We found a house. A huge house. A huge affordable house. With a fantastic view. Yes, on the gringo side of the valley. Trust me, I suffer appropriate guilt. But I’m close to the theatre and the boys are close to the Multiplaza and movies. And other teens. We are so happy!
Moving in this weekend, leaving our beautiful finca, la casa transitorio. This has been a lovely home. Womb-like. Our landlords couldn’t have been better to us, or for us. But damn, we are excited to move into The Big House: La Casa de los Vidrios [VEE-dree-ohss], the house of glass.
Finding the house was quite the challenge. The process is similar to Key West rental shopping. Since there is no MLS for rentals, you have to scour the market pretty much on your own. And diligently:
1. Look in the newspapers and call on all the ads that look remotely possible.
2. Visit all the websites and email all the owners and/or agents on there. See who writes back.
3. Call ALL the real estate companies that do rentals, see what they have today. Then call back next week and see what they’ve gotten in new.
4. Drive around the neighborhoods and call on signs on fences and in windows. A TIP: If the sign is faded or looks aged in any way, don’t bother calling. It’s probably still for rent and priced way more than anyone is willing to pay. So far.
It’s the same in Costa Rica with add’l degrees of difficulty. Just for starters, there’s the language barrier and the fact that there are no addresses. You get directions to houses like: go to the green church in Heredia, go south 3 blocks, head east to the Plaza Comercial, follow the dirt road to the end and it’s the orange house. All in Spanish, of course.
Also, there’s no listing to be found of real estate agents or companies. Not even in the phone book. So you ask around for recommendations from friends. Or you find them on the web. I stuck to the FSBO sites (www.intertica.com and www.forsalebyownercostarica.com). They seem to be the most up-to-date. Also www.escazunews.com seems to be very active and current. Even though these are FSBO sites, agents list houses there. At www.intertica.com, you can sign up to be notified when a new listing is added.
The first few agents I spoke to told me I’d never find a house as big as I wanted (4+ bedrooms) for as little as I wanted (under $1000). Then they’d show me two. The market here, like everywhere, is softening. And we negotiated. We weren’t willing to pay more than we could or more than we thought the house was worth to us.
We got very lucky to find this particular house, I think. It’s got 3 actual bedrooms plus two additional rooms (one with a bath for my mom), a huge laundry room, and two living rooms. Plus a huge yard and a gorgeous view for $950/month. UN-fortunately, now we have to buy furniture for it. A lot of furniture. FOR-tunately, shopping is my forté!
The house is a veritable fortress, as you may have noted from the photos. This is the downside to living in Costa Rica. Petty theft is rampant. As long as someone is in the house, you won’t be robbed. So if you go away for a weekend, you hire a guard ($300/month) or have a friend stay in your house.
The thieves aren’t armed robbers for the most part and won’t break-in while you are home. For the most part. But if you go away and the house is empty, expect it to be EMPTY when you return. Apparently, they take the toilets. The light fixtures. Anything that can be lifted, will be.
This house has an alarm system monitored by a reputable company ($30 month, included in our rent). Gates and padlocks everywhere. My mom is bringing her three dogs when she comes in January. Local thieves don’t like dogs. At night when you go to bed and when you go out for the evening, you put the dogs inside so they won’t be poisoned. Sad but true.
You know, when we first got here, all I saw was the razor wire (there isn’t any at this house, thank goodness) and the bars. These days I don’t see them… it’s just a fact and you learn to live with it. Everything has a price. The price we paid living in the states was much higher and way more costly, hands down. And we’re not just talking dollars here, n’est pas?
Ok. Chattin’ time is up. I can’t eat after midnight, you know, with my upcoming surgery and all, which leaves me with barely 2 hours to snack before bed. New eyes in the am. Oooolala. Please send youthful glowing thoughts my way. If you could think off 10 pounds while you are at it – that would be MY 10 pounds, I would be ecstatic. Love, Saratica