This two-level home, completed in 2014, is in a gated development in Nuevo Arenal, a small town on the north shore of Lake Arenal in the northern highlands of Costa Rica. Built of concrete and steel on just under a half-acre, the 3,000-square-foot house has extensive views of the 33-square-mile lake and the Tilarán mountain range.
The main one-bedroom home occupies the top floor. Two private guest suites are on the lower level, along with a shared common area that could be used as a den or rec room, said Trent Deushane, an owner of Team Realty, in Nuevo Arenal. His business partner, Javier Ruiz, was the architect for the house, which is being sold furnished.
The attached two-car garage provides entry, as does the arched doorway at the main entrance, which opens into a large foyer with a powder room. The L-shape living area is open, with a back wall of windows and glass doors that open onto a terrace. The great room has a large fireplace and looks out over a saltwater pool. The adjoining dining area is also open to the kitchen, which has granite counters, a center island, two granite sinks and travertine stone floors. A pantry provides a second refrigerator and additional storage.
The master suite has two walk-in closets, a laundry room and a bath with a tub, a shower, an enclosed toilet and double sinks. A door leads outside to a private garden shower.
The deep covered veranda across the back of the house has beamed Spanish cedar ceilings, ceiling fans and floors made of coralina, a fossilized stone from the Dominican Republic.
The guest suites on the lower level have separate entrances, making them particularly suitable for long-term stays, Mr. Deushane said. Each has a bedroom, a full bath, a kitchenette and a covered veranda, along with access to a second laundry room.
The pool has an infinity-edge waterfall that drops down to the guest level. The flow can be turned up or down through a pumping system.
The gated development has 35 lots in all; 12 are still available, at prices ranging from $35,000 to $110,000, according to Mr. Deushane. All utilities are underground.
Development along the shoreline is restricted, so Lake Arenal is very clean and quiet. (It was dramatically expanded in the 1970s to allow for a hydroelectric dam that continues to supply electricity.) A park in central Nuevo Arenal — a three-minute drive — provides lake access and has a legal boat ramp. The shoreline tends to be muddy, so people often go out in a boat to swim, Mr. Deushane said.
There are no fuel docks on the lake, and boating activity largely consists of fishermen and kayakers, said Robert Lux, an owner of Moran Real Estate, in Nuevo Arenal. The windy west end of the lake is known for windsurfing and kite-surfing.
The town has grocery stores, pharmacies, shops, a clinic and several highly regarded restaurants, including the Gingerbread, which is also a small hotel; it is known for the big personality of its Israeli chef, Eyal Ben-Menachem, as well as for its fresh local fare.
The area shares its name with the Arenal Volcano, an active stratovolcano that, while in a passive phase since around 2010, continues to be a highly popular tourist attraction. About a 45-minute drive from Nuevo Arenal, the volcano is within a 30,000-acre national park with a viewing observatory and hiking trails. The tourist town of La Fortuna at its base has multiple commercial hot springs facilities.
The closest international airport is in Liberia, roughly a 90-minute drive. But the airport in San José, which is twice as far, tends to have cheaper flight options, so some residents choose to go there, Mr. Deushane said.
While the housing market in the lake area has improved this year after a long, recession-induced slump, it’s still “a tremendous buyer’s market,” Mr. Lux said. “There’s a lot of real estate for sale.”
Costa Rica does not have a multiple listing service, so sales volume and price data are not easily tracked.
Prices in the lake area tend to be more moderate than in the popular beach towns along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. American-style homes start at around $160,000, Mr. Lux said. The handful of properties priced at or over $1 million front the lake.
Foreign buyers commonly spend between $250,000 and $400,000 for a two- or three-bedroom home in a gated development.
“People rarely buy over $500,000 here,” Mr. Lux said. “Most of them are retirees. They’ve sold homes in the States and don’t want to invest that much in a foreign country.”
WHO BUYS IN NUEVO ARENAL
Nuevo Arenal is increasingly popular with retirees from the United States and Canada. The climate is pleasant, without the very high temperatures found in some other parts of the country, and the cost of living is lower than in the beach towns, partly because homes do not have to be air-conditioned, Mr. Lux said. What’s more, he added, “We don’t get hurricanes. We do get a lot of rain, but no flooding.”
He estimated that 20 percent of the population in the broader lake area comes from the United States, Canada, France, Germany and Belgium.
Foreigners may apply for residency, which allows them to come and go more easily, and to receive government health benefits. In order to qualify, applicants must meet one of three requirements: have at least $200,000 invested in Costa Rican real estate, be receiving at least $1,000 a month in Social Security benefits, or be willing to deposit $60,000 in a Costa Rican financial institution, according to Gonzalo Viquez Jr., a real estate lawyer in San José. The approval process usually takes six to 18 months, he said.
There are no restrictions on foreign buyers in Costa Rica, Mr. Viquez said. “But I always tell my clients, don’t leave your brain in the plane,” he added. “Do your due diligence.” In particular, he said, buyers should make sure that a title search is done to check for any liens or encumbrances, and that the property is walked by a surveyor to confirm boundary lines.
Buyers should hire their own notary — in Costa Rica, all notaries are lawyers — rather than use the one who represents the seller. Legal fees are typically around 1.25 percent of the purchase price, Mr. Viquez said.
Foreign buyers often form a corporation to purchase property, partly because it makes transfers easier. “That way, it won’t get stuck in a probate procedure if something were to happen,” he said.
Most buyers pay cash; Mr. Viquez recommends having funds wired to an escrow company. Mortgages are not easy to obtain, and interest rates are high compared to those in the United States. However, these days more sellers are offering their own short-term financing, usually for periods of one to five years, he said.
Costa Rica tourism site: visitcostarica.com
Arenal Volcano tourism site: arenal.net
LANGUAGES AND CURRENCY
Spanish; colón ($1 = 550 colón). The United States dollar is widely accepted.
TAXES AND FEES
Buyers pay government transfer fees of about 2.4 percent of the purchase price or the appraisal, whichever is higher, Mr. Viquez said. These fees are often split between buyer and seller.
Property taxes are extremely low, at 0.25 percent of the declared value of the property, which is based on land and construction costs, not the appraised value, Mr. Deushane said. The annual taxes on this property are between $900 and $1,000. Homeowner association fees are $50 a month.
(The New York Times)