SURFING NOSARA'S GUIDE TO PURCHASING REAL ESTATE IN NOSARA, COSTA RICA
OVERVIEW OF NOSARA AREA
The name Nosara is what one will typically see or hear when trying to research our immediate area. One thing that many who have not traveled here may not know, is that the actual town of Nosara is inland about 4 miles, and is comprised of mainly Tico (Costa Rican) neighborhoods. Playa Nosara itself is mostly devoid of development, containing only the river mouth and a long strip of black sand beach that extends all the way to the northern to the town of Ostional. While some choose these areas as their preferred location, most people looking to be near the beach actually end up in Playa Guiones, or one of the other local “Beaches of Nosara”.
Playa Guiones is the main beach that most visitors come to when they visit Nosara. White sand beaches, consistent surf, restaurants, hotels, bars, shops and nightlife are the main attractions. Known as the “American Project”, Playa Guiones was at one point designed to become a master planned golf course community, which you can still see on paper if you can locate an old community map. Most of the original tracts of land were positioned and sold “site unseen” via magazine mail away forms, and then through friends or word of mouth. The resulting community that we have today comes from these original lots being traded again and again between North American owners, and some Europeans, as well. The original golf course idea never came to fruition, and the areas that were designated as golf holes were, and still are, retained by some of the original owners who now hold the land in the way of a trust. It is for this reason, along with the fact that Guiones and the other “Playas de Nosara” are within the Ostional Wildlife Refuge, that we have little-to-no condo structures (as in condo towers like you see in towns to the north and south) or new structures within 200 meters of the high tide mark. Some exceptions to this, however, are the select few buildings that were constructed prior to laws changing regarding construction by the high tide mark (which were allowed from grandfather clauses), or an even fewer number of homes/structures that have been built illegally and are now in dispute. The result from these regulations is a very clean area of beaches, and a limited number of homes or places to put a home, near the beach.
When first arriving to the area, a visitor will notice that the main roads can seem confusing. That can certainly be true at first glance, especially when you get further away from the beach. The roads in our area weren’t always designed by a community planner or development board. In fact, most roads were originally intended for foot or horse traffic. However, the main arteries by the beach are less complicated. Because of the original “master planned” approach, the roads in Guiones circulate and connect in a series of loops. Each loop originally contained sections of the master planned community that are still recognized by lettered sections. Some of these loops had golf holes along with home sites. Now they are the locations of our residents, walking trails, parkland, and monkey routes. In this section, we’ll do our best to provide a description of each section, in order to provide some insight into the overall feel and vibe of the different loops of our town.
There are two main distinctions between types of property in Guiones for the most part. Unless you are someone looking for larger acreage or farmland, or are looking to get outside of the “American Project” in general, the two choices come down to either a walk to beach property or an ocean view property with a short drive down the hillside. While you can find a mix between the two at times, most of the lettered sections from the old site plan fall within these parameters.
Walk to beach/surf breaks (K, J, I, H, G)
The sections closest to the beach in Guiones are the K, J, I, H, and G sections. Each of these sections has a different feel due to topography, density, foliage, proximity to the beach, and proximity to other amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores or shops. The one thing they each have in common is that you can walk everywhere you typically would want to go if you have time.
Currently, the K section is one of the most in demand sections in Guiones. The K section is made up of some very tastefully done homes, and unless you’re in one of the back areas of K, you can walk to the beach very easily. You can bike to the beach from anywhere in K with no problem. There have been some Hollywood folks purchase land in K. The actual extent of how many is not known, as it’s kept under wraps, but the point is, the area draws people looking for the best of Guiones. Some of K section’s top attributes are the amount of foliage it has given its density. Four or five homes may share an acre and a half of area, but with the growth between homes, there is ample privacy in most cases. Due to its proximity to amenities such as restaurants, bars, new mini supermarkets, and the beach, K section is a popular place for rental homes. Many of the residents in K section are part-timers who rent their homes out when not around. Some are full time residences, while others may be part-timers who chose not to rent, and the home is a vacation getaway for their family. There are a number of families in the K section or close by, which leads to some fun beach BBQs at the K section’s beach access. Most weekend afternoons you can plan on seeing someone you know there. If you walk out to the beach and head south, you’ll find yourself alone for the most part. There is a small fishing village at the south end of Guiones if you walk far enough. There are also lots of empty waves on this side of the beach, although it doesn’t usually break as large as it does closer to the main beach entrance and parking area. Some of the places that are within walking distance include the Harbor Reef, Enchanted Forest Gym, the Yoga Institute, La Banana, Il Basilico Pizza Restaurant, Beach Cafe, Kearmy Security, as well as the main street of Guiones itself with all of the stores located there. If you continue along the beach to the north, you can cross into the G section as well as Pelada. These walks take a little more time, however.
Ocean view hillsides (E,EE,D,A)
Guiones as a town is comprised of not only a main beach section. There are also a number of mountain hill sides that contain residential homes, and some restaurants as well. This is where you’ll find most of the ocean and mountain view homes in the area. Some tracts have views facing directly out to the ocean, where one can actually see the white water breaking and check the surf with a set of binoculars. Other have views that allow a view all the way north toward Ostional, or south to the bay at Garza. These hill sides are spread out over several sections. Guiones has the majority of the homes with the surf views, but the neighboring beach of Pelada also has a range of hill sides that provide some ocean views. The Lagarta Lodge, a fine dining restaurant, is a great example of a fantastic view in Pelada, as one can see the rivermouth of Nosara, Playa de Nosara, and Ostional from their main dining platform. A similar set up can be seen up at the restaurant, Vista Paraiso, which is in the EE section, and showcases a view of Guiones bay looking south. This is one of the best views around, and a great place to grab a sunset cocktail.
So while these areas tend to be a little more quiet than the main strip in Guiones, the hill sides of Guiones and Pelada are still an interesting place to visit, and certainly something you should know about if you’re trying to get a full grasp of the area.
Playa Pelada is quite possibly the most beautiful beach in the area. The composition of Playa Pelada is made up of a very dramatic framework of rock walls dropping straight down into the ocean, which provide a perfect canvas for the evening sunsets. There is also a nice little right hand point that works on the right swell angles. There are also a number of good places to eat in the Pelada area. Right on the beach, you have Olga’s restaurant. Olga’s place basically touches the sand and is as closest to dining on the beach as you get in the area. So, you can grab a casado and watch the people surf at sunset. Just up the road a touch away from the beach, you’ll find Pancho’s mexican restaurant, which is a favorite of hungry surfers after long sessions. Go with the wet burritos and you won’t be sorry.
If you’re looking for total privacy, you can walk to the north once you’re at Pelada, and find a strip of sand with or without shade, and you likely won’t see another soul except maybe a couple locals fishing on the rocks with a hand line. There are also some cool nooks and cranny’s on the mountain wall here that borders the sand, including a bat cave that can be visited at low tide. The sand here is white, with a pinkish undertone. A great place to get some sun.
The further north you go in the Pelada area, the closer you get to the river mouth. At the river, you can find canoe or kayak rentals, along with horseback rides. It’s a pretty mellow scene at the river mouth, or “boca”. If you cross the river, you’ll be standing on the actual “Playa de Nosara”, and if you continue hiking north, you’ll eventually find yourself in Ostional.
Ostional is the first beach town to the north of Nosara. This is a large conservation area, and is a protected refuge for the Olive Ridley sea turtles. Visitors come from everywhere to watch the turtles lay their eggs on the nights they arrive, and also to watch the new turtles hatch about six weeks later. It’s a pretty amazing sight, with up to thousands of turtles on the beach during these events.
Ostional is a much smaller town itself, consisting of mainly Tico land owners. There are a few restaurants and bars built close to the main soccer square of town. Experienced surfers also enjoy this wave. The beach itself here is black, and very hot during the day, so bring your sandals if you come.
Esperanza is the next town south from Guiones. Esperanza is a small, but growing community. This quaint community is mostly made up of local Tico families, but over the last few years has found a place in some foreigner’s hearts as well. In recent years, as the Guiones area developed more and grew, some development overflowed and made it’s way into Esperanza. There are a few small, growing developments in Esperanza and some land available with great ocean views, but there is nothing by the beach. For for the most part, Esperanza is still a quaint local village with a soccer field and bull riding fiestas as the main attractions. While passing through this typical Costa Rican village don’t forget to check out one of our favorite restaurants, Chandy’s Il Basilico Restaurant.
The small fishing village and community of Garza boasts one of the most beautiful bays in all of Guanacaste. Garza is located just south of Esperanza and is about a 12-15 minute drive from Guiones. It is here where all of the fishing charter boats leave from, and coincidentally where you will find the freshest selection of fish and seafood in the area. The white sand beach is packed with amazing shells and the crystal clear blue water is great for swimming and snorkeling. As for development in Garza, there is little. There are still a few great titled lots available on the beach, but they are hard to come by and expensive. Most of the development around Garza is located in the hills behind the beach, overlooking the Garza bay. The views from up there are nothing short of breathtaking, and to top it off you are secluded and just far enough away from everything. There are a couple growing developments up there that are perfect for the buyer that wants to be away from the commercialization of Guiones, but still close enough to shop, go out to eat and take advantage of those first world amenities. Plus, there are even a couple great local restaurants right on the beach in Garza that give you all the local, Tico flavor and culture you need.
The purchase process with Surfing Nosara
At Surfing Nosara, our goal is to provide you with the most streamlined and hassle-free experience, regardless of which of our services you may be utilizing. We understand that there are a number of questions that have to be answered prior to your involvement in our community becoming a reality. Purchasing property in a Third World country seem a challenge and different from other real estate transactions that you may be familiar with. We understand this and we pride ourselves in taking a consultative approach with all of our clients. It is our goal to help you figure out what property in our community is right for you and your needs. Our role is to guide you in the right direction so that you can achieve your dream of owning property here. From learning about our community and the many intricacies involved, finding the right property, initiating and completing the contract process, dealing with attorneys, selecting architects and builders, and even project management of the construction of your home, you can rest assured that Surfing Nosara is here to help with every step of the process. We serve as your personal full-service, turn-key consultants. We hope that the following information can provide solid answers to some of the more common questions pertaining to conducting business in Costa Rica, and the Nosara/Guiones area.
HERE ARE SOME FREQUENTLY ASKED REAL ESTATE QUESTIONS
Do you own the land here with titles or is it leased?
Purchasing land in Costa Rica is similar to purchasing in the U.S. under "fee simple" ownership. This means you have full ownership of the property, and retain that ownership forever. The exception to this, is land that falls within the maritime zone, which is between fifty or two-hundred meters of the high tide mark. This land can only be owned with permission from the government, known as "concession". This is typically done in the form of a lease from the government. This type of ownership is rare, and the properties you'll find from Surfing Nosara fall into the "fee simple" category.
Should I buy inside the American project or out?
As with anything in life, property inside the “American Project” has its advantages and disadvantages. Most all commercial development (stores, restaurants, offices etc) are within the project. Guiones, Pelada and the hills above both beaches are considered inside the project. The advantage to being in the project is that you are very close to all of the commercial conveniences, and you are also easily connected with the local electric and water systems. If you decide to live outside the project, i.e. near the town of Nosara, Ostional, Esperanza or any of the other smaller pueblos around the area, you will either have to drill a well of your own for water or you will link up with the pueblo’s respective water system. Depending on how far away you are from other development, there may be higher costs to bring water and electric to your property. However, that being said, property outside of the project can be a bit cheaper. Also, inside the project there are more people, cars and activities. So, if you are looking for something quiet, secluded and off the beaten path, then it might be worth checking out some property outside of the project.
How about security?
Surfing Nosara follows the prevetion is the best protection policy and we recommend being proactive in regards to security. If you spend a bit of time while you are looking or building, then you don't have to worry later. Just be smart about it.
There is petty crime everywhere, especially in these Central American countries. Costa Rica is no exception, so always be mindful of your belongs while traveling in Costa Rica and Nosara. Do not leave ANYTHING of value in your car. Do not leave ANYTHING of value unattended on the beach. You may even want to hide your flip flops when you go surfing. Most rental homes have a safe, so make sure that you use it. Put all cash, cards, passports even valuable electronics in the safe. If you do not have a safe, put belongings in a secure place or keep those things on you at all times. Try to make sure your rental home has bars on the windows. Also, make sure to lock all doors and windows (if applicable) when you leave the house and before you go to bed at night. Most hotels have security guards. Also do not leave anything of value out and exposed close to the windows of your home. If you have anything stolen, please report it ASAP to the police in Guiones (next to Plaza Guiones, across from Casa Tucan.
Where are the best areas for rentals?
One of the primary benefits to owning a home in Nosara is the potential rental income it can generate. There are differing levels of success for the rentals here based on their location and the strategy implemented by the owners & property management company. There are 2 different categories to choose from: First is up the hill with a view or down by the beach with no view. Second, is Playa Guiones, where the surfing beach is, or Playa Pelada, which is a stunning beach but not much surf.
Generally the strongest rentals are located within walking distance to Playa Guiones. This is because the majority of people coming to Nosara are here to surf &/or go to the Yoga Institute. Plus, it is much easier to walk around to the various restaurants, shops, grocery store and of course the beach. This doesn't mean Pelada or a hill property won’t be successful as a rental income location...It just means there is a much longer walk or bike ride to beach or a rental car is needed. Also, often times you can demand a higher price for your rental per week if you are close to the beach, especially since these are our high priority, wheel-house rentals.
What is the building process like here?
The building process in our area is very similar to the U.S. with the exception of a few small things. If you've found an architect you like, you'll normally have some preliminary drawings completed to get your ideas converted into a rendering. This process can be quick, if you know exactly what you want, or it can take some time going back and forth between parties. Once you have your plans decided upon, the next step is selecting a builder. There are several in the area that we can recommend, along with architects, once you've selected your property. Our office can also help to coordinate meeting with architects and builders, should you decide to build while living back home, which is often the case, along with oversight for your entire build. A typical build time is between eight months to a year, give or take, depending on the scope of the project, of course.
Is financing available?
Typically in most cases financing is NOT available. The reason for this is because it is extremely hard to get a loan from a Costa Rican bank here and they are very high interest loans. So, almost all transactions that we have done at Surfing Nosara have been all cash. There are, however, some properties that offer owner financing. Currently, in this economy, there are more owners offering financing than we've previously seen. However, more often than not, most transactions are completed with cash.
Real estate taxes and the new Luxury Tax
Real estate property taxes in Costa Rica are one quarter of a percent of the total recorded value of a property. This is a very small amount when comparing real estate property taxes in most other places of the world. There are also transfer taxes that add up to around 3.5% of your recorded purchase price at closing. These are local and national government transfer taxes. You also need to consider the attorney's fee and a corporation at the time of close.
The contract and transition to ownership
Once you’ve decided to go ahead and take a property off-the-market, there are only a few basic steps to make that happen.
An office contract, which has been drafted and approved by our legal team in San Jose, must be filled out and presented to the seller’s representative. To do this, an earnest money deposit is needed so that the seller understands that your offer is legitimate. Surfing Nosara requires $1,000 USD, unless otherwise directed by the represented seller. This earnest money deposit is held in escrow, and is fully refundable until your offer is accepted by both parties. After acceptance, it is customary that 10% of the agreed upon purchase price be wired in to the escrow agent within forty-eight hours of acceptance.
Your closing costs, which are to be paid upon transferring the title of your new property, will be close to four percent of your purchase price, however this can be calculated more precisely by the closing attorney. Your property taxes paid each year, are a mere quarter of one percent of your recorded purchase price. This is one of the biggest advantages to owning property in Costa Rica.
Closing time frames on properties in the area vary, but one can typically expect a closing date within thirty to sixty days of the effective date (day of offer and acceptance by both parties) of the purchase contract.
Ownership of your property is transferred directly to you through the creation of a corporation by a Costa Rican attorney. Again, we have legal representatives who work directly with our office, which makes things run more smoothly with higher levels of communication, and less delay. Your corporation that will take possession of your property will cost about $600.00 USD, depending on who you use and the details involved. Once the title is transferred to your new corporation, property ownership is yours fully to enjoy!