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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Costa Rica Real Estate Challenge: Party House With a Pool

The house-hunt goes on… and on… and on, or so it seems. For a while, there seemed to be few real estate choices or what was available didn’t have what we wanted or they were too expensive at more than $1000 a month, often plus utilities. Now we have a surfeit of options, all with most of what we are looking for -- extra bedroom, office space, a good kitchen, a swimming pool, close enough to walk to town or on a bus line and, of course, priced right. Not only are there now several to choose from, but also it seems that once the owners meet us or communicate enough by email or through a realtor to realize we are good tenants, they start courting us! We’ve had two homeowners offer to lower their price by $100 to entice us to rent their place.

Now THAT's a kitchen!
The first home is probably our favorite so far and if the owner -- a Russian, we’re told -- agrees to a few accommodations, such as paying for the gardener, we will likely take it. It’s a nicely furnished two bedroom, one a large master suite, with a gorgeous kitchen, an important feature for this semi-gourmet cook and enthusiastic party hostess. Plus, it’s in a great location, walking distance from town but with buses nearby as well. It has a swimming pool, which is shared with the other house in the compound, and a charming little “dipping” pool with a swim-up bar just off the patio. It even has an old basketball court in the front yard. Its main drawback is only one bathroom in the house, although there is a half bath off the big, shared rancho in the common area.

The Santa Eulalia "Tico" house 
That's NOT a kitchen!
The main competitor to this house is an amazing Tico house in Barrio Santa Eulalia, a jungley, hilly Tico community about a 15-minute drive uphill or in our case, a 25-minute bus ride. That distance is one concern for us as we want to have parties and entertain, and although the house is perfect for such events, even sporting a pool table in the lower level and extra guest bathrooms (a total of four!), the distance from town makes it less than ideal. The really big problem with this house is the kitchen, or lack thereof. It’s a “tico” kitchen - meaning only one sink, no hot water (quite common here), no cabinets or drawers, although it does have a pantry. There’s not even a range with an oven, just a built-in counter cooktop. The owner really liked us and we liked him as well; he has agreed to several significant upgrades, including a new stove, trying to make us happy but I’m not sure our objections can be overcome. Still, the reduced price from $800 to $700 and several other features keep it in the running, as we mull our options.

Still another possibility is a temporary three-month rental in an area of Costa Rica several hours from here that we’ve been told is very nice, just up the Pacific slope from Dominical beach. We had turned this offer down a while back -- even though the place is a total mansion with views and a pool and a huge kitchen -- only because we don’t want to be house hunting so soon after a move. But when the owner had no other suitable applicants, he contacted us again recently saying he really would like us to take it and to help us out, he has been trying to locate a suitable place where we could move at the end of the three months. He and his wife have invited us to come for a visit and stay at their place to look around the area. It’s basically a house-sitting situation and he really wants us to look after his gorgeous home.

It’s so nice to be loved. ;-)

Of course, we aren’t sure we want to move away from Atenas. Having been here over a year now, we know our way around, have made lots of friends, Tico and Gringo alike, love the weather and appreciate the fact that we can bus into San Jose in just about a hour for about $3.00 total each way or to the beaches at Jaco in just over an hour and a half. We like having good health services here in town and value the friendliness of the local people.

But living in different areas of the country also has a certain appeal, as it would allow us to experience living in a beachside community or up in the mountains. And in fact, we have been told that Atenas, being such a desirable locale, has more expensive real estate and rentals than in other parts of the country so we might be able to save money by living elsewhere. Particularly now that the new highway is open between San Jose and Atenas, realtor friends tell us that well-to-do Ticos are relocating here and commuting to their jobs in the city, a pattern that is also driving up prices.

Even in the short time we’ve lived here, we have noticed an increase in the Gringo population (not counting ourselves!) and a trend of development of gated upscale communities such as Roca Verde, which covers a beautiful green hillside overlooking the town in a way that seems somewhat supercilious to us. We have looked at houses there but turned them all down, partly for the reason that I am just not comfortable in such an enclave.

But there remains a charming small town feel to Atenas, exemplified by such ironic scenes as these two horses grazing happily in a lot just a block from downtown, and with only a ragged excuse for a fence and that missing a gate, allowing them to walk out any time. But knowing horses, they would probably stay there so long as a green blade of grass remained.  

So we continue to scour the real estate ads, websites and harass our local realtors in the hope of finding what we are looking for. We don’t want much: just the “perfect” place! 

(Remember, you can click on a photo to enlarge it.)

1 comment:

  1. Don't move! But if you do, the mansion looks like fun. BTW: I am an excellent dishwasher/poolboy.