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Expats Blog

Home ownership

Right on the 60 day mark we met with the vendors in the notary in Chiriqui and bought our house! It was a long process with a lot of unknowns, but we are finally on the other side.

I think one of the things we were most concerned about was getting the money here through wire transfers. Everyone’s bank had made it seem like there might be verification steps, and this seemed like the biggest unknown. We ended up needing to do several transfers from several banks, but at the end of the day every transfer finished inside of a week.

We went back and forth about buying the house inside a corporation. That was the plan at the beginning – but everyone I spoke to said that at the end of the day it really wasn’t going to offer that much protection. Keeping the corporation active would be about $500 a year, and once it was inside the corporation, we could not move it back to my name without selling the house and incurring the taxes. In the end, we opted to just buy the house in my name.

Potential Issues

The main hiccoughs were realizing midway through the process that the house has effectively no water pressure, and a discrepancy in the survey. In the first case, I remember we visited and turned on the tap and my heart sank. Someone said maybe the water wasn’t on fully, but after speaking to a plumber they sadly verified that it was. We visited another day, and things seemed to be working fine and I was relieved we maybe wouldn’t need to buy a tank. After taking possession, however, it is clear that is not an option – the showers have basically a trickle at all times. We spent part of our Sunday at La Casa del Tanque getting quotes, and looking at pump prices at other various stores. It looks like a hideous water tank will be in our future, and they said they can deliver it in the same calendar week.

I had previously fallen in love with, and made an offer on, a house in Costa Rica. That dream unfortunately fell through when we realized the lots had not been severed in agreement with the plano. I kept going back and forth of the idea of whether or not to have a survey. People told me “it says the lot size in the registry!”, and I was ok with that for a while. In the end I caved in, and paid around $300 to have a surveyor come out. Of course, what he came back with was very different from the value in the registry.

We ended up sitting down ourselves that evening, and calculating the total area of the lot from the dimensions described in the registry. Those calculations ended up being more of less in line with what our surveyor said, but is not in accordance with the total area stated in the registry. We talked to a few people, and the consensus seems to be that this will be fixable with time and money. My parents advised me to just continue with the sale. And here we are!

Actual purchase process

The lawyers for us and the sellers basically handled everything. After signing the promise to purchase, not much changed. We just got the money here, and then provided the seller’s with my information to pay the taxes. We met at the notary, signed some papers, put down our fingerprints, and they gave us the keys then and there. We all visited the house together, and then we said our goodbyes. It took a few days for the house to be registered in my name, and then last Monday the seller picked up her check for the remaining balance that was being held by the notary.

I paid the escrow fees to my lawyer, and the notary fees ($100) and fee for registration of the house ($600) and that was it! We have since spent afternoons and weekends discovering thing after thing that needs to be replaced or repaired, and made countless trips to Do It Center or Novey.

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