Costa Rica real estate law

Legal considerations when buying properties in Costa Rica

All Costa Rica property records are kept by one institution Registro Nacional de Costa Rica (sorry it is in Spanish) that offers access online here Registro Nacional Digital   (again, it is in spanish and you need to create a login and password. Each property is assigned a unique number known as “Folio Real” that will not change (unless the property change: for example, a large plot of land that is segregated the new smaller parcels are assigned new numbers). In order to transfer the title or a corporation holding the title you will need to do a deed or transfer the shares of the corporation through a Notary Public. 

There are other ownership types like possession, Co-ops, concession land (mostly maritime zone concessions) or 100-year leases that are not as recommended and would require a very exhaustive legal analysis before closing.

There are now restrictions for foreigners to purchase fee simple and condominium properties, however there are some restrictions for foreigner to buy concession land, as 51% of the shares shall be held by a Costa Rican. Even when historically there have been some workaround to this restriction we would recommend foreigner to be cautions when exploring those options, furthermore, been able to find condominiums and fee simple properties beachfront those options would be a safer investment.

Foreigners can buy under their own name, through a local corporation or their own corporation in their country of origin (this last option is by far a more complex process and not worth considering unless you are a corporation buying commercial property. 

On the public records you will be able to find information of encumbrances, lien, mortgages, easements, and others related to each specific property. We are also able to see who represents each corporation, find historical data, survey maps and more.

Notary public in good standing conditions

You can check that your selected notary public is in good standing conditions in this link: Direccion Nacional de Notariado of Costa Rica (consulta de notarios)

Real estate lawyers in good standing conditions

You can check that your selected real estate laywer is in good standing conditions in this link: Colegio de Abogados de Costa Rica (consulta de agremiados)

Choosing the right real estate lawyer

When closing a transaction in Costa Rica real estate law is very straight forward for fee simple and condominium properties so you can choose any lawyer no matter their location, however if you are buying a property with special condition like properties located inside a large resort, Co-ops,  commercial properties, raw land with environmental restrictions, concession land or others you better find a lawyer that has experience in similar transactions.

Lawyer fee and property transfer taxes:

Lawyer and notary public fees in Costa Rica are set so there should not be considerable differences for the transaction itself, however there would be considerable differences when dealing with consulting fees, management fees or permit processing fees (those fees usually apply on the cases previously described)

Questions and answers

Feel free to ask any questions or doubts you might have