Costa Rica Blog

The Amazing Vanishing Developers of Costa Rica

Posted by Steve Linder on Thu, Feb, 10, 2011

People always ask us about other real estate developments in Costa Rica.  My typical answer is that {name of development} is one of many developments that has yet to get anything done.  or one of many that gets just enough done to sell it, never completing what was promised  There have been many real estate developments like them, some who made pre-development sales, paid the principles salaries large enough to use all the money and then claimed bankruptcy without ever having even attempted to complete the project.  Many are brilliant marketers, staging webinars, press releases and conference calls.  Some will use hype like "Costa Rica's most successful real estate project", the "fastest selling project" or the "best real estate development in Costa Rica" or something similar.   

In fairness, some developers may have had intentions of completing the project at the onset only to find out how hard it is to navigate through the bueracracy of development in Costa Rica.  Remeber this is a country where over 25% of the country is contained in national parks, preserves or protected land.  Getting permits for development is tough.  It takes the patience of a saint and more time than you can imagine. 

A common way around this hurdle is to subdivide the property under farm "finca' title. Finca title is literally “farm title” not really designed for use as residential property.  This is a loophole that some developers have used to avoid having to meet municipal standards.  As a matter of record, nearly every development in Costa Rica that has lots sized bigger than an acre (and up) are providing finca title.  The Costa Rican government has been encouraging developers to develop in urbanization title, which pretty much requires lots smaller than 1 acre. 

Finca means “farm” in Spanish.  With Finca title you are legally supposed to be a farmer, the property is considered (being passed off as) a farm, for agricultural purposes.  Developers have been getting away with developments in Finca title and it is fine if you (and everyone around you in the development) gets their house built before enforcement of that type of title takes place.  Zoning on finca title is restrictive and could become an issue whereas title in true urbanization developments (like we do) although requiring smaller lots, are designed and titled for residential use.  In Finca title, you only need to survey it and you can sell it as titled property.  Many of these projects are sold as predevelopment projects in Costa Rica.

When a developer does true urbanization title (referred to as "urbanization" or "en condominio" development in Costa Rica but with nothing to do with condominiums) the developer can’t even segregate the lots and title them without the roads, water and electric having been signed off by the utilities, the municipality, etc.  Here at Pacific Lots of Costa Rica, we offer "urbanization title:"  Now in our 22nd year in Costa Rica, we have completed 19 phases of development and built hundreds of homes.  

If you want to see a great example of what the risk is with companies like (insert newcomer development name here), click on Paragon properties scam Costa Rica and you will see the mother of all developments that were never completed.  Paragon sold over 2000 lots, declared bankruptcy and left everyone without any water, electric, etc.  They put in enough roads and did enough surveying to title over 2000 “finca’s”, sold a bunch and closed shop.  Below is a picture of the gate they built, which was about all they ever completed.  There is now a class action suit against the company but they don't seem to have any money at this point, having drawn it all out as salaries for the principles.

Paragon Properties Costa RicaIn my 20 years watching Costa Rican development, I have seen three or four expat developments that have actually done what they set out to do.  In reviewing any development, be wary of any development with nothing but "artists renditions" of the development, the homes, the people, the clubhouse, the pool, etc.  If they don't have anything done, they shouldn't be trying to make it look like they have.  Many of their websites make you think the development is completely done, complete with houses, people, pools, bars, etc.  Only buy what you see....

Tags: Costa Rica real estate, finca, pre development Costa Rica, buying property in Costa Rica