“BLUE FLAG” Award and What It Means
I have written about the “Blue Flag” award before but here is a maybe a better understanding of the whole program or what the goal is.
Since 1995, the Blue Flag program has helped Costa Rica clean up polluted rivers, beaches, oceans and to mitigate the effects of climate change. It has convinced business owners and communities and consumers to use less electricity, fossil fuels, water and paper. And it is constantly expanding with new environmentally responsible initiatives. The members of the National Blue Flag Commission, which oversees the coveted Blue Flag award program, announced goals for broadening the program in the next five years.
By 2017, the commission hopes to increase the number of local committees participating in the program by 66 percent, from 2,216 to 3,681. They hope to boost the number of beaches flying the Blue Flag from 114 to 124. And they plan on registering 290 homeowners in a new category – sustainable housing – which represents a 700 percent increase in the next five years. The commission already has awarded 40 Blue Flags for sustainable housing since the category was created.
“The Blue Flag program has shown in its 18 years that it is an excellent tool for development, and improving public health and well-being in harmony with nature,” Blue Flag National Commission coordinator Darner Mora said
The Blue Flag program awards beaches, communities, like Playa Hermosa Guanacaste, and schools that uphold certain environmental standards. According to the commission, the program helped reduce electricity consumption in 2012 by the equivalent of 33,996 tons of carbon dioxide. Also, fossil-fuel use decreased by 942 tons, water consumption by 112,920 cubic meters, and paper use by 5.7 tons, the commission said.
As the tourism industry grew in Costa Rica in the 1990s, beaches became popular destinations for tourists, real estate speculators and hotels hoping to cash in. The result was increased pollution and degradation at some of the country’s most precious coastal areas. This happened because the Costa Rica government opened the door for all the above but was not ready for the influx that actually happened. They also failed to properly trained or set guidelines for the local municipalities to make sure there were not bad effects to the environment.
“The program’s philosophy is to award those who do things well, and to make them an example for others to follow,” commission member Alberto Quintana said. It started with beach-protection efforts, but today, the Blue Flag program has several award categories that include communities, schools, protected nature areas, watersheds, climate-change mitigation, sustainable homes and special events.
A commission administers the program and is composed of various government agencies, including the Costa Rican Tourism Board, Environment Ministry, Health Ministry, Costa Rican Electricity Institute, Education Ministry, and several others.
Some 1,500 schools in Costa Rica proudly display the Blue Flag. The commission hopes to boost that number by 1,000 in the next five years. The commission also hopes to train more municipal officials in environmental conservation, so that they can guide their communities through the process. This is where it really needs to start but with guidelines as to not cause harm to growth at the same time. “Local governments should participate in the Blue Flag program to improve public health in their communities,” Mora said.
Another major goal of the commission in the next five years is to clean up the heavily polluted Virilla-Tárcoles river basin. The Tárcoles River, which originates in the Central Valley and empties into the Pacific Ocean, is the most polluted river in Central America. It flows through five of Costa Rica’s seven provinces – San José, Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and Puntarenas. One More reason to be in Guanacaste.
The [Virilla-Tárcoles] watershed is the most polluted in Central America. Although there is liquid waste, it’s mostly polluted with solid waste. The only way to clean it up is through education and getting people involved in the project. To win a Blue Flag, communities must form a committee, register with the commission and present an annual plan with specific steps to protect natural resources. At the end of each year, candidates must demonstrate progress to commission members, who issue the awards. Companies also use the program to meet social responsibility goals through waste-treatment and water and energy conservation
For more about the Blue Flag program, visit: www.banderaazulecologica.org but be ready you will need a good translator program or be able to read Spanish
Investors Cashing In on “Must Sell Real Estate” Opportunities
“Fire Sale” is a term you hear and have read often when investors are talking about the best, hottest real estate deals. Unfortunately the fire sale market tends to be a hidden market because they sell so fast, usually by word of mouth. A true “FIRE SALE” hardly ever gets advertised. Many if not all realtors or people in the know of real estate, have call groups, or list of investors that want to be called when there is a real and good value. Most of these investors rely on expertize, experience and most importantly the trust of their realtor and will act immediately.
Here in Costa Rica it’s the same, local investors and expats are buying these deals, snapping them up before they hit a national or international marketing. Costa Rica has become ripe picking ground for Must-Sell-Now opportunities. For those smart investors looking to take advantage of these opportunities, they already have a comfort level with Costa Rica and have done their due diligence previously.
There are many properties listed and advertised as must Sell or emergency sale, and if the price truly reflects a value then it won’t be listed for long even in a down market. Many of these must sell listings are not what I call a fire sales or emergency sales. It’s more like they want to sell but don’t want to take a financial hit.
Personally I have a special list of investors that I call immediately when a real fire sale comes up, but they expect to see significantly reduced prices, at around 40% off the market value or original purchase price. I have one example of one that came up two weeks ago, a very nice ocean view, easy to build on lot, almost an acre in size, in a gated expat community with all utilities in place with paved roads and within one mile of the beach. This property was perfect for a hold it and land bank or to turn and put back on the market or even build a reasonable spec. home. The property was originally listed for $195,000, the listing agent called me and made me aware that the seller was going to drastically lower the price to $110,000 and had to sell or he would lose it, pretty amazing price! So I called the people on my list and explained the details of the property and the location and recommended offering as a starting point $75,000 and not go above $90,000 in the negotiations. Low and behold an offer was written and presented before the listing agent could even make the changes to his marketing and web pages.
When I am asked how a potential investor might tap into this hidden market, I tell them to first do their homework, come and spend a week doing nothing but looking at properties, investigating the locals and select the area you and others believe will have good growth over the next few years. Then work with a trusted local professional agent in the area that is very tuned to the local market, a social butterfly that knows everyone in the area, and tell them what you are looking for .The really great deals, I mean really great deals are out there coming and going all the time, you just have to find them when they show up.”
So the bottom line for investors looking for the hottest deals is to be tapped into the local markets of high growth areas through local an agent, get on the call list and be ready to move fast when a real fire/emergency sale hits the market. If you are lucky enough to get on this list be ready to move fast, if you hem and haw and waste the advisors time and never make a move, you can be rest assured you will be removed from the list.
Quick Snap Shot of the Costa Rica Real Estate Market
According to the most recent statistics in Costa Rica, and these are hard to get a hold of since there is no officially registered MLS, almost 80% of the sales are going for an average of $200,000 to $350,000.
The high value real luxury home market has seen an uptick over the past year because more high net worth individuals are investing in Costa Rica those from the US are looking to move money out, but the inventory of these types of properties in the Guanacaste area is getting slim.
Condo sales have also risen but primarily in the metropolitan San Jose and surrounding areas in the Central Valley. At the beaches only reasonable priced units are selling and a good number of sellers are finally adjusting their prices to sell.
Farm and agriculture properties have started to see more movement in late 2012, not only for their income potential over the short term but investors are also keen to invest in land that could be re-tooled into residential, industrial or commercial projects in the future.
One of the reasons the Costa Rica real estate market has seen some positive growth signs in the last year, is that Costa Rica’s GDP growth rate was at 5% in 2012 and is expected to close out 2013 between 4% and 5%; this has been attracting a growing number of European, Canadian and Chinese buyers.
TO LEAR MORE ON HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY just email me for more information Jaaechef@gmail.com
Blue Skies Helps Prevent Cabin Fever
Gray days may have more impact on mental state than most people believe or really care about. There is not a lot of research from tropical sources on the effect of weather on the brain, even though the rainy season days are part of life here in Costa Rica. But elsewhere in the world, researchers have linked something called seasonal affective disorder to 7 percent or more of the population. I have heard about this for places like northern Washington State where it seems to be cloudy all the time and drizzling, at least that was how it was the three times I visited there. Nice place but not enough sun and warm weather for me.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional ( The Costa Rica National Institute of Meteorology) said we are starting to see weather than represents the transition into the rainy season. Hot mornings will give way to gathering clouds and downpours in the afternoon. Althought this has happened only once so far and Playa Del Coco, received a good soaking for about an hour. During this transition the heaviest rain will be in the central and south Pacific. That is because the rainy season is moving from south to north. Yes the southern part of Costa Rica has a dry season, what that means is it just rains less but still rains all year which means higher humidity, more bugs and lots of mold.
Costa Ricans know that this is the time to get up early and enjoy the morning sun and get their butts to work. As the Costa Rica government is aware of the effects of sunlight, too. In part, that's why the official workday is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
They may not realize it, but they are self-medicating in more ways than one. I won’t mention some of the other self-medicating ways as that could lead to a whole other subject, not bad just another subject.
The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association in the United Kingdom, sounds like a group of pot smoking hippies to me but what the heck they actually formed an association, estimates that about 7 percent of the population suffers from winter depression from September to April there. Here in Playa Hermosa, it would have to be only two months, September and October as this is our rainiest time of the year. The association claims 900 members, That’s not that many, I wonder how many are perpetual stoners?
Most of the research has been done in areas where there is winter weather. The condition used to be known as cabin fever. The symptoms include sleep disturbances, a tendency to overeat, lethargy and depression, said the association, the overeating must be just a bad case of the munchies.
Researchers at Columbia University in New York, now these guys I might believe, said that short days, winter skies and shadows of sunlight not only make humans blue, limiting the amount of sunlight in their life may also affect how their brains work, they said. Investigators used weather data from satellites to measure sunlight exposure around the United States and linked this data to cognitive function in depressed people. Cognitive function of the brain describes how a person thinks and was assessed by measurement of short-term recall and how aware one was of where they were and what time it was, called temporal orientation.
Light has been shown to regulate the hormones serotonin and melatonin as well as affect brain blood flow. Brain blood flow is in turn linked to how well a person thinks, they noted. Some people, of course, have a tendency to magnify the situation of Cabin Fever by making the gray late afternoons a time for alcoholic excess, AKA HAPPY HOUR!!
Costa Rica Central Government Readies another package of fiscal reforms
READ BETWEEN THE LINES-----MORE TAXES!
The Laura Chinchilla administration is making an effort to create new taxes and increase government income before the president leaves office in May next year. Édgar Ayales Esna, the minister of Hacienda, promises an open and consulted effort in three steps. The effort will be designed to include input from the presidential candidates that are starting to champagne for the presidency that will take place in February 2014.
The project is just another way to institute a value-added tax and other taxes that failed to pass the legislature earlier in the present president's term. No matter where in the world, governments have been spending wildly and now it is time to pay, unfortunately it is the common people that end up footing the bill.
The feisty Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (National Association of Public and Private Employees) already has checked in with an opinion. The government should do something about the more than 1,000 public employees who make more than 5 million colons a month, the union said. The amount is more than $10,000 or more than $120,000 a year.
In fact, the central government is proposing changes to public employee salaries, but the issue is controversial. The government already has floated $1 billion in bonds at a 4.5 percent interest rate to reduce some of its expenditures. And, as Ayales notes, the central government has instituted a job freeze. At least they are starting in the right direction as the government is the largest employer in the country.
Ayales said that by June the first stage of designing a proposal will be completed and that it will be published for comments. Then the government will enter into more discussions on specifics with various sectors of the economy. The third stage will be to send proposed legislation to lawmakers with the hope that they can pass the measures by May 2014. Notice the word HOPE this will be tied up for years.
From a political perspective such a move will absolve an incoming president of responsibility for the proposals, AKA Pass the buck, which certainly will try to include more taxes. Ayales said the goal would be to give the country a balanced and comprehensive solution to its financial problems. I call it the Robin Hood Effect!
All the expats from the US that have retired or decided to make a living in Costa Rica are a bit concerned because the President of the United States is visiting Costa Rica the first week of May. Although it is for a Latin American Conference, I am willing to bet, he talks to the president of Costa Rica on the side to allow the US IRS have more access to US expats dealings. Only Time will tell, here is a link to the local paper about President Obamas visit http://www.amcostarica.com/032813.htm#31