Why we chose Atenas, Costa Rica, Part 2

This blog is part 2 in a series. Click here for the first part.

The beautiful viewing deck from another home we considered during our search.

As previously mentioned, we had to pass on moving forward with a place in Costa Rica in 2016. However, early in 2017 we had our “ducks in a row” back in Minnesota and thought we might be able to pull off purchasing an investment property outside of the USA that hopefully some years in the future we may be able to enjoy ourselves. A quite a few months had passed since we were last in Costa Rica but our feelings and love for the area were high. We decided if we were going to move forward, Atenas was really our only choice at the time for a variety of reasons.

As such, the search began. MLS listings, the Multiple Listing Service you can find on pretty much all real estate sites in the USA doesn’t exist in Costa Rica. The process of first finding, then sorting through all the homes in the area was quite a task. Many real estate web sites were out of date, had mismatched information and were generally poor all around. A few stuck out in the crowd, especially the Remax site which also happened to be where Andrew worked. As so often happens, we had another small world experience in Costa Rica. Roberto & Shelly, the couple who founded Remax are originally from our neck of the woods in Minnesota and it turns out Shelly is a cousin of our previous neighbor. It really is a small world after all. Our comfort level was definitely better knowing some of these personal relationships existed.

Another beautiful house we considered but was too far from town central for our liking.

Having a good grasp of the greater Atenas community, we really wanted to check out homes in different parts of the area. Vista Atenas, Roca Verde, Pica Flora and many more were neighborhoods that kept popping up in my research. We put together a long list of homes, nearly 30, to look at and flew down in February of 2017. Although the trip was short, we stayed in a few homes in a variety of areas to get a better feel. We met with Andrew and immediately crossed off about 10 homes that were no longer available, had existing offers or weren’t close enough to town central to consider. That left about 20 houses to look at in a matter of two days. We looked at 10 houses the first day. We thought we knew what we wanted when we started but it turns out our wants changed the more we looked. We took photos and jotted down as much as we could about each place. The variety we looked at was astounding. Many places came off the list upon arrival. A busy neighborhood downtown was something we knew we wanted to avoid right off the bat. Too busy, too loud, too congested. After the first day of looking, we had a better idea of what to look for and to look at the next day. We put together a spreadsheet to score what was important to us which really allowed us to focus on each place individually:

  • Neighborhood / location / elevation
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Price / value
  • Age / condition
  • Size
  • Water supply
  • View
  • Grounds
  • Pool
  • Patio
  • Kitchen
  • Layout
  • Living Area
  • Amount of land
  • Roads / access
  • Feelings / excitement / emotion

We “scored” the places we already visited and had a plan for the next day. We were able to knock a few places off the list and looked at 6 or 7 houses the second day. At that time, we used nick names to remember the houses we visited. At that time, Villa Serenidad didn’t have its’ name, it was just known to us as “the glass house” since it really stood out with all the glass panels. Looking back on the list, we had 9 potential houses that physically could fit what we wanted.  We went back to our rental that night and assigned scores to everything we had seen. We then spent a few hours discussing all the pluses and minuses of each place and by the time we broke it down to neighborhoods and overall price / value, only two houses on the list remained and the glass house stood out.  At that time I knew there would be an expansive remodel involved with turning the glass house into Villa Serenidad. The patio was no where near what we wanted and the condition of the house was less than ideal. But, we had found a place we really liked and could make our own. We loved the quiet area, the view, the layout and the grounds. The neighbors we had met were very nice and everything felt right.

Sometimes potential is the most important thing. This was the pool & patio at Villa Serenidad when we only knew it as the glass house.

We scheduled another visit the following day and asked a builder/contractor to meet us there. We double checked everything, asked more questions, took more measurements and spent some time with the builder to get a rough idea on what the remodel might cost. Satisfied with everything we had, we slept on it for a night and put together an offer the next day. Our trip was coming to an end and we’d have to work the rest out online and over the phone. The seller had already moved back to the USA and there were renters in the house at that time. Some back and forth with the seller resulted in an accepted offer and a closing date scheduled for a few months later.

At the time of writing this part 2, it’s been two years since I first started searching the web for potential properties and the reasons we chose Atenas at that time are still the reasons why we love Atenas today. More or less in the order of importance, we wanted a place that had nearly perfect weather/climate year round, could be easily traveled to in less than a day, had friendly people, had the amenities we wanted and where we could find a home that was a good value that had the features that were important to us. The icing on the cake was the personal relationships that had grown between us and some of the folks in Atenas. Villa Serenidad has been a busy vacation rental home for the past 15 months and we’ve received many positive reviews. Atenas was the right choice for us.

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