We will get to the nuts and bolts of what it costs to live in Costa Rica in just a minute. But maybe the real question should be...
WHAT IS THE COST OF NOT LIVING IN COSTA RICA?
Where you are living right now is definitely where you have figured out how to earn money and amass enough of a nest egg to be able to think about buying a property and moving to Costa Rica in the first place. But you have more than likely had to make certain sacrifices along the way in order to become successful in your business or career. Maybe some extra stress or less time spent with loved ones.
Have you ever considered the Opportunity Cost of not living in a beautiful and stress-free country like Costa Rica. All the long hours working and commuting take their toll and eventually you pay the price. You should consider the idea that all the sacrifice you have made to get where you are in life also has a huge cost on your life and all the loved ones around you. Not to be a doomsayer and certainly not to belittle all the wonderful things that you have been able to accomplish up till now. But the real cost of life is not being able to enjoy the fruits of your labors until it is too late...
But enough of that - You came to find out what the real cost of living is in Costa Rica.
Since we are Realtors, we will assume you are not renting and will buy or have already bought a property so rental costs are not part of this discussion.
Property Tax and Carrying Costs
The first biggie that a property owner thinks about is Property Tax. Compared to many other areas in North America and around the world, Costa Rica's property tax of .25% of assessed value is extremely low. As a rule of thumb for every $100,000 of assessed value you pay $250 per year in Property Tax. This is the same across the board with the exception of luxury properties and some beach front property.
Below are examples of the basic carrying costs of owning a property in Costa Rica, broken down between an empty Lot, an average Condo and a larger Luxury Home. Your costs will vary but this gives you good starting point for analyzing your specific property or might be a good tool to help you analyze a potential purchase.
|$1,200 - $2,000/year avg
|$250/year. Tax rate is .25%. To calculate multiply the assessed value by .0025
|$100-$200 per year to cut and keep the lot clean.
|$250-$750 per month depending on amenities
|$100 per month average (higher with heavy usage)
|$30 per month average
|$80 per month
|$500 per year for normal coverage
LARGER LUXURY HOUSE
|Cable TV and Internet
|$500-$1,000/year for normal coverage
If you are not living in the house full time, you will require a property manager to pay your bills and look after your property. The average fee is between $125 and $150 per month depending on the size of the property and the amount of work needed. Maid service in Costa Rica is very inexpensive, between $20 and $40 per day depending on the size of the home.
If the property is held in a Costa Rican corporation, there are two additional fees to all 3 of these properties. The corporate tax is $194 per year. There is also a Resident agent fee that a local attorney will charge you. Under Costa Rican law there must be an attorney as the legal agent here in the country to receive any documentation. They generally charge $300 per year. Those are the cost of owning property in Costa Rica.
Let's assume for this exercise that the living costs are for a couple. If you are talking about a family then just add a fractional cost for each family member.
The cost of food can vary widely. If you live like a local, cook at home and go to farmer's markets for produce and don't buy $5 bags of Doritos and $8 boxes of cereal then you will not only be healthier but it will be very budget friendly. Let's say $300-500 per month. Add another $50-100 every time you go out to dinner. Local Breakfast and Lunch spots can be very affordable as well as approaching North American average prices. Keep in mind that you can buy fresh and local produce, meat and dairy products that we might categorize at home as "Locally Grown". You can also find all the goodies you are used to at home and it will just be a matter of your budget to whether or not you can indulge yourself!
The cost of transportation can also vary widely and depends on how you roll and how far afield you plan on traveling. There are people who get by with a golf cart to run around town and others want 2 brand new vehicles to take them anywhere they want in style. The cost of gas is roughly equivalent to that of the United States and maintenance and repairs are similar in cost as well. You could travel by bus or can hop on a plane from the Beach to San Jose or other parts of the country so that is up to your taste and level of luxury you want. If you are living full time in Costa Rica than you will most likely need at least one vehicle. The cost to purchase a vehicle is slightly higher than in North America and cost of insurance is comparable as well depending on the area of the US you live in.
Health Insurance/Health Care
If you are paying for your health care out of pocket then the costs are by far cheaper than in the United States and the level of care is surprisingly comparable. There are beautiful private hospitals in the beach areas and full Hospitals in San Jose. At the Beach, there are local clinics and private doctors whom are very reasonable and provide a very good level of service. Most Doctors have studied outside of Costa Rica and certainly most speak good English. You will find that you will receive a much more personalized service from the health care professionals in Costa Rica so not only is it less expensive than where you come from but it is also, in many ways, a better level of care.
As a resident of Costa Rica, you will be required to pay a small monthly amount to the Costa Rica health care system which gives you access to free medical care, albeit not at the level of the private hospitals. You will find that for trauma care the public hospitals are quite capable and can be a good backstop to get you immediate care before moving to a private facility if need be. Many ExPats use the public health system exclusively and do not go out of pocket. If you have a particular prescription drug that you need to take you may find that you can purchase a generic version in Costa Rica for less.
There are many different health insurance options that you can explore. Many expats will purchase an international policy that covers them for major health care emergencies and pay out of pocket for most routine checkup items. You will have to check for yourself to see what level of care you need but rest assured that you will be able to get the care you expect to get at home for the same price or less in Costa Rica.
Entertainment and Activities
Once again, your entertainment and activity budget are highly dependent on your lifestyle. If you go out to see live music every night, go scuba diving, sailing and sport fishing once a week and behave like a tourist all year around then it will start to move your budget up. But this goes back to the opportunity cost. If you have the money then why are you going to penny pinch and not do all the things you have always wanted to do? You will also find that once you live here you will find ways to do the activities you want to in a much less expensive fashion than if you are a tourist. For example, you can "work" as a divemaster at a dive shop and dive everyday for much less than if you had to pay for every dive. So, getting creative and finding what you love to do will end up costing you much less than you think it will. And, the old adage goes. If you have money, you need more time and if you have time, you need less money.
All in all, the cost of living in Costa Rica for you will most likely be a little less than what it costs to live in your home town. If you make some slight changes in your lifestyle you can live for less and in the end the whole name of the game is to enjoy your life. You will certainly be happier living in Costa Rica and whether you end up spending a little less or more to live here really doesn't matter. It's your only life.