Preparing for your move to Costa Rica
Okay, now you’ve had an offer on your house for sale and, if you accept, you will soon be faced with the prospect of nowhere to live. Pre-plan all you want, but it can still happen that you now are in a thirty-day escrow and in a month you’ll be out on your ear and homeless.
It is possible that this unpleasant situation can be avoided or, at least, made somewhat less traumatic. Try your best during the counteroffer process to negotiate renting your house back after closing for 60 or even 90 days. Otherwise, fight for as long an escrow as possible. From our experience, you will need all the time you can manage to negotiate from the accepted offer on your home to the day you move out. You may or may not be able to benefit from being in the driver’s seat on negotiations in a seller’s housing market once again. So, don’t necessarily count on it.
Once you have accepted an offer, there is an awful lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Be prepared, it can, and probably will, be the most stressful part of the entire process of moving down to Costa Rica. To make your transition as stress free as you can, anticipate what you’ll need to accomplish as soon as you accept an offer on your house and get a jump on them in advance. A list and brief descriptions of some of those things follows.
Put together a list of email addresses, postal addresses and phone numbers of friends and relatives back home. Put together a similar list of all of your utility accounts, financial accounts, airlines, any other businesses, and memberships back home that includes any related account numbers and company contacts and phone numbers. Bookmark important websites on your computer, iPad or Smartphone.
Unless you have only a few accounts that require username and password or have a photographic memory, you may want to create a reference page or file of all of those accounts. This last suggestion creates a certain degree risk. So, if you do one, keep in as safe a place as possible. Once you start packing or have moved to Costa Rica, most of your normal organization processes will have been dismantled or disrupted. You need to have this information and keep it in a readily accessible place.
Cancellations and changes of address
Make a list of all of your accounts and note whether you’ll be cancelling that account or changing your legal address. Timing of executing a cancellation and address change here is important. Too soon and your mail probably is headed away from your eyes and too late and lots of mail will get forwarded to your new mailing address for longer than is advisable. Remember, a legal U.S. address is required to maintain active financial-related accounts (i.e. banks, brokerages or credit cards).
Getting regular mail in Costa Rica is difficult. Getting mail forwarded from a legal U.S. address to Costa Rica adds another layer of complexity. My strong advice, go paperless whenever and wherever it is possible. This won’t eliminate your mail issues, but it will minimize them. I will spend more time on mail issues and solutions in a later blog.
Finding a mover-broker
Critically important is finding an international mover-broker that specializes in getting North Americans to Costa Rica. Research them on the web, interview them by phone or email, request references, and get comfortable enough with, at least, two to get quotes. I will cover this topic in detail in next-week’s blog.
Finding and engaging Costa Rican attorneys
You will probably need two lawyers in your move and getting settled in Costa Rica. One will be an immigration lawyer that will take charge of getting you your legal residency in Costa Rica.
At the moment, this process is taking seven months or longer and costs, at least, $1,200 plus expenses. Those expenses include (but are not limited to): an escrow deposit for a return flight to your home country if you ever get deported, apostille document expenses, photographs, fees for registration with your embassy, and proof of income fees. You’ll need to get started before your leave home. Get referrals and engage an attorney before you leave. You’ll probably need to wire a deposit of half of the basic fee while you are getting documents ready for filing for residency.
Once you arrive, you will probably need the use of a general or domestic attorney for any number of basic legal documents and assistance. We have used our general attorney to help us get a cell phone account, keep some of our important documents safely stored, for review and interpretation of legal documents for car purchase, insurance and home purchase, incorporation, help with getting our bank account, and as our escrow officer in our house purchase.
Again, get referrals once you are here from folks who have been there and done that ahead of you. Most lawyers are honest, but as in the States their skills and abilities vary widely. It will help greatly to find a lawyer that has a command of English.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.