Buying Real Estate
Most properties in Costa Rica are registered in a computer system called “Folio Real.” This system is centralized at the offices of the Public Registry in San José. Before buying land, or even before seriously considering an offer to buy land, a title search in Folio Real should be performed. Such a title search will show all data on the property, including area, ownership, boundaries, location, mortgages and other liens.
A few properties have not yet been incorporated to the “Folio Real” system. These properties are still registered in special books kept in the Public Register and may also be accurately title searched in the Public Registry.
When considering buying land, the first question to be asked is if you are being offered ownership rights (“derecho de propiedad”) or occupation rights (“derechos de ocupación”). In the case of occupation rights, you would be dealing with land that has not been registered, cannot be title-searched and must go through a long process in order to be registered. Ownership rights, on the other hand, are registered and are equal to the concept of land ownership in the United States or Canada.
Another situation one may encounter regarding land, especially in in relation to beaches, is the concession. In this case, the government gives a private party the right to use the land for a specific period of time. In general terms, the concession may be considered similar to a lease. The concessions registration system is different than the one for regular land, and has particular requirements regarding zoning, terms, and occupation.
Before buying, making an offer or even before seriously considering a piece of land, enquire about its status and perform a title search. These simple steps could save you a lot of money and effort, and will definitely make your Costa Rican investment worthwhile.
The following guide is a detailed description of the real estate system in Costa Rica and the purchasing process. We recommend you review this to fully understand your property rights as well as the legal requirements from the moment you’re ready to place an offer on a property to after closing.