $99K until I asked about it, wherupon ithe price was $125K. The 'guard' was found to be growing pot there as the owner is in Mexico. The same guard is charging people to dump on the lot above where he keeps a 24 hr fire burning. Records show at least 10 'denuncias' have been filed and served, but the fires burn bright still. And the debris, purposely allowed there to 'expand' the lot is collapsing down the hill onto the property I am looking at. The engineer tells me, "I would not build a house on this lot, a hard rain could cause that entire hillside to collapse." The agent tells me 'not to worry' and to 'make an offer and see if we are in the ballpark.' No. I learn that the only water is coming from the well of a neighbor through a garden hose. I had requested the plat, and the agent stalled. When I got the plat I found a dedicated public road not built yet intersected the property. I asked Santa Ana about this and there is a process to get this feature taken out, but it will be time and $ and there is no certainty. And then I learn that this property is too close to the nearest well and one cannot drill for water on it, either. If you're the buyer expect to catch rain water to water your cows. A nearby house on a 2,500m2 lot with a well is shown to me by a neighbor. "The owner is a Dominican and wants to sell. It's $200K." The house is a 'tear down' built from scrap wood and metal in stages during each Semana Santa :>) But the lot is spectacular and has well/water and could be made private and secure. I pursue more info and learn that there is a renter inside. You cannot remove a renter easily. "Find another house" my atty tells me. The neighbor tells me that the $200K includes $5,000 bribe for the renter to leave. And oh, a $5,000 commission for him, just for being neighborly. He is not any type of real estate agent although he owns a gas station. I interview the renter and learn she IS a real estate agent. I learn the property has been in foreclosure for a year and will be owned by LaFisse bank. I go there and am told they are just waiting for a judges signature. It's been a year.... I look at a fine house above Grecia, it's 8km from the crater of Poas. Poas is an active volcano due for an 'ashy' eruption based on its pattern of eruptions. In 1913 or so the black cloud went a couple of km into the sky and filled the Central Valley with ash. This property could be under several inches of ash. I've lived through that in the Philippines. Ashes are greasy, gritty and invasive. Furniture and electrical appliances can be tossed. But at my age I'd gamble I get twenty years of silence. Of course at the altitude of this home, rainy season means living 12 hours in a mist. I realize this. The sellers are Americans, the agent is an American. It's all blue skies to them. When I do my best estimate of value for this $220K asking price, I come up with $190's based on the agents other listings and proud descriptions of her past sales, although a much more lux house nearby with a disappearing edge pool sold for less than the asking price of this one. The agent explains that the asking price includes the agent selling commission. "It's normal for sellers to take care of commissions" she claims. I guess it includes the transfer tax, too based on the sellers inflexibility. Because the listng is in sqaure feet, and the house is exactly 2,000 ft sq, I ask for the dimensions. The footprint is 7 m2 square larger, worth almost $5,000 more in construction costs that the agent or sellers had wrongly calculated. My new all-cash $196K offer is rejected and I am told not to bother to make more offers, "you will never meet our price." The owner had told me that he couldn't grow tomatoes there, "the acid rain from the volcano eats through their skins." The agent tells me, "You shouldn't live in Costa Rica if you worry about volcanoes." That was an ironic and goofy comment for every reason related to selling real estate here but especially because I'm a mountain guide that's climbed every mouintain in CR even climbing to the craters of Arenal last April (sh-h-h-h-h----) A property in Ciudad Colon 'was' $295K, then $249K and is now $199K for the returned-to-the-USA American absentee owner. "Maybe she'll take $170K" I'm told by the Bolivian agent with offices in the Forum. I look around and note that there is no wall above the edge of the property, a mere 4m from the house separating it from some very poverty-type tipico homes. A wall needs to be built. I hear the sounds of metal being cut. I walk out to the street and two doors down is a chop shop for cars. Nice property, but bad luck. This was this agents 2nd opportunity after showing me a house in Escazu. I was interested and wanted a second look, then would likely make an offer. She's late after I arrive, no one offers a ride, but another agent is there. "Didn't she tell you this house is sold?" I look at a lot above Heredia, and the agent tries to convince me that the house 'just needs remodeling'. It is a re-incarnated two-story barn that vandals had scorched the interior of. It's $200K though because one could raise tilapia 'for income' where they damned a creek. Two months later the property has been 'stolen' as shown on the registro by unscrupulous notary/attorneys. One can 'chase a lot of geese' in Costa Rica during your search for a dream as agents miss appointments and don't call/don't answer their phone, while they let you drive them around as so many have 'broken cars' only to waste gas looking at grossly over- priced properties. It takes some endurance to find a bargain here, even to find something 'priced right' that you want to live in. And you better want to die there, too. Any free standing, not in a gated-community home over about $250K is un saleable. Professional Ticos want the security of a gated community and the lack of maintenance of a condo. The average Gringo arriving here wants to limit expenses and doesn't have a bag of money anymore. Maybe the Venezuelans showing up will buy, just like the Colombians before them... When I sold my house above Alajuela, a certain agent related to this website's sponsors didn't show up for the sit down with the ultimate buyer. He had something else to do. I negotiated the sale myself down at the rancho. The agent showed up for the commission, though. I give him credit for being the only agent in many years even to have clients to show the place. Potential buyers should consider what is happening here in 2014. And I write this while loving so much about Costa Rica and Costa Ricans that I have no plans on leaving. But I am here for nature, not business. The govt has evolved from welcoming foreigners to adding every obstacle. In the 1970's until about 1991 you could bring in a vehicle and personal property with 'exonerations' - tax free. No more. One could become a rentista by changing $1,000/mo. into colons. It's now $2,500/mo and you have to join the Caja for which most people pay $60-300/mo and never use it. I go there for small things showing up at 6:30am to make an appointment for later in the day. But when I needed a colonoscopy last month- my doctor warning me 'it might be cancer, so this is an emergency'- the first appointment was for April..... 2015. I paid for it elsewhere and there is nothing remotely wrong with me (gracias dios). So most $ spent for the Caja membership is really just a tax for the priviledge of staying here. And even after jumping through the flaming hoops and having your residency papers officially accepted by Migracion you still have to leave the country every 90 days to keep your foreign driver's license 'fresh'. Then there's the FATCA/FUBAR USA IRS issue. Scotiabank receives from me an annual letter from my brokerage in the USA stating my ability to provide the $ needed for residency and that it comes entirely from that account. This year that letter wasn't sufficient. I gave them last years tax return. "You don't make enough $ to live here. We will close your account." Wait. They demand to look at the entire holdings in the account, mostly stocks and bond funds. Good enough, "see you in two years". Phone rings a week later. I need to sign a statement for SUGEF and interested parties giving them the right to do a credit check. I sign. Phone rings this morning. My data is insuffucient, they want to re-interview me ... You can't live here easily without banking ability. You can't have a driver's license without residency. Residency is difficult to achieve. Owning a house without it? Owning a car without it? But one must also have a US address, not a PO Box, to keep a bank account in the USA which is difficult to do when one is registered with the IRS as a resident of someplace else. Obviously, you can't be a resident of two countries simultaneously in the eyes of the IRS. So you lie to your American bank and give them some family member's address. And don't forget, if you are not an official resident of CR then you ARE a resident of the USA and must apply for Obamacare if under 65. Don't apply to Obamacare and watch the 'multa's grow, based on your income. There's a giant Catch-22 gotcha! Next CR President Solis is quoted in AMCosta Rica last week as suggesting (again) that Tico and foreigners' off shore assets be subject to a 'wealth tax'. It could be short-lived, like the 'luxury home tax' here (that was later made permanent), or it could be annual. Scotiabank now knows every penney I own because they insisted on having my account holdings or they would close my account. If CR institutes a wealth tax, they can insist II will leave. Any cost-of-living savings for being here will evaporate. So think hard about 'your dream' of owning a home here unless you have endless money. Now imagine I was able to purchase that nice house on the high slopes of Poas, now with no more all-cash Gringo buyers in sight, and too far away from the big city jobs and attractions to attract an all-cash Tico buyer. I have a family emergency, I must take care of my ageing mother, maybe a year or two. I want to sell my dream house.... Is that volcanic ash raining down clogging the gutters like cement during this 'Green' season all-day rain here up high in the mountain gloam?
  18. I'm a sixteen year resident of Costa Rica. I have lived in other countries and consider myself very aware/'street smart'. I owned a beautiful estate home of 800m for nine years above Alajuela surrounded by coffee in a tranquil Tico neighborhood. I constructed a 3m cement block wall around its 6,000m2. This is THE key security feature because it is difficult to know who might be home if you can't see the home. I installed warning signs on the walls suggesting wall climbers would be electrocuted. I had motion detector lights and a wireless alarm system. The house windows and exterior doors were barred, the double doors were further protected by bicycle chains and large locks up and down. I had interior gardens and these areas were separated by more ornamental wrought iron gates. I had around 50 keys for all this which I kept in a 'safe room', which showed a solid core wooden dead bolt on the outside opening to a barred double locked door on the inside. The ceiling had rebar above it to keep invaders from entering the safe room by cutting a hole. I locked up the TV, computer, etc there when I left for a few days even though they were behind layers of 'protection'. Much of the security was in place from a Canadian involved with Teak Plantation Investments from whom I purchased the property. He was a experienced businessman to the crazy ways of the world. Some of the neighbors were kind, usually the poor ones, the wealthier neighbors looked to borrow money or sell lots/fincas for 'investments'. When I purchased nothing, the 'friendships' faded. I heard of nearby home invasions, teachers at work returning to bare walls, the local 'mafia' wise guy with fingers in everyones business who had his dogs poisoned, his 4x4 stolen from his garage while he slept (and recovered after he was called on the phone by the bandits, met them and paid a large ransom.) In nine years, while I was not wealthy, I employed young men to mow the lawn, a six-hour chore for this 55 year-old, a 16 hour, two day chore for various 25 years-olds, one who objected to me complaining about his constant cell phone use telling me, "Can't you see I'm talking!" These workers would forget to mix gas with oil, not show up or call, and one who worked for 15 days over four months visited the Labor Ministery and came back demanding a full alguinaldo which I paid to end the matter. One neighbor paid to mow the lawn while I was in the USA for three months sub-let the work to a family of Nicas leaving the 3m high, 7m wide gate open all day while they worked. Another (married) guard brought over women to party at night pool-side. When it was obvious that another guard was partying in the house, he was shut out. I considered installing a punch-in time clock becausde there is no certainty that anyone you hire is actually showing up. One by one it becomes obvious that whomever I paid was not maintaining the property, attempting to earn 2-3 weeks pay mowing and hauling palm fronds the day before my arrival. Even with a guard, the pool pump house, although double locked, was entered and the pump disconnected and stolen, quite an achievement since the pool was higher than the pump and required specific knowledge of what valves to close. At night, although home, anything left under the rancho disappeared. I eventually had a live-in girlfriend. Although she lived unemployed like royalty watching telenovelas on Sky, gifted frequently with new shoes and clothes and cosmetics while watching me do the laundry, cook the jumbo shrimp and mow the lawn, her friends told her I was only 'using her for sex', and grew angry and violent. I called the police who witnessed this and they took her out. The court demanded I let her back in. She got violent many times over issues like, "You have one more chicken wing than I do", "This jewelry you bought in the US is not gold, I want gold if you love me!" I went to the Domestic violence after she tried to stab me for relief, then the court with two atty's and witnesses. I was told that if I were worried, I should rent an apartment, but she was entitled to live in the house once I had invited her in. The solution was to sell the house. I got 50% of the listing price suggested not by me, but by at least 6 popular brokers. It actually took four years to sell the house, a process I had begun before the woman, and a Tico paid cash. There were no 'Gringo' candidates for a house not 'on the beach' or not in Escazu/Santa Ana (beware where you buy!) Two years of renting in Santa Ana have passed and I have a good situation. I just painted the interior and exterior of a 2/2 I rent for $750/mo inc all utes. But the landlord was unwilling to provide paint or a 'thank you' because in his opinion it didn't need painting. I change out my own toilet 'guts' because I don't like to wait. I garden and have planted hundreds of $ worth of trees and green things because I enjoy them. I like fruit trees, but the feria has all I could ever eat. I've 'owned' three homes now, 2 in Florida. I've come to the conclusion that one never 'owns' property, one maintains and improves it for the next guy. Or just in honor of Mother Earth. I look for another home now, a task I enjoy as much for meeting people, getting out, and hoping for a bargain. But for 'small' money, money that wouldn't matter should I have to evacuate the country due to my aging mother, a proposed 'wealth tax' on foreign assets or a crazy girl convincing the court that this vasectomy person is the father of her twins. No one should ever think that owning property here is secure with the registro, from your neighbors, let alone earthquakes and volcanic eruptions :>)
  19. I've lived in Costa Rica for 16 years and am a 60- yr old, single man who has lived in and worked in many other countries. I speak Spanish. I know the Roger Peterson's of the world and a couple of good real estate agents. Over twenty years, I owned two multi-acre estate homes in Ft Myers, before buying and owning for nine years a 6,000m walled estate of 800m with a pool/beautiful gardens, indoor basketball court. I had coffee for neighbors on the slopes of Volcan Poas. It was a distressed property when I purchased it. When it was time to sell in 2007, several well-known agents listed it at $1.2million. I thought the prices was ridiculously high. After no lookers and three years, I dropped the price to a 'shocking' low $800K. After a couple of years and no lookers, I dropped it to $600K ("are you crazy?") . When family circumstances demanded a sale- and the home was unrentable with it's $150/mo electric bill, pool and daily yard maintenance requiring paying help from afar (don't go there, it doesn't work no matter how 'honest', 'professional' your help starts out)- I sold it for $400K and had a line of buyers .... Ticos. Only one could come up with the money, even though it appraised out at only a little more than my 'ridiculous" price ("Es un regalo" I was told). No Tico buyers could get financed. My buyer has a major frijoles business, importing them from China, and drives a 2011 Land Rover while paying $5,000 for his marchamo. There are no Gringo buyers since 2011 for anything above $150K. Not many people here are forking out $150K cash, either. Or even $100K cash. There are no mortgages for foreigners. Tico professionals these days prefer the security, amenities and no maintenance of condo projects. Free standing homes are unattractive to them. I understand as of this month, there are no buyers at the beach or CValley, ni Ticos y ni extraneros. Nada. If you think about it, the CR govt has done a fine job of eliminating foreign immigration. The lowly 'perpetual tourist' doesn't even qualify for a driver's license or to open a bank account. Everyone is paying $50 - 300/mo for the caja, something most would be loathe to use for anything more major than cough medicine. The rentista 'guarantee bank deposit' of $60,000 is about $59,999 more than most middle class Americans have in a savings account. Only the rich 1% can afford to buy here without risking their nest egg. But it's true, I am looking now to buy something, I have the 'itch', but it's unreal how most websites show prices unchanged (and the same properties unsold) for years and years. Generally, Ticos are not dealing off of their price, either, even if a bank apparaises it at 25% of their ask price. Websites leave on their 'sold' properties, even if they were in the 1990's just to give an air of urgency and success. Now I look for distressed Gringos who will deal. But having even located a few beautiful free-standing homes, all over the central valley. Building lots at $15-20 sq m in areas where some ask $100. But even so, I am still keeping my $ in colone CDs and the US stock market which I trade holding shares of high divi and interest payers. The Canadian market has so many paying 5-12% less 15% witholding recovered when I file my taxes. I am renting for the last 1 1/2 years for the first time since I was in college. I am getting far more 'bang for my buck' living in Santa Ana paying $750/mo for a 1750 sq ft 2/2 with new appliances and character like a sunken tub next to a glassed in atrium which rent includes highspeed internet, cable, phone line and pool in a small compound. I have gardens and I plant. Plants are cheap. After 'owning' three homes and planting those full of fruit trees and flowers I've come to realize I never really 'owned' anything. Don't pay the ever-increasing property taxes, let your insurance lapse and get hit by a hurricane.... Instead what I've actually done is improve the planet a little by planting gardens, palms and landscaping. Good enough. Now, if you run a 5 yr calculation on the 'cost of ownership' of most homes here (or in the US), you will find that for the total funds needed to purchase, decorate, maintain, pay the insurance and taxes, maybe HOA dues for a house, this sum of money can be invested at 3-10% and take the interest and just rent somewhere. After the term of 5 or 10 years, either lose a little or lose nothing at all while keeping control of your cash. Then there is the 10% all-in cost to sell here to consider. Then there's the risk of the woman you're dating trying to move in, then calling the police on an alleged domestic dispute which puts you in the street and her in the sala. Then there's the risk of dying and causing some unwilling family member to come here on a tourist visa and deal with the property. Then there's the chicken farm that moves in next door, or the neighbors who steal something everytime you go to town or blast the stereo every Saturday until 4am. Then there's the likelihood that the property will not appreciate in the next five or ten years. If you are clever enough to find a place that makes your heart sing while assuming these risks in a fading world economy, please do. I hope someday it pays off, some people are good at this. But for the average person moving here or Ecuador or Thailand, the freedom of movement found in renting while maintaining liquidity makes owning a home now the equivalent of buying a yacht. Did I mention I was a Florida yacht broker? I never owned one. - Marsrox
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