A reader writes:

Good Morning!

I came across your blog while looking up some info on the Costa Rica expat. Following a recent trip to the country, (coupled with a not-so-recent desire to check out and start over someplace new,) I find myself obsessed with researching and reading about the realities of day-to-day life in your neck of the woods.

I’ve been a real estate broker for a little over four years now, the last two of which I’ve spent running my own small discount listing brokerage. I wanted to ask your opinion on the real estate market in general, and how feasible it is to move there and jump right in. I know that despite a great deal of time and effort, it ended up taking me six months to establish any sort of livable earnings here in the US when I first started up, mainly because I had just moved to an area where I knew not a single soul.

In looking at real estate jobs online, it seems like they are concentrated in a few big resorts where they are basically paying you to sell their units and nothing else. I was wondering if you have a bead on other real estate options, such as the pros and cons of working with a big US based company or a smaller operation, starting a new company from scratch, and so on.

Also, I would be moving as a single Mom with a 6 year old daughter, so any thoughts on that subject would also be appreciated!

Thanks again for your time….I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.


I answered:

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for reading and writing in.

Re. working here: in a nutshell, you can’t* until you have permanent residency which takes three years. So far, I’m doing CostaRicaScout.com for free. The only way around this is to start a business and even then, you can’t “work” it. You can manage it but you must hire locals to do the work. The working rules are little complicated so I would advise hiring a knowledgeable residency lawyer (www.residencyincostarica.com) and getting the details from an expert.

A lot of people told me that legally working here was a very gray area, that I can work for my own Costa Rica corporation so I would be, in effect, working for a local company, even though it is actually my company… But migración is hip to that. If they want you, they will catch you driving someone around to show them property and deport you for 10 years. I decided not to risk it – I’m not what one might call a wallflower.

*The only exception to this is getting a work permit from a company for you to do something here that no tica can do. It’s not easy! Obtaining the permit is a huge hassle for the company doing the hiring so you really need a skill that is worth their effort!

We’ve been living on savings, I do property management in Florida and we manage a couple of online websites… it’s hard, but doable. Can you sell your company for a stash of cash to live on? Buying a business here has its own set of risks and troubles. We considered it at first, even looked at a couple of businesses for sale, but decided not to until we were at least reasonably fluent in Spanish… I’m glad we waited! We have since decided “no” to a business here. The culture is too different and the bureaucracy is a nightmare. Maybe we’ll reconsider in a few more years when we have learned more of the ropes. We are learning enough by the seat of our pants to add a whole ‘nother level to the mix!

Wish I had better news… Good luck to you. It’s definitely worth the effort to move here. Reliable income is the big question for those of us not retired with an adequate pension or SS check.

Pura vida, y feliz año!

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