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Real Estate Newsletter #11

March 18th, 2005

We are here Because we are Here

Years ago I stopped trying to hard sell people into buying real estate in Costa Rica.  It became just too obvious that either it was the right property at the right time for that particular person, or it wasn’t. You couldn’t force it.  You had to simply and only allow it to happen. Facilitate things, perhaps, but you couldn’t really create reality, or the sense of “want”, if it wasn’t inherently already there.  Somehow, this is particularly true of Costa Rica. Things happen here in a near dreamlike way, and much of it is not predictable. Things happen.  People buy property that I thought never would, and sometimes those I was convinced were going to buy something, just did not.

Remembering an incident that took place years ago here, when I used to have a B and B, and how it all seemed so pre-determined, even pre-arranged, and how strangely Costa Rican it all was….

Some guy pulled in through the large wooden gates of that Inn, riding a 1965 dirt-brown Jeep, the whole thing rattling and leaving an immense dust cloud disturbing the air, alarming everything in every direction. The turquoise mot-mot bird, high in the macadamia tree, screeched mightily, the tourists put down their coffee cups abruptly, the visitor from California scrunched up his nose at the disturbance. The stage was set.

He stepped down out of the wreck of a car into the morning light. He wore khaki shorts and a black tee-shirt and sandals.  His black hair was long, his charcoal eyes deep-set, his nose flat and angular.  And when he stood there, looking around, surveying the grounds of the Inn, he tilted his head back as if to catch the morning sun, and the day’s first light seemed to bounce off his sharp features.

He nodded in my direction.  “Buenas,” he murmured. “ Help you with something?, I asked.

“I know this sounds weird, but I’m supposed to be here.  Don’t ask me why or how.  Somehow I am just supposed to be here, supposed to stay here for a while.  It’s just something that I know.  And so here I am.  There a vacant room here?”

”I think there is”, I heard myself saying.    There was no turning this guy away.  His name, I remember, was Bobby Fantuzzi.  We sat on the terrace drinking coffee, talking about Escazu, talking about life, talking about why he had felt compelled to come here.  And in a while, other guests were drawn in by his energy and sat at the round table and joined us and listened and asked polite questions of Bobby and asked me about Costa Rica.

A woman from Minnesotta gestured toward a huge carved-out tree section that was used by campesinos,  to pound and husk coffee.  It sat in the shade under the giant macadamia tree, like a great sleeping animal, full of dirt, part of the landscape, weighing hundreds of pounds. “What is that thing?” she asked.

“There used to be a coffee farm here.  Coffee workers put the coffee beans in them, maybe a hundred pounds at a time, and beat them with wooden poles to knock the outer husk off.  That one is more than a hundred years old and I think it weighs 500 pounds,” I told her.

“I can lift it,” said Bobby.  Out of nowhere, he just said, “I can lift it.” We all heard his rough whisper of a voice as he got up and walked towards the coffee husker. That’s all he said:  “I can lift it.”

I wanted to stop him, stop him from breaking his back trying to lift a carved section of a tree that had not been moved in many years and which was probably embedded several inches into the ground.

“Forget it, Bobby,” I said.  He completely ignored me.  Though all of the others sitting there were watching, he became as though in a trance, alone, within himself.  He looped his arms around the body of the dirt-filled tree section and bent his knees.  He dug his sandals into the dirt, and at that moment reminded me of a Japanese sumo wrestler, standing there, dug in, resolute and waiting.  He had a strangely soft look on his face, as though he were about to lift his sleeping son and did not want to wake him.  As he strained upward, his legs quivered and his face flushed with the effort.  

There was a strange tearing sound as the section of tree rose from the ground.  He had moved it about one inch from the dirt, wrested it free.  But he did move it;  he did lift it.

Bobby Fantuzzi straightened up.  The effort had been enormous.  He scrunched his eyes shut and gasped audibly.  He looked to be in exquisite pain, his expression so intense it was as though he had not realized that anybody else was around. Then he looked over at us and smiled.  “Jeez, Bobby.  What’ll you do for an encore?” I said.

The other guests shook their heads and resumed their quiet conversations and their tea and coffee.  The turquoise mot-mot continued in his attempt to crack open a macadamia nut.  And in a while people drifted off to their day’s activities:  To explore the Central Valley, the volcanoes, the towns above Heredia, to drive to Carara and look for scarlet macaw, to run off with a realtor to look at property.  Bobby Fantuzzi remained, sitting in the sun.  Workers arrived at the Inn to do gardening, to clean things.

A sickening, crashing sound broke the mid-day quiet. There was the snap of a broken limb and the thud of a heavy object hitting concrete. The maid screamed.  Mauricio, a large, young Tico  had been in the high trees pruning out deadwood and had fallen 30 feet, landing on the side of his head on the cement walkway.  Bobby Fantuzzi and I ran to where he lay on the ground. Mauricio’s eyes had rolled back into his head, a trembling, moaning sound came from his mouth, his body twitched as in a death dance, and when I looked up to see from where he had fallen, I thought that there was no chance, that it was too high a fall, and that the concussion to his head must have been so great that he might die.  Other workers stood there looking at Mauricio, shocked, looking at the blood coming from the wound in his head, mouths agape, not knowing what to do, yet wanting to do something. Bobby bent over and inspected the boy’s head, gently rolling it to the side. He looked up at me and said, “You got a van or a good car here?”  I shook my head.  “No, it’s at the mechanic’s.”  “Damn. I can’t take him to the hospital in my jeep, there’s no suspension left in the thing.  The ride would kill him,” Bobby said.

“It’ll take forever for the Red Cross to get here.  He needs to be taken care of fast.  First x-rays to see if anything’s broken and then whatever has to be done.”  “There’s a fairly good clinic in San Rafael,” I said, talking quietly and quickly, feeling urgent, desperate about the situation. Bobby looked at Mauricio again. He then put his arms under Mauricio’s back and legs, and lifted him straight up, lifted his heavy inanimate body as though he were carrying a large bouquet of rare and valuable flowers, cradling him, and Bobby seemed peaceful, even serene in his actions.

He started to walk away, holding Mauricio in his arms.  “It’s almost two miles to the clinic,” I said.  He didn’t hear me.  Bobby Fantuzzi just walked off of the grounds of the Inn carrying the heavy and unconscious young Mauricio in his arms, carrying him away to get help, bearing the load with ease, as though he had long ago accepted the responsibility, as though it was predetermined, as though it was why he was here.

Recalling this incident, this story, I am reminded that, finally, Costa Rica is not for everyone. It might not even be for you. But there is only one real way to find out if you are supposed to be here…


Muy Tico
Those Inevitable Lines
Costa Rica Bureaucracy, Part 1.

One of those least favored activities of foreigners in Costa Rica is standing in lines.  Yet it is as inevitable as morning coffee.
Everywhere one goes, whether to the bank, movie theatre, and of course, to all government institutions, the only thing which is guaranteed is that there will, indeed, be lines.  You will have that Costa Rican experience of standing at the rear of a line, and, unless you are over 65, are pregnant, or infirm, you will be expected to do so patiently and with some grace.
There are several interesting things you will notice, and should know, about lines in Costa Rica:
- Everyone waits for their turn, quietly, but at the same time you can feel everyone’s impatience.
-If you walk to the head of the line, two things will happen: either no one cares, or you will receive protests from all others in line.  Politely requesting that you to move to the rear of the line, as a civilized person. Or maybe not so politely.  Pregnant women and the elderly and the infirm usually have their own expedited line.
-Always make 100% sure that you are in the right line. If, after an hour of waiting, the clerk at the window says that you're in the wrong line, letting her know that the security guard told you to stand in that line is not, unfortunately, a valid argument.
-If you ask the person behind you to "save your spot" while you run out to your car, or whatever, 95% of the time they will save your spot. But there is always a chance that you will have to start over again.
-Becoming upset over the fact that there are only 2 out of the 5 available windows open at a given time (and sometimes 2 out of 10) will not make the line go faster.  It is, however, a preferred subject of polite conversation between line
"formees", and you might practice your Spanish, in this manner of cordially complaining.
-It is vital to understand, that in Costa Rica, doing business involves standing in line. Period.  And resisting that reality, even if you do personally know the President of Costa Rica and so advise everyone within listening range, will only cause stomach pains.
Try to assume the attitude that in Costa Rica, lines are your friends.  They are an inevitable part of the culture.  They can be tedious, boring, sometimes even exasperatingly slow, but somehow things do get done here and people seem to learn to live with lines. So, my advice is, be as a Costa Rican and be ready and bring a good magazine or book, preferably a thick one...and breathe.



Five acres
Ocean View, Wilderness Property
Near Dominical
South Pacific

Located just a few minutes from the main highway, yet with a sense of wilderness.

Endless usage options.

Perfect place to create a Bed and Breakfast, a glorious private home, or a small development.  

Ocean views from two separate natural terraces.  Monkeys, parrots and the sounds of the jungle.

Just a three-minute nature walk away, is a stunning 30-foot high waterfall, with a natural swimming pool.

Could be subdivided, and one could pay for the entire property by just selling off a parcel or two.
This is a rare listing at a rare price.  It was just uncovered and it will not last more than a short time on the market.  If you have longed for a genuinely beautiful piece of nature all your own, this is definitely it.

Ocean View Real Estate Costa Rica

Development Land

91 Acres Ocean Frontage
Carrillo Beach

This prize land, overlooking Carrillo beach and just above its own private small beach, has never before been offered.
There are no adequate superlatives to describe this incredible property. Unbelievably beautiful and considered of world class potential. Perfect for a very high-end development or five-star resort.
Adjacent parcels of land, with no access to this beach, have been sold for over $200 a sq meter.  This property is being offered at $50 per sq meter by the Costa Rican family that has held it for many years.
100% usable.  All utilities in.  Excellent access roads.
Should the Ritz-Carlton Hotel chain proceed with their development plans of the Carrillo area, as they have indicated they will, then this property becomes as valuable as Waikiki, and it is a hundred times nicer than anything in either Hawaii or Mexico.

$18,000,000   Negotiable.

Carrillo Beach Costa Rica Real Estate

Luxurious View Home

3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 kitchens
Manuel Antonio
Central Pacific

Located at one of the most exclusive neighborhoods of the entire Pacific coast.  This is a rare opportunity to own a magnificent vacation home as well as a very lucrative business.
3200 sq ft home on over a quarter-acre of the most prime property imaginable. Stunning views. On a split level floor plan which allows for the property to be utilized for rentals, in separate levels, or as a whole property.  
The ground level offers a two bedroom, two bathroom suite with fully equipped kitchen area, living area, and spacious terrace area that flows into the infinity edge pool and Jacuzzi. The top floor is an enormous one-bedroom suite with a second fully equipped kitchen, master bedroom, master bathroom living and dining area. The panoramic views of Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean are unmatched and the rental potential for the home is fantastic with similar homes in the area renting at annual occupancy rates of 70% of the year. Neighboring homes have sold for $1,100,000-$1,500,000 making this a very exceptional opportunity at an amazing price.

Manual Antonio Costa Rica Real Estate For Sale

Footnote to - A Real Estate Story, From Newsletter #10

Warren, his Tico father-in-law, and the “fabled beach area landowner in the hammock” agreed to an astonishing price of $65 a square meter for this beach land.  This is in an area where comparable property is today being sold for between $250 and $500 a square meter.
We are passing this on to you with these often-repeated words.  “You have no idea what an amazingly good deal this is.”
5000 meters (an acre and a quarter), for $325,000.  2000 sq meters, or a half acre parcel for $150,000. Possibility of purchasing smaller parcels.
Two minute walk to beautiful, pristine, La Penca beach. 20 minutes from the best school outside the Central Valley, the Country Day School. And seven minutes down the road is Flamingo, the most upscale beach in all of Costa Rica.
Again, 5000 meters (an acre and a quarter), for $325,000.  Possibility of dividing into smaller parcels. Or purchase a half-acre for $150,000.  And just a two-minute stroll to a great beach.

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