Atenas: This missing Link(s)....
It is no secret that over the past 10 years Atenas has become a world class retirement destination for expats from around the globe. This quaint little village is also extremely popular with young foreigners looking to purchase a family vacation or second home. Add to that the new found popularity of Atenas with Costa Rican professionals from San Jose, who can now live in the country and commute to San Jose in a short 25-30 minute drive, it’s easy to see why the inventory of quality homes and properties is at an all time low.
Everyday the popularity of our little town continues to grow and the diversity of the people who find their way here make it a wonderful community and place to call home. That popularity and diversity has created a few “missing links” in the local real estate market, specifically for homes in the under $200,000 price range and estate properties of $1,000,000 and above.
When Gerardo and I started selling real estate in Atenas 7 years ago the most popular home price range for buyers was from $350,000 to $500,000. Interestingly enough, things have not changed much over the years. In the past 6-8 months our $350,000 to $500,000 price range has virtually been wiped out. However, the extremes of the market of under $200,000 and $1,000,000 plus, the inventory is virtually non-existent. Doing a survey of our website and that of our competitors there are only about 10 quality homes in the $100,000- $200,000 price range and virtually no inventory under $100,000. Things are even more bleak for the $1,000,000 plus price range with only about 5 homes currently on the market in Atenas.
Why the lack of inventory?
It’s only logical that developers and investors will cater to buyers that make up the biggest share of the market. However, with the increased popularity of Atenas the market for all price ranges have increased over the years. One of the biggest challenges for developers looking to produce a quality product in the lower end of the spectrum is the price of raw land in Atenas. Very small building lots begin at about $50,000 and go up to well over $200,000. This makes it difficult to create a quality product that a buyer considers to be their “dream” home in paradise. In addition, many investors are still unrealistic about the profits they are expecting as a return on their investments. Long gone are the days of 50%+ returns on investment. In today’s market, investors can easily make a 20-30% return on their investment, which in my opinion is not only realistic but a great return given the global real estate market. We are fortunate here in the Central Valley of Costa Rica because we have a strong real estate market but in many countries the real estate market is still quite depressed.
In addressing the opposite end of the real estate spectrum, one of the challenges we have found when working with our clients who are looking in the $1,000,000+ price range, the inventory tends to be “quantity over quality”. Today, most clients who are looking in the $1,000,000+ price range are actually looking for QUALITY not QUANTITY. This is especially true of retiring baby boomers who have had the 10,000+ square foot McMansions and no longer want the burden of maintaining or have a need for a home of such magnitude. As one of our clients recently stated, “All of our friends have downsized from their 10,000 square foot homes to comfortable, high quality, low maintenance properties that range in size from 2,000 to 3,000 square feet.”
So, in both scenarios, what are our buyers looking for? In recent years buyers have become savvy and educated when it comes to the Costa Rican real estate market. We have come up with 5 tips that are MUST HAVES for buyers in both categories. One would think that there would be a vast difference in the extreme ends of the real estate spectrum, but actually there are more similarities than you might think.
- Architecturally clean, streamlined and aesthetically pleasing. A spacious open floor plan with 1,000 to 1,500 s.f. of living space, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and a nice outdoor space such as a front porch or rancho.
- Simple and well executed finish work. Nice cabinetry, granite countertops in the kitchen and baths, well organized storage space, tile floors, and basic lighting package including ceiling fans in the bedrooms.
- Covered parking such as a carport with additional space for guests.
- Small manageable lot about 1,000 m2 (1/4 acre) in size with enough space for hobby gardening and those special plants that remind you that you are living in a tropical paradise.
- Easy access to amenities and necessities such as shopping, banking and medical services. I can confidently say that 80% of buyers want to be with-in a 15 minute drive of the towns center no matter what price range they are purchasing.
- The home must be architecturally unique with a defined style, clean lines, functional, spacious open floor plan, 3,000 to 5,000 square feet of living space, 3-5 bedroom “suites” with private outdoor spaces, outdoor living areas that are equal in size to their indoor counterparts and bonus spaces such as a home gym.
- High quality, well executed finish work, custom chef style kitchen with commercial grade appliances, high end stone countertops, hardwood, marble or natural stone floors, eco lighting systems such as LED, natural gas and solar energy options, unique and technologically advanced bells and whistles.
- Separate guest quarters such as a guest house with a minimum of 2 bedrooms that features the same quality finishes as the main house.
- Privacy is key so a large but manageable piece of land between 10,000 and 40,000 m2 (2.5 to 10 acres) that provides for a private entry, lush tropical gardens, outdoor entertainment areas and luxury pool with stellar views.
- Turn key with quality furnishings and decor. More times than not, less is more, but again quality is key! Discerning buyers will not pay a premium for inadequate furnishings and decor.
As Atenas continues to grow in popularity the real estate market must also grow to accommodate the needs of the diverse buyers that are making this charming community their new home. The high and low end of Atenas’ real estate market is experiencing an increased demand but supply is extraordinarily low. It is import for the health of every real estate market to have an equilibrium in inventory providing quality housing options in every price range.
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".