|Am I legally allowed to own property in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is a great place to invest because Costa Rica acknowledges investors from other countries and grants them the same rights of owning land as Ticos (Costa Ricans). Most the property you encounter will be fully-titled, meaning that the land deed will be signed over to you in full allowing you to develop, sell, rent, trade or will. The only exception to this law is with "Possession" and "Concession" land. See "Concession and Possession land" below.
I hear about using a corporation to purchase property... what are the advantages of that?
Corporations, like in any country, are designed to protect the consumer. A corporation or in Costa Rica, an S.A. is a legal entity which stands legally on its own reconnaissance. A corporation is legally recognized by the government of Costa Rica. A corporation usually contains positions similar to a fully functioning company allowing several members to partake in a single corporation, i.e. President, Vice President, Chairman, Board of Directors, etc. In essence, most corporations are divided into "Shares". The Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws of the Corporation will declare the shareholders and to what amount of shares are entitled to each party member. For instance, one corporation could contain countless numbers of shares but the three Corporation representatives (President, Vice President, Chairman for example) may agree in the Bylaws to the Corporation being divided as 50% for the President, 25% for the Vice President and, of course, the remaining 25% for the Chairman. Any goods, deeds, cars, phones, properties, homes, etc that are in that Corporation are split equally by the divisions of 50%, 25% and 25%. It is possible to have only one person in a corporation just as it is easy to have 15 members in a corporation. There are certain other advantages of using a Corporation in Costa Rica. Most will use a corporation when transferring the ownership of one property to another. In Costa Rica, there exists a fee for sending a deed to a property to the public registry for transfer but there isn't a fee for transferring the shares of one corporation, containing that property, to another. In this event, most investors save themselves the cost of transfer which, depending on the amount of property, can cost hundreds of dollars. The transferring of shares from one corporation to another is completely legal, recognized, practiced and preferred in Costa Rica. Too, you may find it difficult to open a bank account in Costa Rica or obtaining a telephone because each is very difficult without your residency card. However, a corporation has no problem obtaining a cell phone or bank account and this is how most bank accounts and cell phones are acquired. It is true that in some banks in Costa Rica they require your corporation to be at least 6 months old to open a new account. Most Attorneys have numerous corporations formed and ready to sell. Most corporations are under $1000 (U.S.) If you're interested in a corporation at least 6 months old these may cost you a little more.
Do I need an Attorney in Costa Rica or can I use my attorney from my home country?
Some would say that you can never have enough attorneys. However, we firmly believe that having local representation is a must! The legal proceedings in Costa Rica are definitely unique to Costa Rica. To have a local Attorney will be an invaluable asset. Not to mention the language issue. Even if you speak Spanish fluently, legal Spanish is a whole new ball game. Most contracts here are done in Spanish but translated equivalents can be provided by your attorney. Don't be afraid to shop around for an attorney. Ask for references. If you're using your attorney solely for Real Estate, then make sure the attorney specializes in Real Estate transactions or at least has some experience. Most of all be sure that you can communicate with the attorney and that you feel comfortable using his/her services.
What is a Hectare? How do you convert that to feet and acres?
A Hectare is a unit of measure used in Costa Rica. Simply, a hectare is approximately 2.5 Acres. If you'd really like to break it down, a Hectare is 10,000 m2. There are approximately 11 ft2 in 1 m2...so, there is approximately 110,000ft2 in a Hectare.
Are there any limitations or regulations for building?
For the most part, each region and, potentially, each piece of property may have its own stipulations and regulations for building. Most of these stipulations govern the construction of buildings over 3 stories tall. 80% of people investing in Costa Rica tend to settle with a two-story home or its equivalent, but to those looking to build Condominium or neighborhood and gated community projects; you'd want to discuss any possible limitations with your attorney and your architect. Also, you will find specific restrictions with Right of Possession and Concession land (Land within the first 200 meters of shoreline).