If so, you will be interested in this post. I saw Howard's post on the Costa Rica Living Group board this morning and he asked for "All references, opinion, advice and networking welcome." Hey, if there's one thing I have it's opinions and advice. I try not to give it unsolicited. I sometimes fail in that vain attempt. But if you ASK for it, I can oblige!!! Here's the help he's looking for:

Family in need of a relocation tour, can you help?

I am looking for a tour or individual(s) to take me on a tour of potential communities for relocation to CR. I'm sort of the advance person for our family. I volunteered to research the area while my wife takes an ART class at The Artists Refuge in Alajuela Barrio San José.

The move is definite within 3 to 5 months; the only question is where, desiring certain proximities, housing budget limits and the most temperate climate for the area.

We are 2 adults (retired); plus 2 adults (working); plus 2 children (ages 8 and 10). The working adults are traveling consultants and need to be within a reasonable distance from the airport. The children will attend either the European or the Lincoln School (no home schooling).

I am looking for a tour company or individual(s) to introduce me to potential areas (Escazú seems out–overpriced for the value). I have looked on the internet regarding tours but nothing seems to coincide with my time in CR or my need to return to a single location each night. I am willing to pay a reasonable price for a 2, 3 or 4 days of touring (with or without other people) and honest and knowledgeable information and/or networking to information. I am even willing to rent the vehicle and do the driving, if a knowledge person without a vehicle can be found.

This is about serious learning (fun/laughing allowed); and not about vacation entertainment or buying specific real-estate. We may rent at the beginning because the most important thing is getting the children settled in the new environment without locking ourselves early into real-estate that is not good for them. We see ourselves starting in a more urban area and then moving to a more rural area.


I said:

Good morning, Howard,

Since you say right up front you are probably not going to buy Costa Rica real estate, you may not hear from the relocation tour people. You also don't really need their whole package. If you are set on the schools (and you are going about this the right way in my opinion), there is only one area where you should be looking for a place to live: the north side of San Jose.

I will share with you my experiences, opinions and advice, with links to more information. If you need any help, I'm happy to chat with you or email.

LOCATION: If your kids are going to European School (we loved it but left for very specific reasons) in Heredia or Lincoln (have never visited but heard great things) in Moravia, you want to live fairly close. The roads over there are "country" and not good, so you don't want to live too far. We lived 2 miles from Heredia in Santa Barbara de Heredia and it was a minimum 20-30 minute drive to the European School.

If you are not going to drive your kids to and from school, there are private school buses that can get your kids from wherever you live to the school. The school will be able to give you names of the drivers. We paid about $100/month for both kids to be driven to European School from our home in Santa Barbara. And a wild ride it was…

I don't know about Moravia – that is on the east side of Heredia. I've heard that area is particularly beautiful, but I can't imagine a countryside more beautiful than where we lived in Santa Barbara. Every morning, we drove thru San Pedro, Barva… all so beautiful.

You DEFINITELY do not want to live on the south side of San Jose (which is where Escazú is). There is a river that runs along the north side of the city and you have to cross a bridge to get from one side to the other. Each of the bridge crossings are unpredictable as far as time goes: it can be five minutes (rare) to an hour (more likely). All but one that I know of are single lane bridges and there are thousands of people who cross them everyday. You want to live on the side of the river where the school is located.

Re Escazú: we live in a 5 bed/3 bath 3500sf house with front and back yard, quick response security system and 180 degree view of the city of San Jose, with oxen and horses wandering about for $950 a month (including the alarm system). On the "cheap" side of the valley (which is what everyone calls it), the north side, we rented an 800sf house tico house, tiny tiny tiny in a beautiful location for $800 a month. Not such a deal, but we are gringos and it was the right place at the right time. The point is, you have to shop for a good deal no matter where you are looking.

When we were thinking of moving to a bigger house on the Heredia side, we saw many many houses for $1100 to $1500. On this side, the Escazú side, we saw many many large 4 bed 2-3 bath houses in gated communities here for $800-$850 a month. I'm a REALTOR® in the states so I know how to shop for real estate whether rental or sale. Here's the key: persistence and go see everything anyone calls you about. OH: you have to work with lots of real estate people. If you stick with one, you will not see everything there is to see. Period. Owners list with everyone or just their best friend… there is no MLS here. No training of agents. And no consistency.

We love Escazú and I'm so happy I live here. I'm a city girl so I need to be near the city with easy access to the little theatre group here, the only English language theatre company in Costa Rica (besides a small one in Dominical). Do not be scared away from Escazú – long timers here tend to put those of us who live here down, calling it gringo-land. But we are very comfortable here. While it is the most gringoish area, and I do see more gringos here than I did in Santa Barbara, we are still way way way in the minority. Ticos and Spanish rule here, as everywhere, and 99% of the time, that's who I'm seeing and what I'm speaking!

You've probably seen this link on schools: Click here.

There is a company here that specializes in helping people move to Costa Rica: www.relocationcr.com.
I have not met them, nor used them, but I'm in touch with Angela,
one of the owners, regularly (we both blog and share information). I enthusiastically recommend them! Angela is also the author of the school article on The Real Costa Rica
site that I point to above.

On this blog, on the left column under Categories, you might be interested in the Schools, Real Estate and Renting A House posts.

PLEASE rent at the beginning. You just don't know enough about the areas. You need to live here first. What if the school you choose doesn't work out? It's been known to happen…

Re hi-speed internet: do you HAVE to have it? If so, and it is not already installed and working in the house you are thinking of renting/buying, DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT take any landlord's word for it that you can get it. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Gringo/tico, doesn't matter. In my experience, I don't think anyone has ever lied to me, but all were incorrect. I have friends who just moved to Heredia who have been waiting for almost three months for their promised service to be installed and, in fact, they may not ever get it. They signed a 3-year lease, which is normal here.

Our work depends on access to hi-speed internet… we lost an $800 deposit that we put down on a house because the gringo landlord told us we could get hi-speed…. we did our own research after someone suggested that may not be true (after signing the lease and putting down our deposit) and we could not. If it's not there, offer to pay to have it installed, but don't move in or sign the lease unless A) you've done the research yourself and are certain you can get it – and even some people at the utility companies will say yes when in fact it's not true… apparently "can I get hi-speed internet at this location" is not a yes/no question. Or B) the service is already there (for instance, the previous tenant had it) and you've verified with the utility in question that is the case. Again, make sure the customer service rep understands you, and really does know the answer.

Remember: locals don't want to give you bad news or say no, even if they have to lie to avoid doing so. Tiny white lies are preferable to giving bad news or saying no.

You are only coming long enough to get a taste. A tiny tip of the tongue taste. The reality of the situation is you cannot find a place to live in 2-4 days unless you are very very lucky. We were that lucky in finding our first house in Santa Barbara, so I know it can be done. But it took 45 days of intense looking to find this house.

This is not like shopping for a home in the states (or wherever you are from). You need a month minimum. My advice is to come here, rent a place in an apart-hotel. The Aparthotel Roma in Heredia gets very high marks. Rent there for as long as it takes and TAKE YOUR TIME finding a home.

I'd love to be your tour guide, sounds like fun, but I don't know that area well enough. I would expect to pay $200-$300 a day for a knowledgeable guide, if you have the car. I came up with that price because I would not do it for less than $200 in my car: steep learning curve and navigating these roads is not easy. Do not shop price necessarily for a guide. I don't think you want a real estate salesperson just because you want to see everything and not just stuff for sale. Again, you probably won't be contacted by any of them since you are not likely to buy right away…

There are people on the board who can recommend great drivers. I think Jon at www.doscolones.com has a good friend he can recommend. You might do just as well with a good local driver who knows the roads, as with a tour guide. A driver is much less expensive, anywhere from $50 to $100/day. They aren't selling you anything, but it sounds like you need more of a guide.

Let me know what other questions pop up. I'm an information hound, having been in real estate for so many years as a Buyer Agent specialist so I've helped many many people move to Key West… I know the service, just don't know the area where you are looking well enough to be a competent guide.

Best of luck on your journey! It's very exciting to make the move, and how fun to have the whole family making it with you. Pura vida!

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