Building a Home

If you've looked around and had trouble finding the perfect abode, you may consider building your own. While there are many advantages in designing and building to your own specifications, the experience usually requires a great deal of work and patience.

Most Costa Rican architects and contractors are not accustomed to planning and building up to American and European standards. However, good companies with extensive experience do exist. It is of the utmost importance that you spend the time to research the various companies. Look for an experienced construction firm that can provide assistance with permits and other logistical matters. Meet with them, ask questions, and make sure that you are able to communicate effectively with them.

By law, only architects and engineers who are members of The Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects can file applications for construction permits. Only after reviewing your construction plans and determining that they meet all electrical, seismic and structural regulations, will they file the application. Rates charged by architects vary considerably, but here are the minimum rates of members of the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects:

When you have agreed on the general design of the property, your architect will draw up the plans, as well as a materials list and construction budget. Your total planning package should include the following items:

Construction permits are required for any house with an area greater than 750 ft². Submit the application to the Oficina Receptora de Permisos de Construccion (Permit Reception Office). You will need to provide them with the following materials:

Estimating the total cost of building a home is difficult without the construction plans. However, depending on materials and the quality of work, you can expect the cost to range from US$30-50/ft². This is still considerably cheaper than building in the U.S.

Building a home can be a challenging venture, especially in another country. Here are a few things to consider when taking the leap. When construction does begin, try to spend as much time as you can on site to confirm that everything is going as planned. As a homebuilder, you might also consider paying the contractor as the job progresses, in addition to materials up front. A happy crew may be more likely to maintain a high standard of quality. Contractors generally receive discounts on materials, and they may want to use comparable materials that provide them with the largest profit margin. Make sure that they use materials that were agreed upon in the contract.

Costa Rican law imposes strict guidelines on zoning and construction. Along both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, 200 meters inland from the high tide is owned by the government. Within the first 50 meters of this area, building anything is strictly prohibited. However, with permission from the local municipalities and the Costa Rican Tourist Board, the area from 50 to 200 meters above high tide can be leased. This is legally prohibited for foreigners, yet there are ways around the stipulation. Vertical requirements also exist. The ICT discourages building anything over three stories within beach areas. Along rivers, building a house is prohibited within 50 to 100 meters from the shore.

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