We began our quest for a new home abroad in the summer of 2014. We searched the internet for expat forums, and real estate listings. We narrowed the ﬁeld to two countries, Panama and Costa Rica. After speaking with realtors in both countries we chose about 5 homes in Panama and between 15-20 homes in Costa Rica. We lined up our itineraries in both countries so we could maximize our exposure to different locales in each country, and set off for a whirlwind tour of one week, the ﬁrst week of December.
Our ﬁrst stop was Panama for 2 days. We loved the capital, everything is brand new and obviously geared toward attracting wealthy foreigners. The thing that put us off buying there are the lack of infrastructure in any other part of Panama. We found a couple of homes that we liked, but two hours out of the city with no close health care or shopping. It is also very hot unless you live in the mountains. Off to Costa Rica.
We had houses to view that were near Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Los Suenos, La Garita, Escazu, Atenas and Heredia. Our realtor, Yalile Alpizar from www.CostaRicaLuxuryEstates.com, had set us up with transportation from the airport to Manuel Antonio where we spent two full days looking at property. She then picked us up and drove us herself to look at homes on the Paciﬁc coast. It became rapidly clear that Manuel Antonio and the Central Paciﬁc areas, although beautiful and with abundant homes, were very hot.
Moving from Florida we were looking for someplace with a more temperate climate.
We spent 3 days in the Central Valley. We were a little put off by the driving. We had been here on vacation twice in the past, once in the 1990's and again in 2012, and the thing that stood out most during those visits, aside from the beauty of the country, were the terrible roads and a lack of address or street signs. This trip it was much the same but roads were better and most drivers now use a smart phone app called Waze to navigate.
Yalile was wonderful during those 3 days, driving us tirelessly, offering commentary on the different locales,ﬁnding what we were looking for in a home and directing us to homes that she felt would be satisfactory. I believe we looked at about 10 homes in the Central Valley area during those 3 days.
By the time we ﬂew home we felt comfortable in the city and even walked from our hotel one evening to view the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Children's Hospital in downtown San Jose. Upon our arrival home we went back over the properties we had looked at and decided on the Central Valley.
Our next trip to Costa Rica was in March of 2015. We had kept in touch with Yalile over the months and came back armed with a list of another 15-20 homes to view.
The Escazu area ended up being where we felt we would be most comfortable. There are multiple American chains of places to shop and eat in a relatively close area where we could gradually become comfortable with life abroad.
One house in particular, in San Antonio de Escazu kept coming back to haunt us. We were looking for a home with a large lot and no close neighbors and a spa or swimming pool. This home had no pool or spa, and with one neighbor fairly close, which had put us off from viewing it previously.
With Yalile's encouragement we decided to view it as no other properties had ticked all or even most of our boxes. It was love at ﬁrst sight. The views were amazing. The home, although not the biggest, fanciest or newest, felt very comfortable to us and very much to our taste. The owners were gracious enough to let us return the next evening to see the nighttime views. We were smitten. We negotiated an informal offer which was informally accepted, and we returned home leaving Yalile to ﬁnalize the paperwork.
My husband had planned to retire at the end of the year, but the sellers wanted to move up the closing to the end of September, so he moved up his retirement. Frankly, we could hardly wait to begin our new life. The Costa Rican attorney who would handle the closing was highly recommended by Yalile, and he met with us in Orlando to go over details of what would be needed to purchase our home and attain our residency.
The next six months were a whirlwind of activity, packing up and selling our house, deciding what to take and what to sell, and saying good bye to friends, family, and to a state that had been home to us for nearly 30 years.
We arrived at the airport with 6 very large boxes, several suitcases, our house keeper, who speaks ﬂuent Spanish and had agreed to come with us for the ﬁrst week to translate and help organize the house, and two cats. Yalile and Hersan, our driver from the 2 previous visits, met us to drive us home.
We have now lived here almost one year, a mere 2 years since our decision to move abroad. We have never regretted our decision, we moved into the new home with a lot of our old, familiar, comfortable belongings, some new things we bought in Florida and shipped here, and some furniture left for us by the previous owner.
We arrived here on a Monday and on Tuesday the truck arrived with our belongings. By Friday everything was cleaned, unpacked, organized, pictures hung and familiar objects from our previous life scattered throughout our new home. We had our car shipped over earlier and it was delivered to our home with all of the appropriate paperwork and licensing complete and ready to drive.
We hired wonderful domestic help who have been with us since the ﬁrst month, acquired 5 dogs at the dog’s refugee, and an old beat up Land Rover, and began exploring. Our property has city and mountain views, nice gardens, a river with lots of bamboo, huge trees and waterfalls. To make our experience even more exciting, one morning while walking in our backyard I found a sloth hanging from our fence. He lives in one of our trees. We are home!
Some things to consider when shopping for a home:
First, be ﬂexible. There were certain things we wanted that were nonnegotiable, healthcare and close by shopping and proximity to the airport, but after living here for a year we ﬁnd that we do not miss having a pool, and the neighbors who are close are very nice and it gives us some comfort to have them near.
Step out of your comfort zone. You may be surprised to ﬁnd that what you think are boundaries exist only your head.
And third and most importantly, in life and home shopping, if someone offers you help, accept it. It usually makes both of you feel good. Yalile and her staff went the extra mile and then some for us. I know for certain that without her help we would not be living here as comfortably as we now are.
Life has been an awesome adventure here. Everything fell into such amazing order I just know we had divine guidance, along with Yalile and her Company`s help.
“This is the original photo of the sloth hanging on the fence, taken in the
backyard of Mrs. Harmel´s house in Escazu. The original is in very low resolution”.
Written By Janine Harmel
for Costa Rica Luxury Estates