Building a Home in Costa Rica

Home building in Costa RicaSounds like a far-fetched idea? The truth is, building a home in Costa Rica is not as hard as you may think. Actually, it is rewarding. I know because I have built two in the Playa Hermosa area. It is a great feeling that once you are finished building your home, you can step back and say “See what I did”!
All the photos in this blog are of the last house I built in Costa Rica, it is almost time to move in.

Ok, let’s start with the process, shall we! First things first:
View from my property in Costa Rica

Step 1: Find the right property for you

You need to acquire the land that works best for you. Do you want the big ocean view that is expansive with the sun setting on over the water every day.? Maybe, your preference is a country-style property with lots of land around the house and area to put fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Some folks prefer to be close to their neighbors. Everybody has a different idea of the perfect location. This is where I can assist. Check out some of the many different residential building lots in the Playa Hermosa area. See something you like, email me. I will give you the information you are looking for.
Home is almost finished

Step 2: Choose a Builder

Now that you have purchased your lot or land to build a home, you need to choose a builder. We have many good builders and tradesmen here in Costa Rica. I can recommend at least six, most speak English. I have used both a Costa Rican builder and a foreigner that is a legal resident here that speaks perfect English.
Front elevation of a new home in Playa HermosaStep 3: Design Your Home

Now comes the fun part, designing the house you want to build. I have seen homes in the area from very traditional Spanish colonial design to ultra-modern contemporary. It all depends on your preference. Designing your home can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months and, again, it depends on you.

Step 4: Finalize, or Localize your Plans

All the builders have architects and engineers on their staff that work with them directly and will coordinate the entire process for you. There is no need to go find one of each on your own unless of course you already have preferred plans from an architect from where you live; then the plans only need to be localized to local building codes.

Step 5: Get all your Building Permits

Once you have finally decided on the final design, the process of getting permits to build a home here in Costa Rica may seem daunting. However, most builders will handle the whole process for you. Having said that I am still going to give you a list of what is required.

What you will need to get your building permits in Costa Rica

A) Copy of the Plano Catastro for legally registered land survey.
B) Proof you are the owner of the property, “certificacion literal” This is basically a form from the government saying you are the owner of the property.
C) Original “Carte de Aqua Disponible” a Water availability letter from the local supply of water.
D) Original blueprints signed off by the “Colegio de Ingenieros” or College of engineers showing that the planes and construction meet all the structural, electrical, plumbing and sanitary building codes. Your builder architect will take care of this part.
E) A signed letter from the electric provider that there is legal electricity at the property.
F) Proof from “Hacienda” this is the local tax authority that you are up to date on all your personal taxes in Costa Rica.
Driveway of a new home in Costa Rica

Step 6: Get Approval from your local Municipality

Now that you and your builder have all your permits and paperwork in order, it is time to present everything to the local municipality department of engineering for their approval. This process can take around 2-4 weeks depending on how busy they are. KEY POINT: make sure you have everything in order and all the paperwork required by the municipality. It is best to check with the builder first to make sure.

Step 7: Build Your New Home in Costa Rica

Now you received your building permits, Great Job you are on your way to building your new home in Costa Rica.

Now the real fun part begins. Even if you are not “on the ground” in Costa Rica when the building begins most, if not all of the builders, will send progress photos to you every week. If you happen to be here in Costa Rica while the home is under construction, even better – but it is not completely necessary.

One thing I have experienced after building a home here, as well as two others in the United States, is: if you have a budget in mind of what you can afford, always add at least 15%-20% on top of that. Now, you may be thinking yeah that’s right – builders like to add extras and hidden fees. Well, although that does happen from time to time, honestly that’s not really the issue. What really happens is that when the building process starts there are always changes you want to be made. That is where the extra percentage comes into play.

When you are thinking of building a home in Costa Rica, don’t be afraid of the idea. It is actually pretty easy. Feel free to contact me and I will be happy to point you in the right direction.

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