Sunday 19 September 2021

BLOG: Expats Buying Real Estate in Costa Rica

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Purchasing real estate in Costa Rica can present many pitfalls to the would-be expat purchaser. As a practicing Real Estate Attorney in Costa Rica, I have seen many of these pitfalls, often presented to me for resolution by expats, after the damage is done. One of the main items for consideration in avoiding these pitfalls is to choose a competent Real Estate Agent and Real Estate Attorney at the outset.

The Real Estate industry is not regulated in Costa Rica, nor is there an organized MLS to assist with locating suitable properties for sale in an area in which the purchaser may be interested.

Regardless of the lack of regulation, I work with many Realtors, largely having prior experience in the Real Estate industry in countries like Canada, or the U.S., who are knowledgeable, hard-working, and honest.

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It is important to select a Realtor who has local knowledge of the properties available for sale in the area of the Country that the purchaser is interested in. This can be accomplished in-part by real estate web site searches on the internet. The other important factor is to check the references of the Realtor that you select.

When selecting a Real Estate Attorney, the Realtor that you are using may be helpful in pointing you in the right direction. It is, of course, important not to use the same Attorney as the seller of the property, for the obvious conflict of interest issues that arise. In Costa Rica, all Attorneys are regulated and must be members of the College of Lawyers in order to practice law.

In Costa Rica, being a Civil Law Jurisdiction, rather than an English Common Law Jurisdiction like the majority of the U.S. and Canada, it is the Notary Public that is empowered to transfer title to a property in the National Registry. Normally, the Notary Public, who also must be an Attorney, will conduct all of the legal due diligence that is necessary with respect to a property, such as conducting a Title Search, determining legal access, land use permits, etc. Title Insurance is not a requirement in Costa Rica, as it is in the U.S. and parts of Eastern Canada.

The Government of Costa Rica guarantees the property title to be as it is registered in the National Registry. Rather than purchasing a Title Insurance Policy, it is a more useful exercise to have the Survey Plan checked by a qualified Surveyor, especially if the existing Plan exceeds five years from the date of making. It is important that all of the matters of legal due diligence are conducted either prior to signing a Purchase Agreement and depositing purchase monies, or with appropriate safe-guards in place for the return of any deposit monies should the due diligence indicate that proceeding with the purchase would not be advisable.


To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney, please use the following information: Lic. Rick Philps – Attorney at Law, Petersen & Philps, San Jose, Costa Rica Tel: 506-2288-4381, Ext. 102; Email: Website:

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Richard Philps
Attorney Richard (Rick) Philps is a Canadian citizen, naturalized as a citizen of Costa Rica. Rick practiced law in Victoria, B.C., Canada as a member of the Law Society of British Columbia, for fourteen years, prior to moving to Costa Rica in 1998. Rick then earned his Bachelor of Laws and Licensing Degrees (Civil Law), with Honours, and a Post-Graduate Degree in Notary and Registry Law, from the Metropolitana Castro Carazo and Escuela Libre de Derecho Universities, in San Jose. Rick is a member of the Costa Rica College of Lawyers, and practices law in Costa Rica in the areas of real estate and development, corporate, commercial, contract, immigration, and banking. To contact Attorney Rick Philps about hiring him as your Costa Rican Attorney; Email:, Website:

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