Costa Rica News – This is one of the most often asked questions from people entering Costa Rica to invest. If you are thinking of investing in Costa Rica, hiring a local attorney is an absolute must for you. It does not matter if you are buying a property, setting up a business or just buying a car.
Do not do anything you would not do in your own back yard: Many foreigners come down to Costa Rica believing they can outsmart the system and the locals because it’s considered an “under developed” country. Costa Ricans can give the impression that everything is easy, no problem, pura vida… this happy-go-lucky attitude has led many “gringos” to make costly mistakes. The first thing you will need to do is find a qualified, reputable lawyer. There are a large number Costa Rica attorneys to select from to help navigate the way, make sure to select a company that has years of experience in dealing with the types legal advice you require and also with experience in working with foreigners.
The Legal system in Costa Rica is Napoleonic, not Common Law, so things are handled very differently than in the US or Canada. Because of that, the best place to begin your investment plan is in an attorney’s office.
Do-It-Yourself method – Don’t. You won’t save money in legal fees and you won’t save time.
Consider the legal fees as insurance, because that’s what it is. In Costa Rica, your legal fees will be a fraction of what it will cost to try to fix a problem later. When you make a legal mistake in Costa Rica the problem can sit for years in court process.
How can you find good Costa Rica attorneys? There are far too many poor and mediocre attorneys in Costa Rica and you will be recommended to one every time you turn around. Simply put, your attorney should be a long standing legal firm with a solid reputation. The operative word is “firm” – be wary of small one or two person operations.
Do I need a lawyer when buying Costa Rica real estate? Absolutely! You do not want to just follow the real estate broker’s advice. Real estate brokers are not licensed in Costa Rica, as in the United States and Canada. While many real estate brokers are long standing professionals in well established real estate firms, many of them are just sales people saying anything to get the next sale.
When buying or selling real estate, you will need a broker’s services, but even if your real estate agent is first class, make sure to have your attorney supervising the buying or selling process.
While you want to seek advice from other expats do not blindly put your trust in them. In the past, some of the most successful cons or scams in Costa Rica were orchestrated by North American citizens.
Last word of advice – no matter if you are hearing it from a local or a fellow countryman, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Make sure you hire a reputable, trusted legal firm to handle all your affairs in Costa Rica.
By Terrance Johnson