Solutions for your Water Problems

Water problems.  Boy do we have them in all shapes and sizes in Costa Rica.  I was presented with two terrific water solution options the other day that I just have to pass along.  One involves battling mineral buildup in your pipes and the second is trying to find better ways to keep your pool clean.

Have you had problems with your water pressure going down?  Are you tired of trying to clean off the limestone that gathers on your shower head, tiles and doors?  Does your skin feel dry?  The hard water, which is so common in Costa Rica and has lots of hard minerals are causing these problems.  20171109_102132Over time, your pipes can get closed off from the mineral buildup inside them.  This requires replacement of pipes which can get very expensive.  I hadn’t had any recommendations or heard of real solutions to this problem until I was presented with the Calmat system the other day.

The Calmat system is now being offered right here in Atenas and it is an efficient and relatively inexpensive option for your home. Way less expensive than replacing your pipes. This eco-friendly system doesn’t use chemicals or salt and can work on all types of pipes.  I don’t want to confuse anyone or misquote the way it works, but it basically changes the shape of the calcium particles so that they flow on through your pipes instead of getting stuck along the way.  No minerals are actually removed; the flavor of your water is not changed. You simply don’t get the buildup or rust that the minerals cause.  20171109_101755The system saves money on the pipes themselves, but the softer acting water means that cleaning materials such as laundry detergent and shampoos work better as well so you can use less.  Your water pressure will also return over time, because not only does it prevent more buildup, but it slowly eliminates the current buildup. It really is amazing.

The estimated cost for a smaller home is around $650 plus installation at $50 (any needed materials are extra but like the install are not expensive) or you can install it yourself. It is quite simple if you are the least bit handy around the house, and it is guaranteed for 5 years (when installed properly) with an estimated life of 30 years which comes to about $2/month (while saving your pipes, shower heads and faucets.) Operating costs are less than $5 to around $7 per year depending on which unit you need.  It is manufactured in Germany which alone lends confidence in its quality.   I really think it should be installed from the beginning in every home that is built.  For me, this is a truly worthy investment.

The secondary issue is with trying to keep pools clean.  It is a constant battle.  Using chemicals is awful and expensive, but if you don’t, the maintenance is impossible.  What if you could throw a little floating device in your pool and it could use the sun’s rays to ai20171109_100114.jpgd in disinfecting the water and prevent algae buildup?  You can!  This device by Hilltop Solar uses solar panels on a floating device to generate direct electrical current (about 2 watts) which ionizes metal from an anode to aid in disinfecting the water.  The cost savings alone in reduced pool chemical costs and reduced electricity is expected to give a recuperation of its costs in just a few months. Imagine the savings you might realize. All for less than $200 total out of pocket. Yes, you still have to do a little cleaning, but it greatly reduces the time and chemicals needed.

I rarely promote products in my blog, but when I hear of something that works so well for complaints that I hear all of the time, the information should be passed along so that everyone has the opportunity to check into it.  The fabulous part is that both of these products are now handled by a distributor right here in Atenas.  Jim Livingston is bringing them in direct so you don’t even have to worry about importing them or installing them correctly.  You can contact him at jimlivingstonsfc@gmail.com or 6032-2195.  I truly hope that many of you will take advantage of this opportunity. If you contact Jim and mention you heard about his products here, he will give you 50% off the cost of the labor for installation if you complete your purchase before Dec. 31, 2017.

Tina Newton is a part-owner and agent of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Atenas, Costa Rica.  She has lived here for almost 19 years and is always open to answering any questions real-estate or non-real-estate related.  You can contact her at tina@tnrealestatecr.com, on the Facebook page, or through the website. 

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What NOT to Expect from your Real Estate Agent

We know what to expect from a real estate agent.  Prompt responses, promotion, and the sale of your home (or the purchase of the home of your dreams).  Unfortunately, all of us in the field of real estate have been asked at one time or another to do things that are above and beyond our line of duty.  For the most part, we are friendly people and want to help our clients.  However, there are many times that requests go way beyond our field of expertise or are just ways of getting things for free that the correct professional would charge for.  Doctors and lawyers get to charge for each visit.  Real estate agents are expected to receive nothing beyond the commission from the sale.  Unfortunately in Costa Rica real estate, where non-exclusive contracts rule, an agent might be lucky to actually complete a sale on one in ten listings.  So a lot of work goes in on properties that the agent will never receive a cent on.  That’s okay, it’s part of the life of anyone on commission.  It’s an accepted fact.  But there are many things that are not part of the responsibilities (at least for free) of your agent. 

1)       Official translations.  Of course, an agent should try to translate anything that you need to understand your sell or purchase.  However, if you want an official document translated with official power, you need to hire an official translator, a bilingual lawyer, or at least pay your real estate agent if he/she has the capacity to serve as an official translator.  This includes documents before a sale/purchase, but ESPECIALLY afterwards.  Months after a sale or rental, a real estate agent should not be expected to continue translating documents for free.

2)      Real Estate Management.  If you hire and pay an agent to manage your property, perfect.  But, just because you list a property for sale, your agent is not expected to maintain your property, pay your bills, and get your home repaired for free.  An agent is expected to report to you if they see a problem in your home that needs to be corrected, such as a leaky roof, and they can recommend someone for you if you don’t know who to call.  But if you expect the agent to call the repair person, oversee the job, and confirm that all is done well, you need to pay them for that time.

3)      Rental oversight.  An agent is hired to find a renter (or buyer), not to oversee the whole duration of the rental contract.  Once the contract is signed and the commission for the rental is paid, the working relationship is finished.  The owner and renter need to communicate directly to resolve issues or go to a lawyer if there are problems.  It is not the agent’s responsibility to collect rent, collect money for bills, and resolve issues between the two parties.  Again, we like to help, but please do not overstep your bounds.  If a translator is required, hire a translator.

4)      After the sale—transfer of utilities.  The agent is not responsible for the transfer of all utilities into the new owner’s name.  Of course, the agent will try to assist as much as possible to make sure that all of the new information is gathered and delivered to the new owners and point them in the right direction, but he/she should not be expected to sit for hours in offices walking through the whole process and translating the whole time, at least, not for free.  If your agent is willing to do this for you, at least buy them lunch.

5)      After the sale—continued negotiations between buyer and seller.  After the sale is complete, your agent’s job is done.  The buyer and seller have each other’s contact information and they can communicate directly.  Of course an agent will do his/her best to make sure that there is whatever contact needed, but again, it is not the agent’s job to spend the next six months translating between the new and old owners. 

6)      Banking and residency.  An agent wants to help you get set up in your move down or your preparation for a purchase.  Getting a bank account and residency is part of this.  However, if you want your agent to go with you and translate and help you maneuver every step of the way, you need to pay him/her for this. 

7)      Collection of bills.  When closing occurs, the agent should have confirmed with the municipality that all taxes have been paid and are up to date on the property.  The owner also confirms that all bills are paid and up to date.  However, if someone appears months after the sale of a property and says that the owner didn’t pay other bills (private trash pickup, pool maintenance, etc), it is not the responsibility of the agent to collect these bills, nor pay them out of the commission received.  The agent can give contact information for the owner, but is not responsible for bill collection.

8)      Babysitting, dog sitting, or plant sitting.  If you want a recommendation, great.  If you want to pay for these services, fine.  But to ask an agent to do these for free is not acceptable.  Can you imagine watering plants for 250 houses that are up for sale at a time?  When would we have time to do our jobs of trying to find buyers for your homes?

I know everyone is thinking is that agents get paid a large commission on the sale of a house and they should do anything needed for the client.  Please keep these things in mind: 

a)       Buyers and sellers are not locked in to one agent, so for all the work that an agent does to sell or help with the search of a property, the buyer/seller may be working with 5 or more different agents and so it’s very possible that the sale/purchase will end up going to another agent in the end.  All of the gas, time, and advertising money spent does not get reimbursed as there is no commission.   It’s part of the commission game and agents do what they can to keep the client and make the sale happen for that reason.

b)      Commissions are very rarely kept by only one person.  Usually, there are two companies involved, then there is the split among the office, so the final commission passed along to the agent is relatively small. 

Agents understand that the majority of costs will never be reimbursed and that is what the job is about. However, what this blog boils down to is…if you were to call the appropriate parties to do a job and you would be charged for it, then don’t expect your real estate agent to do it for free.  It’s not fair.  There are limits.

Tina Newton has lived in Costa Rica for over 18 years and is part-owner and real estate agent with Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  You can contact her with any questions about life in Costa Rica, moving abroad, or buying a home here.  She highly appreciates her fabulous clients who do pay for the extra services she provides.  Cecilia Tristan is her partner in the business and is a bilingual attorney who specializes in residencies, property transfers, and transitioning to Costa Rica.  The Tristan & Newton blog tries to address many current issues in Costa Rica and the website and Facebook pages have all of the current homes in the area listed for sale or for rent.

The Best Kept Secret in Costa Rica–San Mateo

What is the best kept secret in Costa Rica?  The San Mateo area.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, I’ll let you in on the secret if you promise not to tell.

The news is out about the new Orotina airport going in.  Property values around the airport and along Highway 27 have skyrocketed in the anticipation.  But the focus has been on the Southwest side of the highway.  The best secret is on the other side, to the Northeast.  The area of San Mateo has, so far, been ignored.  From Desmonte to Esparza, this area is close to highway 1, just minutes to Highway 27 at the Orotina entrance and it’s on the other side of the planned airport location.  It’s perfect, even now, for all of the businesses and people who will be working on the construction of the airport.  And guess what??  It’s still cheap!  And I mean CHEAP!  Land for as low as $7 per meter squared.

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This area is so close to everything and there are bargains, as well as luxury properties, to choose from.  It is the little area that will explode, as soon as the secret is out.

 

 

Some of the fabulous homes and properties in this area:

20170930_083749 (Copy).jpgSan Mateo land, starting at $9.50/m2.  Each have 4 hectares (more than 40,000 m2) , which can be divided.  Both have electricity and water access.  One has a a paved road all the way to the property which is located only 700 meters from the central church and soccer field in Labrador.  Hundreds of fruit trees and both howler and white-faced monkeys make the creek area their home.  The other property is located right on the road between San Mateo and Orotina.  Flat land for building or dividing into lots, and a beautiful creek that runs along the base.  Each of them is priced at $400,000.

Casa Metamorphosis_pq_Florian Kuster-119 (Copy)EcovillaA Utopia in Costa Rica.  Incredible and unique homes that are located in an eco-friendly and self-sustaining neighborhood.  There is a great alternative school and homes of every style.  A common swimming pool and yoga platform as well as a rancho for entertaining too.  MLW-triskel-2622 (Copy)The community has a common garden in which the vegetables are distributed to the neighborhood.  Homes for sale in this neighborhood start at $285,000.

 

 

Villa Adriana.  002 (Copy)Two fabulous homes OUR HOUSE orotina (Copy)for sale in this amazing neighborhood located just off the main road between San Mateo and Esparza.  One is a great family home and the other is an estate with a mansion, a guest house, a guest dormitory with room for a large group, and two swimming pools.

Vista Mar.  Just minutes from Orotina but on lots with breathtaking views.  This neighborhood is on the mountain between Desmonte and Orotina so it has fresh mountain breezes and views both to the ocean and over the central valley.  Two homes and a lot are up for sale.  The lot is only $100,000 and the homes have fabulous pools and views to die for while being very well-priced, starting at $450,000.

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Esparza.  A great 4 bedroom family home in a quiet neighborhood minutes to downtown Esparza is only $320,000.  IMG-20160331-WA0002 (Copy)There are also two large properties which are perfect for developments available starting at $7/m2.  One is 4.6 hectares for $320,000 and the other is $10/m2 for 5.5 hectares.  Again, really great bargains and in areas that are minutes to the beach or the new airport.  Just off of Highway 1 and easy access to Highway 27.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in Kansas with a master’s in International Economics and Sustainable Development and is now an agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Costa Rica. She has resided in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 18 years and has raised two children and now a grandbaby there. She is always open to answering any questions about living in Costa Rica or buying/selling /renting a home there. You can contact her by email, through the Facebook page, or through the website.

In the Eyes of the Buyer

Ok Sellers, we are officially in a Buyer’s market in Costa Rica. So, when you put your home on the market, you have to look through the Buyer’s eyes.

1) Price. When searching for homes in the general area, is your home priced within that range, or even at the lower end for a quick sale, or are you priced above and beyond? Even if your home is nicer, you have to look at your competition because the buyers are. That is….if you really want to sell.

2) Curb and internet appeal. Even before someone drives up, your photos online are what will capture a potential buyer’s interest. Is your home appealing to the eye? A little paint or a few flowers can go a long way. Professional photos can also be very helpful, although even making sure that your home is clean and de-cluttered to make the photos nicer, can be all that is needed. Buyers no longer want to be taken blindly to various homes. They want to see photos, know exactly where it is located, and every detail before they waste their time.

3) Once you’ve been able to capture a prospective buyer, comes the showing. Be ready to show when needed and cooperate. If a buyer wants to see the house on a certain day, try to make it happen. Because if not, they will see everything else on the market except yours. Which means, you don’t really want to sell.

4) Don’t be there. Let your agent walk them through the house pointing out all of the extras and the wonderful features that your home has. If you follow them through the house, even if you don’t say anything, the buyers feel uncomfortable because it is YOUR home. We want them to see it as THEIR home. They need to be able to vision their things there and that may include opening closet doors and measuring areas which are things they won’t feel comfortable doing if you are there. Even if you are the best host ever, buyers will feel like guests, not buyers. Questions can be answered for them after the showing if the Realtor doesn’t know the answer on the spot.

5) Take your pets with you. They may be loving members of the family, but not all buyers are pet lovers and some may be allergic. In addition, as much as I love dogs, having them jump all over me and my car upon arrival is not pleasant and distracts from the home. Have your Realtor call you when he/she is on the way and then take your pets out for a walk during the showing.

6) A clean home is a welcoming home. You may not see the mess or feel that people will understand that you have kids in the home, but they won’t. A dirty, or stinky, house will have people leaving before they even look around and appreciate what you have underneath. Do a quick wipe-down of the sinks and have a covered basket that you can quickly toss things into. And do a quick spray with an air freshener. You may have gone “nose blind” to your smells, but others will identify those smells quickly.

7) Keep in touch with your Realtor to see if you need to change something or to report if you have already changed something. As much as it would be fabulous if every Realtor were able to check back with you each week, it’s just often not possible. They are out there looking for your Buyers, promoting homes, and looking for potential leads. Getting a report back from them is important, but be proactive and check in with them too. It’s a team effort.

In the end, it IS a team effort. A Realtor is rarely a miracle worker. Your efforts will help make your home the most presentable home on the market and easier to sell. Forget that this is your home and look through the eyes (and nose) of the buyer as THEIR next home.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in Kansas and is now an agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Costa Rica. She has resided in Atenas, Costa Rica for over 18 years and has raised two children and now a grandbaby there. She is always open to answering any questions about living in Costa Rica or buying/selling /renting a home there. You can contact her by email, through the Facebook page, or through the website.

The 10 Secrets to Happiness

Living in Costa Rica, which has often been rated as the “Happiest Country on Earth”, has taught me a few things about finding happiness.  It’s not about living in a tropical paradise.  It’s about finding peace within.

1)      Don’t wish for a different path in the past.  Use the past only to help guide you in the future, not to keep you stuck there and wishing for something that is gone.  Don’t sit and wish how things should have been done differently.  Again, let past mistakes give you experience to apply in decisions for the future, but changing one decision in the past would prevent your present and no one knows what that other present would be like.  Let it go.

2)      Don’t live only for the future.  Although it is important to set aside funds for the future, don’t forget your present by denying yourself everything for the plan of enjoying the future.  We don’t know what the future will hold.  We don’t know if we will be around to enjoy the future.  We don’t know if the people we care about will be around to enjoy the future with us.  Don’t wait until “tomorrow” to give the time needed to a loved one.  Life is short.  So, don’t leave all great experiences for the “future.”

3)      Live in the present.  Don’t live for the past nor for the future, but open your eyes, ears, and heart to the present.  For example, how we treat a child each and every day affects the child’s future.  Taking time each day to look around and be “here”, in the present and being your best each and every day.

4)      Don’t wish for someone else’s life.  The grass is always greener on the other side.  Don’t think that everyone else’s life is so much better.  Everyone has problems and until you have walked in their shoes, you have no idea the trials that person is going through.  We see it every day with suicides of the rich and famous, in these lives that appear perfect.  Celebrate the successes of others so that it makes you happy instead of letting jealousy bring you down.

5)      Enjoy what you have.  Right along with living in the present means appreciating everything you have.  The people you have and the life you have.  Find something every day to be happy about and give that significance in your life.

6)      Get rid of anything and everything that doesn’t allow you to be happy.  That means cutting off contacts that make you feel bad and blocking Facebook people who get you all riled up.  My great-grandmother stopped watching the news because it was only about wars that were happening around the world or other terrible things that she couldn’t do anything about.  So, she stopped stressing herself out and never turned on the news again.  She focused on local efforts and within our family where she made a difference every day.  I doubt any of us could be quite that absolute with our need for news, but you get the idea.

7)      Surround yourself with people who love you and encourage you.  Positive people who both help you see the great things in your life and are willing to be with you in all of the low times but to see you out of the rough times, not to keep you down in it.

8)      When something bad happens, see the good side in it if possible.  If I am waiting in a long line at the bank, at least I am in air conditioning in a chair instead of standing in a line in the heat.

9)      Spread happiness.  If something hasn’t happened to make you happy, send something nice to someone else.  Giving creates happiness.  Saying something nice to someone or helping someone naturally gives you a sense of happiness.  Being grumpy spreads negativity.

10)   Pura Vida!  C’est la vie!  Sh– happens.  That’s life.  The ability to get hit with an unpleasant situation and to be able to throw up your hands and use one of the above expressions is one of the reasons that Costa Ricans can be so happy.  Don’t get mad.  Shake your head, laugh, and move on.  Pura Vida!

 

Tina Newton is an Oklahoma girl who has spent the last eighteen years living in Costa Rica.  She has raised her two children and wonderful grandbaby there.  She originally studied international relations with an emphasis on the Former Soviet Union and then finished with a Master’s in International Economics and Development at Oklahoma State University.  After working as an analyst for a while, she felt the need to get out and help people and so she got certified as a Realtor in Kansas.  Upon moving to Costa Rica, she opened and ran a community center, “Su Espacio” for 10 years, tried out another stint in the corporate world at Proctor & Gamble, and then came back to doing what makes her happy in the field of real estate.  Finding homes and guiding people in the process is what she enjoys.  She is always available to answer questions about living in Costa Rica.  You can send her an email, catch her on the Facebook page, or send a message through the website for Tristan & Newton Real Estate.

The Giving Town

In times of terrible hardships and survival such as in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, it is always amazing as to how people come together to give what they can of their time and money to help others.  From million dollar individual donations, to companies and funds matching donations of givers, to individual donations of $20, it all adds up and helps with the relief and recovery efforts.  People put away words of hatred and separation to come together and help.

The town of Atenas, Costa Rica, has a tradition of giving.  First of all, as in many small towns, people naturally come together when there are people in need.  Whether it is because they are related to one another or just because they have known each other for years, people chip in and do what they can.  Churches are often known as these centers for giving and help when disasters occur.

In Atenas, the Catholic church is very strong and so are many smaller, independent churches, but what steps up mostly are the individual efforts that are seen.  Many of these efforts are led by international residents who want to do what they can to help the community.

Animales Atenas is a great organization set up to eliminate street animals through castration clinics, adoption campaigns, and more.

The Angel Tree is a project with community participation of all levels, providing individual gifts to approximately 350 needy children each Christmas.  The Angel Tree party is provided through food donations, location donation, and all of those wonderful gifts provided by all of the community.  This year’s sign up date is already upon us as it will be Tuesday, October 3rd starting at 10 a.m. and the party will be held on Saturday, December 2nd.

The swim campaign “Swim for Life” is an effort to prevent future drownings by providing safety information, encouraging swimming classes, and funding to those who want to participate in classes but don’t have the money to do so.  They will be taking additional donations in order to provide free swim classes during the summer vacation to the kids in the Angel Tree program so that the children will not only receive Christmas gifts, but the ongoing gift of life as well.

The Chili Cookoff started off as a fun activity to benefit the children’s home “Hogar de Vida.”    It draws people from all over the country and for 2018, will expand into a weekend event, called the “Atenas Life Festival”.  The Chili Cookoff will still be on the Sunday of the event, raising money for the children’s home, but the Saturday will allow for other groups in need to receive funds for their projects.  The dates are currently set for March 9, 10, and 11th, 2018.

All of these events take lots of volunteer time, leadership, donations, and creative ideas.  Atenas has been very lucky to have received such amazing participation of all levels.  And to support these efforts for the town, a non-profit corporation is being set up so that people who want to donate to these projects and receive US tax donations, can do so.  The corporation will be called “Supporting Solutions for Atenas” and should be set by the end of the year.

Atenas, which has often been called, “The Best Climate in the World” could be even better known as “The Giving Town”.  I am proud to be part of this town and many of these projects and I would be glad to help you be part of it as well.

Tina Newton is a real estate agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  She has been involved in the community activities since she arrived 18 years ago and is always happy to share information and answer questions about Atenas and life in Costa Rica with anyone who asks.  You can contact her by email, Facebook, or through the website.

What Do I Need to Bring to Costa Rica?

So, you’ve decided to make the move to Costa Rica.  You’re looking at a house full of things and are debating, what do I really need to bring?  What can I find there?  What can I not live without?  Of course, each person will have to make individual decisions on whether to bring the whole house and car or just the necessities, but here is my opinion:

Don’t Bring:

1.        Leather.  Leather anything—shoes, bags, etc.  Unless you use them on a daily basis, they will collect mold and get gross very fast.  I’ve put on a pair of leather shoes and walked right out of the soles.

2.       Car.  Now, there is an exception.  If you love your car, it’s less than 5 years old, paid off, and of an American or Japanese brand, you are probably ok.  You will still pay import taxes on the value that the CR government says it is worth and your shipping and import costs in general.  However, if it is a much older car, you will have higher taxes to pay or might not be allowed to bring it in at all.  If it is a European brand, you will have a hard time finding good mechanics and access to parts.  Yes, cars are way more expensive here, but I calculated on buying a 1-year old car at a good price, paying for the shipping, paying for the import taxes (54% on the value that CR values it at, not at the price you bought it), and the hassle, and I MIGHT have saved $500 over just buying the same car here, so it wasn’t worth it for me.

3.       Printers.  I brought a printer new from the States, thinking I would save money and then found out that the cartridges for same printer which is sold here, are configured or programmed differently and weren’t recognized by my printer.   I then spent the next two years buying the cartridges in the States and having people bring them down to me.  Then I finally realized I could buy a new printer here cheaper than doing that.

4.       Furniture.  In general, you can find most furniture here.  From used pieces to find hand-crafted wooden pieces in Sarchi, it usually isn’t worth the cost and hassle of bringing it down.  And most nice rentals are furnished, so then you have to find a place to put the furniture.  Also, many houses are sold furnished or with the furniture negotiable.

5.       Most of your clothing.  Leave or give away your suits and heavy coats.  I brought all of my suits down only to discover, I would never wear them again and the mold and moths finally wore them out.  If you go back to visit family in the winter, leave a couple of coats with them for your trips back.  Do bring clothes that you might have a tough time getting the fit you are used to here such as jeans or bathing suits.  I have a hard time finding jeans that give me the space I am used to (read as non-skinny, tight ones) and bathing suits that cover a little more of my behind.  It’s just not the style I am accustomed to.

6.       Food.  Bringing a few snacks (I have to bring Ranch dressing packets every time) is good and if they confiscate them, you aren’t out a lot of money.  But, the customs agents vary from day to day and sometimes, they are in a bad mood and will make you throw out anything at all related to food.  I was told tea bags are illegal to bring in and had to toss them.  Fruits and anything not sealed is definitely a no-no.

 Definitely Bring:

1.       Laptop.  As long as the airlines still allows you to bring it, pack it in your carry-on.  Laptops are twice the cost here.

2.       Your memories. Photos, etc you will want with you.  I rented a storage facility in the States for awhile and first it flooded which destroyed many things and then it was broken into and the “valuables” like my wedding photos were stolen. Who wants someone else’s wedding photos, I have no idea but bring those things with you or be able to leave them in a truly safe place.

3.       Documents.  Bring all documents you think you might or might not need:  birth certificates, bank account numbers, marriage and divorce certificates, etc. If you are applying for residency, you will need originals stamped by the authorities and you can bring them when you come. 

4.       Small electronics or kitchen appliances that you use frequently.  Don’t bring down the waffle iron if you only have used it once in the past 5 years.  However, if you do make waffles daily, bring it because it will cost 2-3 times as much here.

5.       Sunblock.  Although you can find sunblock, you won’t have as many choices and will pay around $30/bottle here, so bring it with you.  Lotions in general fall into this category.  They are expensive and you should stock up.

6.  Prescriptions.  If you are on prescription medicine, bring enough with you to last for a while.  There are many medicines that have equivalents here, but you may have something that is not readily available.  Extra sets of eye contacts and any solutions for those that you need should also be brought with you.

7.       Patience and a good sense of humor.  You will need it, especially as you adapt to the “Pura Vida” lifestyle.

Once upon a time, my list of things to bring would have been larger.  It used to be very difficult to get fluffy towels and nice sheets at a reasonable price. But with the opening of Walmart (as much as we claim to hate it, sometimes you just have to go), I just found really nice, fluffy towels for $8 each, so not too bad.

Something else to consider…leave someone you trust with the authority to access your bank accounts or who has a power of attorney to handle emergencies or things back home.  Even though most things can be done on-line, bank transfers will need a signature in person and it’s way easier to have someone there do it for you. 

I hope this list helps and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.  I will be glad to give you my opinion.

Tina Newton is co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate in Atenas, Costa Rica and has lived there for 18 years, raising two children and a grandbaby.  She is always available for consultations, whether in buying a new home or just general questions.  You can contact her by email, through Facebook, or through the website.

A Utopia in Costa Rica

Have you ever dreamed of living in a sustainable neighborhood with organic permaculture gardens in which the community shares the harvest each week?  20160223_092533 (Copy)

Being able to practice yoga with your neighbors on an open-air platform with a view of nature in every direction and swim in a large shared saltwater pool? 20160223_092839 (Copy)

Having the perfect combination of being one with nature and yet with the ease of modern living?  MLW-triskel-2616 (Copy)

What if we threw in an alternative school of international recognition?   Casa Sula, was created and maintained by this community, and is the only alternative school of its kind in Costa Rica.  Imagine learning where children absorb materials through experiences and let their desire to learn guide them in their studies.

If this is something you have always wanted, then the community of La Ecovilla is for you.  There are currently five homes for sale in this unique and amazing international community and you can be as elegant or as “close to nature” as you would like to be.  All ranges are to be found. 

1)      Metamorphosis.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a home that was designed in the shape of a butterfly?  This three bedroom home with an office has an incredible view, a jacuzzi on the balcony, and a guest home on the side.  You feel such peace that you will never want to leave.

2)      Triskel.  Open to nature. Who says you have to live within four walls?  This 6 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom home has the main living area open to nature which can only be done in the perfect weather of Costa Rica.  Four of the bedrooms have private entrances as well so they are perfect for a B&B in a free spirit living style.

3)     The New Moon.  Stone elegance.  The use of nature through stonework and natural woods bring an elegance which blends in with the nature around.  Three bedroom, 2 bath home in the shape of a new moon.

4)      Luxury living.  All of the luxuries of life were combined with the ecofriendly environment of this community.  Three bedrooms with exquisite bathrooms, plus an office and oversized garage.

5)      Low maintenance and high tech.  This home uses technology to provide comfort for its human inhabitants while being very friendly to the environment.  Solar electricity, special wall structure to keep everything cool, and a flooring which is above ground to allow air flow and keep the home flexible.

Having lived in Costa Rica for 18 years, I have never seen community living combined with environmental awareness and human comfort so perfectly intertwined.  Located only 30 minutes from Atenas, 30 minutes to the beach, and 20 minutes to the new international airport that is being built, it is conveniently located to everything and yet, you would never need to leave if you didn’t want to.  Forty homes make up this very special place that is only awaiting your participation.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in the States and has lived in Costa Rica for over 18 years.  She is co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate with her business partner Cecilia Tristan who has been a broker in Costa Rica for 40 years and is an attorney and notary public with the firm Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan.  They are always available to answer your questions on real estate and life in Costa Rica in general.  Relocation is their specialty with everything under one roof.  Check out the website, Facebook page, or send them an email.

A special thanks to the professional photographers who took the photos for the owners of these beautiful homes.

Raising a Family in Costa Rica

After living 18 years in Costa Rica and raising a family here, would I do it again?  You bet. 

We live in the small central valley town of Atenas, and like many small towns around the world, everyone is somehow connected to each other and is keenly aware of what everyone else is doing. So when word got out that a red-haired gringa and her Tico husband had moved to town, we were warmly welcomed by everyone and immediately became family.

They opened their homes and hearts to us like a long-lost relatives, even though I didn’t speak a word of Spanish!  I grew up in the small town, Perry, Oklahoma, so this kindness and hospitality felt very familiar, and ultimately helped me avoid ever feeling homesick.

Costa Rica is a country that is very focused on children and families, so pregnant women are treated like goddesses. They get to move to the front of the line at the bank, are offered help with everything, and are relentlessly given advice. I became pregnant shortly after our arrival in Costa Rica, and having come from a 1st world country, and being in my 20’s, I ignored a majority of that advice. I would later discover that much of what I’d been told was accurate and could have really helped me through that time. That’s when I began listening instead of assuming I knew everything. 

I had both of my children in private hospitals at about ¼ of the price of hospitals in the U.S., and the care was fabulous.  I hit the button to ask for a pain killer after my daughter was born, and before I could even think about how I should ask for it in Spanish, the nurse was there offering exactly what I needed.  The nurses immediately assisted me with breastfeeding and when needed, took the baby away for a while so I could get some sleep. Both children slept right beside me at night in their little hospital cribs, and a bed was also provided for my husband! I can’t imagine how my experience could have been any better. 

Costa Ricans really love babies.  My daughter was only 2 weeks old when I had to attend a funeral and a lady came up and took her right out of my arms.  I froze and was ready to panic when the lady next to me, said, “No worries, she is a nurse and is allowing you to have some time in your mourning.”  Waiters would often take my baby and walk around with him/her until I finished eating. Initially, I was a little apprehensive about this, but when I saw how they adoringly held my little munchkin and showed him/her off to the other employees, who would exclaim, “Preciosa!” and “Que guapo!” I knew I had nothing to worry about, and I really appreciated the break!

Children of citizens of other countries who are born in Costa Rica, are granted dual citizenship.  This has helped our children as they’ve travelled around the world, because they can choose which passport to use when they travel, each one with its own benefits. 

Not only are my children bilingual, they are also bi-cultural. They are fully immersed in the Tico (Costa Rican) culture, but being raised by a mom from the U.S., they’ve also inherited lot of their mother’s gringo-isms.  Having a Costa Rican father and family on that side, they eat their share of rice and beans, but get a more international cuisine at my house. 

Costa Rica is a country that is very we” oriented. Ticos (Costa Ricans) are more concerned with the common good, rather than the desires of the individual. One of the first times I witnessed this all-inclusive attitude in our children, was when our five years old daughter stopped in front of the candy section at the checkout counter, staring at all the colorful options. After examining the selection she asked, Mom, can I have five candies?  Baffled, I asked her why she needed five, and she said, So I can give one to each of my friends.”  I don’t think I could have bought them any faster. 

Our son also shares this generous attitude, and instead of selling the soccer cleats he regularly outgrows to help pay for his next pair, he insists on giving them to kids in town who need them.

Our kids don’t understand consumerism. When we visit the U.S., they’re shocked at the the more, more, more attitude and just shake their heads.  However, my son really would have 10 pairs of shoes if I let him, so I suppose a few things truly are genetic!

As I mentioned, the small town we live in is very much like an extended family. I was reminded of this as I led a cultural activity in the central park, and I heard (in Spanish), Matthew, get down out of that tree!”  This might have upset some parents, but all I could think of was how incredible it was to have a whole town watching out for my kids.

When my daughter turned 12 and wanted to hang out with her girlfriends on her own, I knew I didn’t have to worry because they were eating ice cream at the local shop where the owner would keep an eye on them.  I have eyes in every corner of this town.  My kids know that their mom really does know everything they do, and I think that is incredibly cool!

Many people who move to Costa Rica decide to homeschool. In my opinion, I think those people are completely missing the point of raising children in another culture.  Why take children to another country if they aren’t going to play with the locals or learn the language?  But I suppose everyone has their reasons.

I did choose private schools over public schools. Public schools in Costa Rica provide a good education, but children are often sent home if the teacher is out for the day, and as a working mom, that just didn’t work for me. 

My daughter is now in her last year of high school and she is currently taking Physics, Biology, and Chemistry in the same year.  I wouldn’t have been able to take all three sciences at the same time when I was in high school, so yes, I feel the education my children are receiving is excellent. 

Next year, she’ll hopefully get accepted at one of Costa Rica’s five National (public) Universities. Her tuition at the National Universities will be…..yes, wait for it……$300/semester, and that’s without the many scholarships that are available to students! 

The National Universities outrank the country’s private universities in academic rating, because they are so selective about their incoming students. The private universities were established for students who could afford college, but didn’t have the grades to be accepted into a National University.  My fingers are crossed that she will score high enough on her exams to be accepted at a public university next year.

The temperate year-round weather means my kids spend most of their time outside. I often have to ask my son to sit down and play video games for a moment, because his running in and out can drive me crazy! 

He would rather be out playing soccer than doing anything else in the world and my daughter loves to swim. I’m not saying they don’t chat with their friends (that would mean they weren’t teenagers) but they love to be outside. When we’ve visited the U.S. in the winter, they’ve been shocked that the sun could be shining so beautifully and yet it be too cold to get out and enjoy it. They can’t imagine being stuck indoors for days at a time.

One of the downsides being here is that there aren’t many options for organized activities outside of school in this small town.  Fortunately, my son loves soccer, and soccer, karate, swimming, and volleyball are all offered here in Atenas.  However, if someone really wanted their kids to play baseball or other sports, they can be found in the bigger neighboring towns, it would just take a little more work logistically.

Costa Rica isn’t like the U.S. where kids can be involved in four or more after-school activities each week, but maybe that is a good thing.  Enjoying a little free time is part of “Pura Vida”.

Are they missing out on anything else?  I don’t think so. 

Do they have fun?  Yes. 

Are they safe?  Yes. 

Do they have good doctors?  Yes. 

Do they have friends?  Yes. 

Do they have every fast food restaurant?  No, but they can go for homemade food ready at any soda” or small café and get rice, beans, and meat, or hand-made empanadas.  Do they have everything they need in life?  I think so.

When we moved to Costa Rica, we said we would take it two years at a time and see what we thought.  After 18 years, running a community center, having two kids, getting divorced, remarried, and starting  my own business as a real estate agent in Atenas, I can’t imagine raising my kids anywhere else. 

At 17 and 13, my kids have had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world. I think growing up in Costa Rica, and having travelled around the globe, has made them empathetic, confident, and optimistic global citizens who would be capable of handling almost any situation, and could be content on any continent. 

Being a parent in any country gives you an insight into the culture that you just would never get as a childless adult. You plan field trips, class parties and go to games with other parents. You watch each other’s kids and get to know everyone’s extended family. All of these things give you common ground with the locals. Living in Costa Rica has not only been a great experience for my children, but for me as well. 

I may still be the crazy gringa, but I am also a mother and in Costa Rica, that makes me family.

Tina Newton is a real estate agent and co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate.  She is an entrepreneur and community leader in Atenas.  She was asked to write this article for a new blog page called Penny’s Pura Vida and will be posting more articles in the future.  You can check it out at http://pennyspuravida.com/raising-children-costa-rica/ .  See the FB page or email Tina with any questions you have about real estate in Costa Rica, living in Costa Rica, or helping with activities such as the Swim Campaign for Atenas, the Angel Tree, the Chili Cookoff, or the Chamber of Tourism of Atenas.

How do you find a GOOD Realtor in Costa Rica?

A good realtor will find you exactly what you want for the price you want or help you determine if your wants are completely out of check with reality.  A good realtor will help you negotiate the deal and make sure that the property is completely legitimate.  A good realtor will help you with advice on good , dependable people you will need to make your home buying complete—a great lawyer, architects, builders, or repair people.  So, you know that you NEED a Realtor in Costa Rica, but obviously you don’t want someone who will cheat you or rip you off.  So, how do you find a GOOD realtor in Costa Rica?  Ask around.  Ask the potential agents directly.  Do your homework.

1.       Start by checking to see if they are with the Chamber of Real Estate (www.camara.cr).  The Chamber offers classes to its members and helps to legitimize the crazy number of people running around claiming to be real estate agents.  A serious business and agent will be registered.

2.       Experience.  What kind of experience does the agent have?  What kind of training have they had, either in Costa Rica or in another country? 

3.       Knowledge.  The agent needs to have knowledge of the market to be able to give you advice on prices and areas to buy and sell.  He/she also needs to have knowledge of issues in the area, such as water or electricity and knowledge of the people in the field that you will need to depend on in the future.  In addition, the agent needs to know how to read plot maps, registry papers, and understand the basics of the laws related to real estate.  Even though a lawyer will handle the actual transfer, your real estate agent will be your front line person helping you sort through properties before you get to the point of putting in an offer and going through a lawyer.

4.       Paperwork.  The agent cannot be someone who does everything on someone’s word or a handshake.  I have seen so many deals fall through because there was an oral agreement and a couple of weeks later the seller reconsiders the amount they had negotiated and wants a higher price.  Everything from an initial offer to the contract should be done in writing with signatures from both sides and the property properly defined.  Everything from closing costs to furniture that stays should be listed.  Having everything very clear up front will reduce confusions and anger later.

5.       Dedication.  The agent should be a full-time agent who deals in the market every day, not someone who does it on the side or is really just an intermediary, meaning they hear of a property and do a matchmaking deal without investigating the property.  In addition to dedication to the job, the agent should be dedicated to you whether you are selling or buying a property.  You need someone who is constantly looking for the buyer or seller for your home.

6.       Works with other realtors.  The agent should be someone who doesn’t focus on receiving the most commission possible by showing only homes they personally have listed.  If you are a buyer, you want someone who is checking for sale by owners and with other agents to see if they might have listed the perfect home for you rather than forcing you to accept one of their own listings.

7.       Access to homes.  The agent should be someone who can search online for your home, but also have the local connections to be able to investigate among the locals to have the widest search option available.

8.       Creativity.  The agent should have both the knowledge on how to make a deal work but also the creativity to investigate new options.   There could be an option for a swap or owner financing that hadn’t been considered.  If the owner really wants to sell, and the buyer really wants to buy the property, then there should be a way to make it work.

9.       THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL—TRUST.  You must be able to trust your agent.  The name of the company doesn’t really matter in the world of real estate where agents are independent.  The name of the person does.  So, search for recommendations.  Get recommendations from people who know the agent, both as an agent and as a person in the community.  The agent must be respected and known to be honest.  In this way, you can not only trust the agent for your purchase, but can also trust the agent to give you good recommendations for other professionals that you will need.

Interview potential agents.  Talk to them and ask them all kinds of questions.  If the agent doesn’t like being interviewed, then trust may be an issue.  The agent should be glad to show you how dedicated and worthy he/she is of your time.  Because your time is valuable.  You are important.   And you should only have the best.

Tina Newton was a licensed Realtor in the States and has lived in Costa Rica for 18 years.  She is co-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate with her business partner Cecilia Tristan who has been a broker in Costa Rica for 40 years and is an attorney and notary public with the firm Gomez, Tristan, & Tristan.  They are always available to answer your questions on real estate and life in Costa Rica in general.  Relocation is their specialty with everything under one roof.  Check out the website, Facebook page, or send them an email.