Finding That Perfect Spot...

by Andy Browne

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When my parents moved to Florida from New York City in 1948, they bought a house where they planned to raise a family and live the rest of their lives.  To them, this was their dream spot, a place they worked hard to acquire and worked even harder to maintain.  This was the house I was born into and remained for 23 years until it became time for me to start a family of my own.  Buying, selling, flipping, investing, living a nomadic lifestyle was not endemic to my parents' generation - but it was to mine.

In the 38 years Fran and I have been married, we've owned eight different homes in seven different states.  In fact, owning a home was so important to us we even sold our beautiful 1972 Karmann Ghia convertible just so that we could afford the down payment on our first house. 

However as the years passed, new job opportunities required us to be highly flexible with where we called home.  After time, it became apparent that home was where we were living at that time.  Finding that perfect spot would continually elude us for there was never going to be that perfect spot. 


Don't Become A Victim...

From that momentous day in 1975 till we sold our final home in 2008, every house we owned generated a respectable profit while providing significant income tax benefits. 

But now it's retirement time.  It's time to establish our Costa Rican roots and live out our retirement years in peaceful harmony and bliss, or at least that's what "they*" want us to do. 

* They... being the purveyors and manipulators of "rose colored misinformation" who continually sell unsuspecting retirees on the premise that...
if you move here, you must own here.


While doing our research for retirement, the majority of the websites we relied upon for valid information kept drilling into our heads...

  • Buy now, Invest Today

  • We Love Costa Rica - You Will Too!

  • Save Big at Pre Construction Rates (and my favorite)

  • Don't Miss This Opportunity - It's Available For Today Only.

"They" want to make you feel that the only way you are going to be happy living in Costa Rica is to buy into the concept of Costa Rican home ownership.

 

I have to admit, there was a point in time, the thought of owning our own home did have some appeal.  But each time we thought about plunking down a huge amount of money for a house, we asked ourselves... "Will owning a home here make us any happier?  Will it make our lives any better?" And as much as we tried to come up with a YES answer, we couldn't. 

In the nearly two years we have lived in Costa Rica, Fran and I have met many people and established some very good friendships.  And in most cases, the overwhelming majority of the folks we met either bought land and built their dream house or they found the perfect home situated on the perfect lot.  To all these folks (and you know who you are), we are very glad you have found your little piece of heaven.  But as we have come to learn, that strategy is not going to work for us.


Home Sweet Home or Maybe Not...

In the run up to our move to Costa Rica, we did tons of research which included making multiple "due diligence" trips here, reading everything we could get our hands on and most importantly, communicating directly with those who have gone before us.  As a result of this research, we formulated a strategy of renting before buying. This forced us to (at least) think with our heads and not with our hearts.

We had decided to move (initially) to the Central Valley, specifically the San Ramon area because it had a solid infrastructure, good medical care and was within a 1 hour drive from the airport, U.S. style shopping and hospitals.  In addition, San Ramon sported a very strong gringo population.  We found a house rental just 6 km north of the town.  It was a new home, furnished with a drop dead killer view of the valley.  It was also located on the edge of what is known as a "cloud forest." 

For the first few weeks in our new home the weather was spectacular.  The day's were warm, clear with a mild breeze while the nights were just cool enough to require a very light blanket.  For us, it doesn't get any more perfect.  But then the weather changed and for nearly six months we were blanketed daily in heavy clouds.  Sometimes the visibility was so bad we could not even see the edge of our back yard just a scant 40 feet from our balcony.  Now add to that, heavy wind and rain would pound down onto our all metal roof creating a sound that would be reminiscent of a Baghdad fire fight.   And don't even get me started on the never-ending battle with mold and mildew.


INCREDIBLE PATIO VIEW
 


NEAR ZERO VISIBILITY


An Opportunity To Explore and Decide...

Realizing our decision to rent (instead of buy) had been validated, we decided to vacate the cloud forest and experience more of what this wonderful country was able to offer.  We chose the northern beach area of the Guanacaste province, specifically the small bedroom community of Playa Hermosa.  I know we initially stated (quite emphatically) that we would never live at the beach because it was too expensive and way too hot.  But we learned that decision was based on incomplete data gathered from people who didn't have a friggin clue as to what they were talking about. 

YES it is warm here and YES it is more expensive.  But you are living at the beach!  If one makes the right decisions and doesn't live like a fat-cat gringo (with a thirst for everything American), you can live quite affordably here. 


Fine Tuning Our Strategy...

Throughout our adult life, the concept of home ownership has been drilled into our psyche.  But as we continue to evolve here in the land of Pura Vida, that concept seems to have evaporated.

It really boils down to an internal debate on economics.

  • A home that will make Fran happy will cost us between $200-300,000

  • Financing will not be available so we'll have to pay cash

  • We'll be responsible for all maintenance, repairs, taxes

So what if we use that money, previously earmarked for a house, and fund our love for International Travel?

Let's face it... Fran and I are both 60 years old, we're not going to live forever.  While we are in relatively good health, I figure we have about 20 or so "good" years still ahead of us.  I'm not being morbid, just realistic.  If we take the cost of what would have spent on a house and apply it equally over the next 20 years, we are now able to spend about $15,000 a year on travel.  To us the benefits are immeasurable and the memories will be everlasting.  That's more than you can say about a house!

Some folks asked us "why don't we settle down and buy a house?"  The answer is really simple... we're having way too much fun!


 

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