Yes, a foreigner can buy property in Costa Rica. But there are conditions to consider. First and foremost, it is entirely possible for a foreigner to buy what is known as a “fee simple” property ownership. Fee simple ownership is similar to property ownership in the United States, in that you are given full access to the land to use in any way that you see fit. It also means that if anyone does anyone to your property to diminish its value or your enjoyment of it, you may take legal actions accordingly. The regulations which guide fee simple property in Costa Rica are the same for foreigners as they are for natives, so this is the most common type of property ownership for an outside investor.
There are other concerns that will need to be addressed when purchasing property in Costa Rica. For example, is the property an investment, or is it going to be a place of residence? Do you plan to stay in it occasionally or for a full year? Do you want to rent or lease the property to others? For some property purchases, these choices can effect the return that you see on your investment. As an example, if you plan to purchase beach front property in Costa Rica, but not inhabit it throughout the year, then you may be able to rent it accordingly. If you want to move into that property permanently, you will need to file for residency status with the Costa Rican Department of Immigration.
As previously mentioned, there are conditions that foreigners will have to contend with when making a property purchasing. Foreigners who do not hold residential status will not be able to take a loan from Costa Rican banks. Those that become residents, provide evidence of a job, and prove they have an adequate source of income may be eligible for taking out a mortgage with a bank, but the terms and fees may be effected by foreigner status. Interest rates also differ depending on whether the loan is given in colones or USD, a matter which is also influenced by international exchange rates.
A foreigner can buy a property with an existing mortgage and assume the debt themselves, but for many, the best option is to have the money on hand before you decide to make the purchase, or to become a resident of Costa Rica. Your ability to become a resident will be effected by many of the same conditions as your loan terms; individuals who have a steady source of income and a good background are more likely to be accepted for residential status than those who are not. If you are interested in investing in a Costa Rican property, but require financing, it would be wise to speak with a Costa Rican realtor about what he or she can do to help you through the process. There may be alternative options worth exploring, many of which will rely on a strong credit history.