Costa Rica developments are gaining in popularity and demand. Investors are pouring a lot of money into this small country.But why Costa Rica?Because Costa Rica’s blend of beauty and business culture is attracting a growing number of travelers and international businesses to this Caribbean area.Since the late 1970’s, Costa Rica has been luring tourists to its lush rainforests and exotic beaches. A pioneer of eco-tourism, the country, wedged between the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean on the east, is primarily known for its amazing biodiversity that includes an astonishing array of flowers, birds, butterflies, and other creatures. In more recent years, however, the country has also become an attractive destination for scores of foreign companies. In the case of Costa Rica, perched between two of the world’s largest markets (North and South America), there’s a highly developed tourist industry and a growing expatriate community.Enticed by Costa Rica’s low costs, highly educated and often bilingual workforce, political stability (the country abolished its army in 1949), attractive tax incentives, pleasant climate, and one of the highest standards of living in Latin America, Costa Rica has become a growing haven for companies & business travelers. And this has led to the influx of Costa Rica developments.Coffee Anyone?Perhaps one of the most famous enterprises to come out of Costa Rica is Café Britt. Steve Aronson, who is from New York, founded the company in 1985. Café Britt is Costa Rica’s leading exporter of gourmet coffee, with estimated sales of $39.1 million. Also, large U.S. companies such as Intel, Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard have come to Costa Rica, investing hundreds of millions of dollars.The widespread interest and success of these companies has sparked a need for more upscale hotel and entertainment facilities, as well as residential communities.Costa Rican LawAlso, unlike many Latin American countries, it isn’t necessary to have a Costa Rican citizen as a business partner and foreigners have the same absolute right to own real property, as do citizens. This is a strong reason why Costa Rica developments have become so popular. Many countries have restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate but not Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, everyone, nationals or non-nationals have the same legal rights, which are protected by their Constitution and reflected in their laws. Even so, most developers & companies hire Costa Rican attorneys to help them navigate the systemThe legal system in Costa Rica is based in the so-called civil law system, which is derived through the Spanish Civil Code with roots in the Napoleonic Code. All titled property in Costa Rica is registered in the National Registry. Almost all legal liens and encumbrances will also be on file in the Registry.What’s Not To Love?With all of these positives and not too many negatives, developers are flocking to this tiny country. They are developing hotels, condos and housing communities. In some parts of the country, you almost feel like you’re in the U.S. or Canada because of all the expatriates. If you’re looking for a dynamic market, then Costa Rica is for you!
What a year to be in real estate! I think I am one of the last Realtors left! The last 18 months have seen an exodus of real estate agents from the business, and the ones who remain are truly the ones you want to be working with. This is a professional’s market, and now more than ever, you need a great Realtor to help you with your real estate needs. But what is in store for real estate in 2010?Next year, we can expect somewhat of a roller-coaster ride for real estate, in general. We have a lot of good and a lot of not-so-good on the periphery, so how can you manage yourself and your home and investments as good as possible? Or will 2010 finally be the year that you jump into the real estate market for good? Let’s look at the good and the bad, and discuss both relative to each market segment out there (buyers, sellers, investors, etc).First, the bad:2010 will feature more of the same from bank foreclosures and short sales. In their most recent statistics, according to NAR about 25% of all transactions in America right now are distressed properties. Obviously things are different here in San Diego, where that number feels like 100%, but really is closer to about 2/3 of all sales, and it changes from area to area throughout the county. Because of a lack of cohesion and cooperation on the part of the banks and also on the part of government regulation, getting anything done with a bank in 2009 was (and is) pretty darn difficult. True, systems are in place and getting further refined, and more people are getting employed to take on the workload at the banks to get used to dealing with so many short sales, however, this has been a work in progress for the past 3 years and will continue to be so for 2010 and beyond.In fact, there were a record number of Notice of Defaults (NOD’s) posted this last month, and with loan modifications becoming less and less apparent (meaning the banks just aren’t doing very many at all of these) expect there to be a consistent flow of more and more short sales and foreclosures. Furthermore, there are several ALT-A loans (what people have been calling the next wave of bad loans) where the borrowers of these types of loans will see their loan readjust to an unaffordable amount, causing further increasing pressure on defaults and foreclosures. More than anything, doing a short sale has in my opinion become an acceptable social construction. Doing a short sale is now commonplace and not as stigmatized as is has been for the past few years; the same goes for foreclosure as well. A vast amount people have gotten involved in a bad loan or a bad investment that there is no hesitation anymore in holding on to the home.The trend now is to stop making payments and live in the property as long as possible then dump the property, and deal with the aftermath accordingly. Perception has shifted and I predict a heavy increase of short sales for 2010. I only hope that the banks are ready for it. Moreover, the IRS has an exemption on the tax you would typically pay on any forgiven debt for your primary residence. This is one of the main reasons folks have decided to do a short sale in the first place (among other benefits). This exemption is set to expire at the end of 2010, and this will be a cause for many homeowners who were just thinking about doing a short sale to get them to take action. You will want to consult a professional to get some real answers when it comes to a short sale, and you can contact me if you need that kind of help today.Foreclosures as well as short sales will continue to be a big part of the available inventory throughout 2010, and I do not see them going away anytime soon. Expect this trend of massive distress sale (short sale and foreclosure) inventory to last well into 2012 or 2013.Regarding the luxury real estate market and commercial real estate market; both of whom have struggled in 2009, they will continue to do so in 2010. I feel that the effect from the economic and market downturn will become even more pronounced for both of these market segments well into 2011 and on. For high end homes, perceptions are changing people are beginning to live more within their means. This recession has taught many a lesson on the excesses that had become commonplace over the past decade. Also, due to lending guideline changes, buyers who could normally afford an expensive loan can no longer qualify for it. More than anything, most people in this price point just aren’t ready to take the risk, or have lost their money and means to do so. As a result, the lack of sales in high end areas of San Diego reflects these trends. I am seeing that people with money are taking advantage of more lucrative deals at the lesser price points, and everything above a million still has yet to see the bottom. To cap it off, lending at this price point has just begun to turnaround; for most of this year it has been difficult to get financing for high end homes, even with a 50% down payments! Conclusively, I would not recommend entering the real estate market at any price point over $1 Million in 2010, unless you found one of those great deals that everyone is talking about (but very few actually find). Ultimately, I think there is just too much downside and risk here and not enough reward.For commercial real estate, we have yet to see the bottom as well. For one, the economic downturn has caused many businesses to close up shop, which increases vacancies and decreases the money realized by the commercial property owner. This also causes property values to decline as commercial property is valued based on the income it generates. There will continue to be a lull in this regard for most commercial real estate until the economy begins to rebound and jobs are created in mass. Secondly, many property owners have refinanced their commercial real estate loans in the past few years, and these loans are going to be called due, which is especially problematic for those properties worth less now than what is owed to the bank. As such, we will see more and more commercial property being foreclosed and sold via a short sale (which simply has not been happening anywhere near the levels of residential real estate). I personally haven’t seen a significant enough decline in most commercial property values to call a bottom in 2010. This trend will continue for the next few years as commercial real estate tends to lag residential, generally speaking. I believe we are seeing only the beginning of what is to come. That said, I feel there is immense opportunity in this regard. I am beginning to see great income property that was not realistically priced prior, but is now selling at price points where the owner can cash flow with a modest amount down. I would keep my watchful eye on this market segment.Importantly, the economy itself will also play a major role in both the local and national real estate recovery. We have seen how real estate got us into this mess, and it will also be one of the first industries to get us out. Although we have begun to see many signs of improvement, we aren’t out of the woods just yet. The issue at hand now is focused on job creation. Upon economic recovery, the creation of jobs will allow for substantial growth and appreciation in real estate.The good:2009 was the year where (most of) the market bottomed out. For any median priced property or lower, we saw the bottom of the market reached in early spring of this year. Since then, we have been experiencing a lack of inventory which has increased demand and caused price stability, and in certain areas, price appreciation. What I can buy in Chula Vista, El Cajon, or North Park today costs more than it did earlier this year. Again, we are seeing that perception shift and the mentality of buying a home has changed. As a result, the buyers are out in droves. Multiple offers are a normalcy and it is challenging for an active buyer because of the competition in the marketplace. Furthermore, interest rates are seriously phenomenal and I wouldn’t expect them to be this low for that much longer.All that money that’s being printed and the debt that the US is taking on is going to have a serious impact on inflation. This increase of inflation will indeed increase interest rates (the reason being is that inflation means the dollar is worth less. If the dollar becomes worth less, the interest rate on a home mortgage needs to increase to take into account the loss of value that the dollar has incurred – this is simply cause and effect). I am sure the fed will try to hold this off as long as possible, but if you are in the market to buy a home, why not do it now? Prices are fresh off their bottom and with rates like these, one would look back in the future and say “why the heck did I not do anything when I had the chance!! Now everyone is rich and I am still renting a studio in Claremont!”To make things even sweeter, the Government extended the first time home buyer credit to mid 2010, and also included a credit for move-up buyers to help stimulate this other important aspect of the market. (For more on this, call me)On a separate note, people have come up to me on numerous occasions throughout the year talking about a shadow inventory of REO/Foreclosure/Repossessed homes that the banks are holding on to. These people say this because they are going to wait until the banks dump all that inventory on the market with the intention of then buying a property to get a smokin’ deal. To those people I will say this: ITS NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Banks are conducting a “controlled asset release”. They are slowly going to be releasing their large supply of foreclosed homes on the market little by little over a long span of time. This is a GREAT thing because it preserves value and keeps the prices from dropping anymore. This makes all current homeowners happier and more confident in general. It is absolutely necessary in this market, and it is one of the few things that the banks are doing RIGHT, in my opinion. This strategy is the one reason why you should get comfortable with foreclosures. There are so many of them (and they keep coming) that it will take a long time to absorb and sell off all of these non performing assets. As such, I see foreclosures as a large part of the total amount of transactions continuing for at least the next 18-24 months.Moreover, earlier I spoke of the ALT-A loans that will be coming due and re-setting. Many people believe that this round of mortgage resets in the next few years are going to be much worse than before. It is important to note that the size and scale of these loans are not as large (or bad) as the sub-prime loans that began the mortgage meltdown mess. Yes, they are a problem, but as many experts in the industry have been saying, the worst is behind us and the issue now is how to pick up the pieces and make this picture whole again.Lastly, from the beginning of 2008 we saw nearly all real estate development seize in all parts of the country. The population has not stopped growing, but the development of new homes has for the past 2 years been flat-lining. Expect to see the home builders and developers begin to get back on their feet now that prices have begun to hit their support. The fact that there has been no new building is a testament to the overbuilding that had occurred in the years prior to 2008, and since then the remainder has either been sold off on the cheap or absorbed organically. Regardless, new development is going to be needed sooner rather than later to catch up with demand, but this lack of building has also been one of the other reasons for price support in the market generally speaking.So what to do now?So for investors, proceed with caution. The best deals are the ones at the bottom part of the market (under $250,000), or the larger commercial developments where the principal investor/developer ran out of money. I won’t divulge my best sources in this newsletter, but call me for the most lucrative deal sources and property lists for San Diego.For Sellers, 2010 will actually be a great time to sell. Inventory is down to a 2 month supply currently in most parts of San Diego, meaning that it is a seller’s market. As such, most places are beginning to see an increase in value. Buyers are eager to find and buy good property, and there is a lot of competition out there, so your property will get a lot of action (assuming it is below $700,000) – anything higher is more and more challenging as you increase in purchase price – so if you are one of those homeowners thinking of selling a high priced home – get out now while you still can.For buyers: 2010 will be a year of ups and downs, but for the most part, there really hasn’t been an opportunity like this for quite some time. We are going to see some record months and then some real dead months depending on market swings (heavily tied to the financing of loans). Getting a loan through will continue to be difficult, but not as bad as it has been in 2009. Affordability is at a 30 year high, and the interest rates are at near-historic lows. As more and more people realize the opportunity at hand, more buyers will enter the market which will help to further stabilize the market and increase purchase prices. I predict a low, single digit appreciation for most zip codes across the board for San Diego in 2010. It is a phenomenal time to consider making your first purchase, or selling your home to move up to a bigger home for your growing family. I am actually finishing up a book specifically geared towards first time home buyers which will help guide you throughout each step of the process. My book is going to be available in the 1st quarter of 2010, available on Amazon.com, and will be a great help for anyone looking to buy their first home. For more information on this, call or email me anytime.All in all, 2010 will be a weird year in real estate. I don’t see an overarching trend to work off of because all market segments are correcting at differing timescales and with different intensities. Further, the government and banks are continuing to tinker with processes that attempt to increase efficiencies with short sales, foreclosures, and loan modifications, and the results will be mixed. I am positive there will be some unexpected surprises and anomalies, but the bottom line is this: if you need help in real estate, use a professional and give us a call anytime. We are here to help you realize success.May you experience health, wealth and joy in 2010. We look forward to hearing from you and happy to help you or any of your friends who need solid professional service, advice or assistance. If you know of someone who can benefit from our level of service, send us their information and we will follow up and take great care of them.