Atenas, Costa Rica One of The Best Places to Retire: AARP
AARP recently listed the best places to retire abroad.
AARP chose Barry Golson, an award-winning travel writer and founder of ForbesTraveler.com, to highlight the qualities that makes a destination an all-around choice for peaceful, comfortable living for the retiree.
Costa Rica has been recognized for a number of years as a great place for retirees, but only until this article did a specific community rise above the many great places to retire in Costa Rica. Golson loves Atenas (ah-tennis) Costa Rica
What made Atenas stand out to Golson?
“It is lush with nature, extraordinary wildlife, active volcanoes — as well as such comforting amenities as malls, supermarkets, and restaurants. Retirees have flocked here for years, drawn my its mild climate, its prosperity, its literacy rate, its health care, and, significantly, its stable government — with no army. This is as bio-diverse a country as you’ll find anywhere.”
Atenas has been selected because it is representative of Costa Rica itself. According to Golson:
The town slogan of Atenas is “The Best Climate in The World.” Golson didn’t bite into the local legend that the National Geographic actually printed this claim as many real estate companies will brag, but there are few climates in the world that are as desirable as the Atenas area.
There is a rainy and dry season, but the temperature always hovers around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 Celsius). Atenas is located in a mountainous area. Therefore many temperature ranges are available depending on how high up a mountain one choses to live. Literally within minutes, one can feel a change in temperature of five to ten degrees.
Most of the Atenas expats are from the United States or Canada. Atenas has the largest number of non-citizens per capita outside of San Jose.
Most expats find comfort in knowing that the language and culture changes can be solved or coped with by seeking advice and counsel from others with a similar background. Assimilating into the Atena’s culture is easier than it might be in places with a smaller expat community.
The cost of living in Atenas is higher than other Central Valley towns. But far less expensive than living in the San Jose area. Although longer-term residents of Atenas are saying the cost of living is rising faster because of the influx of new retirees. Local supermarkets are beginning to cater to the tastes of North Americans by stocking U.S. brand goods.
Golson is correct to say that $2,000 is a comfortable amount per month for a retired couple (after housing), with $2,500 – $3,000 certainly allowing for more travel and dining. Housekeepers and gardeners will work happily for $2-3 an hour. Building and remodeling costs range from $50 to $80 per square foot.
Air conditioning is virtually unknown in the majority of North American style homes in the Atenas area. The temperatures make it easy to stay comfortable sitting under a ceiling fan. Same with heating. Imagine no more high utility bills from heatimg and a/c.
Health care for people and pets is very affordable. Most routine services are available in Atenas, with the San Jose area providing a huge selection of specialists lying just thirty minutes from Atenas.
It is lush with nature, extraordinary wildlife, active volcanoes — as well as such comforting amenities as malls, supermarkets, and restaurants… Barry Golson
The malls are located nearer to San Jose, but Atenas has a nice selection of locally owned stores.
Golson says houses of $100,000 can easily be found in Atenas. What he fails to mention is this house will be a very simple home, but not what would be considered up to North American preferences.
A 3 bed, 2 bath home in a gated community is likely to be above the $200,000 level that Golson states, but there are pockets of homes that are in the $125,000-$175,000 range that have been built or upgraded to include the amenities that appeal to North Americans.
There is a vibrant rental market in Atenas and most real estate companies will assist in locating a home to fit your budget. $700-$1,500 per month for a two or three-bedroom home is a good budget number, with the high end getting a 2000 square foot home with spectacular view and a nice size pool. Utilities are often included in the rent, be sure to ask.
Many expats choose to establish residency to avail themselves of the socialized medicine available in Costa Rica. The Atenas clinic is usually very crowded but wait times are comparable to U.S. waiting rooms, but services are free – including prescriptions – if you are willing and able to wait.
If not, Atenas has a private clinic called Linea Vital which offers emergency services, as well as 24-hour walk-in and on-call care six days a week. (Closed Sunday) The doctors all speak English and often U.S. trained students are doing internships with Linea Vital. Most of the staff speaks English, nearly all were trained in the United States, and they seem generally to be more compassionate and caring than the harried medical professionals in the U.S.
One of Latin America’s best hospitals, Hospital CIMA, now just a 20-minute drive via the newly completed San Jose-Caldera highway.
Golson pointed out the leisure and abundant cultural activities to be found in Atenas. Certainly not up to big-city standards, but Atenas is a rural small town. Atenas has many traditional festivals and parades where both expat and locals share a terrific time. If you need a beach fix, the Pacific is just 45 minutes away via the Caldera Highway. One of the Top 12 national parks in the world, according to Forbes, Manuel Antonio National Park, is just 90 minutes away
Golson also writes about the ease of access to the U.S. Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is just 20 minutes from Atenas and has regular service to North American airports via all the major airlines.
The title of the AARP feature is “Paradise Found.” Those who live in Atenas, Costa Rica will agree that the quality of life in this small town make it easy to relax and enjoy retirement.
Is Now the Time to Buy In Costa Rica?
The Costa Rica Star had an interesting story comparing and contrasting buying a foreclosure in the U.S. vs. a home in Costa Rica.
Investors in Costa Rica are giving up on waiting for the next housing bubble and are applying principles of value-based investing before making decisions.
As always the driving force behind real estate valuations is location, location, location. Foreclosure homes in Las Vegas or Phoenix or Southwest Florida are ripe for the picking. While there are horror stories of undeveloped luxury home complexes in Costa Rica, many desirable beach properties have held their value.
Whether or not you choose to invest in foreclosure property in the U.S. or an investment home in Costa Rica depends of course on your personal situation. However, as more and more U.S. Baby Boomers look for the perfect retirement haven, the U.S. is slipping behind because of the increasing cost of living.
Costa Rica Homes Get Sustainable Living Certification
Architects and homebuilders in Costa Rica who have owners who want to build a sustainable home and commit to an eco-friendly process now can get certified as a green home.
The certification, Requisites for Sustainable Buildings in the Tropics, or RESET, is the first certification of its kind in Costa Rica.
“What we do with RESET,” Álvarez explained, “is an analysis of the [building] site, the earth, the ecological footprint of the building, water use and wood used [to build the structure], and [we] try to do more with less.
”Approximately 40 percent of the world’s population lives in the tropics, and a regional and global certification of sustainable building practices is needed, particularly in a world increasingly feeling the effects of human-caused climatic upheaval,
said Carlos Álvarez, president of the Association of Engineers and Architects.
The certification will focus on sustainable, low-impact building designs. Cross-ventilation, use of natural light, waste disposal and wastewater management will all be taken into account in the certification, as well as the use of local materials and energy-reducing technology incorporated into the building being certified.
Real-Buzz.com Adds Costa Rica MLS Listings to Search
Real-Buzz.com has added the MLS listings for Costa Rica, expanding its global property search to more than 70 countries.
“Cross-border real estate investment is a driving force in real estate markets globally. Although many buyers are coming to invest in the US, there is a growing trend for affluent Baby Boomers to buy properties south of the border for vacation and retirement.
“Real estate professionals in every country are seeking efficient marketing channels to reach buyers who are searching across borders, often all cash buyers at the higher end of the property market,”
said Janet Choynowski, CEO of the Real Buzz Immobel Group.
“Global marketing exposure is crucial for our members and we are thrilled to provide them with this unique opportunity to have their listings translated and show all over the world on Real-Buzz.com.”
Aleyda Bonilla, president of the National Costa Rica MLS CCCBR said,
“These days globalization is at the top of the “wish” list for every major franchise and brokerage group because they want to attract and retain top producing agents… and those agents need global marketing in order to win trophy listings,” Choynowski said.
Real-Buzz.com provides a unique global real estate portal where viewers can search and view properties in more than 70 countries, with the entire search and all property details professionally translated into their own preferred language.
“Chinese is the fastest growing language on the Internet and the Chinese are also enthusiastic buyers of international real estate.
It is now predicted that Chinese buyers alone will purchase US$50 billion of overseas property in 2012, more than US$40 of that outside the United States, so attracting international buyers is important for real estate professionals all over the world. Real-Buzz.com displays the listings from the US and more than 70 countries in both Mandarin and Cantonese,”
“For sellers in the United States, the International visibility Real-Buzz.com provides is important because foreign buyers spent $82 billion last year on US residential real estate.
“International buyer activity increased about 20% over the previous year, making home sales to foreign buyers one of the few bright spots in our real estate market,”
When international viewers search for property on their local Google or other leading search engines using common search terms like “house for sale” or “real estate” in their own (foreign) languages, Real-Buzz.com holds top positions for popular cities including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Sarasota, Orlando, Las Vegas, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Real-Buzz.com also holds top positions for English language searches for international destinations.
“We believe that Real-Buzz.com will prove to be a vital marketing channel enabling the professionals in Costa Rica and Mexico to effectively connect with interested US buyers,” Choynowski added. ”We are very pleased to add these popular locations to our growing coverage of real estate globally.”
The result of the merger last year between Immobel, the leading provider of globalization technology to the real estate industry and Real Buzz Media, the Real-Buzz.com portal combines the latest in social media features and a fully multilingual platform to create the leading global information exchange for real estate.
The Real-Buzz.com portal displays property listings from the largest Realtor® and MLS organizations including CRMLS (California) , MLSLI ( New York), MIAMI, Fort Lauderdale Realtors® , Las Vegas Realtors ®, AMPI (Mexico) CCCBR (Costa Rica) and FNAIM (France) all professionally translated into English, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin) and Chinese (Cantonese).
Under the Immobel® brand the company provides custom globalization technology, services and consultancy to real estate organizations, brokerages, technology vendors and franchise groups both in the United States and internationally.
The founder of Immobel, Janet Choynowski now serves as CEO of the Real Buzz Immobel Group.