By Ivo Henfling
Some sellers of property in Costa Rica offer their property for sale “turnkey”. Read turn-key, not turkey. Turnkey means you will be buying the property with everything in it, except the sellers. Most sellers offer their property as such because they want to save themselves the hassle of shipping all that stuff back. Some times its nice stuff, sometimes its old stuff. Sometimes cars are included, animals and girlfriends….The word turnkey comes from "just turn the key" or "just bring your suitcases".
As a realtor, I generally prefer not to get involved in furniture being part of a real estate deal, unless you want to give it to me as a gift after closing. I’m not a used furniture sales person, nor am I a used car salesman, I'm a realtor (or try to be). Keep the furniture and the car out of the deal and you’ll make me a happy person. Over the years, I have been able to accumulate quite a nice inventory of flat screen TV’s, furniture and coffee makers. The other day I even got a tripod for my camera as a bonus.
The problem with buying a "turn key" is that you might like the property but hate the furniture and you’ll be paying for something you don’t want. I always recommend sellers not to include the furniture in the sale of a property but just mention that the furniture package can be bought. I try to never get involved in negotiating the furniture and first get the negotiation of the property out of the way and then allow the buyer and seller to come to an agreement about the furniture later.
Most homes in Costa Rica are offered for sale without the appliances, i.e. refrigerator, stove, oven, dishwasher, washer and dryer. Appliances in Costa Rica are not so cheap because we have high taxes. There are a few used appliance stores, like one in Guachipelin de Escazu.
You might be surprised how expensive or how cheap the shipping of your household can be, it just depends on where you are located. I have seen quotes between $5K and $20K for a 20 foot container C.I.F. (Cost, Insurance, Freight). You can fit a lot of furniture and stuff in a 20 foot container, but I have had clients with two 40 foot containers (you can fit your car in there too). If you have only some personal items to bring, you can have it packed in a D-container.
Imported goods carry a high tax in Costa Rica. You need to make a very specific inventory list, from the teaspoon to grandma’s underwear, with a price behind each item (a garage sale price, not the new price) and the word "used". Number each list and each box.
If the customs agent in Costa Rica can’t figure out your lists and boxes, he/she will go through every box. If it’s all logical and complete, they won’t open more than a couple of boxes and you’ll be through without a hassle. Don’t try to smuggle things in, they’ll find it. If you bring any new furniture or appliances, don’t use the original box for packaging or turn the box inside out so it looks "used". One good option is to buy all new furniture before you move and have it re-packed by your moving company. Worst case scenario, you’ll end up paying the taxes on new goods, just like you would in the store. On the Costa Rica side of the deal make sure your use the right moving company.
By Ivo Henfling, your Costa Rica realtor who does not own a used furniture store but will be happy to sell your property turnkey, if the furniture is nice enough and the price is reasonable. Contact Ivo for a tour of his property listings.