First Question you should ask is, can a foreigner purchase Costa Rica real estate?
Yes any foreigner, resident or non-resident has the same rights as a citizen, except for voting rights at presidential and municipal elections and can therefore purchase and own Costa Rica real estate legally.
There are only two exceptions:
-A foreigner cannot own 100% of a property in a Maritime Zone.
-A foreigner cannot own any IDA (now INDER) property, in which land is donated to poor farmers.
Why do most people forms a Corporation when buying property or real estate in Costa Rica?
When you are buying property or real estate, it is advisable to do it in a corporation's name. Doing so simplifies the transfer process. The corporate structure may also be more flexible for other transactions and organizational matters.The typical limited liability company (“Sociedad Anónima” or “S.A”.) must be incorporated by at least two people before a Costa Rican Notary Public. After incorporation, the shares may be transferred, making it legally possible to have a corporation in which one person is the owner of all the shares.
In case you would like to share the property title with your spouse, another family member or business partners and you don’t want to allow the other to be able to sell without your consent, you can share the title in equal parts as a “right” or “derecho.” The title will show for example, 1-345678-001 and -002, with as many partners as you’d like: -003, -004, -005, etc.
Another way to purchase your property is in the name of your retirement fund or the corporation that represents it, such as an IRA or 401(k). Not all Costa Rican attorneys know how to do this, so do your research.
. Ask your attorney for advice on the legal part of the transaction.
Other crucial issues to be decided are the capital of the corporation (the higher the capital, the more registration taxes that must be paid), the number of shares composing such capital (Shares cannot be divided according to Costa Rican law, thus it is advisable to have a number of shares that would permit future distributions of the company), and the representation of the newly formed company (there must be at least one representative of the company with powers of attorney to act on its behalf. However, at the time of incorporation, or later on, the powers of the company's representatives may be limited. For example, to specific actions or amounts).
Costa Rica has what we call a "hybrid" corporate system. The incorporation deed as well as all changes to the company’s by-laws, must be recorded in the Public Registry, where they are accessible to the public. All transfers of the company's shares, however, are recorded in the Shareholders Registry Book, which is kept by the corporation and is only available to company shareholders and officials; other parties can only review it with a court order.
All titled property, INDER property and concessions under ZMT are registered in the National Registry and all registered surveys are to be found in the National Cadaster, part of the National Registry.
The National Registry is now almost completely digital and certifications of a property, the powers of attorney of a corporation and a copy of a survey can be bought online on the website http://www.rnpdigital.com/index.htm after registering on this site.
Hire a real estate attorney
Citizens, residents and non-residents alike should hire an attorney for their real estate purchases. Don’t just hire any attorney for your Costa Rica real estate purchases, We recommend you hire a bilingual real estate attorney / notary public and someone who specializes in real estate, so you are well represented. Only a notary public can record a purchase in the National Registry through a protocolized deed that will be registered in the National Registry. We can recommend a local attorney to help if needed.
Make sure the real estate attorney you hire has a SUGEF (Financial Institution Superintendency) approved escrow account or use a title company, so earnest money can be held in escrow without any legal problems.