By Ivo Henfling
When we drove to Nativa Resort a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that on the new highway to Caldera, the Autopistas del Sol concessionary was doing landslide prevention different ways because in some places the rainfall is causing a lot of damage. They sprayed concrete on the hillside and drilled pipes into the mountains to take the water out and through the concrete, when they re-did part of the highway at the turnoff between Sabana and Escazu, This was the first time I saw it done in Costa Rica. A little past the beautiful town of Atenas, they are now making incredible use of the large rocks they took out before they put the pavement in.
As most of you know, Costa Rica's rainy season runs more or less from July from November but September and October generate the heaviest rains. Although in July this year 2011, we already had some incredible downpours. It looks like we're going to get more and more rain every year. While coming out of a real estate closing on the east side of San Jose with AE affiliate Barry Ashworth, I saw a car disappear in the water OVER a bridge. I don't know what happened to the driver or the car. That was VERY impressive.
Rain water has incredible power and can occasion lots of damage if you're not ready for it. I've seen big chunks of mountain come down and turn into a river of mud. You don't realize how important this might be if you own a property in the mountains of Costa Rica until you have seen the damage and then it is too late. So when you purchase Costa Rica real estate you better know what you are doing or hire an attorney who does.
A month ago I listed this very nice 2-bedroom home in Escazu that the owners bought some years ago and didn't know that the river was eating at the bottom of the property every day during the rainy season. Last year they had to work with their neighbor to put a large retainer wall in, which cost each $20K. See in the above picture that with the way they did the new retainer walls, within a few years they will be building retainer walls to hold the old retainer walls as the river will undermine the retainer walls. Some sellers won't do things like this and will try to sell it without any buyer knowing about the problem. Some of the neighbors (almost right next door) have done the same some years ago and see in the picture below that it's little by little starting to undermine the old walls. We are having much more rain than we had ever before and the water runs with an incredible speed against these walls.
Check the property before you buy
Make sure you check on the property in Costa Rica before you buy it. You don't want to be surprised by a $20K issue after real estate closing. If you already bought a property, check where the water runs to, make sure you reinforce the area that is weakest and maybe build some gutters, in concrete if necessary, to lead the water down the hill. Bring in some experts to see if you need to use the gaviones which are the river rocks in wire mesh cages, sprayed concrete with drilled pipes or any other system. I had my son Andres walk down the ravine to take pictures to be able to show you want I'm talking about because I knew they were having rain damage problems there. The picture below shows how they spray the hillside and pump the drain pipes into the hill and then cover it all with concrete, just like they did at the new highway.
Before you purchase, you should have a home inspector go over the property and check the rain gutters and see what needs to be done. I sime cases, I also recommend a geologist to check on things like that and ask him/her to recommend what needs to be done.
If you have any comments on this article, I invite you to post them below. Online discussions on topics like this give others a chance not to make the same mistake we made.
By Ivo Henfling, your Costa Rica realtor who worries about other things than just his real estate commission check. Ivo sells Escazu property and Santa Ana real estate and holds your hand all the way through the process. Any Costa Rica real estate you are looking for, from condos to ranch houses or building lots, Ivo can find you the property you are looking for.