Most of them are highly educated and some are bilingual, yet they commonly make these errors. Take note and learn from the experience of others, trying to fight the system in Costa Rica will just lead to anger and frustration.
You don’t want to depend on the law to help you after making a frustrating mistake, most of the time it will do nothing to mend the problem at hand. The law is much better preventative medicine than a curative one.
1. Do not start a business transaction anywhere within a 5 mile radius of the Del Rey Hotel. Business is serious and should not be mixed with pleasure. Start is in an attorney’s office. Don’t try to outsmart any systems or do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
2. Don’t do it yourself. Legal fees are nothing compared to the price you pay for trusting someone you “feel is a good guy.” An attorney can check instantly if a car or property has any liens against it. If you buy it without this consult, it may be confiscated by the government or worth way less than you paid. Consider legal fees an insurance premium!
3. Do not rush into hiring an attorney. Just because he speaks English or is from your country doesn’t mean he is good at his job. Investigate. Find someone who specializes in what you need. The U.S. Embassy has a list of attorneys you can contact via internet. Interview and research them. Call the Costa Rican Bar Association to see if they are in good standing or have disciplinary actions filed against them. Have the lawyer write a contract including all fees. Have another lawyer validate the contract.
4. Remember that real estate brokers in Costa Rica are not licensed. Anyone can be a real estate broker. You need a lawyer for official transactions.
5. You do not need to marry and transfer your assets to a Tica to avoid taxes. Isn’t this one obvious? She can take it all with the signature you provided on a document in Spanish, trusting her about what it says.
6. If you buy property you must take care of it. If you leave it for a long time someone else can LEGALLY take over it without paying anything.
7. Don’t send any funds to the Cayman Islands for any reason.
8. Don’t offend locals by grouping all Central and South American countries and cultures together. It may annoy them enough that they will cause problems for you. At the very least, it will increase the “gringo tax” you pay above the real cost of goods and services.
9. No (legit) investments yield a guaranteed 45% annually. If it sounds too good to be true, know that it is.
10. Try Costa Rica out for a while NOW, before you get excited about it and put all your money into a home. Make sure you really will enjoy living there. Try learning Spanish. Practice living on a farm before investing in a rural home. See if the city you want to move to has the amenities you need. It’s very costly to sell everything and move to Costa Rica only to sell everything and move home.
Article by Costa Rican Times