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Building overseas vacation homes and living the life is a fantasy for most, yes? It’s the idea of coming down and having a small piece of paradise to call your own. No random and rude hotel guests to kill your buzz as they argue by the pool. Complete privacy and the parties you can have? Also everything is much cheaper so you’re basically in heaven. This is all correct but there are some other things…
Running a second home abroad is incredibly costly. A friend of mine in Freeport, Bahamas told me this as we watched the 3 full time staff at her place doing their thing. I thought “I’m not going this big, it won’t be that big a problem”, fast forward to where I am now in Costa Rica. My roommate of sorts who owns the place has once again enlightened me on the real cost of running a class joint down south. Also remember that the closer to the ocean you are, the more maintenance is often required.
Everything that you’re used to back home is sort of a luxury here and will cost substantially more. When you travel you often eat like a local, do this and that and get by at a reasonable price. When you’re maintaining a house things get very costly to the point that it’s almost just as pricey as back home. Okay, not quite but it’s worth mentioning.
It takes so much work to keep a place in the tropics looking nice. You also have to be incredibly neat and tidy because ants will be there in a heartbeat. The building itself wears fast and will also need replacement. Insects and other types of undesirable house guests such as rodents and the like will nest. If you don’t keep your place going, nature will take it over before you can blink.
Unless you speak the local language, you will always have some type of issue with the work being done. Also, you really need to stick around and watch as equipment and materials have a way of disappearing.
It seems like the work is never done, the bigger the house the more issues you have to deal with.
I’ve been here with a friend and it’s been a good time. I do feel isolated though as I don’t know anybody else really! I’m living in a great house on the beach with a super cool roommate but miss all the random encounters associated with being a tourist. Sure you meet groups when you’re out but you’re just that guy they meet. It’s different than say sharing accommodation even if it’s a hotel with someone, you don’t get that bond. It’s hard to describe but you’re not a tourist or a local, you’re just someone that lives there.
It’s a very different experience, not better or worse just very different.
Security & Safety
You’re going to need good security if you’re living in the tropics and you’re going to live a higher lifestyle than most. You want to “keep the honest people honest” and I don’t mind living in a big cage, in fact I like it. That said, living in a cage is a double edged sword. If there was a fire and you’re locked into a cage how do you get out? I know it sounds crazy but I’m sure in the record books some poor souls have perished like this. It’s also a bit of an OCD migraine maker having to worry about so many locks. Depending on where you are you may get lucky if you forget, other places…
Finally you need to be very careful about who you befriend, especially those you let over. You can’t just be that carefree person who hangs out with everyone they meet. People can and will case your place; it sounds horrible but these things happen.
On vacation you kick it with crazy characters but when you have a place you need to be careful who you associate with. Why? it’s because you’re not leaving in a few days and friendships regardless of how casual with questionable characters usually end badly.
You really need to know what the laws are around you. Did you know that in Costa Rica if you just take off, fence or no fence and come back a year later, someone could be squatting on it? Also did you know that there is such thing as squatters’ rights? You can’t just buy land down here and leave it alone. This will also add to your expenses as now you’ll need a gardener or someone to keep an eye on it.
Guess what, often times if you go MIA for a year or so the gardener will start the squatting process which takes 9 months. Imagine setting up a sick crib with sweat equity, heart attacks and tears only to find some sleaze bag squatting in it? Just the thought makes me sick.
Part of the reason a resort is so much fun is you are, well, on vacation. In a “vacation home”, you also have to keep the house clean because if you don’t things get out of control in a hurry. My friend has a maid who comes occasionally but you’d be shocked at how fast things get dirty down here. Spill some water? Well you better clean it up or it will cause whatever is around it to mold etc…
I still wish to one day live overseas in my own home but this has been a massive eye opener. It’s going to cost you a lot more than you imagine in cash and stress if you want a certain lifestyle. It’s also a very different experience than if you were just passing through. That said, I love the lifestyle but can’t believe how completely naive I was to what goes into keeping one of these cool and well, a spot worthy of a vacation.