Picadillo, Who Wants to Try Some?

Picadillo de papas in Costa RicaDo you know what Picadillo is? If you have been to Costa Rica, I am sure you may have had it and did not even know. I don’t know about you, but I am a fan of multiple-ingredient dishes. Therefore, I am a huge fan of a common Costa Rica dish called Picadillo

Picadillo de papas as part of a CasadoPicadillo comes from the verb picar or to chop. Adding the suffix -illo means small, so picadillo means something chopped into small pieces. Picadillo refers to several dishes that are prepared by chopping up a vegetable and sautéing it with things like garlic, onions, peppers, or cilantro. It is often served as a side dish with a Casado–the typical “Blue Plate Special” in Costa Rica consisting of a portion of meat, rice, beans, and ripe plantain. A portion of this tasty dish served on a tortilla is called a boca, which is a small snack or appetizer served in a bar-type restaurant.

PicadilloThere are many delicious picadillos you can order in a restaurant or prepare for yourself at home. To prepare the dish, always start with sautéing a bit of the aforementioned minced garlic, onion, sweet pepper, and achiote for color. Other spices such as cumin, oregano, or even curry, can vary the flavor, although that is up to the individual chef. The vegetables are usually boiled until al dente and then diced. Chopped cilantro can be added at the end of the cooking time for an added bright flavor.

Picadillo de papa, or potato, is one the most most common. Potatoes are boiled and chopped up and then added to cooked ground beef or chorizo. It is similar to what you might know as “hash”, although it is often moister. Alternately, boiled yuca (cassava) can be used in place of the potatoes and added to chorizo. That combination is absolutely delicious!

Picadillo de VainicaA lighter version is prepared with chayote, a light-green, very mild vegetable. Often canned corn is added to this dish. This picadillo, and the one that follows, includes chopped raw vegetables added to saute. A little water may be needed if the mixture becomes too dry.

Picadillo de ayote en leche is similar to the picadillo de chayote except it is made with a squash with a bright yellow interior encased in a dark green skin called ayote tierno is used. Milk or cream is added to the finished product.

One of my favorites is picadillo de arracache. Arracache is a root vegetable, a bit like celery root or a white carrot. Its distinctive flavor has been described as “a delicate blend of celery, cabbage, and roast chestnuts.” The root is roughly ground, boiled for 10-15 minutes, and all the liquid squeezed out. It is then combined with cooked chorizo or shredded meat. Yum!

Boiled green plantains can also be made into picadillo, and a very delicious version has shredded meat and cream cheese or heavy cream. It sounds strange, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Another tasty version is made with green papaya. Once again, the papaya is chopped small and parboiled before adding it to the frying pan with the other ingredients.

And finally, there is the ubiquitous picadillo de vainica, or green beans. Green beans are chopped up small with diced carrot and prepared as described above.

Picadillos do not have to be just a side dish–they can be a complete meal by themselves or with a serving of rice. It is a tasty and satisfying way to eat a variety of vegetables, and there are so many combinations you will find it a joy to consume your daily requirement of veggies. The chopping process may be a bit labor-intensive, but once the ingredients are in the pot, all you have to do is stir.

Which picadillo would you like to prepare for lunch today?

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Can I Work from Home in Costa Rica?

Man working from home in Costa RicaCan I work from home in Costa Rica? I decided to write about this subject again.  Many ask me this question due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic. The high risk of transmission in many places and government mandates have forced workers and students alike to stay at home and limit contact outside the family. Even prior to the worldwide health crisis, it was a question frequently asked by those seeking greater flexibility and less commute time in their work. Working from home can also open up the opportunity to relocate and move to Costa Rica. So, is working from home a viable option in Costa Rica? It certainly is.

Zoom meeting while working from homeCosta Rica offers ideal conditions to work from home. It’s in the same time zone as central North America, so you’ll never have to make or receive phone calls in the middle of the night if your work contacts are in the same hemisphere. An obvious requirement is reliable, high speed Internet and phone service. Costa Rica ticks those boxes with the best telecommunications infrastructure in Central America. And multiple Internet service providers guarantee competitive pricing and constant technology upgrades.

Forbes magazine (August 16, 2012) listed tips from experts on how to successfully work from home. It’s remarkable how well the recommendations can be put into practice in Costa Rica. Here are some of their suggestions and how they fit the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Get organized. Costa Rica is a great place to get organized, both in your daily life and in your work. When moving to Costa Rica, most expats leave behind the mountain of accumulated stuff that they weren’t using anyway. When they set up in Costa Rica, they only purchase what they really need. As a result, life is simpler and better organized. The slower pace also lends itself to staying in control of home, office, and lifestyle. Being organized includes maintaining balance between work, family, and leisure time. The service of housekeepers and gardeners is reasonably priced, so you can afford to free up your schedule and keep your balance.

person working from home in their pijamasHave a set work space. Your work from home will be more efficient if you designate a specific room or area as your home office. Just like I do, in my third bedroom, which is now set up as an office. If you store your computer and any other work-related materials in one place, they will always be right where you left them, ready for you to continue your project where you left off. It won’t be difficult to find the ideal office space in your Costa Rica house or condo. Homes here are known to be spacious and brightened by natural light in every room. However, be careful that the gorgeous views don’t distract you while you’re working!

work from Home in Costa RicaTake breaks. Your productivity while you work from home will actually increase if you schedule breaks. Putting down the phone and pushing aside the computer once in a while is beneficial both physically and mentally. Costa Rican homes often feature places to get up, stretch, walk around, and breath fresh air. Many have outdoor living spaces–balconies, patios, or decks–where you can rest your mind and body. Some houses and condos have pools which is another great place to get away from your work.

Get out of the house. While a short break from your home office is nice, sometimes you need to change your work setting completely. When you’ve had enough of the same four walls, Costa Rica offers a wide variety of options. The aforementioned pool can be a peaceful, but different, place to continue your labors. Or the beach if you really want to get away from it all but still get something done. A Skype call or a Zoom meeting from the pool or beach doesn’t seem like office work at all. Coffee shops, smoothie huts, and restaurants with wifi are also readily available. They provide a much needed change of setting where you can check your emails or finish a report. And with the great year-round weather, you don’t have to wait for a nice day to leave the house.

So don’t be afraid to try working from home in Costa Rica. The great living and working conditions make it the ideal place. In fact, it may feel like you’re not even working at all. I know I didn’t when I wrote this blog from my home in Costa Rica!

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

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Condo in Costa Rica?

Beautiful condo complex in Costa Rica with a poolHow much does it cost to own a condo  in Costa Rica?

Current listings of condos for sale starts with a simple studio unit for $35,000 and ascends to a 4 bedroom ocean view penthouse with roof top deck for $699,000. In between, you’ll find more than 100 offerings in a variety of sizes, styles, and prices. The point is, you’ll always find a condo available that fits your needs no matter what your taste or budget.

How to own a condo in Costa RicaIn addition, owning a condo offers numerous advantages. It’s a great investment. Year in and year out, Costa Rica real estate is one of the soundest investments you can make. The government and economy are stable, and property values continue to increase at a reasonable rate. Another bonus is that when you own your own condo, you can decorate it to your taste and use it whenever you want. That’s not the case when you rent. And finally, you can rent your condo out for extra income. Which brings us to the next question.

How much money can I make renting out my condo?
View from the living area of a condo in Costa Rica
A weekly condo rental in a gated community with a pool in Playas del Coco is currently priced between $900 (1 bedroom/1 bath) and $1400 (3 bedroom/2 bath). Those prices go up about 50% during holidays such as  Christmas and Easter. However, there are many variables that can affect the price including location, amenities, furnishings, security, season, and many other factors. The occupancy rate of a rental properties is another factor that determines your return on investment, and it too is variable. One real estate website estimates that yearly occupancy rates average 65%. So, is it worth it to rent your condo out? If you are looking for the maximum return on investment, you may be better off to put your money elsewhere. But if you consider that you can enjoy a vacation home that practically pays for itself through rentals, the option becomes much more appealing.

What are the typical costs to maintain a condo?
Rooftop deck overlooking the Pacific in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
One of the advantages of owning a condo in Costa Rica is that someone else maintains the property. The disadvantage is that you have to pay for those maintenance services. How much should you expect to pay to the homeowner’s association for security, maintenance, landscaping of common areas, pool care, and road repairs? HOA fees can be as low as $100 per month in developments with fewer amenities and public areas. On the other hand, monthly HOA costs can reach as high as $500 or more in complexes that have more employees and more common areas to maintain. Additional expenses are property taxes (a low 0.25% of the appraised value annually), utilities, and insurance on the contents of the condo. Insurance on the structure is usually included in the HOA fees but not always, it depends on the condo association and what the owners have decided upon.

Do condo owners use Airbnb or other means to rent condos?
Luxury condo for sale in Playa Hermosa Costa Rica
Airbnb currently lists hundreds of condos, apartments, and townhomes for rent in the region that encompasses Playas del Coco, Playa Hermosa, and Playa Panama. Booking.com lists at least 100 more. Some condo owners list their properties on these websites and then manage the reservations themselves. Others entrust that duty to a host who lives locally and perhaps manages multiple properties. Another option is to hire a property management company to care for everything and send you regular financial reports. It’s a tradeoff between personal involvement and cost that each owner must decide.

What if I need to sell my condo?
Graphic about the top 10 things to do when selling a home
I am here to help you buy your condo, and I will be here for you if you need to sell it. Whether you decide to use me or someone else, always look for a SUGEF registered real estate agent with experience and a good reputation. I know the market as well as the legal requirements for real estate transactions. Just let me know what you would like to do.

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Can I Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica?

Banco BCT in Costa RicaI get asked this all the time. “Can I open a bank account in Costa Rica”? The simple answer is yes! But you need to know the limitations that are involved. It also depends if you are opening a personal account or a corporate account. There are restrictions set by the “SUGEF”, the General Superintendent of Financial Institutions. This is basically the banking regulatory commission of Costa Rica.
Sample of a DIMEX card or Cedula in Costa Rica
Most foreigners that own property in Costa Rica come for three months of the year or maybe three to four times a year on vacations. It makes it a lot easier if they have a local bank account. Then there are expats, like me, that live here year-round and have gone through the immigration process.
Banco Nacional in Playas del Coco Costa Rica
There are government-owned banks in Costa Rica as well as private banks and financiers. Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) is the largest and most-utilized, then there is Banco Nacional (BNCR),  Banco Popular, and more. Personally, I bank with Banco BCT, a privately owned bank that is more of a business bank, yet it offers everything the government banks do and in my branch, they speak great English.

If you are a resident of Costa Rica, meaning you have gone through the residency process and have been granted residency (not a perpetual tourist and that’s another subject altogether) it is very easy to open an account. You can open a savings or checking account in either dollars or colones, the local currency, or both. The bank will require copies of proof of identity, such as a passport and proof of legal residency, your DIMEX. DIMEX is a foreigner’s residency card, sometimes referred to as a Cedula. The bank, depending on which one you choose, may need to know how much money you plan on depositing and withdrawing in the account per month. I know it sounds weird but it is all related to the prevention of money laundering. Being a resident, the service options are even greater, let me explain.
Banco de Costa RicaBy having a full account, whether checking or savings, you can pay your Costa Rica bills online through the bank’s online banking system. Services like water, electricity and cable. If you want to transfer or wire money to someone else in the country you can do it through the SINPE wire system of Costa Rica. If you want to wire funds out of Costa Rica, no problem, that can be done as well. Basically, every type of banking you do in North America or Europe you can do here – all right from your smartphone or laptop.

If you are the owner of a Costa Rica registered corporation, you are in luck.  Even non-residents of Costa Rica can have a full working bank account in a company name.  However, you will have to secure certain documents from your attorney here in Costa Rica. For example, a shareholder’s certification. A lot of foreigners that buy property in Costa Rica own them through corporations for both liability protection and the opportunity to open a full bank account.
Banco Popular in Costa RicaEven if you are not a legal resident you can still open a personal bank account in Costa Rica, but you will be limited to only $1,200.00 USD per month in or out of the account. You will be able to pay local bills online but you cannot wire funds to anyone.  These strict policies related to non-resident bank accounts can be a hassle but they are designed to stop money laundering.

So, can you open a bank account in Costa Rica?  YES is the answer!

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If you are interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, check out some great options here

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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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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Is it difficult to start a business in Costa Rica?

How do you start a business in Costa Rica? Is it possible for a non-citizen to do so? These questions are commonly asked by those who would like to move to Costa Rica but need some additional income in order to make it work. Or, maybe you have the entrepreneurial spirit, and your idea of an enjoyable retirement is to watch your idea grow into a profitable enterprise. A motive for others is to give back to the community by starting a business that will provide quality jobs that support their neighbors.

Restaurant on the beach as a businessWhatever your circumstances, you’ll be glad to know that it is possible to legally start your own business in Costa Rica. And you don’t have to be a permanent resident of Costa Rica to do so. Even those visiting as tourists can start a business. However, you need to be aware of the requirements that the government imposes. Costa Rica welcomes foreign investment but, like most countries, it is protective of its labor force. In other words, the government wants you to start a business or invest capital in an existing business, especially if it creates jobs for Ticos. On the other hand, it doesn’t want foreigners to fill jobs that Costa Ricans can perform. So while you are allowed to own and manage a business, you may not be able to perform the work yourself. Those are the underlying principles for many of the rules regarding foreigners and commerce.

The key to a successful startup is finding the right people. In Costa Rica.  The first person you will need on your team is a knowledgeable lawyer. Your attorney will guide you through the process of legally registering your company. The most common business structure is the Sociedad Anónima, often referred to by its initials SA. It is popular because it protects the personal income and assets of its shareholders from liability. The other option is the Sociedad de Responsabilidad Limitada (SRL). It can be composed of just one member, so it’s even simpler than the SA which requires at least four persons to make up the board of directors (junta directiva). You may also need a permit, or license, depending on the nature of the business. Attorneys fees and registration is typically between $800 and $1200 depending on the Law firm.

After registering your business, you will need a competent accountant. Costa Rican tax laws and accounting practices are very different than in North America, so a local accountant is essential to ensure that you are in compliance. Costa Rican businesses are responsible for the following taxes: Social Security for employees (14.5% of salary), corporate income tax (10-30% depending on gross revenue), property tax (0.25% of the appraised value), and annual corporation fee (around $250). A qualified account will not only keep your books balanced but will also keep you on the right side of the law.

Starting a business in Costa RicaYou might think your profits will be substantial in Costa Rica because wages are lower than you would pay employees in the US, but Costa Rican employees have a lot of rights and benefits that may cut into your bottom line. It is very important to look into that before hiring employees. Your lawyer and accountant will be excellent resources.

Another important step for your startup is to open a bank account here in Costa Rica. Banco de Costa Rica, a state-owned bank, allows non-residents to open an account using their passport as identification. The minimum initial deposit is ¢50,000 colones, $500 dollars or €100 euros. Another bank requirement is a minimum monthly income of $1000. The bank may require documentation–bank statements or certified accounting reports–to verify the amount and source of income. Once your bank account is opened and funded, you’ll be able to do most transactions online from wherever you are.

Restaurant for sale in Costa RicaMany that have made the move have decided to become legal residents of Costa Rica. One of the ways to obtain residency is by means of an investment of $200,000 or more in a business or property. So starting your own business in Costa Rica can produce multiple benefits: income, supporting the economy of the community, and permanent residency status.

Costa Rica RealtorI know this because I have been through the whole process of starting a business in Costa Rica. Can it be trying? Of course, any startup is, but the rewards are unending, and what a great place to be.

With the onset of COVID-19, unfortunately there will be many small businesses that won’t make it through the crisis. It is a sad situation.  However, on the other hand it can be a great opportunity for the person that wants to move to Costa Rica and start a business. Take a look at some of the businesses for sale in our area.

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Work from Your Costa Rica Home

Can I work from home in Costa Rica? Well the answer is yes and no. I will explain it further on in this article. Now that more and more companies, due to the COVID-19 situation, are telling their employees to work from home, Costa Rica is a great location to do it from.
Laptop computerPersonally, I have clients that have purchased properties in Costa Rica, and they love it so much they decided to live here full time and made the move – but they continue to work for the same company back in North America via the internet. Internet service in Costa Rica is very good.  They have broadband service up to 100 megabytes.  Not fast enough?  Then there is a screaming fast fiber optic option with 500-megabytes of service.  The service is only available in select areas at this time but the footprint is growing quickly.
Tourist passport stamp from Costa RicaSo how do others successfully work from home in Costa Rica? Well, after they found the right property in paradise and moved here full time, these folks started the residency process. You cannot legally stay in Costa Rica past the 90-day stamp in your passport, hence, starting the process to become a legal resident is important.  For assistance with this contact me and I will help guide you to the right people to obtain your Costa Rican residency.
Now, because of COVID-19 the world is changing.  We all see it.  Social distancing, wearing masks, and the list goes on. Many companies started work from home programs a few years ago, as there is no real need for a worker to come in and sit in a cubical all day or behind a computer all day in an office environment when in reality the employee does not really need to be there. Companies that do value their employees are making it easier now by having more work from home.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) took a flash poll of its members worldwide, of which I am proud to be a member, to find out what members are seeing with their clients and local markets relating to real estate.
Costa Rica NAR memberFrom the National Association of Realtors:
On May 10th and 11th, NAR conducted a flash survey of members on the impact of the coronavirus on their market. 61% of members have donated to or volunteered with non-profits helping with COVID-19. 75% of members overall said that none of their past clients have asked them about mortgage forbearance. Half (49%) of members expect that, when state and local economies reopen, employers will continue to allow workers to work from home for the near future, or beyond reducing the need for office space. 
work from home in Costa RicaAs you just read above, “reducing the need for office space” basically means more people will be working from home. Why not work from your Costa Rican home? I do. I have a home office with everything – printer, laptop, etc.  Heck, it is where I am writing this blog from! There is no better place to be right now during this COVID-19 pandemic. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I made the move over 12 years ago to live here.
Would you like information on how you can work from your own Costa Rica home? Just drop me an email at JosephEmanuelli@remax.net

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Work from home in Costa Rica