Real Estate Law in Costa Rica
Ownership of Land
Foreigners and Costa Rican citizens alike enjoy the same protection under the law and the constitution. You will find no restrictions to owning, buying or selling of real estate save for a few government programs where land is given to the poor and may not be sold for a certain amount of time.
Your property can be traded freely on the open market to any and all comers regardless of citizenship. You need not be a citizen to own land here and do not even have to be present in Costa Rica to register your ownership.
The Registration Process
We have a very safe form of property title registration. The National property registry has many devices in place to stop any attempted property fraud. The Registry duly records the owner of each property and the Property plan that goes with it. If anything changes with that property it must be immediately recorded as requested by a notary public and is easy to verify.
As anywhere in the world we recommend advice from a professional, and to do all normal and proper title searches before parting with money. When you have closed the deal make sure you have copies of everything relevant to the sale. We can recommend attornies if required.
Planning and Zoning
Most lawyers and realtors will agree that the laws on planning and zoning make sense here. In some areas they are not as strict as the States. When buying land for development be aware that an engineer must sign off on the plans for segregation that should be approved by the local authority, the Health Ministry and the relevant house permiting authority.
Real Estate Brokers
There is no real licensing of Brokers in Costa Rica although plans are in place to approve such a law. Look for brokers with actual places of business i.e. an office.
Property taxes in Costa Rica are 0.25% of the declared value at the registry per annum
This will cost around 5 to 6 % of the actual sales price.
Transfer and land taxes are based on the declared value and lawyers fees on actual sales price. These can sometimes be negotiated to be split with seller.
Contracts can be written and consummated in Colones or Dollars – 90% or our sales are in US Dollars. There is no restriction moving your money into or out of Costa Rica in any currency you want.
Capital Gains Tax
There is no capital gains tax in Costa Rica and attornies have no power to retain any money from sales that may be due for any other taxes.
Beachfront Land Regulation
In Costa Rica the first 50 meters from the highest tide mark of any beach is Public property that cannot be bought, sold or exchanged.
Of the next 150 meters back 90% of the beach area land is government owned or called concession land. This land may be leased from the government and those leases may be freely bought and sold. After that 150 meters the land is freely titled . A Plan regulador is supposed to exist for the granting of concession land. If a plan regulador does not exist the developer must make one have it approved by the ICT, INVU and the municipality.
The other apx 10% of beach land behind the high tide mark is fully titled and obviously more valuable. No Plan Regulador is needed to develop titled beach land. Only ICT approval and normal building permits.