Living in the Costa Rica for a while is the right way to decide if you want to live here permanently and where. It is not the same thing visiting as a tourist than dealing with everyday situations.

So, it is a good idea renting a house or an apartment in a location you think could meet your expectations. Once there, you should plan short tours to some other areas you think are potential places for your new home. Try to be there enough time to gather together information about the usual weather conditions during the year, temperatures, services, privacy, criminality and other risks, including floods, strong winds, etc. For other risks, like earthquakes, the only way available is designing your new house with an appropriate structure to resist those natural forces without severe damages or no damages at all. A civil engineer or an architect can do that work for you; those professionals have enough experience to deal with the problem.

Then, you should consider your likes and dislikes, and your nowadays and future needs. For example, a friend from Canada bought an acre (4,000 square meters) lot in San Carlos, Alajuela, in the countryside. It is a flat property. When I visited it, I asked him about any risk because of a river 100 yards far from the lot, and he said the river is deep from the street level, so no floods are known in that area. He chose it for several reasons: having enough backyard space for private activities, such having good time in his swimming pool, planting some fruit trees there, having a nice landscape around for relaxing, basic public services and access, no special natural risks, a reasonable price for the land, etc. Another important reason was he has some physical problems in his legs. so living in Canada during the winters to come could affect him seriously even to need a wheelchair for moving. He asked me for a design for his new home there about a one-story house with total access, using ramps and wide halls and trails to go inside-outside easily, with no obstacles. Talking about the climate, he told me he can deal with the heat if there are fresh spaces inside his house, enough fans, maybe an air condinating system just in case, and mosquitoes screens in doors and windows to feel comfortable; he has had enough with snow there at home, so he will feel free and happy with enough space around, in a nice neighborhood, no crazy noises, and the supermarket close enough to buy some beers. One more thing: he loves his dogs, so I have to be sure they can go outside and inside without problems, for enjoying the backyard and protecting the house.

In other words, I think you should make an analysis, using for instance one applied in business, call in Spanish FODA and in English SWOT (streghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to evaluate any choice we are considering. That way you should make a decision pretty close to our expectations, otherwise you could regret about it, specially if you run to buy a property without enough information of the area. Too complicated ? Let´s see another example. A friend for US asked me to do a pre-design of his two-story house; once I finished it and he and his family liked it, they asked me why I didn´t include the garage, and I said we should check the properties available before doing it, in order to know if we can arrange the space appropriately. So, when we visited the lots he was considering in Playas del Coco, he realized than putting there the garage in the design could had been inappropriate, because some of the lots have strong slopes that oblige him to cut the dirt, building retaining walls (that are expensive by the way)and there was not enough space for the garage; finally, we found a lot that could meet his requeriments, incluiding the garage space, without investing extra money in retaining walls or extreme landscaping.

So, make your plan for analysing your choices and take your time for making your decisions.

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