Buy Land and Build in Costa Rica

Many people have the dream of building a home on the beach or perched on a mountain top with views of the ocean. Some want lots of acreage to spread out and feel “off-the-grid”, not having neighbors close by. It can be a reality, and it’s not too hard to achieve, but you need to know the different kinds of property designations.

View of Playa Hermosa from a hillside building lot
Before I get in to the types of plots of land or building lots, let me say that there are many types. I will focus on the most common one. It is important to know the local municipality will actually set the high requirement. Some are setbacks from the boundaries, the maximum percentage of construction that is allowed based on land size and the use of the land, also called in Spanish “Uso de Suelo”. This should be part of any due diligence before actually closing sale on the property so you know what can be built.

Residential Lots  There are a few different types of residential lots. Let’s get started here first. Many people that owned large pieces of land may have segregated or sub-divided the plot off of a bigger piece of land. These lots can be situated on public roads or a sometimes on an easement. These types of lots have to be a minimum of 350 square meters in order to build a home.

Home built on a lot in Costa Rica

A) “Horizontal Condominium lots”. These lots can be of any size however most are bigger than 350 square meters. Anyone who purchases in a “horizontal condominium” are required by law to adhere to the registered covenants and restrictions. This could include style of home, roof material retirements, monthly maintenance fees and so on. Horizontal condominium lots are always in a gated community and the roads within are private. These types of lots cannot be subdivided without 100% of the condominium association in agreement.

B) Then there are developments that have been set up under “agricultural” designation. Agricultural lots need to be, by law, a minimum of 5000 square meters, or 1.23 acres. With this type of lot, the roads in the development are easements, meaning that the road will actually pass-through another person’s property and vice versa. This will all be shown on the title of the deed and property registration as well as the registered lot survey or “Plano”. Agricultural development land can be subdivided but only if the two new properties are still over 5000 square meters. Many developments were set up this way and most do have a home owners association to take care of the common areas and costs. By law, the main home on a agricultural lot can be a maximum of 300 square meters or 3229 square feet of construction.

Costa Rica Rainbow over a piece of agricultural land

C) Urbanization lots. This type of lot is segregated off of a bigger piece of property and the roads going through the development, or area, are public and anyone can drive on them. The size of these lots varies.

Farm land or “Fincas” – There are many large pieces of land for sale in Costa Rica. Heck you dive around and see signs on trees and fence posts declaring “Se Vende” or for sale. You see so many of them it makes you think the whole country is for sale. With large tracks of land usually over one “hectare” or 2.5 acres, you can build just about anything, but why over-build when you probably want the space. Again, as mentioned above, the local municipality will set the use of soil “Uso de Suelo”.
Important things to know – When you find the piece of land you want buy, and build on, one of the most important things I recommend is that you have a legal source of potable water.

Whether the water it is supplied by the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados or AyA (the Spanish acronym for the water authority of Costa Rica), a legally registered private well; or if the property is in a outlying areas, water supplied by a “ASAD. A Spanish acronym for Las Asociaciones administradoras de los Sistemas de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. This is a legally registered local association that delivers water to properties via piping. Make sure you ask the attorney that is helping you purchase the property to verify all this during the due diligence period. Otherwise, it can be very costly.

When looking for a piece of land in Costa Rica and there are many beautiful spots to build the dream home, make sure you know what you are getting into before you actually close the sale.

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