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David C. Murray

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Everything posted by David C. Murray

  1. Paul's right. We just went through this but it may be difficult to find. And he's right again. Having a prescription filled for you in the U.S and then having it sent here entails a world of bureaucracy. Instead, you should be able to get a local Costa Rican physician to help you through an expedited process that only s/he can initiate. Just recently, a friend has gotten our local primary care physician to order a medication for her osteoporosis. It's not available here. It will take about two weeks to arrive. So if you have a primary care doc, ask if s/he can help. Our doctor is here in Grecia, but Steve Schweikert(sp?) had a similar experience with a doc in San Ramon, so this isn't a well kept secret. Otherwise, there may be an alternative medication that would work for you. Ask about that, too.
  2. Jill, I'm not at all familiar with the area you're asking about, but I do have some thoughts about purchasing any real estate here in Costa Rica. First, come and see it with your own eyes. It's not just the property you're thinking of buying but also the adjacent ones that will impact upon your enjoyment. Then, if the area is acceptable to you, have your own attorney, not the seller's or the real estate agents', do a thorough job of researching the title to the property. Every parcel in Costa Rica is supposed to be registered in the National Registry. If it's not, back away quickly. There are too many risks involved in purchasing property that isn't titled or which the seller might represent as "being titled soon". If losing the money would be a setback for you, bail out. And then, if your attorney finds that the property is legitimately titled, play it safe and have a second attorney do the research again. The cost won't be that great. Ask for a copy of the official plano castrado(sp?). That's the official, registered survey map. If there's any doubt, have your own surveyor re-survey the property so that you're not shown one lot but sold another. If the new survey is acceptable, have it registered in the National Registry. Deal only with people you know. Ask for the seller's identification and the real estate agent's. If the agent is not a Costa Rican, find out how s/he can be here. If s/he's a tourist or a temporary resident, s/he's breaking the law by working. If s/he'll break the residency law, what other laws is s/he willing to break? And know that the seller is actually the owner. Get his or her ID and have your attorney check that out, too. There have been cases of people selling unsuspecting foreigners property that they simply don't own. Don't take anyone's promise that improvements will be done soon. If the road's not paved, if the water and electricity are not in, wait until you can see those things with your own eyes. There are too many developments with impressive entry gates and nothing else. Too, if you read the first entry in this thread, the writer mentions the airport slated to open in 2010 and the new hospital. It's 2020 now and where are they? Big promises . . small results. Be sure to meet and deal directly with the seller and not just through a real estate agent. It's common here for a real estate agent to promise a seller a net price but to quote a much higher price to the buyer. Guess who keeps the difference.
  3. The single most interesting thing about newman's recent postings, aside from the fact that he has re-ignited the issue of having some substantiation for them, is the fact (and this is an indisputable fact) that the "total all out nuclear attack" he advocates being launched against China would likewise result in a total all out nuclear attack on the United States and the rest of the world. Should the U.S. launch newman's total all out nuclear attack on China, they would undoubtedly retaliate in kind and with equal devastation. That's the premise behind "mutual assured destruction" (you can look it up). And that would draw in the Russians, North Korea, Israel, Iran, India and Pakistan, Ukraine and whomever else has The Bomb. True, Costa Rica might be spared the immediate effects of a worldwide nuclear conflagration, but the radioactive fallout alone would get the rest of us, even newman. The good news, should newman get his way, is that it would reduce the matter of the coronavirus to a mere footnote in history. That is, of course, if there were anyone left alive to write that history which there wouldn't be. Amusing side note: Last week, a rent-a-cop at PriceSmart told me that there is a secret worldwide society which unleashes all these disasters like the coronavirus on the world for some purpose he could not explain. I explained that there is an even more secretive cabal that makes up and spreads unfounded conspiracy theories like the ones newman wraps his arms around.
  4. What do you believe the USA is going to "hit" China with, newman? And why?
  5. I think Dennis makes some good points immediately above. Whether you're looking to rent, buy or build, it's important to realize that Costa Rica's land use restrictions are very lax. There's little to keep someone from building a hog farm or drop forge on the lot next to and upwind from your own. A useful caution would be to never buy or rent anything you haven't seen in person and that you haven't visited during the day and at night. Roosters may not crow much during the day, but we lived briefly in a place where they crowed all night -- ALL NIGHT LONG! Real estate listings may show the structure being offered, but what of the neighbors and their dogs and chickens? If all you're looking for in a place to live is somewhere to get in out of the rain, then renting may be your best option, but if you're a "nester", as we are and as Dennis appears to be, then owning your own piece of the rock is important. If I had any choice at all, I'd not only buy but I'd build. I've seen a lot of houses, here and up north, that were built in accordance with the builder's preferences but I've seen very few that would satisfy our interests. So build we would build and build we did -- four times, actually. Others may not be so picky and that's fine for them, but living with someone else's mistakes and misconceptions is not for us.
  6. Exactly right again, Steve. One account of someone paying squatters to occupy a property hardly qualifies as proof of widespread abuses. Note, too, that nowhere in the article does the author assert that squatting, paid or not, is common. He refers only to one or two instances. We have still to learn of the source of Derrick's assertion and so must take it for a figment of his colorful imagination (and maybe bias). Derrick, that's all you've got? " . . Get over yourself . . . "? Still nothing to back up your assertion of "fact"? We can only conclude that you were, in fact, fabricating this "fact" out of your colorful imagination and will regard it as such. Consider the implications for your future contributions here.
  7. You're one hundred percent right, Steve. The problem with asserting unsubstantiated "facts" is that someone else, someone who may not yet have joined this Forum but will later, may take that unsubstantiable assertion as a true fact. If they then act on that fact, which isn't really a fact at all, they may be led to a less than optimal outcome. Imagine that someone reading this Forum wished to have a jaguar kitten to raise as a housepet. Somebody else (somebody who is talking through his hat) might write that it's safe and legal. If no one takes that second person to task, then the inquiring party just might get his or her hands on a jaguar kitten and get into a world of trouble as well as jeopardizing the animal's welfare. That's why it's always a best practice to know what you're talking about and, when pressed, to be able to support your assertions of "fact".
  8. It isn't a matter of agreeing or disagreeing, Derrick. You asserted a "fact" (see above) that a large portion of squatters are the "paid type". I'm just asking how you know that fact. If it's true, how do you know? Or is this purely conjecture on your part?
  9. Yes, except that I'm not the one who made the otherwise unsubstantiated statement of "fact". That was you. I merely asked you how you know what you say you know and what the source of your information is. It's not likely that you've personally interviewed every squatter in Costa Rica, so there must be some other source of this certain knowledge of yours. I'm simply asking what that source is. And whether this is firsthand knowledge of yours or something definitive you've read, I asked you to break down the squatters by type -- "paid types" and other types. Do you actually know of a single instance of a "paid type" squatter? If yes, how about some details? Who's paying him or them? How much? Why and for how long? And in the end, it does matter. Clearly, squatters are using vacant land that does not belong to them for their own benefits, but that doesn't make them thieves. If it did, they'd be thieves instead of squatters, but they're not.
  10. Derrick, please elaborate on the quote above. How do you know that a large portion of the "squatters" here are the "paid type"? Are there records you've consulted? Which records? And who pays them? And how much are they paid? And for what purpose? Of all the squatters in Costa Rica, what are the percentages of "paid type" squatters and whatever the other type or types are? Please break down the numbers for us. You are asserting a known fact, right?
  11. I think it's pretty universal that every barrio has an "inspection" committee or some such. If you can contact that person or group in your barrio, you can lodge a complaint with them and they, in turn, can lodge a complaint with the Ministry of the Environment regarding the trees that were cut down. Costa Rica takes a very, very dim view of felling trees. One of the locals did so on some friends' property and the inspection committee found out. They and MINAE made our friends replace all the trees and buy the local MINAE office a computer as a good will gesture. This saved everyone a court date. So the local inspection committee does have some pull. A problem you face, doppelt, is that while the condition of this property that adjoins your own clearly does have an impact on your enjoyment, and maybe on the value, of your property, since you do not actually own the property that's being squatted upon, I'm not sure you have any standing to act on what's going on there. If this squatter were squatting on your own property, you'd be well within your legal rights to complain, but since they're not affecting your property in a direct, physical way (except for felling your trees), I'm skeptical that you can force any change. Costa Rica's land use restrictions are pretty lax. If the property in question were being used as a hog or chicken farm, or maybe as an auto body repair shop or a noisy bar, I don't think you'd have much choice but to put up with it. Those are legitimate uses. As Paul noted above, squatters do have some rights and legal protections, and since this guy isn't squatting on your property, I'm not sure you have much say about what's going on next door. It may even be the fact that the owner of the property actually welcomes or at least knowingly tolerates this squatter's presence and activities. Do you know otherwise? A neighbor of ours was considering selling a property adjacent to ours for a chicken farm. That would have been perfectly legal, but I told them that if they did, I would start raising free-range foxes. That may have tipped the scales in my favor. So far, no chickens.
  12. Paul's right about acting promptly. In addition, it should be noted that any "improvements"(very broadly defined) that squatters make to the property may become liabilities for the property owner. That is, s/he may have to pay the squatters for whatever they've built, cleaned up, installed, etc. This is a frustrating situation for all concerned. It appears that the spirit of the law says that unused property should be available to those who need it. Think about a poor, hungry family who finds a piece of vacant land where they could live and grow crops. If the owner isn't using the property, it lies idle while the family goes without. What's the fairness in that?
  13. You might try going directly to the local police chief to see if s/he can do anything.
  14. We looked for smoker-appropriate wood a number of years ago but came up empty-handed. At a combination appliance and grill store in Escazu, we were told that Costa Rica requires that any wood product that's imported into the country be legally certified not to have originated in a virgin forest anywhere in the world. At the time, he was having problems importing kitchen and laundry appliances because the pallets they were shipped on weren't so certified. We resolved the matter by doing the gringo thing -- brought it in in our luggage when we returned from a trip to the States. No problem there.
  15. My understanding is that the Collegio of Architects sets the rates (expressed in percentages) for the various services an architect can offer. That is, s/he can charge a specified percent for initial rough plans, a specified percent for finished blueprints, a specified percent for getting permits, a specified percent for recruiting a builder and soliciting bids, a specified percent for . . . <all the other steps in the process through to completion>. With that, the client can choose just which services s/he wants from the architect and can know what those services will cost. The Collegio of Architects uses a "reference cost" per square meter of the building project to compute the architect's fee(s) for each service to be provided. That reference cost has no basis in fact; it's just a number they dream up and it's much less than the actual cost of building. Its only relevance is for computing the architect's fee(s). For example . . . Let's say you're building a 100 square meter house (that's about 1,077 square feet). And let's say that the Collegio's reference cost is $500 per square meter. To the Collegio, the project should cost $50,000 (again, only a reference cost for the purpose of computing the architect's fees).The Collegio might specify one percent for initial rough plans - $500. Finished blueprints - 2% or $1,000. Getting permits - 0.5% or $250. Soliciting bids and selecting a builder - 1% or $500. Supervision of the actual construction with weekly inspection visits - 4% or $2,000. (Understand, please, that the numbers in this paragraph are strictly for illustration and are not meant to be actual, real world figures.) You could ask your architect what the basis is for the services s/he's proposing to provide and how those costs are computed. Perhaps s/he can give you a contact at the Collegio of Architects who could verify these costs.
  16. You're absolutely right, seaturtlewoman, about the accessibility of local bank branches, but there is another way to look at the matter. For example, Banco Nacional in Grecia is renowned for its long lines and thus long waits at both the teller windows and at the service desks. Their branch in Sarchi, about ten minutes or so away, is almost never busy. And and the Sarchi branch has a parking lot which the Grecia branch does not. So the question may really boil down to where one prefers to spend one's time. Standing in line in the nearest branch may have it's allure, but for us, we'd prefer to get our business done and move on to more enjoyable pastimes. Given the choice, I'd rather go have blood drawn than stand in line at the bank.
  17. Kim, in order to open a bank account, regardless of your tourist or residency status, you will have to document your identity either with your passport or your cedula (if you're a resident) and you will have to document the source of your income. The bank might accept your Social Security letter, but we have always provided them two years of our U.S. federal income tax returns. They'll also want to know your residence address here in Costa Rica, your local phone number (your cell number will suffice) and your email address. Banks may differ in terms of their policies for deposits both initially and after your account has been open for a while. If that's an issue for you, you might want to shop around. We have found Banco Davivienda the easiest to work with and their policies and practices have been the easiest to comply with. Your mileage may vary.
  18. If you don't install whatever solar equipment you plan on for later, at least put in the "infrastructure" as you're building. Running the plumbing for solar water heating or the electric cabling for photovoltaic is much easier and cheaper as the house is being built or remodeled. BTW, I'm a big fan of building from scratch rather than trying to accommodate others' ideas and mistakes. I can wax on and on about that, if you wish.
  19. sweikert925, I'm with you on the issue of the environment, but I can also tell you from a number of years of actual experience that both solar water heating and photovoltaic electricity generation come with very high initial investment costs and very long payback times. And they do require some maintenance. When we built our house, which you have visited, we installed two solar water heating panels and an 80-gallon storage tank with electrical coils for backup when there isn't enough solar exposure. That cost was about $2,300 in 2006. Ten or eleven years later, the whole shootin' match had to be replaced. Then, about eight years or so ago, we installed six and then six more photovoltaic panels in a "grid-tied", "net metering" system. When we make more power than we're using, our meter runs backward and, in effect, we get a credit. When we use more electricity than we're making, the meter runs forward and we create a bill. To be sure, our electricity bills are less than they would be without either of these two systems, but they're still hardly zero. (Our home is all-electric -- range, dryer, backup water heating, etc, and we're not bashful about using them all.) To plan to heat anything larger than a small hot tub by direct solar water heating or photovoltaic electricity generation would require a breathtaking initial investment. (As an aside, George Lundquist, who runs the tours and is a retired engineer, has calculated that it would be less expensive to install all photovoltaic panels and heat water with electric on-demand water heaters. That would be a simpler build-out, too. Wish we'da thought of that . . .)
  20. . . . but pools can have heaters. Both the foregoing quotes are totally accurate, but neither addresses the matter of operating costs. Pool heaters may be powered by either bottled gas or electricity and a filtration system and vacuum would be powered electrically. Regardless which you choose, the operating costs will be very high. Water absorbs a great deal of heat energy and, unless the sides and bottom of the pool are well insulated (not very likely, actually) and unless the surface is covered by an insulated cover, much of that heat will be lost and will have to be replenished. That much heat energy garnered from either electricity or gas will be very expensive. In areas where ICE provides electricity, the first 200kwh per month are fairly cheap, but beyond that, the price approximately doubles. And 200kwh won't heat the water in much of a pool. Gas is cheaper but hardly cheap in the quantities which would be needed, and the cost is based on the world market which can vary.
  21. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules about the transaction fees, taxes, etc. A practical approach would be to get your attorney, not theirs, to give you a firm estimate of what all the costs will be to sell/buy the property in question. Then you can negotiate an arrangement with the other party.
  22. Sweat it not. If you use one of the recommended importers, they will take care of all the details and deliver the car to you ready and legal to drive. That's their business.
  23. Flood cars, cars that have been totaled, and other nightmares are a real risk. And they're readily available here. CarFax can answer some of those questions and I wouldn't buy a used car of North American origin here in Costa Rica without checking it (CarFax, that is, as well as the car). For that you'll need the car's Vehicle Identification Number. CarFax can also tell you if the odometer has been turned back which is a common practice here. That VIN should match on all the body parts like fenders, doors, etc, too. If they do not, it's likely the car was in an accident and seriously damaged. It is for this reason that, if time were not an issue, I'd shop the much larger market in the U.S. for a used car, check it via CarFax, and import it through one of the local importers (Mike Rappaport or Charlie Zeller) who know all the local ropes. The cost to import a vehicle is the same regardless who imports it. The only difference is that if you buy a used car here, you'll be paying the importer's overhead costs and profit. He's doing this to feed his kids. As for obtaining parts, it's increasingly a nightmare. Again, the key is the Vehicle Identification Number. With many brands assembled in a number of countries, it's important to know if your (say) Toyota was assembled in the U.S. or in Japan or maybe elsewhere. Its assembly point will dictate exactly which part(s) you may need. While power train components may be universal for a given make, model and year, things like suspension and brake parts, alternators and air conditioning system components, etc may be locally sourced in the country where the vehicle was assembled and may very well not be interchangeable across all versions of the same vehicle. This is a common problem even in the U.S. where we bought a 1992 Toyota Camry that had been assembled in Japan. It needed different McPherson struts than those installed on U.S.-assembled cars.
  24. Well, there are those who bring new vehicles directly from Japan and Korea. Each vehicle brand (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, and more) has a sole importer of their cars to Costa Rica. That's true for European brands, too. Mercedes, Maserati, Porsche, Ferrari, etc are all available here. (Can you imagine the annual marchamo on a quarter million dollar Ferrari?) And you can buy brands here (Renault, Peugeot, Mahindra, Great Wall and Tiger Trucks) that are not available in the U.S. (Whether any of those is a good idea is another matter.) The same import duties apply whether the vehicles come from Asia, Europe or North America. I've been told by a couple of reliable sources that cars imported to Costa Rica from Asia weigh 200 to 300 pounds less than their brandmate U.S. models. Since they look the same inside and out, one wonders what's missing. Friends bought a new Kia sedan here in Costa Rica in 2012. It looked exactly like the U.S. version, but while the U.S. model had six or seven air bags, the Costa Rican one had two. For me, that's a strong argument in favor of bringing a vehicle from the States.
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