Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Recent Appraisal in Costa Rica's Zona Maritima

Most of the real estate in Costa Rica consists of "freehold" or "fee simple" interests in real property, or in other words, properties with titles, estimated to cover about 85% of the country.

The remaining 15% is leasehold land known as “concession properties”. Concession properties are considered desirable because they are at the beachfront, where titled land is not available.

All Costa Rican beach properties are located in what is known as the Maritime Zone, a 200 meter strip starting from the average ocean high tide line. The ZMT (Zona Maritima) is divided into a 50 meter strip closest to the shore known as the public zone, which cannot be privately occupied, and the remaining 150 meters can be applied for “concession” in the corresponding Municipality. 

Think of “concession land” as a “concession stand” at a ball park or a fair. All Concession land is leasehold land, with lease payments going to the municipality; it cannot be privately owned, but real estate developers and wealthy homeowners can lease and develop these properties profitably.

The subject property was zoned as a “Hotel and Touristic Zone”, which is a valuable zoning classification to have, and the owners wanted to develop it with a hotel, but the key to maximizing the value of the land is to have an already-approved hotel development plan in place, as it can take years to get a hotel project approved. This was the central issue in this appraisal assignment. Without the approved hotel development plan, the land was only worth half of what it could have been worth.

PS: Next stop, Greece, or maybe not so, with the Greek nation on Coronavirus lockdown. Non-EU citizens are not allowed to visit until after April 18 and I could not negotiate a later appraisal deadline.


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