Friday, February 5, 2010

Why choose Costa Rica for your Retirement Home?

Why Choose Costa Rica – Why is it different, better, unique? Well, the reasons are as abundant as the overall diversity of this enchanting country - Heavenly mountains and delightful beaches, the healthiest climate of the world… A profusion of flora and fauna like nowhere else on this planet… And on top of that, very reasonable real estate prices… All of this makes Costa Rica a true paradise.

Costa Rica offers all the comforts of home in a relaxing tropical paradise; Costa Rica has become the ultimate relocation and retirement destination. The warmth of its people and its climate has attracted thousands of Americans and Europeans, but the advantages of living in Costa Rica extend far beyond its “fun-and-sun” reputation.

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Costa Rican food
Costa Rican food may be a little different than what you are used to, as with traveling, living or retiring to any country, but you will surely enjoy the wholesome differences, with infinite variety of garden fresh and street market inexpensive fruits and vegetables.

Strategic / accessible location
The country, strategically located in the center of the Americas, allows quick and easy airline access from the United States, as well as convenient shipment of personal goods to Pacific or Caribbean Ports.

The country has two modern international airports, one in San Jose and the other in Liberia. There are commuter flights throughout the country to smaller local landing strips. There is an outstanding bus and taxi system. And even if the country and local community roads are not always in the BEST repair…You can trust that the main highway systems are smooth, modern, well planned and well-maintained.

During the dry season – summer – which is roughly the end of November to May, there are still occasional showers a couple of times a week. Even in the rainy season – winter - around the end of May through December, the sun shines all morning and into the early afternoon, before the country is blessed with a lively rain typically lasting 2 to 4 hours. There is but one caveat to this perfect climate…Although there are plenty of mountains, it is unlikely you can ski there.

The Costa Rican people (or Ticos as they call themselves), are almost an international cultural phenomenon because they are such a gentle, spirited, friendly, educated, polite and kind people. They are open-minded and eager to assist. When you say thank you or “gracias” in this country, the reply is always CON GUSTO which translates WITH PLEASURE, and they MEAN it! And as an added bonus they seem to border on a refreshing obsession for cleanliness. You will surely find and appreciate this to be one of the cleanest countries in the world. Virtually everything: the people, their homes and public facilities. 

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Stability and government
The psyche of the people is most certainly, and quite fortunately, reflected in the more than 150-year history and tradition of free and honest elections. Costa Rica boasts the oldest democracy in Latin America, which is why it is richly known for its political, social and economic stability.

This stability (even among less stable neighbors) has been achieved and upheld without a standing army, which was abolished in 1948. Instead of investing money into military, resources were instead allocated to highways, education, medical care and the cultural arts.

Affordable cost of living
This theme of democracy and devotion to the enrichment of the lives of the population has resulted in a highly educated, productive, yet affordable workforce for companies and individuals, alike.

In turn, Costa Rica in general, has a very affordable cost of living which is particularly appreciated by visitors or those who relocate from the United States, Canada and Europe. A couple can live comfortably on less than $1500 per month. Housing, construction, food, utilities, property taxes, insurance premiums and labor domestic help are where you will find the greatest and most dramatic savings. 

Rents range from $500 to $3,000 per month for a large house with a large yard, depending on location. Rural areas are cheaper, and ocean and urban properties are more.

If your current tastes already trend higher, then you will pay more for it here, as you would in your own country of origin. But more is still less. 

Property values
As for property ….The type, size and location of the property will dictate how much you pay. A simple but pleasant home can be purchased for $45- $90 per square foot. The range in price will depend on your personal preferences.

When we came there for the first time 5 years ago, the real estate was unbelievably cheap. When we visited the country 2 years ago, we could not miss the fact that real estate prices increased significantly. But that just validates the point of the under valuated prospects for this country before.

You don’t have to be a resident of Costa Rica to own property and you’re entitled to the same ownership rights as citizens of Costa Rica. Ownership of real estate in Costa Rica is fully guaranteed by the constitution to all including foreigners. This means your purchase here can be fully secured and safe.

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So now that you have arrived…please know, that at least in most locations in the country, you can enjoy consistent and reliable access to modern communication: Internet, mobile network, fax, land phones, and, actually, an efficient surface mail system. Let it be known, however, that the Spanish word for address is “direccion.” Unless you have a Post Office Box, more often than not, your address is, literally, a sequence of “directions” unless and sometimes even if, you live in a more metropolitan area.

Two top-notch English newspapers, cable DirectTV access with US and British Channels, along with availability of English language books and movies help appease the potential for “homesickness.”

There is also a wide variety of options for Spanish language study in both private and public venues.

Medical General
So what if I get sick? By the way…yes, you CAN drink the water! However if you DO require medical treatment, Costa Rica is considered to have among the best, low-cost medical systems in the world. This system focuses on both preventive and curative care, is accessible, affordable and comprehensive. You can be treated in or by, private or public hospitals/doctors or clinics. AND based on your residency status, you will have different advantages within the country’s system. Many doctors here are also board certified in the U.S. and have practiced or studied in the U.S. or Europe. You should look to your own health insurance provider and their reimbursement rules when visiting or living outside your home country. Claims reimbursement will vary depending upon your insurance provider. 

Yes, yes, and yes, in spite of all the warnings, we drank the tap water and bought food from the street vendors. Came back alive and well.

Medical cost
In general, the cost of an office visit will likely be comparable to your co-pay in the U.S. or at the minimum ½ to 1/3. You can also be confident you will be well cared for by staff and doctor.

Medical – cosmetic surgery
Looking for some rejuvenation?….want a little nip, tuck, enhancement or reduction? Costa Rica is rapidly building a reputation as the Beverly Hills of the south in regard to cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeons here are highly qualified, academically correct, speak perfect English, have fine facilities and post-op care, and there are able to offer their services at a fraction of the cost of the United States. Typically, 30-50% more affordable than the same procedure in the U.S.

Dental care
The quality of dentists and the more reasonable cost of routine and cosmetic dental procedures follows the same integrity and savings that can be observed for medical procedures.

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Business climate for investment
Costa Rica, is well recognized for its friendly business climate, infrastructure of international business standards, and a positive attitude toward foreign investment, making it one of the safest and most attractive countries in Latin America for investors from anywhere in the world.

A recent World Bank Study ranked Costa Rica at a very high 83 percentile, Meaning 83% of countries worldwide have less political stability than Costa Rica, and accordingly, we have the most desirable rating in all of Latin America.

Business sense makes cents
Depending on the type of business, there are generous incentives, tax breaks and in some cases, waivers on import duties. The Maximum Costa Rican tax rate is 30% with no city or state taxes and low property taxes. Formation of an offshore corporation to shelter earnings and reduce taxes is an option for many. Also, U.S. citizens can recognize sizable tax exemptions, currently $80,000 applies to individual overseas-earned gross income. Please, however, always seek advisement from a professional financial advisor, so that you can make the best and most informed decisions.

Entrepreneurial opportunities are feasible and most certainly exist for those inclined. Keep in mind, however, there is always risk, anywhere, when starting a new commercial endeavor.

Home away from home
With so many Americans, Canadians, Europeans and others relocating to Costa Rica on a full or part-time basis there is ample opportunity to “find your own crowd” and interact on your own level, whatever that might be. A large selection of clubs, organizations, churches and volunteer activities will enhance your ability to make friends, with either locals or transplants, who share similar interests, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.

You can also still play tennis or golf in the local country club or in your own gated community. And…when you yearn for US restaurant franchise food, familiar clothing labels and product brands they are always available and accessible. 

Find soul mates
If you are looking for someone for romance, Costa Rica might just be the right place for you. 

Ladies, regardless of age, you will find gentleman admirers in Costa Rica if you so desire. Due to machismo, Costa Rican men are more flirtatious an aggressive than North American men. Most Costa Rican men think foreign women have looser morals and are easier conquests than ticas (Costa Rican women). So, be careful to take time to develop a long-term, meaningful relationship and don’t rush things.

Men of any age will have no problem meeting Costa Rican women. The women in Costa Rica seem to like older, more experienced men. It is not unusual to see a wife who is ten to twenty years younger than her spouse. This practice may be frowned on in some countries but is accepted in Costa Rica. Many retirees we know claim to feel rejuvenated and to have a new lease on life after becoming involved with younger women. Costa Rican women have an unparalleled reputation as being the most beautiful, flirtatious, and accessible women in Latin America - including Brazil. The ladies of Costa Rica are more warm-hearted and devoted than their North American counterparts. They consider you a joy. One retiree we know boasts, “The women here really know how to treat you like a king!"

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Long-term Stay and Naturalization
It is important to know that North Americans can stay in Costa Rica legally for up to 3 months. They must then leave for a period of 72 hours, then can then return to the country for another three months. If the three-month period is overstayed, a travel agency or ARCR can arrange payment of a small fine and prepare the travel documents required to leave the country for the required 72 hours. Tourists can own vehicles, property, and businesses and generate income from self-employment. However if you intend to live in Costa Rica, it is recommended that you obtain Legal Residency. This may now be especially important as new legislation may be passed to prevent “perpetual tourists” from remaining in the country.

There are several options if you are considering becoming a resident of Costa Rica, and the process can be started after your arrival, however you will need to bring certain documents with you. In most cases residency takes about 4 months to process. If all of your documents are in order, and you don’t have any major criminal history, residency is almost guaranteed in many forms. The most common residency types applied for include Pensionados (persons receiving a lifetime pension) Rentistas (other retired individuals who don’t have a pension, but have investments to provide them with an income) and Inversionistas (Investors looking at going into business or investing in certain sectors). Pensionados, Rentistas and Inversionistas can claim their spouses and children under 18 as dependents. A child between 18 and 25 can be a dependent if he/she is enrolled in a university.

Another important recommendation before living here, or any country, is that you try first to make an extended visit to see how you like the country. Many people have different stories to tell, good and bad, but Costa Rica has a culture very different to what you may be used to. It is important to see how you can adjust, as well as give you an opportunity to have a preliminary look around at where you may like to live.

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