If you are over 50 years old and move to Costa Rica, there are a few things that you should consider for your retirement dream home before you buy or rent.
Some people are still quite fit when they’re 90 years old. Others, as soon as they retire, start having all kinds of medical problems.
Even though you may still be a very active person, your health condition can change when you least expect it. So details can suddenly become significant, like it or not.
For that simple reason, here are some important things to consider when you select your retirement dream home:
1. Match your finances.
Don’t over-extend yourself financially, particularly if you have to live on a fixed retirement income. Quite possibly there won’t be any more windfall profits unless you’ve invested wisely. So, you may need to plan your lifestyle to adapt to a lower income. Plan your expenditures for that lower level. And, buy or rent a retirement dream home at a price that matches your finances.
If you do, you’ll have extra money for wining and dining, arts and culture, travel, and other things that you’ve always wanted to do, but which you never had the time for.
Never in your life has the location your home been as crucial as it is now. It might not have been a priority before, but you might want to be close to medical facilities (you really don’t want to be an hour away from a good hospital when you are having a heart attack, do you)?
Find out where the hospitals are located, public and private, and once you’ve figured out a location, test it out by spending some time in the general area; stay for a vacation before you commit.
3. Size of the property.
How large should your retirement dream home be? More size means more upkeep. Do you really need those extra bedrooms? Would one for you plus one for your guests, one that can double as a home office, be enough? Or will you end up using only half the house when nobody is visiting? Maybe downsizing is a good idea?
Maybe a two-bedroom house, plus a guesthouse, is a better idea? Once you retire you will want to spend your time doing the things that you enjoy. Unless you enjoy cleaning.
If you really delight in mowing your lawn every week, buy a large property. But buy one that is flat; your knees might not appreciate cutting the grass on a steep hillside. If gardening is not your thing, consider a condo so you don’t have to do any property maintenance.
Retirement means you’ll have more time for all those hobbies that you never had a chance to spend time on before. And you will want to have access to those hobbies. Don’t assume that you will want to, or be able to, drive forever.
For example, to play golf you don’t have to live right on the golf course, but you don’t want to drive for two hours to get there either. So think hard about where you would want to live and what’s easily reachable, before you rent or buy a house.
5. Single story or elevator.
Usually, the knees are the first to go. Walking upstairs, for those with bad knees, can be very difficult. Maybe you laugh this off and think your knees will be good forever. But do you really want to purchase or rent a three-story retirement dream home?
There are many areas in Costa Rica, like Escazú, where it’s almost impossible to find a single story home, so if you want a one-story house you might have to try locations like Atenas or Grecia.
Or, think about a condo. Not everyone can get used to living in a condo, and maybe you love your pets too much? (It’s possible the bylaws of a condominium won’t allow you to have pets.) If your location must be in Escazú or Santa Ana, and a condo is your solution, look for one with an elevator.
6. A covered terrace or pool.
Once you retire you’ll have plenty of time for leisure. For sure, the weather is one of the reasons people move to Costa Rica. So make sure you’ll be able to spend time outdoors. Sunshine is lovely, but sitting all day in the tropical sun is not healthy. So select a retirement dream home with a covered terrace. You’ll love it, believe me. Especially in the rainy season.
Having a pool is often a dream, and some people really like taking a swim every day; others prefer just looking at it. But most people, once they have one, never use it.
Think hard about your wish to have a pool; they require nearly daily maintenance … and who’s going to clean it? Many condo complexes have pools for their residents. And maintenance is done by the staff, another reason a condo may be a good choice. Consider the downsides of a pool before making a final decision; once you have one, it’s difficult to get rid of it.
7. Nature and view.
When you get older you get to enjoy nature much more than when you were young, and Costa Rica has lots of nature. Don’t get yourself into a retirement dream home where you’ll be looking at your neighbor’s wall. Find one where you can enjoy the birds, your own fruit trees, or where you can spend time gardening.
Some people don’t care much for a view, usually because they’re too busy to look at it. But now that there will be time to enjoy both nature and view, consider if that may be a new requirement. There are a few other details that you might want to look into, like step-in showers instead of a bathtub.
The perfect property doesn’t exist, so keep an open mind and don’t expect you can cover all the details. That’s why it is essential to decide early in your search, what things are really important, and what you can live without in your new retirement dream home.
This article, by Ivo Henfling, was edited by Allen Dickinson and then published in the September/October 2018 edition of El Residente.