A reader writes:
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.
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!
Thank-you for being so upfront and honest with someone wanting to move when so many would continue to spread the illusion that it’s an easy thing to do…set up a new life in a new country without a source of income. It’s ain’t easy to do it leagally. It’s frustrating when I hear of people who considered themselves law abiding in their home country coming here and abusing the laws in a new country to suit themselves. To me it shows ignorance, arrogance and a lack of respect for this country and it’s people. Keep telling it like it’s supposed to be!!!! OH, and buena suerte on the new production. Hugs and Happy New Decade!
One legal way to earn income in Costa Rica is electronic day trading. Of course, an expertise in that business is required and that is not easy to come by. It takes a minimum of several years of training and practice as well as possessing personal characteristics which are suited to that activity. (Gamblers need not apply!)Additionally, one needs a good internet connection and a funded brokerage account.
Other than the above requirements, which are substantial, I see no other impediments. There must be some other ways to earn income which are doable but as far as working in Ticoland, I can’t imagine any north american being content working for Tico wages even if that were possible and getting employment in Costa Rica with an American corporation is just not an option, especially these days.
And as far as I know, anyone considering operating a business in CR would be facing some challenging legal conditions not to mention the language and culture hurdles.
So that leaves retirement; social security and pensions. How many older Americans are really up to the challenges of living full time in a foreign culture? I suppose many think they are but I read that a good many expats give up before a few years and go back to the States. Things are rarely as easy as it seems at first.
I am also wrestling with the issue of additional income to augment a social security check which is estimated to be at $1300 per month when I am eligible in two years. I need to double that amount. I am reading your blog with interest.
Excellent post, may I use it? So many people write me, asking about moving here and working. If they only did their research, they would know the answers! -t
Thanks, Jen! Feliz año a usted tambien!
Hi Jim, it’s a tough nut to come to terms with… we still struggle with it. We are thinking of new ideas all the time. Haven’t hit on the magic one yet but a lot of expats here do a lot of different things.
Sure, Teri, you can use whatever you want!!!