Open the Airports in Costa Rica!

Liberia Airport in Guanacaste Costa RicaShould the international airports in Costa Rica be opened? Well after almost four months of airports being closed in Costa Rica because of COVID-19, It is time to start allowing foreign visitors in. This blog might raise some arguments, but that is not my intent. My intent is to bring awareness to the suffering of the local Ticos in Guanacaste, not the Ex-pats living here.
Daniel Salas, Minister of Health in Costa RicaI am not in any way slamming the government of Costa Rica.  Actually, I am very proud of the way the Minister of Health, Daniel Salas, and the President, Carlos Alvarado, have handled the situation – putting restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Being a full-time permanent resident and tax-paying contributor, I have the right to speak my mind. Not that my opinion is right or wrong, it is just my opinion.
Some people reading this will say, “this guy is nuts”, or “he does not know what he is talking about, have you seen the news?”, “Has he read the science?” “Oh, he is realtor all he cares about is making a sale”! I have read lots of the “science” being these decisions and it is contradictory, to say the least. One week they say to use a mask the next week don’t use a mask.  Cancel all social gatherings, but allow people to congregate and protest? Or quarantine in your house, but it is ok to get on a packed bus to go to the doctor. Where is the science in that?
a group of poor children in Costa RicaI am not writing this to cause an uproar, I am actually writing this for the many poor locals in Guanacaste that are suffering beyond belief because of the lack of economic activity in the area. I have many local friends that are out of work because the hotel they work at is closed.  Other friends work for tour operators, and others are cooks in restaurants, all of which are closed.  If you happen to find it in your heart, there are many associations in the Guanacaste area that are helping raise funds to purchase food and basic supplies for those in need. Please email me at JosephEmnauelli@remax.net and I will put you in direct contact with them.
People zip lining in Costa RicaTourism is the number one contributor to the local economy in most of Guanacaste.  When you cut off tourism you might as well cut off people’s heads. Sounds extreme right? Well, think about going to bed hungry every night because you can’t make a buck to put food in your kids’ mouth – can’t even pay your rent – then where may you end up? On the streets? Stop and think about that for a minute while you read this on your laptop in the comfort of your home, or on your expensive smartphone!
Having said that, it is time to open the airports and let foreign visitors arrive. Allow those that are property owners, that are paying taxes to arrive and enjoy Costa Rica. Allow first-time visitors to come and see the wonders of Costa Rica and the beautiful warm and welcoming people. Of course, all of this with strict protocols that must be in place to prevent the ongoing spread of the virus.  For example: have all those that want to come to Costa Rica prove they are virus-free by having certified test results before even getting on a plane. Make this a requirement, just like the need to have a passport. It is not that hard. The airlines are already checking for many things before you get on the plane so why not one more thing.
Airport in San Jose Costa RicaA lot of people say, “well opening up the airports will bring more cases of COVID-19 to Costa Rica, we need to protect the older population”. True the older population is at risk – I know, I fall into that category – but do these older persons still work? No. 90% of the time it is the younger Ticos working, being the breadwinner for the family – including putting food on the table for the elderly. So, when you take away the younger person’s ability to work guess who else suffers; or dies from potentially catching the virus, or dies from starvation? Which would you choose?
I’ve read a lot of posts on social media saying it is time to open the airports and then there are those that are opposed as to it well. Usually, the ones that are opposed are older, more financially secure ex-pats who have retired in Costa Rica or local Ticos that have government jobs and have not missed a paycheck. I am going to touch on one thing that not one person can argue with; once a person is born, they are going to die someday.  Unfortunately, it is part of the life cycle. So, let’s not have more people die unnecessarily from something that can be controlled.  Open the airports!

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Interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, check out some great options here

Plantains a Costa Rica Favorite

Plantains, Costa RicaWhen I first came to Costa Rica in 1999, I saw what I now know to be plantains in the fruit and vegetable stand and I thought, “Wow! Those are the biggest bananas I have ever seen!” Even though I had been working as a sous chef in the Midwest of the US, plantains were nowhere to be found.

I wasn’t completely wrong, upon returning back home I started doing some research and plantains do belong to the banana family. The banana family is divided into 2 main categories: Dessert and Plantains. So, plantains actually ARE bananas, or “bananos”, as they are called in Costa Rica. Though cooking bananas and plantains is a matter of custom rather than a necessity, there are notable differences. Eating a raw banana is a sweet treat, but raw green plantains are not sweet at all and will set your teeth on edge if you try to eat them, although that could also be said for a green banana.

Plantains over ice creamRipe bananas are not generally cooked (exceptions being banana bread and Bananas Foster and a few other dishes), whereas ripe plantains are always cooked. You actually COULD eat a ripe plantain raw since their starches are converted to sugar in the ripening process similar to a banana but it is not recommended. And as you will see, there are much tastier ways to enjoy a maduro, or ripe plantain.

Plantains are a staple food in the tropical regions of the world, ranking as the tenth most important staple food in the world, and they can be a tasty, starchy addition to your diet. The nutritional value of plantains is similar to potatoes with 2 exceptions: plantains have 500 times as much Vitamin A and Beta-carotene. Additionally, the price of potatoes varies wildly in Costa Rica, whereas plantains are available and inexpensive all year round.

fried plantains in Costa RicaThese fit perfectly in any breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu and are also a delicious snack. If you order Gallo Pinto for breakfast, there will be a couple of slices of sweet, ripe fried plantain on the side. The same is true for the ubiquitous lunch special, the casado–fried plantains always accompany your meat, rice, beans, and picadillo. Savory fried green plantains called patacones are often offered as appetizers or accompaniments on dinner menus.

plantain chipsMany Costa Ricans have a plantain tree on their property and it is common for a neighbor to offer you a few plantains or even a whole racimo, or bunch. At times you will be offered guineos or cuadrados, which are plantains that are shorter and fatter with a slightly different texture and not as sweet. You cannot eat a guineo raw–it has to be cooked, usually by boiling. It has a blander flavor than the larger, longer plantain.

Green or ripe plantains can also be boiled, baked, microwaved, or grilled, either peeled or unpeeled.

fried plantainsA ripe plantain is peeled like a banana before processing, but the pulp of green plantain is hard and the peel is stiff and cannot be removed by “peeling.” It has to be scored lengthwise with a knife and pried off. When removing the peel of green plantains, you will encounter a stickiness on the inside of the skin that does not wash off easily and leaves a brown stain. To avoid this, you can use gloves, or rub your hands with oil before working with plantains, or wash your hands with lime juice afterward.

Would you like to introduce plantains into your diet? Here I will tell you how to prepare plantains the two most common ways.

Patacones with Guacamole in Costa RicaLet’s start with green plantains and make patacones. Patacones are twice-fried green plantain patties. To prepare them, cut a peeled green plantain in 1 1/2” long pieces and give the pieces a quick fry in oil just to soften them. Remove the pieces from the oil and smash them one by one with the bottom of a bottle or with a cutting board until the piece is about 1/2” thick. Fry the patties a second time until crispy. Season with salt and enjoy! Or you can top them with refried beans, crumbled queso fresco, salsa, guacamole, or really whatever you like! When the oil is fresh patacones are really quite good.

Strips of fried green plantains (plantain chips) are an excellent stand-in for potato chips and are sold anywhere snacks are.

Now for the ripe plantains, or maduros. When a banana goes from yellow to black, it is no longer any good. However, when a plantain gets black, it is perfect! A yellow plantain may be ready to prepare also–give it a squeeze and check for softness. After removing the skin, the ripe plantain is sliced and pan-fried in oil or butter until golden brown and caramelized. Put a dollop of sour cream (natilla) on each slice and enjoy. Buen provecho!

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Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit http://www.costarican-american-connection.com/Costa_Rica_FAQs/page_2575549.html

Interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, check out some great options here

ZONA CATASTRADA, Costa Rica Land Survey

Logo of the Registro Nacional in Costa Rica - the land registryWhat is a Zona Catastrada you ask? Well, it is a county or district in Costa Rica that has been surveyed by the government to ensure that all properties registered have accurate land boundaries and are properly registered.
In a continuing effort to help educate my readers about Costa Rica property purchasing and ownership, I have not been just sitting around during the COVID-19 shutdown here in Costa Rica. I spent a good amount of time with my trusted legal advisors learning and understanding some new regulations pertaining to real estate in the district of Sardinal, located in the canton of Carrillo in province Guanacaste, especially the Playa Hermosa area.
This information is freely shared and in no way is it meant to represent any legal advice. It is highly recommended that you speak with a licensed registered “Notario” or a lawyer that is registered as a notary in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Plano CatastralI am going to do my best to explain some past history and what is happing now so that you can be fully aware before deciding to purchase a beautiful Costa Rica property, or if you are planning on selling your Costa Rica property.
Over the years the “Registro Nacional” or national registry division of Costa Rica and the “Registro Catastral” or cadastral registry division (official property surveys) of the country did not automatically link together. It was discovered many years ago that there is actually more land registered than there is actual land in Costa Rica. They are now linked and are working all over Costa Rica to correct any discrepancies.
Image of the land registry website in Costa RicaSome properties may have been registered under ownership but no lot survey was done, then there were lot surveys done with multiple registrations, some properties were surveyed overlapping other properties or the survey showed the property lines flowing into the street. These are just a few examples. The central government has been working on correcting this issue for years now. There have been many areas in the country that have already gone through the process. Now it has come to the district of Sardinal where I often assist folks with buying and selling property and it is the same area that my home is located. It is called “ZONA CATASTRADA”. The entire district or county of Sardinal has been resurveyed by the government.
Playa del Coco Certificado CatasralUnder the new regulations all lawyers that are notaries, who are responsible for transferring property, are required by law to ensure the property being transferred is “Certificado Catastral” if the property is located in a “ZONA CATASTRADA”. Here is a translated explanation of “Certificado Catastral” as it is called in Spanish or Certified Cadastral in English.

A map or survey showing the extent, value, and ownership of land, especially for taxation purposes. First, territoriality consists of commonly accepted spatial concepts and methods of area delineation, from oral traditions and place-naming practices to cadastral registers backed by state power.

Costa Rica property registry reportThis new “Certificado Catastral” replaces the original “Plano Catastral” and the “Informe Registrado” and will indicate if there is a variance or discrepancy on any property within Zona Catastrada. If not, all is good to go. If there is a discrepancy, most of these can be easily fixed. For example, it is possible that the registry report shows that no lot survey has been registered, or the registry report shows one amount of actual land, while the survey report shows another amount of land.
So, what does this mean for you? First, if you are thinking of purchasing a piece of property you should ask your local, Costa Rican notary if the “Certificado Catastral” is clean.
If you are selling property it would be wise to get this done before you receive any serious offers. If an offer comes and your land does not have a clean Certificado Catastral it could delay the closing and potentially result in a loss of sale – something you certainly would not want to happen.
Second, it is recommended you contact the legal team that helped you purchase your property in the first place to have them start work on getting a Certificado Catastral for you. It is not very hard to obtain. At the time of writing this, this report is not available online, unlike some other registry reports.
Third, if there is an issue with your property please remember that when you purchased the property this was not a requirement. Your property was transferred and due diligence was done correctly.
If you have questions or have not been in touch with your legal team in a while, I can recommend a very good legal firm that can assist you with this process. Just send an email to Josephemanuelli@remax.net

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Is Your Costa Rica Real Estate Agent Registered?

There are two questions you need to ask any real estate agent in Costa Rica before starting to work with them. The very first question you should ask them is, “Are you registered with SUGEF?” The second is to ask if they are a registered active member in good standing with either of the only two government recognized real estate associations, CRGAR (Costa Rica Global Association of Realtors) or CCCBR (Cámara de Corredores de Bienes Raices).
Now you might be asking what is “SUGEF” and why does a real estate agent need to be registered? Well, let me start with this then move on to the associations.
SUGEF logoSUGEF” is the Spanish acronym for “Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras” in English it is the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is the Costa Rica government agency that oversees all the banking and any company in Costa Rica that receives third party funds from abroad. For example, escrow agencies, and property managers. The main reason SUGEF is placing more types of businesses under their umbrella is to help prevent money laundering, drug trafficking, and funding of terrorists.
REMAX balloon logoStarting roughly last year, SUGEF starting adding different types of companies and occupations to the list of those that need to be registered with them. Real estate agents were one of the professions, along with lawyers and others. The requirements to register are quite detailed. I had to disclose every real estate transaction I was involved in from April 2019 until March 2020. The items to disclose were:
Real Estate agent registered with SUGEF1) Do I do real estate in my own name or the name of Costa Rican Corporation
2) The number of transactions that closed from April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.
3) Was the buyer a foreign entity or a Costa Rica entity?
4) Was the buyer using a Costa Rican Corporation or their personal name?
5) How many employees does my company have that are receiving benefits of the social security system?
6) What bank accounts and IBAN numbers are associated with my company?
7) How many vendors do I utilize to operate my business?
All this information had to be entered into their web platform utilizing a digital signature, which thankfully I already have.
CRGAR logoThe second question you need to ask is if the agent you are considering using is registered with one of the two legal real estate associations. “Why?” you ask? Well, would you get real estate advice from the cashier at the local grocery store? Or maybe your favorite bartender? Or the one I like the most, the tour guide with whom you spent the entire day doing zip lining, mud baths, and nature tours. I am not knocking these folks/  They have a service they provide and may do it extremely well, but real estate is not one of them.
Example of a Costa Rica cedula given to legal foreign residentsUse a proven real estate professional, one that legally can work in Costa Rica and can prove it by showing you their residency card that says “Libre Condicion” (Free of Conditions) or their citizenship card called a “Cedula”. The real estate agent should own property in Costa Rica.  It shows two things: permanence and that they have the knowledge of how to close a real estate deal in Costa Rica so they can help you do the same.

CCCBR logoAgain, the same question: is the agent an active member of a real estate association? A true professional will have taken the time and expense to learn the real estate laws of Costa Rica. As agents, we have taken courses and are required to take “continuing education” courses from these associations so we can properly guide you through the entire buying process.

Now you know the two main things you should ask a Costa Rica real estate agent before you decide to work with them.  Being registered with SUGEF and at least one of the two major real estate organizations is a minimum to protect yourself.

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