Real Estate in Santa Teresa /Mal Pais
Santa Teresa is one of Costa Rica‘s most popular beaches. The area incorporates the communities of Playa Carmen, Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, Playa Hermosa and Manzanillo, where the population of permanent expat residents grows with the same speed as the number of tourists.
The growth in this region and its future potential draws more and more developers and investors expecting high returns. Real estate is not just searched for a private homestead or small business, many are looking for a solid investment, be it a turnkey hotel business or a profitable vacation rental.
Properties for Sale in Mal Pais / Santa Teresa
Once a backpackers and surfers’ secret, Santa Teresa is now a mainstream tourist destination with a couple of celebrities tucked away in oceanview luxury villas. They add to the area‘s fame and make prices for real estate go north.
While earlier visitors and expats were mostly content with the big surf and simple lifestyle of beach and jungle, the new generation seeks more creature comforts and amenities. Houses and villas with oceanview are in high demand, but also land for construction to build to the individual style and requirements. Low mountains rising up steeply close to the beaches create many natural ocean view building sites where you enjoy spectacular ocean and sunset views, with the sounds of the Pacific surf close by.
Real estate in Mal Pais and Santa Teresa also includes beach properties but the strip of land directly on the water edge cannot be purchased, only leased from the government. Costa Rica reserves this area as a public zone for everyone‘s use. The nationwide law prohibits any permanent structure within 50 meters of the high tide line which leaves views of the Santa Teresa and Mal Pais coastline pristine. An additional 150 m stripe of land belongs to this maritime-terrestrial zone. There is no titled beach front property in the whole area from Mal Pais until Manzanillo – it’s all managed as state concessions and controlled by 11 different land use regulation plans. The procedure to obtain a concession for property in the maritime zone can be exhaustive and costly.
Land use outside the maritime-terrestrial zones is not yet regulated but there is a building cap at 10 meters high which will hopefully prevent the high-rise buildings which have spoiled other Costa Rican beach resort locations.
Another special type of land real estate buyers shoud be aware of is IDA land which cannot be owned by foreigners. These properties are owned by the government of Costa Rica who donates it to poor farmers. Ownership of the land is only granted after a waiting time of 12 – 15 years during which the farmer cannot sell the property. Nevertheless some of these lots were illegally divided, titled and sold, so the buyer of such real estate bears the risk of a loss of money and land.
Problems of Development in Santa Teresa
Even the main road in Santa Teresa is still unpaved and newcomers sometimes think they are pioneers in a yet not so much developed part of Costa Rica. With regard to the town‘s infrastructure this is actually right. The population of permanent residents in the area around Santa Teresa is roughly estimated at around 5,000 inhabitants, and with the tourists in high season this number might double. A town of that size needs adequate treatment of sewage water, cleaning of streets, garbage collection, sidewalks for pedestrians, and other public services and facilities. But the communities of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais are mainly composed of foreigners, many without Costa Rican residency. Where few voters reside, less influence on communal decisions can be exerted and less money for public services is received. The unpaved roads and the resulting dust is just one of Santa Teresa‘s permanent problems.
Santa Teresa’s rapid, and often uncontrolled, growth also leads to environmental problems. Real estate sellers and property owners cut trees for a better ocean view. New roads and plantels are cut into the hills, changing the terrain’s shape and waterways. As an effect soil erosion and land slides occur.
Many wild animals are killed by dogs, and monkeys, once ubiquitous on the beaches are not seen any more, as their travel routes through the canopy are gone. The same land owners who destroy the nature and habitat of the animals still adorn their websites and brochures with pictures of unspoiled nature and wildlife. It’s their reckless, egoistic behavior which damages Santa Teresa’s biggest asset: the beauty of its jungle covered hillsides and rich wildlife. Costa Rica is a great country and adorable in its effort to protect its natural ressources. But laws have to be respected and enforced.
There are real estate projects in Mal Pais which combine residential development with conservation of the forest. “Mi Casa en El Bosque” is a small eco project in harmony with nature. Houses are built of bamboo and are ensconced in the jungle » Bamboo Eco Village