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(506) 2223-1327              Published Monday, Feb. 1, 2010,  in Vol. 10, No. 21       E-mail us
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Real estate slowly becoming a great investment here
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Lots of people came to Costa Rica during the feeding frenzy in the past decade to invest in property.  Today, many of those that invested are licking their wounds because they jumped into the shark-infested waters unprepared.  Most of them looked at investing here through kaleidoscope eyes.

Projects are not the only thing on hold in Costa Rica.  Many expats lives are on hold too.  They bit off more than they could chew when they invested in this country.   During the days of skyrocketing prices, they did not save their pennies for a rainy day but chased prices up into the stratosphere and paid ridiculous prices for land and buildings.  Some expats bought homes, but many others bought one or more parcels to speculate the market would go up even higher.

Today, everyone knows this was not the case. Now, they know the mania was a signal the market was going to implode as markets do to correct themselves.  The market in Costa Rica is doing just that, correcting itself.  Owners of property today put a price on something for sale hoping for the best.  However, few get their asking price and settle for something less than their expectation. 

Lucky are the people that made small investments.  Some were so intoxicated with the delirium that they coaxed other friends and family to invest with them, and now all those they brought into fold are darn mad.  The leaders of the groups do not know what to do.  They do not know where to hide.  Some even talk about suicide as a way out.

The good news is the Costa Rica market will correct itself.  The bad news is it will take some time.  The peak of the market was probably 2006 and 2007.  The market came to a screeching halt in mid 2008, much in parallel with the United States.  The banks in Costa Rica stopped lending money to developers during that time.  This was another signal of the downturn.

This means the country is only one and a half years into the downturn.  This is no time at all in a real estate down cycle.  Real estate analysts believe property markets run in around 15- to 20-year cycles.  Four to five of the years are in recession or a downturn and the rest slowly creeping up again.  In others words, Costa Rica is probably at the very beginning of its downturn cycle with another three to four years to go before property values start moving up again.

This is not very good news for expats who are trying to sell and worse for those that have invested their entire nest eggs into speculative Costa Rican real estate purchases.  However, it is good news for today's investors.  Real estate markets tend to run from undervalued to overvalued.  Logic suggests that if the country is only at the beginning of its downturn, property today is probably a good value. 

This author believes this to be the case.  Property values in Costa Rica are a good value in this market.  For anyone thinking of Costa Rica as an investment, buying property for the long-term — emphasis on the word long-term — is probably a good idea.

For those wishing to invest, cash is king.  Walking into a negotiation with cash at hand is the best way to buy real estate here.  For all the reason cited above, many expats and Ticos alike need cash and are willing to give a buyer a great
multiple eyes

deal if they have that commodity.

Cash talks, but if an investor has a good amount of currency but not all that is required to buy something, eager sellers will accept a mortgage or a trust to carry back the balance. 

There are many reasons to buy property.   Land is one of the best investments a person can make.  Buying property in Costa Rica in an undervalued market is good for investors for the additional following reasons: Costa Rica is a great place to retire.  The country has great weather and it's close to the United States so retirees are only a quick plane trip away from loved ones.  There are also various direct flights to European hubs as well for retirees from that part of the world.

Yes, there is lots of crime here but there are no missiles flying overhead.  Security can be generally handled in layers.  Gated communities offer the best options in this area.

Medical care is getting better all the time.  The country is slowly building an infrastructure for the graying societies of the world.  The country wants to position itself in the long-term as a retirement haven for retirees.  This is another plus for long-term property values.

Costa Rica is a great place to land bank money.  Land banking is what very wealthy people do to preserve wealth.  Many people from all over the world land bank money here. This country is an exceptional place to do this because it's currently politically stable and it probably will stay that way for the foreseeable future. 

Keeping assets in currency is not a very good idea.  Currency markets are in such a flux these days and there is talk the dollar is going to collapse.  Land banking money is probably a much safer place for it than a real bank since most of them are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Costa Rica appears to be a good place to invest in today but how about all those that have lost their shirts investing in the past during the peak of the last boom real estate market.  What do they do now?  How do they survive?  The answer lies in common financial sense.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer and usually ends in bankruptcy.  Looking hard at and accepting a financial predicament is difficult but may provide unexpected solutions.

Garland M. Baker is a 38-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info, a complimentary reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2010, use without permission prohibited.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 21

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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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High seas along Pacific
trigger emergency alert


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Pacific coast is being hit with the highest tides in the last five years, said the national emergency commission, which declared an alert.

One swimmer already has been swept away by the high seas and is presumed dead.

The Pacific is invading low areas along the coast.  The alert is in effect until Thursday, and the time of the highest tides is computed to be Tuesday about 5:17 p.m.

The Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias said that the seas may be 10 feet or more higher than normal.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said that the condition is general throughout the Pacific. At the Gulf of Papagayo 20-knot winds were reported creating seas about eight feet higher than normal. The center said that the northeast to east winds were likely to increase over the next 24 hours producing seas up to 10 feet higher.

Elsewhere seas were up to 13 feet higher. A cold front is believed to be the source of the strong winds.

Some Pacific sites of concern by officials in Guanacaste are Cuajiniquil, Junquillal, Nosara and Sámara. In the Provincia de Puntarenas, the concerns are for Barrio El Carmen and the coastal area of Puntarenas Centro, Caldera, Playa Azul at the mouth of the Río Grande de Tárcoles, Playa Hermosa, Palo Seco, Playa Bejuco, Isla Damas and Quepos. These are areas that have experienced problems in the past under similar conditions.

The same windy conditions that are creating high seas also will make today nearly cloudless in the northern Pacific and Central Valley, said the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional. Some rain is predicted in the mountains and some clouds in the northern zone and the Caribbean coast where showers also are possible.


More than 150 earthquakes
registered in seven days


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

From Jan. 23 through Friday some 151 earthquakes less than 5.2 magnitude have hit the southern zone of Costa Rica, according to the Obvservatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica. Most were not detectable by humans.

Nearly all of the quakes in this area are a product of the Coco tectonic plate interacting with the microplate or block of Panamá, said the observatory based at Universidad Nacional.

This also is the area where a 6.5 quake took place early Christmas Day 2003. This quake caused some homes to collapse and some public buildings were damaged.

In 2009 the observatory said that a quake in this area March 11 registered 6.3 and the next day a 6.5 quake followed.

The latest quakes in the area were southwest of Laurel de Corredores, and there were no injuries reported.

The most recent quakes were not a product of the collision of plates. Thursday at 1:10 p.m. a 4.6 quake took place a mile east of  Los Angeles de Barva, Heredia, and Sunday at 2:54 p.m. a quake took place a half mile southwest of Roble de Barva de Heredia. That had a magnitude of 4.4.


Sunday drivers jam autopista
for miles before toll booths


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new San José-Caldera highway failed to live up to its promise Sunday when a flood of drivers jammed toll stations and paralyzed traffic.

Some traffic jams were miles long.

The tie ups were attributed to an insufficient number of individuals working at toll booths and the desire of many Costa Ricans to try out the new highway, which was supposed to cut at least 45 minutes off the trip from San José to the Pacific coast.

The contractors, Autopista del Sol S.A., already have been criticized for building a two-lane route with just a third passing lane in some uphill stretches. The project has been in the works for 30 years. The highway was opened for public use Thursday.


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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages
Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching
The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages
A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds
Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information
A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us
Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 21

   
Check out the printed version of the Top Story news feed and see what  you  missed.
Enjoy Incredible Beach Sunsets and  Sunrises. With the Pacific Ocean and the awesome mountain behind.
Elegantly built to your specifications. Delivered and set up at your home in Costa Rica.

Pa. judge lets sex case defendant work as a volunteer here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Pennsylvania judge has given a man charged with having sexual relations with a 15 year old permission to do volunteer work in Costa Rica, according to TribLive.com, the online edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Reporter Rich Cholodofsky wrote that the man, Raymond Novak, 30, faces a mandatory prison term of up to 20 years if convicted. He was a high school swimming coach, and the teen involved was a member of the team, said the online newspaper.

Novak was out on bail awaiting trial and asked Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec for permission to work at an animal shelter in Costa Rica.  The name of the shelter was not reported. There was no indication of special skills that Novak has that would be important for the animal shelter.

The judge required Novak to post a $30,000 bond to ensure
that he returns, said the newspaper.  The case involved at least three allegations of consensual sexual contact with the teen in December 2008 and in early 2009, said the newspaper.

Costa Rica has taken a strong position against the exploitation of children and underage individuals. However, the country does not have the facilities to check each potential tourist for an arrest record. The many states in the United States maintain their own criminal records, and usually the only time a tourist is stopped is if he or she has become the topic of an international arrest warrant.

Novak is considered to be innocent unless his trial ends in a conviction, so Costa Rican officials will have to determine if the allegation of the crime is enough to prevent his visit here.

Novak posted his travel plans on a social networking Web site, and he will be accompanied by a girlfriend, said the newspaper


Trio of armed bandits hit office of Banco Lafise in Escazú
Escazú robbery site
Policía Municipal de Escazú. photo
Escazú robbery site
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men stuck up the Banco Lafise in Escazú Friday and may have made off with as much as 50 million colons, some $90,000.

Bank officials were about to move the facility to another location, so the internal cameras were not in operation, bank workers told officers of the Policía Municipal of Escazú.

Police officers also expressed surprise that the robbery was not reported until about 20 minutes after it had taken place.

The bank is at Plaza Rolex in Escazú.

The bank is outside of the area covered by the new  monitoring cameras of the Escazú police, and one officer, Erick Villalobos, said that having street cameras in this area would have been helpful.

A police spokesman said that a man approached a guard as if he were a customer, and the guard let him into the bank. The man got the drop on the guard and took his pistol. Then he let in two accomplices, said police. The crime happened before 10 a.m., and all three men carried .38-caliber weapons, said police.

Preliminary estimates were that the amount taken was from 30 million to 50 million colons, police said

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 21

Sandy
path

Riders in the tope at Playas del Coco Sunday followed a route that took them and their mounts to the beach for the first time, said residents. The horse parade was part of the municipal fiesta  that runs through today. Spectators estimated about 80 horses and riders participated.
Coco tope
A.M. Costa Rica/Greg Golojuch



Certain categories of visitors will get a new type of visa

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The immigration department will be pasting visas into passports of foreigners who are here as students, academics, domestic workers and skilled employees, it said Friday.

Until now, those persons entering the country in these special categories received a passport stamp in ink. The new system is far more elaborate and designed to prevent fraud.

The sticker that will be pasted into the passport will have
identification information and a photo of the visa holder. It is similar to the multicolor visas that the U.S. Embassy here emits to Costa Ricans going to the United States.

The new system conforms to international specifications, the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said. Director Mario Zamora noted that the old-style rubber stamp was easy to falsify.

The department estimated that there are about 16,000 foreigners in the country in the categories that will be getting new visas.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 21

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Parts of U.S. are recovering
from another major storm

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Road conditions in Virginia and Washington, D.C. started to improve Sunday, but residents are still digging out after a significant snow storm swept through the eastern and southern United States early Saturday.

The storm, the second to hit the eastern and southern states in less than a month, dumped up to 20 cms (about 8 inches) of snow, interrupting road travel and public transportation, and causing delays and cancellations at several airports.

Last month, just before Christmas, a record winter storm dumped more than 30 cms (about 12 inches) of snow, causing holiday, business and air transportation disruptions.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for several counties in the eastern and southern United States, where more than 20 centimeters of snow were expected.

Hundreds of trucks and plows were deployed Saturday on streets and highways to treat major roads with sand and salt.  But Virginia residents said snow removal crews were unable to apply salt and scrape side roads.

Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have exceeded their annual budgets for snow removal due to last month's record storm, which dropped up to 61 cms (24 inches) of snow in some areas.

In the Southeast, thousands of homes and businesses in North Carolina and South Carolina are still without power.

The storm dumped about 24.5 centimeters of snow in  southern Virginia and in parts of North and South Carolina, causing power outages and highway pileups.  Emergency crews have had to respond to scores of traffic accidents, but so far, no casualties have been reported.

While the storm disrupted weekend plans for many Americans, it was still a lot of fun for many kids and others who had to stay at home.

Some kids got excited, bundled up and went outside to play in their front yards in the freezing temperatures.

Sports leagues proposed
as crime-fighting tool


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Municipalidad de San José will invest 1 billion colons, some $1.8 million, to promote sports as a way of engendering mutual respect among young people and to work against drug use.

The project is being coordinated by the Comité Cantonal de Deportes y Recreación, and low-income areas are targeted. Involved are some 11 districts and more than 400 individual barrios.

The project seeks to train some 5,000 community leaders, too. These leaders also will be monitors of criminal activities, according to the plan. The project will include the creation of various sports leagues in which district and barrio championships will be awarded.

The canton's sports committee will get just 3 percent of the municipal budget, and Mayor Johnny Araya Monge hopes that other non-profit and for-profit organizations will participate and contribute.

Also involved is the Comité Olímpico Nacional.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Vol. 10, No. 21


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Notary agency continues
in its former location

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The new agency that oversees the work of notaries has entered into an agreement with the Poder Judicial to use the former facilities and trained individuals who were assigned to the old agency.

A new law of notaries went into effect Jan. 18, and the result was that the old Dirección Nacional de Notariado was removed from the Poder Judicial. However, the agency had nowhere to go.

The legislature took the action because the Sala IV constitutional court ruled in 2006 that having the notary agency within the Poder Judicial was unconstitutional. The court gave the government three years to remedy the situation.

For two weeks the notary agency really did not exist, and lawyers who are notaries had nowhere to go for supplies and for other reasons. For one thing, notaries use special paper for their legal filings.

Under terms of an agreement between Luis Paulino Mora, president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, and Rogelio Fernández Moreno, president of the Consejo Superior Notarial, the notary agency will continue to occupy its prior location a few hundred feet south of the main judicial buildings in San José.

The agreement takes effect today.

Notaries have a special role in Costa Rica. They have much more power than individuals with the same title in the United States. To some extent they are carryovers from a time when not everyone was literate. They take statements and convert them into valid legal documents like deeds.

They also are presumed to be the repositoy of the public trust, so what they write is presumed to be true.

Gunman murder motorist

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man sitting in his car in the Trejos Montealegre section of San Rafael de Escazú was assassinated early Sunday.

The man, identified by the last name of Alvarado died when a car full of gunmen pulled up alongside his vehicle.

The Trejos Montealegre section is home to many U.S. Embassy employees.





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