So this is the scenario: You have been working hard and saving your money for the past (30) years and now you are thinking of moving to paradise and building that dream home for you and your sweetie. Sound like a great idea, a dream come true. Building a home, wether it be in your home country or a foreign land can be a daunting task with ups and downs, twists and turns, and issues you never even thought were possible. Has your dream turned into a nightmare? In the past 16 years I have seen dreams turn into NIGHTMARES over night. In most cases these nightmares could have been avoided but lack of due diligence, communication, and knowledge on the consumers end caused unnecessary heart ache. I have outlined some simple steps you can follow to help ensure your dream home becomes a reality, without the nightmares.
- Use the knowledge of qualified professionals. Professionals like Realtors, Lawyers, Surveyors, Architects, Engineers, and Contractors can be invaluable to a successful construction process. If you were diagnosed with a life threatening disease, would you accept treatment from just anyone? Of course not! When you are going to make major decisions in life, you should seek out qualified professionals and use their knowledge and experience to your advantage.
- Real Estate Agents will know the restrictions, and zoning (use of land) for the land your are buying. This is something you too can easily check by paying a quick visit to your local municipality and asking for a USO DE SUELO. This will easily tell you what you can do with that dream property. In addition your agent can give you the history of the property, make suggestions about improvements, and be a guide for pricing and future costs involved in your adventure. Your Realtor can be invaluable in helping you with other contacts that will help make your dream home become a reality.
- A Lawyer will check the title of the property (title search) to make sure it’s “clean” and without encumbrances. Your lawyer will also do all the paperwork for the purchase transaction like setting up corporations, and writing closing documents, and contracts you will need for service people (like your Contractor). More often than not, your lawyer acts as the escrow agent for the transaction, so make sure you are comfortable with the one you choose.
- The Surveyor will verify boundary lines and property size so that you don’t end up building part of your house on someone else’s property (yes this does happen and it can be VERY COSTLY to resolve).
- In Costa Rica, your Architect/Engineer not only designs your house, but also acts as your inspector throughout the construction process. Your Architect/Engineer should visit the construction site at least once per week to make sure the contractor is building the home to the specifications of the plans. Plans are approved by the College of Engineers, according to building practices and regulations in Costa Rica. What is standard practice in your home country, may not be in Costa Rica. When designing your home be SPECIFIC about what you want. Dot all your I’s and cross all your T’s, and don’t sweat the “small” stuff!
- When choosing a contractor it is important that you are CAREFUL and do your due diligence. Get references, and go see VARIOUS projects. Look at details. How are finishes installed. God is in the details and that can be a tale tale sign of the quality of workmanship! Have your lawyer draw up a detailed contract, using a “draw” system for payments. For example we always break our payments down monthly over the time of construction. NEVER give large amounts of money up front! Go the the job site often. We go to our construction sites every day! If you cannot go every day, then at least 4 times per week. If you are out of the country hire a project manager. Fees range from 15-20% of the construction cost, but could save you much more in the long run. DO NOT BUILD WITHOUT SUPERVISION!
When it comes to going for your dreams I believe you go all the way or don’t go at all. Life is short, live it, enjoy it. There are pitfalls everywhere in the world. Do your due diligence, make firm, informed decisions and building your dream home is paradise will be relatively stress free. It will take time, and effort, but in the end you will be glad you did your homework. Remember Gerardo and I are here for you. If you have any questions, need help or just advise, our doors are always open!
By Dennis Easters
Owner Pure Life Development, Atenas, Costa Rica