You read a lot of different information on the internet about construction costs and timelines. You also, unfortunately, read about a lot of “horror stories” of people who had tremendous issues getting their home completed. Fortunately, we don’t really have that problem anymore here in Papagayo Costa Rica. One of the best things that happened, in the 2009 Economic Crash, was that it was a big FLUSH, and most of the fly by night / crooked builders went out of business and left. The remaining contractors not only survived those down times, but actually grew stronger because of it. I tell everyone, that anyone who could have survived those first few years, in any business whatsoever, is obviously doing something correct. So whether it is real estate agents or builders, hotels or restaurants, if they were here before 2008 and are still here today, they are probably pretty good at what they do. Also, the Papagayo area is booming. We have a LOT of construction going on. So obviously, the best builders in the country are going to come here, because there is business here. A good builder is in business to MAKE MONEY. You can’t earn an income building 1 house a year. So you are going to have a much harder time finding a quality builder in the more remote areas of Costa Rica, as only part time builders will live there. The top dogs are going to be here, where thousands of homes are going to be built over the next 10 years. Also, the most skilled workers are going to be here too, where they can have a consistent income laying tile, pouring concrete or doing cabinet work. In the more remote areas, you are going to be stuck with the least competent workers.
You will see websites that tell you that you that the cost of building a house in Costa Rica is $80 a square foot. Don’t believe it, unless you want what we call a Tico house. If you read their contract closely, there are probably many things NOT included in that price, and by the time you add them to the finished product, it won’t be 80 bucks anymore. I have had hundreds of my clients build homes here in paradise with excellent results for a very reasonable price, considering the quality of the home. Here is my advice.
First, do your due diligence with the builder. Ask for referrals from clients who have had a home built by them. Call those people on the phone and ask them about their experiences. Personally spend some time with the builder, visiting homes that he has completed, in your area. Get a FIRM solid price from the builder and make sure they list everything that is included in the price. Most builders have a contract that is based upon performance and completion. In other words, you pay as they build your house. Your up front costs might be 10% of the total cost, so the builder can pay the architect, finalize the blueprints and obtain the permits. Then another percentage as the foundation goes in, the walls go up, the roof goes on, and so on throughout the process. If you are unable to be here while the house is being built, then the builder will send you progress photos to show you that he has completed the scheduled work, before asking for another draw.
Second, make sure you are happy with the final design before starting. Changes can be very expensive, and also time consuming. Obviously, if you can be here for the entire construction process, that is perfect. But not everyone can, or wants to be here while their home is being built. I recommend you come at least 3 times throughout the process. When they first stake the house out on the lot, you need to be here with the builder. You want to make sure the house is situated EXACTLY where you want it on the lot, and facing in the exact position you want it to face. Come early in the morning, the middle of the day and at sunset, so you can see where the sun shines and the direction your various windows face. Once they pour the foundation, you are stuck with that location, so make 100% sure you are satisfied with the positioning. You then want to come back when the walls are completed and the roof is on. This will allow you to be 100% positive that all the windows, doors, etc are exactly as you want them. Now would be the time to make minor changes, as once the glass and tiles go in, it becomes much more expensive for you to change something. This is also the time you will spend a couple days with your builder, going to various suppliers, picking out your finishing’s. You will pick your tiles, faucets, doors, showers, windows, etc and confirm the exact layout of your custom kitchen cabinets. Lastly, you want to be here when the house is in the final couple weeks of completion. This way you can be here to see your baby finished and pop a bottle of champagne when you take possession of the keys.
Third; relax. Don’t stress out over it. This is supposed to be exciting, so enjoy the process. You are building your dream home in Costa Rica and you will make some of the most amazing memories of your life here. But also, don’t overdo it. Be tough on yourself and STAY WITHIN YOUR BUDGET. Whatever you set out to spend, stick with that number. Don’t allow yourself to start adding things that you really don’t want or need, especially if you will feel the financial crunch for it later. Most of my clients are downsizing, and want LESS not more.
For a normal size house, the average construction time is one year. So from the moment you agree on the final floor plans, until the time you can move in is usually about 10-12 months. The average cost of building a house in Costa Rica is about $125-150 Square Foot. But this should include EVERYTHING except your furniture, including your swimming pool, driveway, landscaping; you will have a turnkey house. This of course, is based on a normal size house, on an average lot. Meaning, if you order White Marble floors from Bali, as one of my clients did, this can bring your costs substantially higher. Also, if you are building on a cliff, where there might be a lot of excavation or retaining walls, this too can add to the costs. At the same time, there are ways to lower these costs, and getting closer to $100 sq ft, using less expensive tiles and faucets, building a smaller pool etc. But the majority of my clients tend to stay in the 125-150 range.
The cost of building a house in Costa Rica may sound expensive compared to some places in the world, but you have to remember a couple things. Costa Rica has some of the toughest and most stringent building codes in the world. Everything is built to the seismic code that allows a house to withstand an 8 point earthquake. THIS IS HUGE people. We had ZERO deaths and ZERO structural damage to any of our properties. NONE! Sure wine glasses broke, and some roof tiles and floor tiles cracked but NOBODY DIED; no house collapsed. When you see countries in the world with similar size quakes, like Haiti, Italy, Chile etc, there is so much damage and so much death it is mind boggling. NOT HERE. Safety costs money; quality costs money; don’t try to cut corners with your life. Homes are not framed here, they are built with concrete and steel and everything is engineered to withstand Mother Nature’s best. You cannot put a price on that.
Remember though, that this will be an AWESOME HOUSE. The home will be beautiful, healthy, and SAFE.
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PRICELESS!!! PURA VIDA!!!!