Building A House In Costa Rica: Custom Home Builders Methods

Building a House in Costa Rica: Methods

Building a House in Costa Rica: Architect

Let’s talk about building a house in Costa Rica, and about the architect that will help you with the design of your real estate property.

Often practiced when building Costa Rica real estate homes for sale and often has favorable results.  However, there is risk involved.  Which would be important for you to understand.  For the purpose of when you interview your professional.

Building a house in Costa RicaFirstly, to become an architect requires 4 years of university.  Where they are taught BIM computer programs such as AutoCAD, Rivet.  Which are the primary software programs for architectural design.  Equally, they make construction drawings in 2 dimensions.  For floor plans and elevations.  In addition, they are taught computer programs for making 3d renders.

The entire educational training is focused to develop.  Firstly, their skill in designing attributes for architectural elements (make a nice design drawing).

Secondly, software training to implement their design for presentation (presentation training for marketing).  There is no educational training for Building a House in Costa Rica.

Building a house in Costa RicaMost importantly, they are not given one hour of training in engineering. Neither structural engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering nor mechanical engineering.  Which are key components to your home’s functionality.

Even though, as a certified architect with CFIA, they do not require licensed engineering stamps for buildings under 3 stories.  Wow, how scary is that.

Furthermore, the architect will enter generic structural details from a book.  Without any understanding of the elements design.  Simply a hit and miss on structural detail.  This also holds true with HVAC engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering.

Knowledge of engineering

Usually, there are no considerations for civil engineering and stormwater management. As well as mechanical engineering for black water management, and greywater management.  Also, HVAC design is all implemented into your home design.  All of which, without a professional licensed engineer’s influence.

Architecture Firm Costa RicaMoreover, they have no training even in the basics of how to calculate bearing and horizontal stress.  In order to design rebar size and layout for columns and footings.

Which essentially holds up your house.  In fact, they draw from a generic schedule usually from a book.  These structural elements may possibly be undersized which is based on the load-bearing.

Or it may be oversized which is going to generate unnecessary costs. In addition to causing additional structural stress.

As a result of over-engineering a structure.  Which adds additional weight and stress to Building a House in Costa Rica.  Although stronger is not better because buildings do require a bit of tensile flex.  Especially in seismic zones (all of Costa Rica).

Recommended to request for your property

Consequently, to save money an architect may avoid sub-contracting engineering services.  As well as property studies.  All of which are optional and not mandatory (as they should be mandatory).  Yet the architect is designing structures that weigh more than 150 tons.  Which is a lot of weight distributed over a small area.  Therefore, it would be very much advisable to your favor.  Accordingly, to request the following:

  1. Accordingly have geotechnical studies done on your property. In order to check soil density and infiltration
  2. Correspondingly have a structural engineer review your preliminary design. As well as geotechnical studies.  This should proceed with the detailed construction drawings.  Also, inspections should be negotiated with reports
  3. In addition, have a mechanical engineer design your water distributions. Which includes venting, and waste management.  Also, inspections should be negotiated as well.  For pressure testing and report results
  4. If, your property has slopes and hills. Then involve a civil engineer.  For stormwater management, property access, black water design.
  5. Finally, the electrical engineer is mandatory. However, many are friends with the architect.  Which rarely come for inspections.  Therefore, you should meet with the electrical engineer.  As you will want your electrical designs to exceed code.  Including additional receptacles and lighting options.  Also, request inspections with reports.

Building a House in Costa Rica: Attributes for hiring an architect

When I review an architect’s curriculum.  Notably, I already know they graduated.  So, I skim over that part.  But I spend more time on their additional achievements and certificates.

This begins to tell me the story towards which category of employee they fit into 1 or 2.  In addition, it tells me their ability and knowledge towards understanding the mechanics of structure together with aesthetics.  In addition, I also like to look at an architect’s portfolio.

They all have them.  Which demonstrates their potential command of the programs.  Perhaps you have read my article Be Your Own Contractor.  Where I use the example of hiring a trim carpenter.

Where as some possess the skills for high quality. 

While the majority deliver mediocre results. 

Finally, there are those with dull blades. 

Equally the same holds true here.  Whereas the graduated architects leave the university.  All of which with their graduation certificates. However, only a few came from the top of the class.  That is who you’re searching for.

In summary to find a top of the class architect:

  • Notably a good command of presentation programs
  • Including clear, concise with relevant details on construction drawings without stuffing
  • A uniquely diversified portfolio without redundant architectural elements
  • Most importantly ambition with enthusiasm from the second class of employee
  • In addition to having certificates, credits, and accomplishments in other aspects of property development.

The cohesion of an architect and construction quality:

costa rica home buildersMost likely, your architect has no construction experience in Building a House in Costa Rica.  Similarly, he does not have any hands-on experience. Together with precision installations.  Including concrete mixes with the ability to recognize hydration proxies for concrete.  As well as other cement products including stucco, and wall plasters, etc.

Let’s begin with an architect’s prime contribution to your building a home project.  Simply, your architect will draw you the picture.

He will size the rooms and add appealing finishes.  Which you request.  In addition, he will attempt to moderate a budget for you.  However, only the builder will define the actual cost of construction.

Building homes in Costa RicaIn conclusion, how is he qualified in Building a House in Costa Rica?  Moreover, how is he to recognize when a contractor is doing a poor installation?  Furthermore, does he recognize a cold weak weld?  Which is compared to an emulsified binding weld?  More importantly, does he recognize stone nests or honeycomb in concrete mixes?

As a matter of fact, I find it interesting.  As to how many people put their faith, and life savings.  Into the hands of an unqualified administrator for building a house in Costa Rica.  Perhaps they hire a dentist to fix their car.

To explain a functional design

In reality it is the engineers that make the drawing functional.  Firstly, the structural engineer will design beam dimensions.  As well as column dimensions.  Including roof materials. Which are based on span and weight. Furthermore, he will calculate rebar sizes and quantity, and concrete strengths.

In addition, your electrical engineer will lay out your lighting and receptacles.  Including calculating lumens for each room.  In addition to sizing the panel boxes.  Furthermore, to balance your load phases.  As well as calculate load potentials and load demand.  In addition, he will design your low voltage systems.  Which include telephone, cable tv, security, intercom, telecommunications for WIFI.  As well as any other relevant system specifically for your home.

Moreover, HVAC engineers will design compressor and condenser locations.  Resulting from elevation installations.  In order to calculate lead line sizes.  Together with air handler ductwork sizes.  For distributions resulting in maximum efficiency.  Which contribute to climate control, humidity control, mold inhibitor, etc.

These descriptions are basic summaries.  Each description could have a much more detailed explanation for Building a House in Costa Rica.  However, our objective is to communicate the relevance and importance to include these services in your design.

Building a house in Cosa RicaCorrespondingly the mechanical engineer will design pipe sizes.  For potable waters and hot water layout.  To result in even pressure and logical locations of hot water systems.

Furthermore, he will design systems of black waters, grey waters, and storm waters management. So, your flow is consistent and vented according to or better than code.

Consequently, many of these calculations are redundant 8 out of 10 times.  Therefore, most architects bi-pass these professional services.  Whereas, they just use a redundant generic schedule.  Whereas he will be correct 8 out of 10 times instead of having these specifically engineered reports.  Although not a Costa Rica requirement it is commonly neglected.  Only to the financial benefit of the Architect.

When you are making an investment towards building a house in Costa Rica.  It would be wise to include the necessary professionals.  To put it another way, would you be comfortable if your pilot bi-passes the weight and balance calculations.  Before taking off because the results are the same 8 out of 10 times?  Most importantly, this is not an area to cut corners to save on budget.

Hire an architect for building a house in Costa Rica

Consequently, the risk to hire an architect for building a house in Costa Rica.  When we already know he does not have tools.  Neither does he have a work crew.  As well as he doesn’t have first-hand building experience.

Including there has been no apprentice program or Building a house in costa ricaintern program from a school requirement.  Furthermore, there are no basic engineering courses involved with architecture school.  In conclusion, his skills are limited to drawing design and the ability to present you with an artistic render.

Most commonly, when you contract your architect to build a home in Costa Rica.  That the architect will sub-contract the build to a builder.  Usually, somebody, he works with frequently or a family member.

This is most likely biased and not based on experience or quality performance. They will have a working relationship and depend on each other’s expertise.

On the other hand, he may recommend to you a builder, emphasizing the conviction of the builder’s quality.  Whereas it is most likely the objective is to collect the commission at the other end.  Which is a typical practice in Costa Rica.  So now you are paying your architect a fee directly or indirectly.

To Summarize

Accordingly, the best recommendation I can make for those choosing this method.  Would be to have a very detailed and itemized pro forma of construction, which should include all material quantities.  Including allowances for plumbing and light fixtures.  As well as flooring and countertops.

Continuing with work schedules and explanation of the crew.  Which will include labor expenses and government responsibilities.  Keep in mind, now your architect and builder’s allegiance are with each other and they will support one another.

If one asks for more money, the other will support him.  Your architect’s allegiance most likely will shift from you to the builder.  Once the Building a House in Costa Rica construction process begins.

Legal note:

A builder’s responsibility is to report payroll monthly to CCSS and INS.  Government responsibility payments are made monthly.  Should your builder bi-pass this responsibility by paying the crew cash.  In the event this gets discovered.  The government will lien the property and the property owner will be liable for these fees at the government’s calculations.  Which will include interest and penalties.

Architecture Firm For Building A House in Costa Rica

This method is favored over all other methods listed in this article.  For building a house in Costa Rica.  For reasons of convenience, simplicity, and project security.  Most commonly this type of method has intimidated property owners.  Typically to hire a firm of any sort is expensive.  However in reality, in this case, this method is more often far less expensive.

  • Uniquely ideal for building budgets $150k and higher.
  • Comparatively an architect firm has bundled a team of professionals. Therefore, providing superior results at warehouse pricing.
  • Accordingly, architect firm services are available throughout the country.
  • It will be explained the difference between the two options:
    • Firstly, an Architect – is a one-person operation. Whom will facilitate your project.  As well as organize professionals and sub-contractors. For a fee usually based on a percentage of the project value.
    • Secondly an Architect Firm – Is a board of professionals with individual master’s degree in specific areas of construction. In addition, architect firms are associated or partnered with a general contractor.  For the successful completion of your project.

Architecture Firms Stability

Architecture Firms are rooted and established.  They comply with all laws and bi-laws of Costa Rica.  In addition, they support their works by offering warranties.  More importantly, they are equipped with the necessary professionals to complete your designs and constructions.  Furthermore, they are available in all zones of Costa Rica.

Home Designing ServiceLet’s not take the human factor out of designing a house in Costa Rica.  As well as building a house in Costa Rica.  To begin the initiation of building a house in Costa Rica starts with the designing stage.

This generates emotion and an excitement response.  Often with disbelieving at the same time as excitement, and anxiety.  There may be moments of stress and concern.  Coupled with anticipation and patience (or lack of).

With that being said by employing an architect firm.  Which will simplify a complex process.  Continuing with the building a house in Costa Rica stage whereas you are already familiar with the professionals.  Which you have developed a working relationship.

Notwithstanding that trust is earned and not granted.  Therefore, continuing your building a house in Costa Rica.  With an already proven and trusted architect firm.  Which makes good logical sense.

To summarize

It is to the benefit of the property owner that there is cohesion between the architect firm and the construction crew.  Therefore, when the working crew requires clarification or an on-site decision presents itself.  There is direct communication established between the two entities.  Furthermore, the professionals make frequent visits to the site for inspections and confirmation of adequate installation processes.  With builders and architects, this would be a paid service that requires scheduling.  However, with an architect firm, the professionals are available to the crews at all times with no fees.

Finish Touch Enterprises SRL is an Architecture Firm with a General Contractors’ license.  Therefore, I will not continue the advantages of an architecture firm here.  There are several articles explaining with detail.  Beginning with: Architect Firm and Costa Rica General Contractor

Second of Three Methods to Building a House in Costa Rica

Employ Custom Home Builders

Hire a home builderFor most people, choosing a builder can be most taunting.  Whereas it is a very important decision.  Because this finalizes all your efforts from choosing to come to Costa Rica.

To begin with, searching for property.  Continuing with finding an architect.  Furthermore, going through the process of designing a house.  Finally, now the fruits of all your labors come to this last decision.  Which is who are you going to choose to put it all together.

If this results in a bad decision, all your previous efforts would be in vain, turning your dream into a nightmare.

Therefore, let’s not drop the ball now.  Let’s make the right decision.  Which will make your dream a reality.

I’ve written an article which explains the different classes of a builder.  To clarify which class, they are best qualified.  You may read the article Class Grades of Costa Rica Builders.  In addition, there is an article to prepare you for hiring a builder.

Want to BE’s aka Two-Faced Custom Home Builders

Within this paragraph is in reference to people who pass themselves off as a builder.  Perhaps they have built for friends or their own home.  However, their main source of income comes from owning another business.

Such as a hotel, or cabanas, or a rancher or store owner who also builds on the side.  These types of ‘builders want to be’s are generally facilitator.  Which are not established with building suppliers nor manufacturers.

Most commonly they solicit their service on a commission basis.  Thereupon collecting commissions from the property owner, suppliers, sub-trades.  In some instances, even from the employees.

Usually, this class of custom home builders is without a license or building quadrennial.  Which they resolve themselves from all responsibility.  These people usually fall in the first class of employees as described in a previous article.

Now let’s get serious

Certified Custom Home Builders in Costa Rica

Building a house in costa ricaFirstly, when you contract Costa Rica home builders, most importantly you want this builder to be registered with the Colegio Federado De Arquitectos Y Ingenieros De Costa Rica bar (CFIA), which is the federal building department that enforces federal building codes.

Also, within the CFIA offices.  Include the Ministerio de Salute (Ministry of Health), as well as environmental ministries.

To explain that to register as a General Contractor is not mandatory in Costa Rica.

In fact, many builders do not register themselves as general contractors, which is curious because it protects the consumer with the bi-laws of the Consumer and Cooperative Affairs (Better Business Bureau).  If I forget to mention: Finish Touch Enterprises SRL CC-08073.

Structural Warrantee

In order to obtain a CFIA federal permit for Building a House in Costa Rica, you will require CFIA registered professional to be responsible for the project.

This will appear on your approved blueprints. Usually the architect’s name and CFIA carne number.  This person is responsible to make weekly inspections.  In addition to record in the Batricula the results of the inspections.  Basically, that the construction conforms with the plans.

If there is a structural issue with the house within 5 years, which is due to faulty workmanship or failed material.  Then the CFIA will demand the responsibility to correct the issue.

On the other hand, if your builder is not registered. then you’re on your own.  If your builder was to cut corners, the house warranty issue will be the property owner’s responsibility.

Notably when hiring a builder is to know the stability of the builder.  Is he rooted, does he have assets?

Hopefully, your builder is in a financially stable position to make the repairs, or does your builder live from payday to payday?


To explain the INS insurance is mandatory insurance.  Which is basically worker’s compensation insurance.  When you apply for your municipal permit (after receiving your federal permit).

The municipality will issue a ticket, which you carry to an INS agency and pay.  Following your return to the Municipality with proof of payment and they will issue a Municipal permit.

To clarify once you receive your federal permit, the CFIA will stamp a calculated construction value on your permit.  The Municipality will use 35% of this value as an estimated labor cost.  Continuing with the INS policy will be 3.6% of labor cost.

Most importantly having worker’s compensation insurance is a very important factor when Building a House in Costa Rica.

For reasons that accidents can happen easily, which are usually with a degree of severity.  Furthermore, there is no avoiding paying for INS. Because it is a part of the permit process.

Notably, that INS coverage includes 30 minutes before work and 30 minutes after work as they travel on their wobbly motorcycles with no brakes.

Paying INS and CCSS is the first step for insurance

The truth of the matter is you are not protected because the mandatory policy is paid.  To satisfy the policy the payroll must be reported monthly.  Included in the report is the employee’s name.

As well as a copy of their identification.  Which may be either cedula or passport number.  Continuing the report will show his rate of pay and his earnings for the past month.

In conclusion, the worker’s compensation insurance is only valid for those identification numbers. Therefore, any other person injured on-site is without coverage.

In addition to INS payroll reporting.  There is a copy of the same report to the CCSS.  Which is the socialize medical of Costa Rica.  To explain if an injury occurs. Then the person is transported to the clinic or hospital. Whereas his CCSS card is presented. Once it’s been established that the injury is work-related. Accordingly, he will be transferred to INS.

However, if your builder does not report payroll by the 8th, of each month, then INS will not cover the cost of an accident.

Neither will CCSS and most likely an investigation will commence. Most importantly by not complying with the Costa Rica payroll laws. Which may result in criminal and civil legal actions.  Most commonly are against the property owner where the violation occurred.

Building a House in Costa Rica: Cost of payroll taxes

The total amount which should be escrow from payroll calculations is 52.66%.  Which includes paid statutory holidays, vacation pay, liquidation cost, etc.  From 52.66% the monthly remittance for CCSS calculates to 38%.

To conclude that avoiding these payroll taxes is of no benefit to you.  In actuality, you are the one with all the risk.  As to mention your builder is free to go.

Therefore, you should not let your contractor convince you to bypass this expense when Building a House in Costa Rica.  Notably, if your builder wishes to cheat the government.  Then it stands to reason he will cheat you as well.

To clarify that this article is not meant to scare you.  But rather to explain a legal fact that you can verify.  From the following resources; CCSS or INS or your bank manager, or CFIA or your lawyer or your accountant.

In retrospect, these faulty practices were common in Costa Rica.  As there was little policing or enforcement.  However, within the last 10 years in Costa Rica.

I have personally witnessed a substantial amount of corruption get prosecuted.  In conclusion, old-schooled builders may still believe they can get away with it.  Stating that this is how things are done here.  In reality, the risk is very high and most likely will be discovered.

Another option of INS policy

On the other hand, for a builder that has permanent employees, most likely will have a permanent INS policy.  Meaning this builder will have a certificate of clearance document from INS. So this is the perfect scenario when Building a House in Costa Rica.

This proves that INS is prepaid, and all workers are covered.  Personally, Finish Touch Enterprises SRL’s policy also includes the general public who may be touring the construction site.

In addition, companies with permanent INS are companies.  That most likely has a certified accountant. Which are responsible for payroll calculations, payroll taxes remittance, and INS policy remittance.  In addition to payroll reporting.


Of course, when Building a House in Costa Rica, an important attribute towards hiring a builder is his stability.  Let’s examine how your builder has become rooted.

Firstly, does he have a company corporation? This demonstrates that he is most likely established with Hacienda.

Secondly, does he have a bank account in the company name? Which demonstrates that most likely has competent accounting practices.  Thirdly a declaration from Hacienda.  Which demonstrates he is current with filings of federal taxes.

In addition to the above, some note-worthy attributes would be branding.  To explain does the builder have signage on his vehicles?  Perhaps a web presence to display projects and details of his services.

Including an email that has his domain name and not a Gmail or yahoo extension.  Another source of branding would be the social media presence in his company’s name.  In summary, these are areas in which you need to use your own common sense.

Most importantly is that you want a builder to construct your investment.  With assurances of his competence to complete your project successfully.

On another note, Hacienda is the Costa Rica tax department.  All business owners do file a tax form of earnings.  All building supply stores and manufacturing shops report to Hacienda reporting their sales and to who.  Therefore, Hacienda will have a record of material purchases, and manufacture (cabinets, windows, etc) invoices.

In conclusion and warranty

The objective is to verify the Costa Rica Home Builders ability to warrant his work when Building a House in Costa Rica.  In the event that an issue presents itself within a year.  With all fairness that when new building materials are installed.

Which they need to conform to their new environment.  Resulting in expansions and contractions.  Which may cause a tile to delaminate, or a door to warp.  Perhaps an electrical component will fail.

Nonetheless, we wish to conclude if your builder can support his work and return for a repair.  Can he afford to return to make a repair?  After you have the keys to your new home, your builder should present with:

  • Firstly, a walk-through deficiency list. Take possession of your new home and make sure the doors close correctly, all the lights work, and he has completed his end of the contract as agreed
  • Secondly, a one-year warranty. It may happen that a tile may delaminate, or a door warp.  Or some issue that should not have to happen and most likely could not have been foreseen.  Your builder with all good faith should take care of you with these issues.  All within reason of course.
  • Thirdly, 5-year structural warranty. This is CFIA mandatory warranty.  If he does not repair a structural issue, the CFIA could decline all his permit applications until your issue is warranted.

Building a House in Costa Rica: Documents you may wish to request

When hiring a builder, there will most likely be 2 documents.  There will be a contract and a pro forma breakdown of cost.  Keep in mind, that you are the boss.  Not him, he works for you.  Therefore, you have control over the rules.


  • Contracts:

    • Are usually made in favor of the person who is writing them. Therefore if you are writing the contract between you and your builder. Then you will include all the expectations that you demand from him. If the builder has a generic contract, you should also include all your expectations either way.

Payment schedules:

    • Preparing your payment schedules should be frequent, small, and balanced towards that stage of construction advancement. The amount should reflect the material and labor cost of the payment stage.  Making fewer stage payments in larger amounts could end up badly for you.  Make sure to understand and negotiate this phase of your contract before Building a House in Costa Rica.
    • Construction is not an exact science. There may be unforeseen circumstances present themselves throughout the project.  Your builder without changing the price may need to make this up on the next draw and ask you for a partial advance.  Understand his issue and don’t penalize him.  You don’t want your builder stressed.  Work with him as you both have the same objective.
  • At minimum your contract sections should include:

    • Corporation names and legal representatives of each side with physical address, email, and phone numbers
    • Property description, catastre number, exact location
    • Builders identification numbers: CFIA carne number, passport/cedula number, INS number, CCSS number
    • Details of responsibility: what is the key role of each side:
    • All warranties including manufacture warranties of air conditioners, windows, etc.
    • Attachment exhibits: CFIA approved drawings, pro forma, stage payment schedule.
    • The amount of the contract
  • You may include additional information towards:

    • With details of deadlines.  Furthermore, assurance of his government responsibility’s.  Perhaps penalty’s, and arbitration procedure. If your out of country and may include communication requirements.  These are good to have in writing but difficult to enforce.
  • Detailed pro forma of a material breakdown:

    • This breakdown will include material take off calculations of concrete, rebar, block and all core material.
    • Quantity and unit price of flooring, cabinets, granites, plumbing/lighting fixtures, etc with budget allowances.

Once you are satisfied with the documentation that the builder has given you. And you have supplied your builder with his required deposit. Your builder will begin to prepare the lot. Construct a material storage and quarters for the crew. He will install service entries of electricity, water and provisional for drainage and black waters. This may take approximately two weeks.


Third of Three Methods to: Building a House in Costa Rica


Be your own general contractor

  • If this is NOT your intent to be your own builder. You will still want to read this article as I say many wonderful things about my company.
  • This method is more favorable for building budgets under $100k- and most likely to succeed.
    • Building budgets under $100k are homes that won’t have complicated engineered systems, they won’t have layered wall systems for climate control nor mold or insect deterrents, these homes are generally kit homes and small and won’t require precision tools or sophisticated installations.
  • If your building budget is above 100k and you choose this method of building.  It is important to know that, about 85% of these builds are unsuccessful.  As well as 98% of these builds well exceed the original budget.  Therefore make sure you have contingency financing or a recovery plan before attempting this method.
  • If you are considering this method, please feel free to contact me for more information. It could save you an abundance of money and a world of headaches.
  • It is law that your responsible (usually architect) is required to make weekly visits to record advancement in the Batricula. Basically, he reports that the construction is following the construction drawings.  This is to your benefit.  Many times, the architect is paid off not to come, or to come only once a month.  This is a bad idea.  For reasons beaing that his visits is a form of policing, and will keep your crew on their toes.

By the way, this method would return you the most stress.  All the responsibility will be solely on you.  You must take responsibility for the results.  It is most likely you will not save money, nor time.  Therefore, you will be doing this for the sole purpose of self-achievement.

Recommended prerequisites

To begin, it would work to your advantage as to have 7 to 10 years’ experience in North America of the construction process.  For reasons being, that you will have a better understanding of construction practices.  Which includes as to when to order and commit to sub trades and manufactures.  In order to maintain the construction advancement.  For example, windows and cabinets will take several weeks to manufacture.  Therefore, you will need to commit several weeks in advance from when you need them.

In addition air conditioning requires several visits at different stages of the construction.  Firstly, rough in to be done on early stages of construction.  Secondly to return later for additional installations of duct work. Thirdly, a final visit at the end of construction to install units.  Payment schedules should be balanced to percentage of each stage. This is just a small example of coordinating administrative experience you would want to have.

In addition, it would be very beneficial for you to have a good command of the Spanish language.  It is important to be able to negotiate prices from suppliers.  As well as understanding product details for quality control.  Also, you will want to be able to make and recieve phone calls. Having an interpreter for this increases the risk of commissions being paid to him.  This is common in Costa Rica.  Which is not considered stealing and is received as an entitlement.  Meaning, perhaps your interpreter is not getting you the best product at the best deal.  Perhaps he is getting you a product from who is paying the better commission.

Preparing all your agreements

My wife is Tica and often when she is with me the sales man will take her aside and offer her a commission.  On the condition if she would help  close the deal (she says no of course, (I think)). When someone say “go there and tell them I sent you”.  This comment generally reflects a commission being paid.  Emphasizing that they want the supplier to know you are there because they made the recommendation.

To continue, now that you have made your agreements with suppliers, subtrades, and so forth.  You will need to employ a crew to manage the installations.  In Costa Rica it is common for work crews to live on site.  Therefore, they will construct a bodega where your materials and tools will be stored.  Including, sleeping quarters, cooking area and bathroom with shower.  Of course, there is electric and water supplied.  This bodega will be built before your home starts.  Allow 3 or 4 days for 4 men and a budget of approx. $3,000

Preparing your crew

Finally, it is time to find a crew that will construct the home.  This crew will consist of 8 to 12 men.  Which will most likely show 90% of your home’s quality.  For example, in your home country, when you hire a trim carpenter.  There are few that are at the top of their class, several are mediocre, and then there is those that always have dull blades.  Costa Rica tradesman are no exception.  You will search for the best albinals, carpenteros, electristas, peons, ayudantes, and oporadios.  These men based on there experience and dedication will result in your homes quality.  Remember the 2 categories of employees.

When I started my company, I went through about 10 men to find that 1 good one.  It took me 2 years to establish the crew I have today.  You want to find a man that fits in the second category that I explain in an article Hire a builder.  This man should get along with other workers and not be bossy or a ‘know it all’.  You don’t want this man to be a partier that shows up half tanked from the night before and belligerent.  There are many attributes to a good employee (or company) over and above knowing how to do the job.

Costa Rica has different form of contracting

Costa Rica is completely different when it comes to tradesman and precision tools.  Most tools are made from broken car springs and bamboo.  Commonly, they carry the cheapest tape measures and low-grade trowels.  Mainly due to affordability. However, I have structured my company to build homes to North American style.  Collectively I have crews trained in specific attributes.  Where as my block layers, only lay block.  When the finish one house they go to the next one and pools.  I have similar crews for stucco, drywall, tile setters, veneer rock, and roofer.

This takes them away from being a ‘Jack of all trades’ and turns them into professional trades man.  They can achieve their trade expedentially with superior results.  If there is an onsite issue, they can profile the problem as a professional.  Because, they know their product first hand

Your new construction crew will construct the complete house from digging the footings to laying block.  Including, putting on your roof, installing your tiles, paint the walls, and hang your light fixtures.  The same 8 to 12 men will complete the house entirely.  This is how 95% of homes are built-in Costa Rica.  For this is a system I never agreed with.  Jack of all trade’s construction cannot deliver quality in my opinion.  You don’t have to be an engineer to spot a poor constructed home.  To the contrary, it usually becomes obvious imediatly entering the home.

In conclusion

To have a successful result in building your house in Costa Rica.  With being your own general contractor, you would want to have the following pre-requisites:

  • 5 – 7 years’ experience in construction in your home country to know procedures
  • 2 years’ experience in Costa Rica business to know labor laws, and tico culture
  • Building budget under $100,000
  • Intermediate command of the Spanish language to negotiate best terms, and to administrate your project
  • Have a good understanding of electrical and plumbing – these are major areas in Costa Rica that are lacking
  • Have 4 to 8 months free time to manage and administrate your project. This is a full-time job
  • Contingency funding for over budget or contingency recovery plan
  • Have plenty of aspirin handy

I will close this article method with a very strong emphasis in advising not to take this method.  Most likely, you will not save money and you risk your project.  In the 10 years in Costa Rica, I have seen hundreds of abandoned foundations for the very same arrogance.  Hire a builder and let him take on the responsibility and headaches.  You can administer budgets and work flow schedules

Following our series of articles (in order) will empower you towards success when Building a House in Costa Rica:

  1. How to Hire a Builder
  2. Costa Rica Architect Firm 
  3. Designing A House In Costa Rica Attributes
  4. Home Designing Service Costa Rica
  5. Costa Rica Home Builders
  6. Methods Of Building In Costa Rica (this article)
  7. Costa Rica Custom Home
  8. Costa Rica General Contractor
  9. Interior Design In Costa Rica
  10. Finish Touch Furniture SRL
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