It really all depends on what you require for the life-style you prefer. But there are several things that you should know up front: first, you will not be taxed on any income coming from outside the country. No ‘double jeopardy’ so to speak.
Second, property taxes on the home or land you buy in Costa Rica are pegged at one quarter of one percent of the declared value – up to USD $175,000.00 or so – of the property and any structures on it. In other words, taxes on a home valued at up USD $150,000 will amount to only about $375.00 per year. On property and homes valued at more than USD $175,000, there is a ‘luxury tax’ that depends on the location, size of the house, etc. It won’t be outrageous, and should not deter you from buying a home in Costa Rica.
Monthly water and electricity costs are not burdensome either. Water bills seldom exceed $50.00, and are usually much lower; electricity costs are a bit higher than that, especially if you keep you’re a/c running constantly. A big advantage, of course, is that there are no heating bills!
Renting a home in Costa Rica, or renting a condo, will be a lot cheaper than at home, although rental rates for luxury homes can be quite high. A modest three-bedroom, secure condominium unit in a ‘good’ area will cost anywhere from $850-$1,400+ per month.
If you have children, public schools, where tuition is in Spanish, are free. Good English-language private schools such as Country Day can be pricey, however.
A package of basic phone, internet and cable TV service is about $65-$80.00 per month. International calls are not cheap, so it’s best to have Skype or other VOIP service. Electrical appliances, TVs, computers, cell phones, are more expensive than at home, however you can make a trip to the duty free area in Golfito for such items and there are many places where you can buy good quality items second hand.
Basic foodstuffs are not overly expensive, especially if you buy at a local chain such as Mas x Menos, and at the farmers’ market. What will set you back a pretty penny are imported grocery and delicatessen products. Local beer, popular Chilean or Argentinian wine and alcoholic beverages are comparatively inexpensive, but upscale brands can be quite high.
Motor vehicles, new and/or used, are more expensive than at home. Expats from the US will find gas prices somewhat high, while Canadians and Europeans will not. Public transit is very inexpensive, especially interurban bus service. It’s well worth it to travel by bus when you can and it allows you to see the sites instead of dealing with traffic. Taxis are abundant and also a good alternative.
Clothing, above all quality brands which are imported, is rather expensive. One simple rule, however: in Costa Rica, especially in San José, you will find just about everything you have at home, but in many instances, you might have to pay dearly for it! If you buy local rather than imported goods, you can save a bundle.
Piling everything all together, a couple can live well on $2,000.00-$2,500.00 per month, even if they rent, provided they don’t overdo it.
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