Retirees and fixer-uppers in Costa Rica

A lot of retirees who come to Costa Rica want to start businesses.

On my August relocation/retirement tour I had a client from Reno Nevada who remodels and fixes up homes for a living. He asked me a lot of questions on the subject since he would like to do the same kind of work in Costa Rica. I filled him in on the real estate scene here and told him that he could do well in the home renovation and construction market if he followed the time-tested advice of other successful expats who had worked in this field.


Bill’s idea is to buy land and build homes from scratch or remodel existing homes. This endeavor can be profitable when one considers that local labor costs and materials are much more reasonable than in the States. The important thing is to not invest time and money in things that won’t bring returns and not to overbuild for the neighborhood.

Here is some practical advice for the homebuilding or renovation business in Costa Rica or any other country in Latin America.

  1. Make sure you understand the local market and identify your potential buyer before you start your project.
  2. Location, location and location…Be sure to chose a good location in a good area so that it will be easy to attract potential investors.
  3. Be certain that there are supermarkets, restaurants, public transportation, availability of Internet and cable TV and good health care nearby.
  4. Use local materials and fixtures whenever possible to keep the cost down. Imported items are expensive here.
  5. Make sure the homes in the neighbor where you are investing are selling in the price range you expect to get.
  6. When remodeling spend only on items that will get you a good return. Make sure the upgrades will pay off.
  7. Always be at the job site to supervise the work.
    Be sure to buy all materials personally. Contractors have been know to pad bills.
  8. Find trustworthy and reliable help.
  9. Make sure to insure your workers. You cannot not get a building permit in Costa Rica without insuring the workers.
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