On a weekly basis we get e-mails from potential clients who express their shock at real estate prices in our little community of Atenas. A big percentage of these people have become accustomed to seeing prices plummet in the United States where in many areas prices have dropped significantly, often up to 50% of what they were at the market's peek in 2006.
We all tend to forget that there are many areas of the world that are in the midst of "booms" and that real estate values are stable or are on the rise. That is not to say that there are not areas of Costa Rica that have not been affected by the market down turn, quite the opposite. Many over developed beach areas have seen price adjustments due to an abundance of inventory. In some cases, there are developments that sit vacant because the developers are from "up north" and their funding has dried up. However, the market has adjusted and things are moving again in these hard hit areas.
This has not been the case here in the Central Valley. Many areas continue to grow and development is thriving. Condos are popping up all over San Jose, and many of the towns along the new San Jose Caldera Highway are experiencing "booms" with locals doing a large percentage of the purchasing. Here in Atenas, we see many professionals from San Jose making purchases between $350,000.00 and $500,000.00. Why? Before the new highway, Atenas was a good one hour commute from San Jose. Now? Only 25-30 minutes. When given the choice most professionals choose to raise their families in the country side and commute to work. The only real price adjustments we have seen are from owners of properties that were grossly over priced when they first went on the market (more than $50,000 over market value) or from owners who have unfortunately been affected by the world wide market downturn.
Another big factor in the stability of our property values here in Costa Rica is that we do not have a mortgage crisis as in the United States. Getting financing in Costa Rica is difficult, especially for foreigners, don't let anyone tell you different. When it is available, rates start at 8.5% and go up to 13%, even higher. Appraisals are very conservative, often coming in at 70% of the true value of the property and LTV (loan to value) is a maximum of 80%. In the past 5 years we have worked with only 3 clients seeking financing and unfortunately we closed none of those deals. Cash is KING in Costa Rica.
Atenas is a unique little pueblo with many things going for it. The most important is LOCATION. There are many things you can change about a property, but location is not one of them! Access to the new San Jose/Caldera Highway makes Atenas only a 20 minute drive to Santa Ana/Escazu, 30 minutes to San Jose, and 45 minutes to the nearest Pacific beach. In addition, the Juan Santamaria International Airport is only 25 minutes away and most major tourist destinations in the Central Valley are less than 1.5 hours drive. Good infrastructure, a thriving expat community and "el mejor clima del mundo", the best climate in the world, also contribute to a stable market.
So the question is, what can you get for your money in Atenas?
The reality is that buying a house in Atenas for under $100,000.00 is almost impossible. IF you find one, and that is a big IF, you can expect a very basic home on a small lot that often times is less than 500 m2 or about 1/8 th of an acre, without a view.
A building lot is possible in this price range. Depending on location, access, usability, and utilities, you can expect to get between 2000m2 to 4000m2 (1/2 to one acre). Little or no view.
It is very unlikely you will find a farm in this price range.
$100,000.00 to $200,000.00
In this price range you can expect a nicely built local style home with 2 to 3 bedrooms, 1-2 baths, up to 200 m2 (2100 s.f.) of construction, on a lot up to 2000 m2 (1/2 acre). Typically construction will be nice but more basic. Concrete block walls, lower ceilings often of wood, tile floors, basic bathrooms and kitchen with tile countertops and wood cabinets, small bedrooms, say 10'x10'. In terms of lighting you can expect the basics with possibly ceiling fans in the bedrooms. Views? A small view is possible.
A great building lot can be had in this price range. Most of our larger gated communities like Roca Verde, Hacienda Atenas, Lomas del Paraiso and Bella Vista offer nice 7,000 m2 (1 3/4 acre lots) starting at $125,000.00, going up from there. These lots are ready to build with water and electricity in place, paved roads, street lighting, and great views. One thing to keep in mind is if you want a stunning view the trade off is the size of usable land you will get. These lots may be 7,000 m2 (1 3/4) of land but the buildible part will only be about 1000 m2 (1/4 acre).
In more rural areas of Atenas you may possibly find a small farm in the 1-2 hectare (2-4 acres) with or without good access and utilities.
$200,000.00 to $300,000.00
Homes in this price range begin to become more of a North American style and standard. You can typically expect to see a smaller home of around 150 m2 to 200 m2 ( 1600 to 2100 s.f.),with 2-3 bedrooms and 2 baths, concrete block, nice lot of 1,000 m2 to 7,000 m2 (1/4 to 1 3/4 acre), high ceilings at least in the living areas, often of wood like teak and laurel. Tile floors, and some upgrades like granite countertops in the kitchen and baths, as well as solid wood cabinets. Lighting too will be a bit nicer with upgrades and ceiling fans. A terrace can also be expected as well as basic landscaping. A view is possible.
At this price point, you will get the most exclusive lot within a gated community with top of the world views! Size can range from 7000 m2 up to 12,000 m2 (1 3/4 acre up to 3 acres) with all services in place and ready to build.
A small farm of between 2-3 hectares (5-7.5 acres) is possible with good access and utilities with some views.
This is the most common price range for a quality home in the Atenas area. You can expect a larger concrete block home with 200 m2 to 400 m2 (2100 to 4300 s.f.) of construction, nice upgrades like vaulted wood ceilings throughout, upgraded kitchens with hardwood cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, quality floor tile, large bedrooms, master bedrooms with double vanities, walk-in shower and tub, walk-in closet, veranda, carport, and swimming pool, rancho, all on a large 7,000 m2 (1 3/4 acre) lot with nice landscaping. It is possible that some of these homes will be offered TURN-KEY, meaning fully furnished and ready to go. On the higher end a 1 to 2 bedroom nicely finished guest house can be expected. These homes can be found inside gated communities or small private estates. Stunning views of course!
Large private building lots of 1-2 hectares (2.5 to 5 acres) with great views and usable space and all the infrastructure in place. Easy access and closer to town (5-10 minutes drive).
A great farm can also be had with 2 to 4 hectares (5 to 10 acres) with good access and all the utilities in place, but a bit further from town (10 to 15 minutes drive).
$500,000.00 to $750,000.00
Now we are getting into dream homes. More often than not the quality of home in this price range is spectacular with nice architectural features and settings to die for. It is quite possible if the land and view itself is stellar, the home may be a bit smaller, but the quality will more than compensate for the lesser amount of space! Expect to find a quality constructed concrete home with 250 m2 to 500 m2 (2600 to 5600 s.f.) 2 to 5 bedrooms, top quality materials like upgraded wood cabinets with all the pullouts and cubby holes, stunning granites in the kitchen and bathrooms, tile such as marble and travertine, handmade vessel sinks, name brand faucets like Moen and Kohler, hand made lighting, large verandas, terraces, ranchos with outdoor kitchens, infinity pool, guest house and possible a care takers house. Spectacular landscape and views to die for! These homes are often offered turn-key!
A beautiful farm of 4 to 10 hectares (10 to 25 acres) with easy access, all utilities, usable area, great views, forrest, rivers, streams and possible a waterfall. These properties are for creating one of a kind estates or subdividing into smaller residential developments.
$750,000 and up...
In Atenas, the sky is the limit. A few weeks ago, one of the most expensive homes in Atenas sold for a reported $1.5 million. These are often private estates with extensive grounds and architectural master pieces that offer private guest homes and on site caretakers with their own living quarters.
Large private farms that are perfect for large estates or development. Easy access, utilities, and stunning views can be expected.
On occasion we get firesales from sellers who are in distressed circumstances such as health problems or in a financial pinch. To be a "firesale" a property must be significantly reduced from it's original asking price and well below market value. In our area these properties are few and far between but in the past few months we have had a few pop up. Once reduced we send them out to everyone on our client list. They have all sold with-in the first 24 hours! If you see a property you like that is a firesale, you must act fast or you will be loosing a great deal!
One of the things we love most about living in Atenas is that there is something for everyone. In life there are always trade-offs so you must decide what is most important for you on an individual basis. Living in a community like Atenas is a real privilege with it's location, climate, established expat community and warm welcoming locals. These things are very hard to duplicate and have been keystones to Atenas' popularity as a world renowned retirement destination, receiving a much deserved nod by AARP in 2010. Come see for yourself why Atenas has captured the heart of so many. We will be waiting with open arms!
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
Tours in Costa Rica
Pure Life Development of Atenas is a full service tour company. We feature full vacation packages and day trips for the family. Our tour director Nelson Conejo is very experienced and provides a personal service and attention to detail second to none in Costa Rica. Please write Nelson or give him a call to arrange your next Costa Rican vacation at (506)2446-0447 or
Retirement Living in Atenas
Interview with Pure Life Development co-founder and certified realtor Dennis Easters, about Costa Rica ranked by AARP as "one of the best places to retire abroad".