Ship your stuff or not?

Shipping to Costa Rica

Your move to Costa Rica is a chance to start over, start fresh. Surely you won’t need to ship all your personal belongings to Costa Rica. You are going to get rid of everything and live the simple life. Well, not everything. In fact, there are a few sentimental things you simply can’t part with, like pictures and that antique vase. Those things will fit in a suitcase, you decide. Should you ship the rest?

But what about Grandma’s dresser? In fact, maybe it would be better just to ship down all your old stuff and not have to buy all new things when you get here. Wouldn’t that be simpler? Surely, they wouldn’t charge much for my old junk. What would it cost? How long will it take? Which items will they tax? Will they arrive damaged? Suddenly life doesn’t not seem so simple.

So which is better—ship items to Costa Rica or buying them here? You will need to ask: Is what I want, and/or need, available in Costa Rica? How do I go about shipping things to Costa Rica and what does it cost? How much will I pay in import taxes?

With the exception of Grandma’s dresser, most of what you need or want is available in Costa Rica. International retailers like Walmart and Pricesmart (similar to Costco) are countrywide. Appliances can be found there as well as in local appliance chains such as El Gollo and Casa Blanca or Monge. Well-known brands such as Samsung, Whirlpool, Oster, Frigidaire, GE and others are available . Check out these stores’ websites to compare prices. Many household items–from linens to lamps–can be found at inexpensive prices in Pequeno Mundo, a national chain with a store in Liberia, Guanacaste. Better quality home goods can be found in stores such as Cemaco and Aliss in the Central Valley. Unless you have a favorite platter or vase you cannot live without, it is unnecessary to ship household items. You will find what you need here at comparable prices.
If you choose to ship Grandma’s dresser and that oh-so-comfortable recliner to Costa Rica, your possessions can be packed in an ocean freight container. Stackable steel cargo containers measure approximately 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall and come in 20- and 40-foot lengths. The 20-foot model will accommodate a 1- 2 bedroom household, and the 40-foot model is large enough to hold the items from a 3 -5 bedroom household. A vehicle can also be shipped in the container, but it takes up a lot of floor space and you can’t pack up to the ceiling unless you build some sort of framework over it. If you have just a few items to ship, you can place your items on one or more pallets and ship them in a shared container. This is called a “less than container load” (LCL).

As far as cost goes, when you opt to use an entire container, you pay a set price no matter how much or how little you pack into it. The cost of a shared container is based on volume and weight. You will want to contact a shipping company and ask for a quote.

I did a quick search for the cost to ship a container from ports on the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica’s Caribbean port. The search revealed an average cost of $1200 for a 20-foot container and $1700 for a 40-foot container. However, the costs don’t stop there. You will need to pay warehousing fees until your shipment can be inspected and import duties calculated. Customs officials will review the inventory of your shipment and assign a value to each item, whether new or used. Generally the tax is between 13% and 49% of the assigned value. A list of items and their tax rate can be found at Reviewing these lists will help you decide whether an item is worth importing. After paying the import duty, you will need arrange for transportation of your goods from the port to where you live, and if that is Guanacaste, the land transportation could be as much or more than the ocean passage.

If you are considering importing a vehicle, be sure to consult the official government website Enter the make, model, and features of your vehicle, and the calculator will tell you how much the tax will be. Be warned that vehicle import duties range from 52% to 79% of the Blue Book value. You are better buying a new one here.,

As you can see, it is extremely important to do your due diligence before deciding to ship everything you own. Knowing what is and isn’t important to you will be a lot easier when analyzed in the light of time, effort and costs. The answer to the question of whether you should ship your things or not is very individual, very personal. If you make an informed, well-thought-out decision, your move to Costa Rica will be as easy and refreshing as you always dreamed it would be!

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Build a Home in Costa Rica, Save on Taxes

Are you thinking of building your dream home in Costa Rica? I have done it 2 times already. It can be a very fulfilling experience; it can also be a nightmare if you don’t choose the right builder. Fortunately, I got lucky with both contractors I selected.  They were great.

New home being built in Costa Rica
A Lot of people are intimidated by the idea of building a home in Costa Rica, even if they have visited the country many times.  Also, the thought of building a home when you may not be here to watch every step of the construction can be scary as well – there are just too many unknowns. However, if you choose the right contractor, it is not as bad as you may think.

When building a home, it is important to know that in 2019 the Costa Rican government passed a law stating that all services used in the construction of a home are required to pay the mandatory 13% VAT, or value added tax. The good news is, the Costa Rican government has rolled back that law due to the Covid-19 pandemic in order to help re-activate the building sector.

What does this mean for you? If you decide to build that dream home in Costa Rica it will cost you less provided you start construction before August 31, 2020.

Here is a breakdown and timeline for paying less taxes:

Law 9887 adds a new transitory V bis to law N. 9635, Strengthening Law Public Finance, to Promote Economic Reactivation, and its reforms, establishing reduced rates for engineering, architecture, topography services and civil works construction when such services are provided to projects that are duly registered before the Costa Rican Engineers and Architects Association (CFIA).

1. From September 16, 2020 to August 31, 2021 (inclusive) will be fully exempt from the VAT.
2. From September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2022 (inclusive) a reduced rate of 4% VAT.
3. From September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023 (inclusive) a reduced rate of 8% VAT.
4. From September 1, 2023 forward, these services will be taxed at the standard rate of 13% VAT.

What does this mean in real dollars? Well, that all depends on what you are building and how big the property is. Some engineers and architects charge a percentage of the size of the and scope of the work. Others charge a flat fee.
If you are considering building your dream home make sure you save this article and confirm with your builder, engineer, architect and surveyor to make sure you are not charged extra.

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Realtors, How to Choose in Costa Rica

Tres Amigos Realty logoKnowing how to choose a realtor in Costa Rica makes all the difference in whether your purchase or sale of real estate is a success or a struggle.  It can be a nerve-wracking process. It always involves money and unknowns, and, frankly, salesmen have been the subject of many jokes, even if they aren’t selling used cars. No one likes to feel like they are being swindled, and the feeling of uneasiness is even greater when you are selling or buying a property in a foreign land. To build your confidence and increase the chances of a pleasant and productive experience, here are a few pointers. This can truly be a Cinderella story, as you will see!

How to interview a realtorFirst of all, do your due diligence. Research the area you are looking at and read articles about the general condition of the market there. There are a lot of people writing blogs about every little aspect of life here in Costa Rica.  Some of these blogs are really good, some are people that just complain, but both can be a wealth of insider information.  But – beware of accepting just one person’s opinion.  As and example of how to go about finding a potential place to live in Costa Rica,  google the phrase “real estate Playa Hermosa”.  Select a site and start researching the property listings of the various real estate agencies and/or individual realtors in that area. Sometimes you can get a feel for realtors and their style through his website. Don’t be quick to judge a book by its cover! Some long-time realtors may not have a slick, modern websites, but they are a wealth of knowledge and experience.  On the other hand, a slick modern website indicates the agent is willing to spend hard-earned money to promote his listings. As a minimum send an inquiry and see how fast they respond.

Finding a realtor in Costa RicaThe next step is the Glass Slipper Test: Line up the prospective realtors and see which one the show fits, especially if your intention is to sell a property. Just because someone calls themselves a realtor, the only people that can legally sell real estate in Costa Rica must be members of NAR (National Association of Realtors). Request a meeting, and take note of qualities such as punctuality and appearance. Does he/she take a personal interest in you? If you are not a high-dollar client, do you still feel your business is valued and important? Trust your instincts; it is very hard to change a first impression. Ask a lot of questions. How long have they lived in Costa Rica – specifically the area in which you are interested? How long have they worked in real estate? Are they legally allowed to work in Costa Rica, are they a SUGEF registered real estate agent? Is selling real estate a full-time job or a hobby? Are they affiliated with any real estate associations in Costa Rica or internationally? What geographical area do they cover and what is their area of expertise? How and where will your property be marketed and promoted?

Realtor and buyer making a dealGood realtors should be able to list off all the promotional websites and platforms they will use. How many sales have they completed in the last year? Of course, the answer to that question may depend to some extent on the market in the area, so it is a good idea to investigate the market trends beforehand. If the realtor in question begins to make excuses for why they haven’t sold anything in 2-1/2 years when you know properties are selling like hotcakes in that region, well…you may have an ugly stepsister on your hands. Sanitize your glass slipper and try it on the next eligible one! If things are clicking and the shoe seems to fit, it is time to discuss fees and terms of the contract. Any agent worth his salt will have all that information readily available.

After the interview, ask yourself: Am I comfortable with the answers provided? Does the agent have experience in my target area? Does he have the best marketing plan for my property and enough tools to promote my property? Do I like him?

Home that is soldWhen you have reviewed the roster and chosen the realtor with whom you feel most comfortable, it is time to let him know. If you are selling a property, you will need to decide if you want to commit to an exclusivity agreement. It may seem like you will have better odds if you are non-exclusive with one realtor. Prince Charming may want to keep his options open! However, and this is important an exclusive sale agreement has benefits. Most real estate agents are not going to invest in advertising if there is a chance another agent is going to sell the property. The other agent could feel the same way, resulting in neither agent marketing your property.  Just because you have a lot of realtors involved in the sale of your property does not mean that you will get more buyers. Here in Costa Rica many sellers think this is the way to go. In reality, it takes longer to sell your property. It is much more productive to have one motivated, committed agent whose livelihood depends on selling your property and who will pull out all the stops to get it done.

I hope this helps you in your search for a princess or prince realtor, and that you live happily ever after in beautiful Costa Rica.

Want to keep up with everything that is happening here in Costa Rica?  Join my email list!

Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit

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