Have you found a property in Costa Rica that you are seriously interested in purchasing and are looking for answers about what the normal step-by-step real estate purchase process is in the country? Take the mystery out of the process and buy your property in Costa Rica with confidence with help from our team. In this article, we will walk you through what to expect while providing you with recommendations and resources that will help you acquire the property safely and securely.

Topics Covered:

  1. Making an Offer
  2. Finding Qualified Legal Representation
  3. Setting Up an Escrow Account
  4. Ensuring Clear Title and the Due Dilligence Period
  5. Transfer of Property Title
  6. Closing Costs
  7. Registration of the Transfer Deed
  8. Use an Experienced and Reliable Real Estate Advisor


After you have found your property of in interest, the first step in the purchase process is to make an offer with the seller. With your CRRES consultant’s help, we will draft a Letter of Intent to purchase (also known as an L.O.I. or purchase proposal).

With your offer in writing, this will enable us to begin legitimate negotiations with the property seller (directly or with their representative) to reach a basic agreement in principle.

The negotiations will consist of:

  • Total Purchase Price of the Property
  • Terms of Sale: the payment structure and closing dates.
  • Due Diligence Period: the length of time for the buyer to research the property. There can be many issues that arise during the Due Dilligence Period and it is vital that you use an experienced real estate advisor who actually knows what to expect and how to oversee this process along the way. If your real estate agent can not speak Spanish and/or has been in Costa Rica only for a short amount of time, be careful because they no more than you do.
  • Special Conditions: any specific requirements or changes to the property for the purchase to be finalized. Examples could be home improvements/repairs, monetary hold-back for legal water source, etc.

After a deal has been mutually agreed upon, and the purchase proposal is signed by both buyer and seller (before getting attorneys involved), the terms must be legally formalized. The signed “offer” indicates serious intent between both the buyer and seller and provides a proper outline for the legal representatives to proceed.


Finding a qualified lawyer to handle real estate transactions in Costa Rica can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. The Costa Rican government has yet to institute a Bar Exam or implement serious regulatory rules, penalties, or repercussions for “malpractice” by attorneys. This enables any Costa Rican attorney to practice outside of their chosen field of expertise without serious consequences.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you select legal representation with an established track record of working specifically in the Real Estate industry and that they be fully vetted by yourself and/or referred by someone you trust.

If needed, our consultants will assist you in finding your attorney. We have developed relationships with several qualified attorneys with reasonable rates and years of dependable and ethical service working with our firm. We do not have any financial interests with the attorneys we refer.

All of the attorneys we recommend to our clients simply have provided good results for them time after time. Interview as many of our referrals as you like until you find one that you are comfortable working with. Your attorney’s sole motivation should be to protect your best interests, and ultimately this critical choice is entirely up to you. In this regard, we will advise you to interview candidates thoroughly and to not cut corners on cost.

You can view our Legal Referrals Here.


After the Purchase Proposal has been signed by both parties, the attorney you have hired will draft a Sale and Purchase Agreement (SPA) to officially and legally secure the property with the agreed upon price, terms, and conditions. Now you will be ready to set up an Escrow account with a company that is mutually agreed upon by the buyer and seller representatives.

The Escrow Company acts as a neutral party to hold deposits as well as closing funds until closing contracts are finalized and signed by both buyer and seller so title transfer can be executed.

In order to set up a Escrow account you will need a copy of your passport, fill out the “Know Your Client” forms, last year’s tax returns and a copy of the Sale and Purchase contract drafted by the closing attorney and signed by both buyer and seller.


Pursuant to article 460 of the Civil Code, all documents relating to an interest and/or title to real property in Costa Rica must be registered in the property section of the Public Registry. This database can be searched at either with the titled registration number, known as the folio real, or by name index.

The record contains detailed information on the property, including the name of the title holder, boundary lines, tax appraisal, liens, mortgages, recorded easements, and other recorded instruments that would affect title. In addition to this resource, it is always advisable to have your attorney conduct an independent title search for further assurance of a property’s marketability.

Our Consultants are here to assist you and or your attorney on any fieldwork you feel is needed for the purchase including: Soil studies, Topographical studies, Title search, structural studies, water studies, etc.


In Costa Rica, property is transferred from seller to buyer by executing a transfer deed (escritura) before a Notary Public. By local standards the notary acts on behalf of the state; in addition, he or she must be an attorney, and may draft and interpret legal documents.

In order to close on the property, the parties involved must select a notary / attorney to draft the transfer deed and register the sale in the Public Registry (Registro Nacional). In accordance with local custom, this designation is defined by the manner in which the financial transaction is affected.

Cash: When paying cash for the property, the buyer may appoint his or her notary / attorney.

Financing: If a percentage of the purchase price is being financed, the designation of the legal representative depends on the proportion between cash and financing. When a large part of the purchase price is being financed by the seller and a mortgage is required to guarantee payment, the seller may request that his or her notary / attorney draft the transfer deed.

If the ratio for the transaction is 50/50, it is common for the seller’s attorney and the buyer attorney to jointly draft the transfer deed and mortgage in a single document, in what is known as co-notariado.

In either case the buyer may insist that his or her notary / attorney draft the transfer deed while letting the seller’s notary / attorney prepare a separate mortgage instrument. In this case, because the mortgage is being drafted separately, it carries a higher registration fee.


It is customary for the buyer and seller to share equally in the closing costs, although this can be modified by agreement depending on the particular transaction.

The costs associated are: government taxes and fees, notary fee, and mortgage costs, if any.

The government imposes a 1.5% Transfer Tax (Impuesto de Traspaso) based on the registered value of the property or the declared valued in the closing documents, (whatever is higher). In additional to this tax, there are 5 more taxes that must be paid in the way of Registration stamps. This amount ranges between 0.7% and 0.8%, also based on the registered value of the property or the declared price in the closing document, (whatever is higher).

The notary that drafted the contract for sale and carried out the closing on the property transfer is entitled to a Statutory Fee. In accordance with Executive Decree No. 32493, the minimum for all acts and contracts that are authorized by a Costa Rican Notary Public is determined by the following schedule, based on the actual value of the transaction:

  • Up to 10 million Colones = 2%. On the excess of 10 Million Colones and up to 15 Million Colones = 1.5%.
  • On the excess of 15 Million Colones and up to 30 Million Colones = 1.25%.
  • On the excess of 30 Million Colones 1%.

The law also states that acts or contracts that are complex in nature may result in a 50% surcharge from the above. This fee is based on the real market value of the property. (For the purposes of this explanation and the aforementioned Decree, this is what is named as the “General Tariff”).

Please be aware that these costs are just for the transfer and ownership registration in the National Registry. If there is a balance due after closing, the registration of a Mortgage, Guarantee Trust or other kind of guarantees may be required, in which case the respective costs must be added. It is standard that the costs for these guarantees are solely paid by the Purchaser, unless parties have expressly agreed something different. If closing takes place by means of a transfer of corporate shares instead of transfer of property ownership, the costs are usually a lot lower.

When a mortgage is required, it is a customary for the person who is receiving financing to pay the costs of drafting and registering said instrument. Either the Mortgage or the Guarantee Trust may be created either in the same transfer of ownership document or in a separate document. However, it is very important to process and register them both together otherwise; one or more of the parties may be unprotected during such process. Therefore, it is very important that the same Notary be processing them.

The cost of a Mortgage is based on the declared amount due and will pay a little bit more of 0.3% of such amount in Registration Stamps. (A form of tax). A Notary Public will also charge for drafting the mortgage instrument according to the General Tariff indicated above. If the Mortgage is to guarantee a loan, the full tariff will be applied. If it is to guarantee the Purchase Price Balance, only 50% of such tariff will apply.


Once all the fees are paid, the notary must present (anotar) and register (inscriber) the transfer deed in the Property Section of the Public Registry. This is a two step process that initially implies the presentation with the Public Registry.

At this stage all fees must be paid and any encumbrances lifted. Once the transfer deed is accepted for registration it will be returned with all the documentary stamps affixed to it and property sealed. Assuming no defects in the transfer deed, it should be registered by the Public Registry within 45 to 60 days after presentation. It is essential to follow up with the Notary to ensure the transfer has in fact been recorded.


Costa Rica Real Estate Service has over 20 years of experience in real estate sales, investing, and property development in Costa Rica. All of our professional real estate advisors are either Costa Rican citizens or American expats with legal residency and many years of life experience in Costa Rica to fall back on. In other words, our consultants have already experienced what it is like to move to a new country, and we intimately know the ins and outs of living in Costa Rica from a unique perspective. Use our experience to your advantage.

The growing real estate market in Costa Rica offers a multitude of options for owning property in a tropical setting. No matter what step of the process you might be in, understanding the procedures involved is the best way to safeguard your investment and ensure its profitability.

Our goal is to give you peace of mind knowing that your hard-earned investment money is safe and secure. We are in the business of developing long-term relationships with each of our clients and the foundation of that strategy begins with the understanding that we are looking out for you.