Once you have decided on relocation to Costa Rica, there a few things you should do first.
Okay, now you’ve had an offer on your house for sale and accepted. You will soon be faced with the prospect of nowhere to live. Pre-plan all you want, but it can still happen that you now are in a thirty-day escrow. In a month you’ll be out on your ear and homeless.
It is possible that this unpleasant situation can be avoided. Or, at least, made somewhat less traumatic. Try your best during the counteroffer process to negotiate to rent your house back after closing for 60 or even 90 days. Otherwise, fight for as long an escrow as possible.
From our experience, you will need all the time after closing you can manage to negotiate. You may or may not be able to benefit from being in the driver’s seat on negotiations. So, don’t necessarily count on it.
Once you have accepted an offer, there is an awful lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. Be prepared. It can, and probably will be the most stressful part of the entire process of your relocation to Costa Rica. Try to make your transition as stress-free as you can.
A 4-step list and brief descriptions might be helpful:
1. Contact lists
Before you relocate to Costa Rica, make a contact list. Put together a list of email addresses, postal addresses, and phone numbers of friends and relatives back home.
Do the same thing with your utility accounts, financial accounts, airlines, businesses, and memberships with account numbers and company contacts and phone numbers. Bookmark important websites on your computer, iPad, or Smartphone.
Create a reference page or file of all of those accounts with everything that requires a username and password. This last suggestion creates a certain degree of risk. So, if you do one, keep in as safe a place as possible.
Once you are ready to relocate to Costa Rica, all your normal organization processes will have been dismantled or disrupted.
2. Cancellations and changes of address
Make a list of all of your accounts and note whether you’ll be canceling that account or changing your legal address. The timing of executing a cancellation and address change here is important. Your mail will get forwarded to your new mailing address too soon if you’re not careful. Remember, a legal U.S. address is required to maintain active financial-related accounts (i.e. banks, brokerages, or credit cards).
Getting regular mail in Costa Rica is difficult. Getting mail forwarded from a legal U.S. address to Costa Rica adds another layer of complexity. My strong advice, go paperless whenever it is possible. This won’t eliminate your mail issues, but it will minimize them.
Critically important is finding an international mover-broker. Find one that specializes in getting North Americans to Costa Rica. Research them on the web, interview them by phone or email. Then request references, and get comfortable enough with, at least, two to get quotes.
4. Costa Rican attorneys
You will probably need two lawyers in your relocation to Costa Rica and getting settled in Costa Rica. One will be an immigration lawyer that will take charge of getting you your legal residency in Costa Rica.
At the moment, this process is taking seven months or longer and costs, at least, $1,200 plus expenses (in 2013).
Those expenses include (but are not limited to):
- Escrow deposit for a return flight to your home country if you ever get deported, Apostille document expenses,
- Fees for registration with your embassy,
- Proof of income fees.
You’ll need to get started before your leave home. Get referrals and engage an attorney before you leave. You’ll probably need to wire a deposit of half of the basic fee while you are getting documents ready for filing for residency.
Once you arrive, you will probably need the use of a general or domestic attorney for any number of basic legal documents and assistance. We have used our attorney for getting
- Cell phone account,
- Important document storage,
- Review and interpretation of legal documents for car purchase,
- Insurance and home purchase,
- Setting up a bank account,
- and escrow in our house purchase.
Again, get referrals once you are here from folks who have been there. Most lawyers are honest, but as in the States, their skills and abilities vary widely. It will help greatly to find a lawyer that has a command of English.
Keep always in mind that although relocation sounds like an adventure, it’s definitely not for everyone.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. Here, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.
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I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. Also, please remember the GoDutch Realty agents when you talk about your home in Costa Rica, we appreciate it.