The following tips are valuable information to avoid fraud and other problems when purchasing property in Costa Rica.
Lots/Undeveloped Land: If you are interested in buying a lot or undeveloped land in Costa Rica, you must check that it complies or that it has the following:
1) The plan approved by the corresponding Municipality. The municipal visa is the procedure by which the Municipal Council approvals the cadastral plan of the property. The visa is necessary because it verifies several things including: the proximity of gullies and the condition of the soil. The municipal visa also verifies that that the property and title is not duplicated in the registry. That is, a property does not have two titles or two registered owners. Also, the visa verifies that the property lines does not overlap with another property. Once the property obtains the visa plan, the interested party can process a construction permit, sell the land or obtain a deed for the property. In addition, the visa enables the owner to divide a property or urbanize it if allowed.
2) If the plan was approved, it means that the lot has water services and can be used later for construction. If the plan has not yet been approved by the Department of Cadaster of the corresponding Municipality, a buyer should at least verify with the AYA (Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers or with the ASADA corresponding Water Administer if not served by AYA) if the property apply to has the water service in order to later apply for the Municipal Visa. If the potable water is not available at the property, it is best not buy it.
3) If the property is adjacent to a body of water (sea, estuary, river), the INVU (National Institute of Housing and Urbanism) must check the property. This step is to help avoid a situation where the buyer is left with property that is not completely usable because of the encroachment of water. For example, if someone buys a property of 200 square meters, which adjoins an estuary. As the estuary becomes larger, INVU determines that there are only 150 square meters of buildable land because of the proximity of the estuary. This would leave the owner only 150 meters of usable property because the other 50 meters could be taken at any time by the estuary.
4) It is also necessary to check with corresponding Municipality what the Land Use granted is on the property. This step is to corroborate that the lot can be used for the purposes that the buyer requires. Uses can be: Residential, commercial (Tourist – Industrial) and / or Agricultural. It should be noted that for property zoned as Agricultural, the owner is only allowed to build a single-family home on 15% of the property. The remaining 85% is intended for agricultural purposes. For example: crops, corrals, stables, warehouses to store grains, etc.
5) Property can also be used to guarantee mortgages. In these cases, please be careful to check the notes in the Land Use document. If the document was granted only for banking purposes, it means that the plan has not yet been endorsed for the Cadastral Department of the corresponding Municipality.
6) It is also necessary to verify with SETENA and MINAET if there are protected areas on the property. For example: mangroves, wetlands, ravines, forest, etc. that cannot be used for construction.
7) After checking the steps above, you should verify in the Bienes Inmuebles and Valoraciones Departments at the Municipality, how much is currently paid for taxes and if the taxes are up to date. You should also ask if it has construction permits granted that has not been executed and not canceled so next you can request the cancellation to prevent paying higher taxes than required. Verify this before purchasing the property and transferring the property into your name.
8) Next Check with the Construction Department if the property has a construction permit for “Earth Movement”. If the property has this kind of permit you will need to verify the date of when the movement was granted and executed. This will give you the date when the land will be ready to start any construction. It is recommended that the respective soil tests be carried out by a qualified professional to measure and test the soil qualities.
9) Another very important step is to have a surveyor verify by the property line established in the plan cadaster. This is to confirm that the amount of land being sold actually exists under the name of the seller. There are cases of people who sell pieces of property that does not belong to them and this step will prevent that potential problem.
For finished constructions
1) For these cases, it must be verified that the construction has the respective construction permit approved by the corresponding Municipality. Please double check that what is on the permit is actually what was built. This step will prevent you from becoming responsible for someone else not following construction regulations.
2) Check with Construction Department of the Municipality that the limit of the construction and the adjoining areas have been respected. Additionally, you should check if there are complaints because of the construction.
For these cases, please verify that there are no known problems” problems for the Land Use granted or for any other issues for the operation of the premises. In addition, the property has to allow access for all types of people, such as ramps for wheelchairs, elevators if there are two or more floors, parking, bathrooms for customers and in compliance with sanitary regulations. Also, check if the property has pending fees for permits. If the commercial premises has an assigned commercial permit that is not being used, the permit must be canceled.
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“Updated in Costa Rica KISS Sales by Cibelly Rojas”
Adrián Chinchilla. (2002). ¿Qué es el visado municipal?. 2017, de La Nación Sitio web: http://www.nacion.com/nacional/visado-municipal_0_528347229.html
Oficina de Prensa. (2017). Costa Rica emite por primera vez política pública para proteger humedales. 2017, de MINAET Sitio web: http://www.minae.go.cr/index.php/es/262-costa-rica-emite-por-primera-vez-politica-publica-para-proteger-humedales