As many newly relocated expats are discovering, the home building process can take awhile, and can include some headaches and frustrations. Many people have been turning to shipping containers as a transition home while they construct their big palace. The shipping container home, because of its design, avoids many of the traditional permit process required for a typical home in Costa Rica.  Also, because of its design, they can be made elsewhere and then delivered, dropped off, plugged in, and moved into in one day.

Moving into your Shipping Container Home.

After many people buy their land, the process to build is usually the next step. This process requires many steps, paperwork, meetings, etc. In some cases, it can take over a year or more to just begin with the foundation. The container home is like buying an RV, without the wheels. The entire home is self-enclosed and, as mentioned earlier, you just plug it in. When it arrives on your land and is placed on its platform, then you would hook up the electricity and water.  Then connect the unit to its septic tank, which should be built before the delivery.

After living in your container home and your new home is complete, because of the design, your options are win/win. You can resell the container home, which maintains a very high re-sale value. Use the container home as a spare house for guests, or relocate the home to your second property. There is always the option to build onto your single container home unit with other containers.

There are many options for the container home because of its ease of transportability.”

So you don’t need any permits?

Not exactly.  You see, a few years ago, the Colegio de Arquitectos (Architectural School) got together, and protested against the fact that there were no permits required for home construction under 30 square meters. (Your standard 40ft container is 37.5 M2)

Apparently they won, and now permits are required for all sizes of homes or structures. However, there are some loopholes. If the home is being used as a security house, a “guard house”, then no permits are required. Second, if the home is a non-permanent structure. The container home as a single unit does not qualify as a permanent structure. If the container home consists of several containers that are stacked or connected, then it might be considered a permanent structure. But the single units, the ones that most resemble an RV home, should not need any permits in Costa Rica.

What type of foundation is required?

This is a very important part of the container home purchase.  There must be a foundation. The first step is to know the design of your home so you build the septic tank under the bathroom, or as close as possible. Next, decide on the type of structure you wish to build to elevate the container home from the ground.  The most common material used is the cement canister. Knowing where the fuse box is located in the home will save you some money on the cable required to connect the home from the street. If you know the layout of the container home, you can place your ICE electric connection as close to the fuse box as possible.

Building a home in a foreign country is very fulfilling. Each step in the process gets you closer and closer to your new finished home. These “steps” however do not have an actual fixed timeline in most foreign countries, and especially in Costa Rica.  For example, when the rainy season begins, most construction comes to a halt. So the project time line is essential.

This is another good reason for a container home. Having a livable space on your land during the construction process, whether it is for you or your crew, will help speed things up, as well as provide a security aspect to the project.

WRITTEN BY:  James Lee  www.containerhomes.net

The author, James Lee has lived in San Ramon Costa Rica for 17 years.  He is a Chiropractor and Container Home Builder. He has build over 27 projects in the past 11 years. Located in La Union, San Ramon de Alajuela.