Retiring to Costa Rica was an easy choice for me and my wife, Jackie since we had been vacationing there for several years and loved the simplicity and natural beauty of the country. We also decided that the best option for us, initially, was to rent rather than purchase our home.
We made this decision for two reasons: we wanted to avoid the maintenance involved with home ownership, and we wanted freedom of movement without the burden of selling and buying new property.
Costa Rica has housing options as diverse as its climates and terrain. Our first option to rent was a modern, two-bedroom condo in a gated community near the Pacific beach resort of Tamarindo. Being fully furnished and having full-time security throughout the complex gave us the peace of mind that we would be well taken care of as we started our retirement adventure. This did come with a price tag though, and the monthly rent was $1,150 plus utilities, which were also costly due to the much-needed air conditioning running about $450 per month.
Hoping for a more local environment and a more temperate climate, we explored the Central Valley region of the country with mountainous terrain, volcanic views, and a variety of housing options to choose from.
While there were condos and gated communities available, we opted to rent a furnished house in Naranjo area. The climate was ideal with temperatures in the mid-80s F during the day and mid-60s F at night which allowed us to be free of air conditioning. After a little negotiating with the owner, we rented this three-bedroom house for $850 a month and we cut our utility costs in half. We knew that these arrangements were only for a year as the owners were temporarily relocating to the U.S., but we had the opportunity to explore the region to get a better feel for the other communities that were nearby.
The area around Naranjo, Sarchi, and Grecia fit all our needs and had a good mix of local and expat neighbors, so we decided to explore this region for our next home. Through word of mouth we found a four-bedroom house in the hills north of Sarchi. While the house was less furnished and simpler in design that our previous accommodations, the locations and views were breathtaking. We again reduced our monthly rent—this time to $650—and our electricity costs are only averaging $65 a month. We are now in the second year of renting this house, and in that time we’ve purchased more comfortable furniture and appliances piece-by-piece. Having our own furnishings now gives us future options to save by renting a non-furnished house if and when we decide to move on.
We did all our property searches on our own, without the services of a rental agent. Through social media, anyone can find a property for rent by owner or local contacts who know of a property. We saved a month’s rent in commission over a simple lease agreement that can be drawn up by a lawyer for about $50.
Another option that we took advantage of was pre-paying a one-year lease in a lump sum, which added another 15% savings. Landlords like this option as they eliminate the fear of non-payment and they’re willing to offer a discount for this convenience.
We continue to enjoy our Central Valley lifestyle and have no immediate plans to relocate elsewhere. But who knows? Throughout our exploration of the country we might find a more idyllic spot to settle into. We have the options and mobility to go wherever our hearts desire.