Finding a home in a new country is a different experience for each person and is often tied to your budget. In San José, Costa Rica, there are some economic alternatives available based on my own experience and that of several expats I talked with.
A Different Concept of “Apartment” in Costa Rica
You may be looking for an apartment, house, or room. Here in Costa Rica, when the landlord announces that he’s renting an apartment, it may not be an apartment per se in the sense of a housing unit belonging to a multi-story building.
An apartment also can mean an independent house that is located on land where there is the main house. It can be a separate construction or a part of the same house with its own rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and entrance independent of the main house. Some homes do not have a garage so if you have a car you must park on the street.
Check Out the Rental Ads
There are two basic ways to find rentals: hiring the services of a realtor (with no cost for you), or better yet, through social networks. Facebook Marketplace is a site where you can find a wide variety of homes of all types and for all budgets. I would highly recommend consulting this site before traveling to have a more concrete idea of what’s available.
Also, on Facebook, you can find groups from each neighborhood or from each city, where housing offers are published, and additionally, all kinds of information about the community.
Important recommendation: Before traveling to Costa Rica, register for Facebook groups such as “North Americans Living in Costa Rica” and “Costa Rica Living: Resource for Expats”, where you will find compatriots who can guide you on various topics, including rent.
Rental Prices and Payment
While the cost of living in Costa Rica is high, rents are relatively accessible.
Normally the rent of rooms or apartments that are attached to houses includes services like water, electricity, cable TV, and the internet–or at least some of them. This can represent a significant saving when renting and simplifies the management of your budget since you do not need to keep track of the payment of those bills.
Rentals can be short- or long-term. Renting for a short term (two or three months) can be an advantage when you first arrive so you can then focus your search for another longer-term home at an even better price. The payment of the rent can be in colones (₡), or US dollars. The landlord can request payment in cash, by a deposit, or by bank transfer.
Requirements for Rent
Homeowners who rent their homes without realtors rarely have many requirements. They request the security deposit, which is generally the equivalent of one month’s rent, and some landlords allow it to be paid in two parts.
Normally this type of lease is made without a signed contract. But either party can request to write a contract, which may be wise.
It is important to prepare an inventory with the landlord, in which all the assets of the house to be rented are registered. Any damage to the structure of the house, furniture, appliances, or malfunction of any of them, must be in writing and thus avoid future problems.
While pets are accepted in most rental homes, you must always get the landlord’s permission.
Furniture and Appliances
Normally in Costa Rica, homes do not have furniture or appliances. This can be a complication when renting. In Costa Rica there are no stores that rent furniture or appliances, so you must include in a budget for the purchase of basic items, such as a bed, mattress, refrigerator, kitchen, and television. Renting a furnished home with appliances can raise the rental price substantially.
In summary, renting affordable housing in Costa Rica is a simple process, and the offerings are very wide and varied. Start your research early so you can make the best decision to start your stay in this country in the most comfortable and welcoming way possible.
And a final tip: Never, ever, rent accommodation abroad without having seen it first.
Good luck finding your apartment and let us know how you make out.
by: Roman Vergara