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Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estate?

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estateBefore you purchase Costa Rica real estate, you first want to look at the zoning. Most municipalities in the Central Valley now have a zoning plan. And they are all different. The other day, I listed a property where one part was located in Santa Ana and the other part in Mora (Ciudad Colon).

Escazu, where I live and where our office is located, has its own zoning plan, with quite a few regulations. That’s why I am using Escazu zoning as a sample. So you will know what zoning is all about.

When you purchase a property in Costa Rica, you want to know what your neighbors will look like in a few years. Can they build a supermarket next door? Maybe they’ll allow a 15 story building right next door? That is what this blog is all about.

I remember the times we had cows and horses in the streets of Escazu, which was in the 1980s. In those days, you could build anything in real estate in Escazu you felt like. Fortunately, those days are long gone now.

Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estate

There were no controls at all and few requested building permits. The 2006 real estate boom changed all that when 7 story condos were built with hardly any controls at all. Due to the seismic code, those 7 floors were more or less the only thing the engineering department of the city of Escazu controlled.

Meanwhile, not only Escazu traffic has gotten worse. It is the same thing throughout the Central Valley. When I grew up, we had only 1 car at home. My Escazu neighbor’s family has 6 cars now. The Municipality of Escazu has always been a little slow on things but in the last 2 years, things have accelerated.

Modern society

Costa Rica is not that 3rd world country that I moved to in 1980 anymore. Escazu has turned urban. Construction is happening everywhere.

Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estate

There are no more cows in the streets of Escazu, only cars. Santa Ana is not that cute little town anymore. Urban growth is also moving to Ciudad Colon, Atenas, and Grecia. On the east side of San Jose, Curridabat is moving into Tres Ríos now, and Cartago is growing like crazy.

Things are not being done with just stupid bureaucracy anymore and the “mañana – mañana” we used to get for an answer. I hear the excuse “this is Costa Rica” less and less. That used to be the defense for the usual mediocrity.

But, the day that traffic noise is a crime, they’ll make me a happy camper!

Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estate

The Municipality of Escazu

The Escazu municipality’s website, in Spanish, is incredibly well organized now. They also have a great Facebook page. They have a phone directory where you can actually see who you are talking to, with email addresses and all, no more hiding for the incapable and lazy city workers who have always hidden behind animosity. We had to put in a complaint for a client whose neighbor decided to rent his garage to someone starting a car repair shop and we found we could just do it by phone. Costa Rica is changing and Escazu is one of the first of getting organized.

Escazu real estate zoning

Escazu real estate zoning is now a big thing, and it was about time. Maybe it is not too late. There is a real zoning plan in Escazu, with maps that tell you what, how much and where, and what size of home.

There is a zoning map and a map on threats like fault lines and others. When a river or a creek borders the property or is on the property, there are setbacks you need to know about.

Buildings of more than 3 stories are not allowed in most areas anymore, I can find only 3 small areas left for construction any higher than that.

Escazu commercial construction is only allowed on main streets (marked in red) and around the Multiplaza shopping mall. Offices in residential areas are not allowed anymore.

If you are buying land in Escazu, of course, you should call GoDutch Realty to represent you. Nonetheless, you should always request zoning or “uso de suelo” before you purchase.

Why Zoning is so important when you purchase Costa Rica real estate

Building roads

The roads in Escazu are maintained by the city. Except for a few, which are provincial roads (main roads) and managed by Conavi. This always generates problems, because Conavi is always without money. In Escazu, I’ve seen the municipality take care of the maintenance because Conavi doesn’t.

What we call the “old road” that runs from Sabana to Ciudad Colon, also called John F. Kennedy road, is one of those Conavi roads. Our Guachipelin road from the Paco to the highway, where our office is located, is soon be turned from a 2-lane into a 4-lane road. We hope! The new Guachipelin Mas X Menos grocery store next door to my office will open soon.

Yesterday, they started paving the road from the Paco to the cemetery. We have some neighbors who invaded the public street years ago. They stole a couple of meters of public road to build a garage. They might soon have to park their car on the roof of their house!

Sidewalks in Costa Rica are different


The city is starting to oblige the Escazu property owners to build a sidewalk in front of their property. If you don’t build one in front of your property, they will do it for you. Then they will charge you the cost of the sidewalk construction with the annual property tax.

If I were allowed to vote in Costa Rica, I would vote for all these hardworking people who little by little have been able to make Escazu a wonderful city to live in which in turn gives more value to Escazu real estate. I love the new Escazu.

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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. Also, remember GoDutch Realty when talking about your home in Costa Rica to friends and family. We appreciate it.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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