Can foreigners own property in Costa Rica?

Yes, foreigners are permitted to own property outright in Costa Rica. Foreigners have the same property rights as Costa Ricans. Private property is protected by the Constitution of Costa Rica. It is no different than owning real estate in the US or Europe. Costa Rica is definitely a beautiful country to live!

Most land in Costa Rica is titled. Almost 90%. Lawyers can quickly check to ensure it has good title. Individuals can also check this by revising the finca number on the National Public Registry website.  Land that has not changed hands for many years may not be titled.  If the title to the property is not registered, registration is difficult, complicated and expensive.  The buyer may spend years in the court system sorting out other claims to the land. It is not ever a good idea to purchase land that is not titled because it could be a part of a real estate scam which one should avoid.

Although Costa Rica allows foreign ownership, they do have some other very unique property laws that are country specific. The following lists and describes some of the most important and special laws:

  1. Fifty-Meter Zone

The first 50 meters from the high tide line inward at the beach is ALWAYS public property.  No permanent structure may be placed on this land. Therefore, temporary structures are permitted. However, it can be landscaped and temporary structures can be erected, for example in front of a hotel.

  1. Titled ocean front property to the 50 meter line.

In 1976, all owners of ocean front land where asked to register the land with the local and national public registry offices and attained full title for the land to the 50-meter line.  This is prime ocean front property and only represents about 3% of the total coast line of Costa Rica.  Being aware of what the legal conditions of ocean front property are is crucial to not having unexpected surprises. Some people do hold this title.

  1. Municipal lease land – 150-meter zone

In the majority of the country, the next 150 meters land inward from the 50-meter coastal zone is owned by the municipality, and can only be leased in the form of a concession.  For a foreigner to lease this land, a Costa Rican must own more than 50% of the company doing the leasing.  A foreigner cannot lease this land personally.  A good lawyer can set up a company that will serve the investor’s purpose, in order to meet the special requirements of the law.  In most cases, there will be restrictions or zoning on the leased land.  Ensure that a lawyer check this before buying the rights to leased land.  Leases are usually fairly inexpensive and the renewal fairly automatic provided the lessor keeps the lease in good standing. Make sure prior owners were in good standing with their concession before purchasing so that it can be renewed.

  1. Frontiers

Frontiers are one of the only restricted zones for foreign ownership and ownership in general. In this case, only Costa Rican citizens can purchase land within two kilometres of the national frontiers or borders.

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