Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Closing Thoughts

We close on the house tomorrow, just after lunch, and start schelpping our nine suitcases, 35 shipping boxes and piles of random stuff to the new place. It sounds like more than it is.

On Sunday we got wind of a development we had not looked at in our price range and a huge farm in the hills around Lake Arenal, and took off for some sightseeing before deciding both places were simply too remote.

Monday seemed like it was our new daily weekday routine, get up, get dressed, go to the bank, hurry up and wait, talk to the bank officer about more picky details and then head home. We both got home shortly after lunchtime, ate and took naps, getting up just in time to meet the realtors, both the liar and the less of a liar and someone that the Lying Liar was pushing as THE pool guy in Guanacaste.

Liked the pool guy, and he had some great things to say about the property and installing a pool.

What we were not prepared for was his estimate of around 40 thousand to install the pool. Jiminy crickets, was I shocked!! Lying Realtor had been insisting that putting in a pool would run between 15K and 25K, which is where we budgeted. We got told that this was just the price of the Gold Standard Guy, who has installed all the pools of the resorts and local millionaires.

I was pretty sick of the Lying Realtors shit by that moment, calculating that to install a pool at that price would take us just to the line of our budget for the house, installing hot water, getting a plumber and electrician in to put in necessary water/electrical to install a full sized American washer and dryer we are planning to buy.

Yes, I know we could tap our savings again, but I'm done with that. Friday we locked down a big chunk in a 2 year CD at the local bank. We'd get penalized like crazy if we did that. There are funds in the states that we could use, but quite frankly I'm over this whole damn thing. Bringing that money over would be another gigantic hassle. The realtor has turned the purchase into the Costa Rican version of the Bataan Death March with more crazy things we have to do, and trying to parse  which are lies and what's true. If we weren't right at the threshhold of wrapping the house buying up I'd walk away right now.

Buying our house in the states was nowhere near this much hassle, but we did get a 2 month turn around time from signing to closing and weren't dealing with the rules of a foreign government.

After the pool guy left it was Jim and I hissing like annoyed geese at our realtor. I had to point out that I was very displeased by the fact I had to now buy furniture because he'd not told me that the house was staged, the furniture rented, so that the furniture that came with the house was older and not so nice. Jim was hissing about the lie about the cost of the pool and how tight that would bring our budget.

The realtor said no problem, he knew of a pool building firm just down the road trained by the pool guy just as good and much cheaper. He would take us and introduce us. We get to this janky old building with a tiny pool sales office and none of the guys are in, just the receptionist. She gets one of the guys on the phone and he ballparks the size of the pool we want as around 37K. This is all after listening to Lying Realtor rolling down the road telling us that these guys would be significantly cheaper. They weren't. Another lie.

Here's the thing in business. "I don't know but let me do a little research and I'll find out" is a perfectly acceptable answer. I've uttered it myself in various jobs, gone and done a little research for the customer, getting back to them with the correct answer. This guy does none of that, and now he's acting all Simon-pure even after uttering a big pile of falsehoods.

At one point we were discussing the pole that needs replacing on the guesthouse porch and he stepped back, refusing to chime into the conversation the seller's realtor, Jim and I were having about the easy and cheapest way to shore up the pole. It has no base or foundation, so it's the easiest thing in the world to mix up a little concrete, put a concrete mold around the base of the pole and pour. Easy as pie. I've done concrete repair and stepping stone, bench and other projects at our old house. Liar refuses to say anything, telling us it's not his job to advise us on how to deal with some of the few pesky must dos on the home inspection.

He is rude, condescending, at times patronizing. He just gets under my skin. Jim and I both agree about him. He has something about him, some air or attitude that just makes thinking about punching him in the face something you might want to do even if it's immoral and illegal.

I mentally stick pins in a voodoo doll constructed to look like him every single day.

Tomorrow I have to write that sucker a check for helping us buy the house. I'm choking on that.

Today was the last full day here in the German house. The dishwasher and dryer are still out. The electricity is still out in the second bath and guest bedroom and the electric still flickering like a strobe light, plus for the last four days there is water pouring out of the bedroom ac into our closet.  The landlords have known about these repairs for quite some time but make no effort to fix them so I'm looking forward to moving, even if its going to be cold showers until the hot water heater is installed.

Most of the day was eaten up with our cat Stinky. He's had health issues since we adopted him nearly four months ago so we put off his neuter until now. Dropped him off early, picked him up and noon and had him struggling to overcome the effects of the anesthesia. He is still not as strong as he should be. We spent a lot time petting him today. Finally about an hour ago he showed signs of hunger and was able to walk without wobbling all over like a drunk guy.

The move will be good for him because the privacy fence around the entire yard is over 9 feet tall. I think it might actually be tall enough to let him outside. He likes going out on the deck here, but he can get out over the five foot fence.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hot Water Cold Feet

Saturday morning took a weird turn. Jim poked me awake early even if I was staggering around under the effects of my asthma and allergy meds before coffee. He wanted me to immediately print out a copy of the engineering report and the architectural report from the home inspection team to hand over to lying realtor. Printed the reports out, threw on a beach dress while downing a cup of coffee and tried to make sure my feet were in the right sided flip flops.

We went to see our lying realtor (my new name for him). I thought we were just dropping the copies off and then meeting with the sellers realtor who lies somewhat less at 4 pm. But no, no, no, we were having a full bore on meeting to discuss the reports. I'd only had a tiny bit of coffee, I'm fighting my stupid body's tendency to try and stop me from breathing, and I'm still dealing with a body hangover for having eaten the most delicious, but stomach affecting cheeseburger.

Three days before I'd had a grilled cheese cheeseburger at a local burger joint and it was orgasmic. The problem being I rarely eat meat, I almost never eat junk foods like burgers and my body decided the best response was to say 'What the hell is that pound of cheese and meat doing in here' and just shut everything down. I'd been billious for days, trying to tell myself that hell no I did not regret eating that enormous burger even if I currently could only crawl around eating invalid foods like toast and tea. Took me the better part of a week to start eating again normally, and to feel hungry. Craziest reaction to junk food of all time.

I should have figured that my morning was going to be totally gutted by Lying Realtor because the day before when I'd gotten my hot little hands on the report I'd freaked out at first reading when the English as a second language home inspector carried on and on and on in the report about the water tank on the roof and I made the unpleasant discovery that the house had no hot water heater anywhere on premises. Plus a couple of other things I would have expected the Lying Realtor to know about. In fact, I did ask him about the hot water heater and the tank on the roof. He lied.

So after reading through the report I was ready to call off the sale because there was no way in hell I was moving into a place whose only water source was a roof top tank. It's expensive to truck the water in and we'd already informed Lying Realtor we would not buy a place not on municipal water for expense of trucked water and the possibility of dirty water. I fired off a less than nice email to the realtor, who immediately called and told Jim he never told me there was a hot water heater in the house and that yes, the house is on municipal water unlike what the report stated. We immediately requested a walkthrough for Saturday afternoon with settlement on Wednesday.

So Saturday morning was Jim and I, me sitting there beef-stunned, asthma-med-addled and coffee-deprived while the Lying Realtor went banging on and on and on explaining in great detail how septic systems work, how municipal water functions, and why Costa Ricans rarely have hot water in their homes.

Okay, I'll admit the Copey de Dota experience had worn off a bit and I'd forgotten completely about how hot water is never a thing in Costa Rican homes. Clothes, dishes, bodies all get washed in cold water. But I also made it clear that we would immediately need to install hot water tank for this house because I am not risking the Costa Rican electrified death shower again, a shower head that heats the water to intermittent lukewarm water while sometimes giving you an unpleasant electric surprise while adjusting the metal shower knob. It happened to us.

Lying Realtor talks to Jim and I like we're both utter dumbasses, explaining these things in idiot minute detail until I have to stop him because my sleepy head is aching and tell him I already know a lot about septic tanks and sewage from a environment ecology class I took in college. I understand how sewage is dealt with on a large and small scale. Tell you something scary I learned in that class at LSU. In the Baton Rouge of the late 70s and early 80s sewage was dealt with by skimming off the solids, putting chemicals to disinfect the water and then the entire mess was released into the Mississippi River to go downriver to New Orleans, who pulls their drinking water at that time from the river. Flush twice because it's a long long way to New Orleans!

These were all things we'd discussed in detail over the phone and email the night before but Professor Lying Realtor is clearly nervous we might not complete the sale. If we weren't already so so close I might have cancelled it over this sudden surprise over the hot water and being lied to about a few things. But we're almost done and not soon enough. I never have to sit through another idiotic lecture by this guy again once we close. 

We finally escaped around noon, got a few groceries and came home for lunch and a nap. Four o'clock we roll up at the new place just in time to see a troop of howler monkeys and scarlet macaws and other small parrots raiding the ripe star fruit off the tree in the back. The owners were there cleaning out the place, and we and their realtor went over all the small details and we got answers to the questions we'd been asking no one could answer, like the last time the roof had been served, when had the septic tank been pumped, where exactly is the leech field.

We both liked the owners and the other realtor quite a lot. Everything was explained in detail. The only unpleasant surprise was finding out that the majority of the lovely furniture we thought that they were leaving was hired furniture to stage the house!! Apparently Lying Realtor was supposed to have told us that. They are leaving all of the furniture on the list, it's just none of it is quite as nice as the extra pieces they staged with. So guess who has to buy all new furnishings for the lanai, the guesthouse and the master suite? Us. After all the crazy slings and arrows and hoops we'd been dealing with this surprise was actually quite minor. They are leaving things I did not expect, like a large chest freezer and two dining room sets along with six televisions and every single thing in the kitchen. They are leaving all of the potted plants of which there are quite a few ones in half whiskey barrel sized planters.

We just want to get this deal done and move in. I cannot believe I'm going to get to see such exotic birds right in our backyard because we sure do not see them here a few miles down the same road.

It wasn't long after we returned from our walk through that one of the lesser fun things that happens routinely happened. The electricity went out for a large swath of the area. It went out for five hours and at one point I found myself crouching in the running car trying to charge my sacred cell.

I also discovered I am too stupid and clumsy to be trusted with candles. I went into the kitchen to try to figure out if I could bypass the electronic pilot light on the stovetop to cook dinner and I left a candle in glass burning on the coffee table. Came back five minutes later and the coffee table and tv remote were merrily burning. Ugh.

Friday, February 23, 2018

When the Going Gets Tough I Get Weird

This week has been taken up yet again with the roiling cluster fuck of our house purchase. The bank here in Costa Rica has refused for almost three weeks now to release our funds to us. I'm scampered around like a crazed chipmunk hording for winter, but the only things I'm hording is a flood of paperwork proving that the money is honestly ours from honest endeavors.

It's enough of a sum that's it has created massive stress levels in both of us. It's enough to buy enough CDs to support ourselves on the 8% return rate here in Costa Rica combined with enough to buy the house, the property and the guesthouse, buy some furniture, a washer and dryer and install a swimming pool.

Yeah, 8% return, a crazy high return when you cannot even get 1% in America at that bank. The government bank here is backed and insured so the money is safe, well as safe as money can be overseas. Here's the scary bit about about of this and why is was more of a hassle for us than most folks.

The scary. If the government thinks at all, or has the slightest evidence you might not be on the up and up, they can seize all of your assets that they can touch.  That means every penny we're bringing in to invest in real estate and CDs.

That's how husband-murdering millionairess about to be retried yet again Ann Bender lost her millions.  She illegally imported over 7 million bucks in gemstones and neglected to file any import paperwork or pay the impuesto (taxes) so the government seized everything of value in her home right down to the appliances. She's at the very least guilty of tax evasion and smuggling, but I suspect that she'll be convicted again. You cannot claim your husband committed suicide in front of you while the bullet entry wound is in the back of his head, forensics shows that the gun was fired from ten feet away and you are the only one with gun shot residue on your hands and clothing. I feel pretty certain she did it. Forensic tests do not lie.

Bender came up when we started house hunting. The estate lands have been officially divided up and the lots are on the market right now with beautiful views of the waterfall on their lands. I suspect she's trying to raise funds for a defense. The lot prices are lower than I would have thought. While the property is 30 minutes from the beaches and only a short hop over the mountain road to Copey de Dota it gives me the creeps to think about living in the shadow of someone elses dream turned gruesome cautionary tale.

Also complicating the matter is the fact that Jim told the seller's broker and our agent that he was refusing to pay the $850 escrow charge, that we would present a cashier's check to the seller the day of closing. Jim is thrifty, he always has been. But it's sort of gummed up the works a bit. Bringing in that money into an escrow account is apparently much easier than dealing with the banking regulators and the government for the import directly.

There has been praying, crying, screaming and ranting over that money for nearly three weeks now.

Our original closing date was supposed to be tomorrow, but the seller refused to schedule the closing until we showed him proof that the money had been released into our Costa Rican bank account. He hasn't even started to clear his personal possessions out of the house yet!

Finally this morning the money was released by the international banking division and the government and is sitting in our account right now. We fired out a letter from the bank stating that we have a sufficient balance to pay cash at closing. So now the closing is rescheduled until Wednesday and the family will be removing their odds and ends from the house. I will be posting photos as soon as we move in next week.

In the meantime I've had to deal with one very patronizing 'oh you little woman' type realtor. I've already told Jim I've had to restrain myself multiple times from going gangsta hardcore and telling him to shut the fuck up. I will be telling him after the sale how insulting his behavior is and how we're never using him again.

Yesterday he called me about a dozen times, nagging me to try and get me to nag Jim into taking care of the tiny details. I was gritting my teeth hard, I slept poorly and ground my teeth all night, getting up exhausted and super fucking cranky.

When he tried to start that shit up again with me this morning I started cursing up a blue streak and practically punching the walls. Plus I was getting it from other ends, from one of the attorneys involved with the sale. There was last minute legal paperwork to be filed, and in the middle of this my scanner died. Both the realtor and the lawyer refusing to accept faxes, insisting on scanned in copies. I tried downloading and trying out three different scanner apps for my phone and Ipad but nothing worked like it was supposed to so in the late afternoon I had some choice (obscene) words for the realtor related through my dear husband.

I'm standing in the office off the kitchen shouting out to Jim 'You tell that lousy sack of shit motherfucker that if he wants a scanned document he's going to have to fucking do it himself, that COCKSUCKER!!!' and Jim was translating it to him like 'Suzanne is having issues with the scanner and says you will have to take the documents back to your office and scan them in...'

Yeah, it was that kind of a few days, with me going nuclear obscene pissed off crazy woman only today. Usually when I get that super irrationally angry it means a very bad asthma attack is coming. I hope that's not it. I'm pushing meds, extra meds right now to nip it if it is.

I was busy crying on the shoulder of my friend who just visited here and tried to give me a come to Jesus around noon today. I confessed to her that I didn't want to use this realtor in the first place because he goes to church with Jim and has a Jesus Fish on his car.

We both started giggling and laughing over the fact that people in the business world that brag how Christian they are, or just have the fish on their cars, are usually the most incompetent and likely to scam you the hardest. They will know we are Christians by the Jesus Fish on our car.  She's a Joel Osteen-loving, Evangelical that thinks Donald Trump is the bees knees of a president and that she should be able to carry her cute pink pistol into anywhere unimpeded. But she thinks exactly the same way I do about Christians marketing their business as Christian. But she gloats over the fact that Jesus will judge them for it one day. I'm not that confident that is the scenario that will go down at the end of the world. I'm mostly agnostic now.

As I started writing this I began to hear a wetish drip drip drip and discovered that the air conditioner here in the master bedroom has begun to leak into our closet. So guess what my Friday looks like tomorrow??? Massive amounts of laundry with some light yelling at the landlord. Yes, the ac has leaked all over all the clothes we own. The dryer is still dead so the back lanai will be festooned with an assortment of stuff.

A few more days, I keep telling myself just a few more days.

On a good note the new place got a full home inspection and passed with flying colors. That is unheard of in Costa Rica because usually there's earthquake damage or jerryrigged plumbing or electric. I guess it pays to buy the weekend beach pad of a rich lawyer in San Jose.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dave's Not Here, Man

I have glossed over the raw nerves and sheer anxiety dealing with getting a very large sum of cash wired from our broker to our Costa Rican bank account to go to closing on our new house next week. This week has been me on the edge of frayed nerves, trudging back and forth between banker, real estate agent, house inspector, lawyer, baker, candlestick maker.

There's been some nerve related petty squabbling between Jim and I, at least that one evening when the agent told me (rather untruthful) that Jim had ignored getting things done, throwing me into a panic of trying to accomplish this pile of tasks. Jim showed me the email trail and Jim was right, the agent is a lying asshole whom I almost believed.

Like I said, nerves on edge, providing more and more documents to the bank to justify bringing Scrooge McDuck's bounty into the country for a house and assorted investments. Just when you think things are resolved there is another document requested. I think we've finished now and we're just waiting for the money being released into our bank account for closing.

I keep going out to the pool to swim but the landlord's wife keeps coming out to try and question me on our plans. I keep asking her when she's going to have the electrical problems, dryer and now the dishwasher fixed. Nothing is fixed, yet they are pushing hard to put a new tenant in here. Looks like we're going to have less than a  day to move and clean this place out. Not looking forward to it.

The online argument yesterday was good because it seriously distracted me from the week of stress and flu recovery. I ran into the guy who'd viewed our rental a few days ago that I was somewhat less than welcoming to, explaining to him what the deal was in detail about the electrical problems with the house. He's an engineer that speaks a pile of foreign languages. I ended up dog-sitting for his puppy so he could slip into the bank and Jim's made a friend that he can speak Russian and German with. I felt bad for how bitchy my barfing sick self that been when the landlord and he just unlocked the door and moseyed on in.

Today started off well. I had finally started to feel better, even if I somehow managed to do something to my hip. We got up and went down to the local farmer's market to get locally grown fresh bacon, fruit and vegetables, some CBD oil, bread and bagels. We walked around in the sunshine a long time, deciding to take stroll on the beach.

Before we could do that we ran into Dave. Dave is a guy here that takes surf photos, some for magazines, some for the tourists. Dave's an interesting dude, 70 years old who has lived just about everywhere and done a huge variety of things for a living. The only problem with Dave is if you get sucked into his orbit it takes an hour or better to get away from his conspiracy theories and many loves of Dave. In December he was telling us he wanted to move in with a woman we all knew named Maggy and start a family. Now it's a lady he's known and loved for years from Venezuela. Who knows who it will be next.

It did take us a solid hour or better. I almost had a sunburn, something that so rarely happens to me. But things went a little haywire when we got home. The front door was wide open, and multiple cars were in our front yard. Yes, yet again the house was being shown without telling us anything at all in advance.

I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I went off on the rental agent, letting them  know it was extremely uncool to show the place with zero notice. When I get notice I generally make sure the place is very clean and make myself very scarce while they show the house. Today I'd walked out with breakfast dishes in the sink, an unmade bed, my business AmEx sitting out with my personal credit card on the desk top next to my computer and a diamond and sapphire necklace on the dresser. Things I would never have left sitting out if I had any clue someone was visiting. Too many little thieves in this community.

Ignored the young mom, dad, toddler son and infant and pretty much told off their realtor about showing them a house with screwed up electrical system and all the other things the landlords will not fix. Jim told me later he was very surprised for how I jumped all over the guy. I'm pretty furious that the landlords aren't fixing a thing and showing the place willynilly so the next family will have the same problems. Yeah, I know, it's not my problem since I'm leaving, but it's still pretty scummy. I'm seeing the faked photos with the fancy furniture all over the real estate lists here online like a bad rash, and having to field questions from people looking about why the joint looks nothing like the photos.

If It's Not One Thing It's Your Old Fundy Church!

Spent an amusing afternoon. I felt like I should have made popcorn and brought out the beers as I sat ringside and watched two people I know from my old fundamentalist/evangelical/quiverfull church duke it out with words on Facebook. I watched and tried not to laugh before one of them got uber huffy and erased the entire thread.

Guess what they were fighting over? Which one of them was truly disrepresenting God. Serious. Oh holy shit was it funny.

What did it start over. A t-shirt meme about God being kicked out of schools and now we have all these shootings.

Oh brother! If you're going to fight over a school shooting please fight over what we can do to protect the children of this nation, not which one of you is channeling God or not.

One of the participants was Tom Smith, my personal bete noire doing my years fundying, and the other is someone I was on the prayer team with.

I've heard interesting things about so many at my old church because some many there are gossipy old peahens that contact me whenever they want to scream out tales out of Sunday school. The worst story of the bunch is about our old pastor, he who started doing some funny money shenanigans with the different bank accounts before suddenly hearing God calling him to a richer church. Apparently he nearly got into a fist fight with a former church member and spat out to the guy that he'd never liked him at all ever. Pretty crazy. And all this took place at a funeral, A. Funeral.

Just makes me happier than a bay of clams in a vat of valiums. I always knew deep inside that the people I went to church with were pretty petty, but seeing concrete evidence of the crazy makes me joyous I left before the entire church boiled away into this.

Pretty sure all of this would horrify the Jesus of the New Testament even while it's making me laugh while I'm decorating my handbasket to hell with pretty flowers and candles.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

It Happened on Valentine's Day!

We spent the majority of this day trying to get documents into the hands of our bank so that they will allow our wire transfer of the funds to buy the house through. Every single time I think we've checked all the boxes, dotted the I's and crossed the T's something else comes up.

I'm told it's pretty common. The local bank just wants to make sure Jim and I aren't using some sweet sweet illegally earned drug money to buy our new house. If we had sweet sweet illegally earned drug money we'd be buying a much bigger and fancier house dudes...

Getting worried that the money won't make it in time for the closing so I'm currently filling out paperwork to wire it into a escrow account if the bank rejects our paperwork and sends the entire amount back.

But that was later, it wasn't the incredibly crazy start to the day. So I've had flu for six days now and crawled out this morning with no orifice spewing bio hazards and able to walk upright. While Jim went to the gym I was involved in a free lance paid project, even if I was still working from the bed, off a bed table next to the bed. Thank god I had my clothes on and had recently drug a comb through my hair because I had unexpected visitors that ended up going haywire like a bad sketch comedy skit.

Working hard when I hear a ratta tat tat on the front door and the door pops up. The landlord and a young Tico walks in. The landlord tells me, in German of course since it's the only language he speaks, that this young man is here to look at the house. I complain vociferously that I'm working and he's interrupting that and that due to the illness and puke spewing the house is something less than perfectly clean. The Tico tells me hey that's no big deal.

But he puts me on the spot immediately, asking why I'm moving and I just baldly tell him that we bought a house. Then he wants to know why the furniture and decorative items in the online photos of the house are so different and how dingy the place looks compared to the photo. I tell him its because those are staged real estate photos and I've never seen a stick of that furniture anywhere on the grounds.

While we're talking the lights and electric start with their stupid flickering, going on and off, on and off and he asks if this is normal. I point out to him that the electric here is screwed. He says this isn't the place for him.

We're speaking English, which the landlord does not understand. Entire visit lasts under five minutes. I'm sorry I screwed it up for the landlord, but I'm not going to lie for them. I've been hiding from them today because even if old Fritzie cannot parse English I'm pretty sure he knows I called them on their bullshit attempts to gild a turd.

They are supposed to let me know when someone is coming into the house 24 hours in advance. I wonder what happened to their potential renter that signed a lease? Thought the place was rented.

Today I learned that Gringo pricing is real. I had dropped off my Iphone to get the glass replaced and a general good cleaning of the connectors and ended up being quoted a price that was only 15 bucks more than the price in the States. Know very well the two guys that own and operate this internet cafe/tech repair shop. Sat waiting for my phone and witnessed four different sets of Americans come in and request pricing on the same repair. He quoted them anywhere from twenty to sixty dollars more. When I got ready to leave he giggled and whispered to me that he was giving me the local Tico price since I live here now and I've been frequenting his business.

Late afternoon I discovered quite by accident that Jim had been ignoring the paperwork on buying the house and there was a lot of forms to fill out and documents to cough up like bank statements and tax records. I talked to the realtor about it and he immediately tried to throw Jim under the bus, claiming that he told Jim last week he needed to print off, fill out paperwork and provide documentation. When I asked Jim he said our real estate agency was also a liar, that none of that had been mentioned to him. I don't know who is lying in this situation, but I have to say I was very turned off by the agent immediately blaming Jim I got pretty stressed out having to hurry through all of it.

We ended up going out to dinner for Valentine's Day after all the rushing around trying to do everything for the sale and we went to our favorite restaurant on a nearby beach. We hadn't sat down ten minutes when I was stung by a bee right in the middle of my stomach. After a walk on the dark beach post dinner I finally just gave up and did the thing I should have done quickly to avoid the crazy. I climbed back into bed. I'm going to bed and I may not leave it if tomorrow morning starts like this one did.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

You Might Be A Gringo....

Today I'm going to touch on a few not as nice realities of moving to Costa Rica from the United States. There are oodles of blogs, message boards and books screaming 'Move to Costa Rica, it's fun! It's cheap, it's fabulous!'

There's not a lot that addresses the realities here.

First last me say I love, love, love it here. The way the laws are set up it's very hard to sue someone for any reason. We've already moved all our Costa Rican assets into a corporation instead of personally owning them outright. Makes it almost impossible for the Tim Baylys of this world to try and spank me legally for calling them out on toxic behavior. Yes, Bayly has threatened to sue me, I have the emails to prove it.

Other things to love. If you live simply like a Tico it's much cheaper here. Even with our copious complaints about the costs of electricity that cost is still way less than what we paid in the States.

Local food is cheaper. It's only more expensive if you march into the Auto Mercado and buy U.S. imported foods. Example: Someone on the expat list was bitching a few weeks ago that they paid $17 U.S. dollars for a 5 pound bag of potatoes, posting a photo. They'd bought potatoes imported from the good old US of A instead of going down to the local Frutas stand and buying Costa Rican grown potatoes for roughly 75 cents a pound.

If you attempt to live here like an entitled Gringo with the same standard of living as America or Canada it's going to cost you a lot more money! Why come here and try to live like Little America in your all-American subdivision where the builder has charged you way more than the place is worth and you have some louche Tico with a uniform and a gun pretending to guard you? Running the air conditional willy nilly cuts you off from the hoots of the monkeys and the wonderful spicy smell of the open air fires of local farmers burning brush. No Tico friends, you never learn which are the best restaurants, when the big sales happen or find out about the bullfights and festivals.

But, if you embrace the idea that you don't need a lot of possessions or constant shopping, that you're rather go to the beach or walk to the Frutas stand and have no expectations of this being anything like America plus aren't wedded to the idea of people being punctual or honest this is the place for you.

There will be some frustrations with the glacial pace most government agencies and repairmen work at, and the fact that there are those in this third world country that will shake you down if you let them, like Jim getting scammed by the pot-smoking house-crasher we hosted on Thanksgiving night. Realize it's not America or Canada and relax.

The last couple of weeks have been most revealing and reinforcing what we know about life here. A couple of weeks ago one of our friends came to visit, and the Tico weirdness started early at the Liberia airport when the airport guards started moving those of us waiting farther and farther from the gate so we could not interfere with the 'volunteer' porters pushily grabbing and running off with the luggage of the arrivals so they could score a big fat tip. We've learned that scam, pushing forward to rescue our friend.

We had to rescue her friend that came with her a few times from pushy vendors too. Explaining that you do not flash cash, or indicate in any way you have any money because they will overwhelm you. You have to be pretty firm when you issue a 'NO!'

Right now we're getting the business from the realtors, lawyers, home inspectors, bank agents and assorted government agencies in this house purchase. Everyone has their hand out, and there are government fees galore. Now, we did negotiate out of a lot of the fees. Someone just arriving here might not realize that many times locals will try to charge you the maximum they can until you protest you're being gypped.

You even have to watch people like our landlords. During the ten days my friends were here our electric started going haywire, more haywire than usual because I've been complaining to the landlord for months now that the electrical grid is screwy in the house. Burned out appliances, a middle of the night explosion by the landscaping lights and several burned out sockets. Partial electricity. I told the landlord back six weeks ago that the house was showing signs that the electrical switch between the meter and where the electricity enters the property was damaged. I went through this at our house ten years ago, so I knew what it was I was looking at. She blamed a number of things on our electrical problems, from her thinking we have too much technology plugged in to it being the crappy electricity here in Costa Rica. At one point the socket the refrigerator is plugged into went bad and the fridge kept getting warm then cold. It's still not fixed even if the landlord put an extension cord and plugged the fridge into the socket in the laundry room. No repairs, or slow and poorly done is our experience, and it turns out this is very, very common in rental property here.

The frustrating thing about the landlord is that on last Monday we heard that our contract was officially accepted and as soon as we had signed paperwork all the way around and had started the process to wire in that huge sum we told our landlord on Sunday afternoon that we were be leaving in two weeks to move into our own house. Sunday night at 9 pm our landlord's real estate agent had listed our house for rent. I laughed when I saw the photos because they don't show the decrepit state of the house, they are carefully staged with fancy furniture that is not in the house, and, for shits and giggles, the photos have been carefully photoshopped to gloss over the cracks from the earthquakes, etc. The next morning the landlord shows up to tell me that the house will be shown to a potential renter within the hour. I'm in bed with the flu and had to endure a day of strangers traipsing around while the house needs a good hard scrub. Hellish. Awkward. I was in my nightgown suffering the indignities of a provoked digestive system that thought 'Boot and rally' was a good idea.

There is no feeling more humiliating and icky than standing in the doorway of your bathroom when your stomach has decided to violently exit from below and above as a potential renter walks in for a tour. Yeah, SO much fun.

My understanding of the parade of potential renters is that someone did sign a lease and is moving in the day after we move out. Even if the dryer is dead, the electric fucked and the whole damn place needs a complete upgrade.

Another reality of moving here. Never expect to get your rental deposit back, never, ever. Apparently it's rare here, as most landlords consider it lagnappe, a little somethin'-somethin' extra for them. I doubt we'll get ours back even as we've damaged nothing and kept the place immaculate, except for this week. I cannot cook, do dishes and mop when I'm puking.

It's going to cost you a small fortune to do it right, and to get your residency. There are those that move here on a shoestring, not realizing that many times you'll be charged a 'Gringo tax' in your dealings. Everything you do requires a lawyer, which does not come any cheaper than in the states. Costa Rica wants to make sure you're not a criminal evading the law in another country before they will grant you residency and it can take several years. Another biggy with them is you proving that you have a minimum of $1,500 coming in from a legal source in the U.S. every single month. No poor immigrants need apply. We're going the investment route of residency, where you have to put up a large sum in real estate and bank investments to get that residency.

Ticos are unfailingly polite, and just want to say what you want to hear. We've experienced the problems that can occur when someone you're dealing with in a business capacity does not say 'no' to you, and then strings you along for days instead of just coming out with the answer that it cannot be done. 

But for all the hassles I've outlined above what you get in return is so worth it. No Donald Trump and his stupid, venial cohorts. No military. The beach, the mountains, the wildlife, the fresh air. Peace, quiet and the most laid back atmosphere this side of Max Yasgur's hippy farm. There are hippies here, plenty of old hippies, and most everyone minds their own business here.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

House Hunting in Costa Rica

Recently we started looking for a house to buy after our beautiful rented castle started to turn into a nightmare with suddenly raised rent, dead fridge, washer and dryer and an ongoing confloption involving the electrical system in the house starting to short out and landlords that seem less interested in fixing anything than trying to jerry-rig the joint together until they can sell it. No bueno.

We rented here with the idea that we might buy the entire joint, four cabins, two houses, pool and landscaped acreage. Not happening now. I've seen what a lack of maintenance can do. This would be a money pit. It would take moolah and lots of work. I'm too lazy for that.

I will admit I will miss the backyard howler monkeys and the birds peeking into my bedroom window. I hope there is wildlife where we are going.

Looking for a home rental back in August and September had been a frightening and comical experience that involved things like an apartment manager explaining why he didn't think we needed air conditioning in the bedrooms. This was also when we saw a house that looked like a murder scene save the crime scene tape and the birds flying in and out the broken windows. There were other snafus before we ended up in our rental.

This time was easier in some ways, and way more varied. No, there were no houses with broken windows and birds, even if one realtor tried to insist we view a property way out of our stated budget that will be filmed tomorrow for the television show 'House Hunters International'. Looking for a house to buy involved some less janky properties than the crazy mixed bag of rentals. I have them listed by the nicknames I've given.

Tamarindian Xanadu

Our realtor spoiled us by showing us the very best property first. Seeing this nine foot walled paradise of a beautifully tricked out home surrounded by mature fruit trees did us no favors. Every other property measured up poorly in light of this house. The house is fully furnished with a lanai that wraps around three sides of the house, like something out of a home decorating magazine. There's a large suite that houses the master bedroom and bath. The kitchen is big enough to cook and host a crowd and the picture window over the sink holds an incredible view. I can just see my lazy rear end flopping on the sofa in the picture window in the master suite to read every afternoon, or on one of the many pieces of wicker furniture on the lanai. Casa Del Lazy Ass.

At the front gate there is a good sized guest home, the only place on the property that needs any work at all. I would need to rearrange and decorate it before listing it on AirBnB in time for Semana Santa. It would allow us to host a lot of people with the bedrooms in the house and it's all very private. Unfortunately there's already another contract on this home.

We would need to install a pool to make it perfect, but the footers for a pool, electrical and plumbing are all in place. They must have been planning to install a pool at one time.

Copey 2.O – Fish Guts and White Walls

Immediately after our realtor tried to show us a slightly smaller new house and we just were not interested. Right on the main road we already live on that is too noisy. The house might have been just a few months, but there was already wear and tear from the renters, cracked concrete and ceramic tiling. The kitchen was a concrete counter with a sink in it and the yard was a patch of stirred up dirt without room to install that most essential of items living here, a pool. Nope, nope, nope, plain white everything with zero charm and the ceilings were all those cheap plastic panels that do not hold up that comprised our room in Copey de Dota.

Hearing that the property developer lived right up the hill and liked to use the large laundry room/extra bathroom to clean his fish from his every few days deep sea fishing was pretty much a deal breaker. Scrubba dub dub builder in the tub scaling his fish and me cleaning up after is not happening.

Casa De No Shoes, No Shirts, No Service

We went out on another day to see more homes. The first one was nearly as gorgeous as the Xanadu. There were just a few problems. The current tenants, who refused to allow us in with shoes on, forcing us to stand in the covered garage and remove shoes. The landscaping needs attention and the garage was plain and ugly but one thing made up for the lack of looks on the outside. YOU COULD SEE THE BEACH FROM THE FRONT DOOOOOOOOOR!! I could tolerate a lot for a two minute trek down the street to swim in the Pacific ocean.

I was amused by the insistence on shoe removal because there were no carpets in the house, just the standard caramel brown earthen tiles. The tenants were pretty cranky with us traipsing through the house on a Saturday morning it felt to me. I got the feeling from the attitude of the family that this was just a distinct 'fuck you' to everyone who might kick them out of the house after buying it. Yes, we would have to evict the renters to move in ourselves.

And I get that, particularly right now in our house when we have had to put up with people clomping through this house as a prelude to selling it as an investment property. No one likes strangers booging through their space. It feels awkward on both sides. Semi hippie family of all little girls and momma wearing jeans over bikinis, while the house was living in messy with one of the panes around the front door cracked. The house was beautiful on the inside with a lot of custom iron work, the most appealing carved wooden furniture and howler monkey iron lamps. Two bedrooms and baths downstairs with the master suite taking up the entire second floor. That view to the ocean from the master bedroom was amazing, worth every penny. Unbelievably detailed tilework and wood work throughout the place.

This place is 70K more than Xanadu, but about a year old with the nearness to the ocean I crave. The other two houses are like where we live now, about a full mile from where the sand beach starts near the estuary near Tamarindo. It's about thirty minutes away from Tamarindo and on another beach. Another big disadvantage is that there is no pool, no security system and it's a duplex. But this is our second choice if our offer on Xanadu is rejected. We could be really happy here, but we'd have to put in a pool, tart up the outside and deal with that dreary landscaping. The only thing we would need to do at Xanadu is install a small pool.

Pocket Pool Corner Pocket Casa De Crowded

Not far down the road, but with a much longer walk to the beach was the second house of that day. Until this point we'd been looking at houses in the 2,500 sq foot range. This place with minuscule, I doubt the main house was more than about 900 sq feet, about the same size as the guesthouse in Xanadu. The kitchen was a tiny closet, the living room too small to hold a full sofa. The main bedroom was just big enough to hold a double bed, a television at the foot and a window unit air conditioning. There was a second bedroom running across the back of the house, a clumsily walled in porch with oodles of bunk beds. The entire house was tiny and cramped, with things piled everywhere. Hearing that the sellers were leaving everything but toiletries filled me with panic. I have ADHD and I don't handle clutter well. I would have had to sell off most of the furnishing to make it a modicum of livable for us.

It looked like someone's attempt to tart up their roughing it family cabin/fishing camp and they were asking another 50K more than the previous place with a very small house and less land. They were throwing in a ten year old Ford 150 truck, the place had a swimming pool, too tiny to swim laps in and triangular shaped and there was a 'guesthouse' (crude room over the garage with an outdoor bathroom behind it.) The razor wire on top of the concrete walls was off putting too along with the loads of iron bars on the windows. The landscaping again needed serious work, and I'm just too damn lazy to be tearing up garden plots again.

But it held another dealbreaker for me. I have to have not only ac in the bedrooms, but I require it in the kitchen area too while I'm cooking. The closest thing to ac was the ancient wheezing window unit in the master bedroom. I don't like sweating like a mutant pig on Mars while cooking. I cannot do it. I can sweat while reading or watching television in the living room, or slicing up fruit in the kitchen, out in the garden or sitting poolside but it's too much to ask to have zero air conditioning in the kitchen.

Dracula's Italian Castle

This place was one I'd seen online, towards the bottom of our budget and the realtor had not scheduled to let us see it. I asked while we were in the neighborhood if we could see it because it had a fair amount of land, three big bedrooms, an ocean view and it came with a four wheeler. It was also 3,600 sq feet in the house of living area. Turns out it was at the very back of a finca (plantation farm) and it was a bumpy ride up dirt roads to the top of a mountain where this sat like Count Dracula's summer house. When we got up there you could see the Pacific from the front of the house and from the master bedroom in the back of the house.

There was some funny drama when we rolled up because a fleet of fruit bats had decided that the covered overhang protecting the front door was the perfect place to hang around upside down. Our realtor squealed like a frightened little girl in a horror movie as the bats swirled around the portico. My friend visiting from Virginia and I laughed at him because the bats are harmless and they keep bug populations down. There are worse things.

Going inside was fascinating because of the wonderful European touches the house held. It was constructed by a wealthy man from Italy, and was brave with beautifully hand painted tiling in earth tones with bidets in the bathrooms. Most beautiful country views without a soul for a long way. The master bedroom took up the entire upstairs floor and was just breathtaking. I've never seen such a well built massive place.

It didn't have a pool even if there was plenty of room to install one, and the cleanliness levels and landscaping left a lot to be desired. I liked it a great deal. Jim didn't. He thinks its way too far from civilization. It isn't an easy hike or bus to the beach either. Backroads a couple of miles straight down on that four wheeler. After Jim peed off the side of the mountain we rushed to meet another realtor at two more available houses.

Bongwater Yogis

The next house was next door to a world famous Yoga retreat, and also held a fair amount of land. Sloppy landscaping, no pool and unlike all the other houses it lacked community water. It was on an artesian well.

When you buy a house here you have to be careful to note what type of water you get because in the dry season unless you have a deep injection well you might find yourself having to order up a few costly truckloads of water to keep flushing your toilet.

It was beautiful in the inside, after we got past the chagrined renter and her cloud of pot smoke. All trendy gray walls, tiles and the industrial concrete look. All one level, like our favorite house. It had but two bedrooms but the renter was sure to point out the ladder and pile of mattresses for visiting surfers on the unofficial loft on top of the bath. No closets, oddly laid out with the trendiest of fixtures. For someone, but not for us. Smallish house too. Someone with trendy ideas bought a small Costa Rican Tico house and upgraded it on their ideas. The lack of all storage, or anything beyond a sink set in an industrial concrete bench in the kitchen were turn offs.

Big bongs everywhere.

No air conditioning.
There was no air conditioning up in the Italian vampire's mountain retreat either, but it was high up enough that the air was a good ten degrees cooler so you might not need it. Plus it was plumbed and wired for air conditioning to be added later. This place had open walls at the very top.

Gringo Paradise ala House Hunters International

The last place we viewed was out of our stated price range. I think the only reason the realtor wanted us to see it is that we'd had to give him a letter from the broker confirming how much cash we had readily available. So he wanted to show us something that would eat up half of it instead of a quarter. Yes, double what we told him our top figure was.

The two realtor's talked it up. A bargain! A motivated seller who NEEDED the money ASAP that would take far less than listed price!! A BRILLIANT business opportunity!! Eleventy!!!!!!!!!!

Also as far from the ocean and Tamarindo as the last two. I was thinking 'Aw hell NO!' the second we pulled up and I saw that the house was three separate buildings constructed around a swimming pool. A long building that held a kitchen, dining room and living room. Another building that held the children's play room and homeschooling rooms with two bedrooms up a narrow staircase. The third building was the third side of the pool, holding two large bedrooms with multiple beds. No air conditioning anywhere. The forth side of the pool was walled in with a laundry room cum storage shed with no dryer and a beat up ancient washer.

The property had a guest house, tiny one giant room holding a queen sized bed and a hot plate. Apparently the family, kids and all, move into the guesthouse whenever the house is rented out on AirBnB. They bragged that they cleared 10K last year after expenses by this uprooting and renting out the house. I personally don't think it was worth it.

Definitely not for us. We don't want to work that hard. I have no desire to be an inn keeper more than renting a guesthouse out a couple of times a year when the hotels fill up. That place would require so much work and upkeep even if it was just us living there.

We ended the day up at our house. While I dealt yet again with a dying freezer and refrigerator we ended up putting together a bid on the first place. The realtor is pretty sure that the guy trying to buy it is going to miss his contract deadline of Monday at 5pm to come up with half the money for the house. Now the seller knows we're interested and coming in with a higher bid for the house and cash for the entire house within days. If everything goes well we should be moved into Xanadu in 21 days from Tuesday. If not we're going to be buying the beachfront place. We are ready to be here for some years now.


I've had a lot of questions about moving down here and I'll address them soon. It's not as easy and carefree and cheap as the multitude of retire to Costa Rica blogs make it seem. There are a lot of hoops to jump through and costly things you must do. Moving here without a pile of money or a good retirement is very difficult.