16 November 2014

Montaña Samara Lot 6 - We Need a Name

Casa Colina, Caso Jalepeño, Casa de los Monos. We can't decide on a name. And this is sad because all homes in Costa Rica have names. To paraphrase Nelson DeMille's line in Gold Coast: Stanhope Hall, Grace Lane, Lattingtown, Long Island . . . I get my mail.

But before the naming comes the purchase and closing. And we're still far from closing. Or so it feels.

Here's our little (albeit long-winded) tale of purchasing Lot 6, the home with no name. It began, as does everything in the 21st century, with an extensive Internet search. And hours of watching HGTV's House Hunters International.

Typical morning routine: Hit Menu on the TV remote control and scroll through 24-hours of HGTV programming looking for upcoming episodes to record of House Hunters International featuring Mexico. Any place in Mexico. And then when Mexico was crossed-off the list, Costa Rica. There they were. Day after day, week upon week, month following month. The Tamarindo episodes (plural), the Nosara episode, the San Isidro area episode, and my favorite . . . the tree-house episode.

Rusty! Clearly North Americans are flocking to Costa Rica. We'd better hurry or all the homes will be gone. Then came the compilation of dozens of homes from the Internet. Homes we could afford (yikes), homes we couldn't possibly afford (oooo-ahhh-mmmm), and homes whose prices might be negotiable. The reading of all the "how-tos" . . . blogs, International Living instructions, realtor web sites, how-to-do-it sites . . . ad nauseam. 

The Quiz:
How do you choose your realtor for your home hunt in Costa Rica?
A. Go with a realtor featured on House Hunters International. After all, HGTV wouldn't select anyone without impeccable credentials; and you can trust HGTV to be gospel.
B. Use the realtor whose name appears on your favorite, got-to-have-it listing. Who better than the listing agent to show-off the home that most interests you?
C. Contact a realtor only in the area of your primary interest. Why waste time in areas where you know you won't buy?
D. Find a realtor willing to contact you, by telephone and eMail. If he calls, he's probably the real deal . . . the right person to help you in your hunt.
ANSWER: D, solely to get a realtor willing to spend hours on the telephone with you, long before you're on-the-ground in Costa Rica. Then ask all the right questions of him/her, beginning with 1) Where do you live? 2) How long have you lived there? 3) Are you willing to show us listings from other realtors.

If you aren't speaking to a realtor who can describe the current weather in Costa Rica, describe the home in which he's resided for at least five years, and one who will agree to show you anything and everything, in any area of the country, you've got the wrong realtor!

I can laugh in hindsight -- I contacted a realtor near Tamarindo . . . where I was convinced we'd ultimately buy. A realtor from an episode of House Hunters International. Big mistake for us . . . though possibly not for you. HGTV has given me so many happy hours and great tips, but that's not where we found our realtor. That said, there definitely are good, nay great, realtors who have done episodes of House Hunters International.

So almost by happenstance we stumbled upon the best realtor in Costa Rica. And we began an eMail dialogue and ultimately a telephone dialogue that went on week after week as our agent narrowed down our list, offered new options, and agreed to show us anything and everything that we needed and wanted to see. Now I ask you: Who does that?! Who takes time night after night to call Texas and talk to strangers who might not be serious about buying? So ultimately we toured homes not merely in the Samara area, but east off the Nicoya Peninsula, south, and as far north as Tamarindo (including sites way north of Tamarindo). Our dedicated realtor showed us at least 30 properties, day after day. Who has that kind of patience, I ask you? The answer: Bill Knight, Coldwell Banker Samara.

This is the part where I tell you how important it is to have the best realtor in Costa Rica and you want to 1) view at least 20 homes; 2) look at homes in at least three or four towns/areas; 3) look at homes about 10% over budget (and this is really important) about 10-25% below budget. Only by this method will you confirm what you like and dislike . . . not to mention seeing everything that is available. This is true even if you believe . . . know . . . are absolutely positive that you know the town/area where you want to live. I was going to live outside of Tamarindo. I had absolutely no doubts. Ha! Tamagringo. And had our agent not shown us the Samara-to-Nosara areas, we'd have never known how lucky we are to own a little piece of paradise in Samara.

But wait, there's more. Not only did our agent show us endless homes that we'd identified, he stopped at local markets, gas stations, convenience stores, fish markets, grocers, restaurants, liquor stores, hardware stores . . . every resource we could possibly need to live in Costa Rica in order for us to check out prices and confirm what we believed to be the cost of living. We were even introduced to the local physician in order to ensure our comfort with the physician who would become our go-to doc. I kid you not! Our realtor took that much time to show us the Nicoya Peninsula. Did I mention seeing the liquor stores? 

I was prepared to move to Africa. I'd been in touch with the Botswana Embassy since 2007. But this Costa Rica thing was foreign, literally. So residency issues were explained by our realtor . . .  promptly forgotten in the high of house-hunting, and then explained again. Property taxes, health insurance, automobile costs . . . all discussed . . . and again forgotten in the joy of looking at house after house, farm after farm. It was all going to be so Out of Africa . . . or not.

So the bottom-line of this typically long-winded missive is: when you think you know precisely what you're doing in Costa Rican house hunting, stop. Ask yourself? Is your realtor on-the-ground in Costa Rica, or are you working with some cyberspace agent? Are you so confident in your realtor that you'll put your future completely in his or her hands? Or are you simply communicating with other expats living in Costa Rica, each of whom have wildly varied opinions on everything from the best areas of the country to what it actually costs to live.

To this very day, while we're still under contract with the little house-with-no-name, our realtor remains our go-to guy . . . for everything from where we'll find a car to when we'll need to purchase health insurance. Thanks, Bill. I'm toasting to you, right now. As for the name of little Lot 6? It'll come, one day. And until then . . . lo que hay! Lot 6. But what about its name?!