Ivo's Blog

6 Handy Costa Rica grocery shopping tips

by Ivo Henfling

6 Handy Costa Rica grocery shopping tipsEvery culture has different ways of doing things and as soon as you move to Costa Rica, you will find out that a lot of things are different than they were back home. Sometimes we just assume things are done our way (and we think of course it's the best way) and they're not, we don't even find out until it's too late.

But wasn’t that the first reason you moved here? You wanted things to be different, right?

Shopping is one of those things that’s quite different from what you are used to and there is to learn a lot about it.  Especially when you go shopping in a Costa Rica grocery store, you should be aware of several issues that are quite a bit different from back home.

Some who read my weekly blogs have probably figured some of these issues already out, but I hope I can help at least some of you with these tips.

How to make payments to your Costa Rica home builder or not

by Ivo Henfling

How to make payments to your Costa Rica home builder or notMany home lot owners in Costa Rica, once they are ready to start building, do all the wrong things. That is mostly for lack of experience. Most of us only build one house in a life time, or we don’t at all.

I sometimes get messages such as “I'm fairly pleased, the home builder did a good job. The only thing is some smaller items are not finished. My only mistake was not withholding some money until the entire house was finished.

The builder retains one key which is some evidence that he intends to finish. I did have him sign an agreement to build and paid him the entire fee.

Any ideas on getting him to finish would be appreciated but I'm not holding my breath.

Let’s go bowling in Cariari

by Ivo Henfling

Let's go bowling in CariariWhen I was 12 years old, our neighborhood gang used to play baseball in a large commercial property under construction near my home. The owner of the building under construction invited us to keep visiting after the building would be done.

That was when I was first introduced to 10 pin bowling (boliche in Spanish), the first one in Holland (Europe). When I moved to Costa Rica, I was soon invited to play the American League in the Boliche Dent in San Pedro, the only bowling alley in Costa Rica back then.

That was before the first and only terrorist attack in Costarican history took place. Tico terrorists (can you believe that?) placed a car bomb against the American embassy downtown San Jose. Since some playing in the American League were US marines, people working at the US embassy and a few teachers who worked at Country Day School and The Costa Rica Academy (now International School), we were not allowed to play for the rest of the year. This was in the beginning of the 80’s.

Are Costa Rica homes able to withstand an earthquake or not

by Ivo Henfling

Are Costa Rica homes able to withstand an earthquake or notIt was September 5th, 2012 and a 7.6 on Richter hit us. That earthquake was now almost 3 years ago and has been on the news worldwide. A 7.6 on Richter doesn’t happen very often. This was the 2nd strongest earthquake in Costarica’s history after  the 1991 earthquake in Limon.

This time, two people are known to have died, one from a heart attack and another, a construction worker, crushed by a collapsing wall. The 7.8 earthquake in Nepal in April 2015 Nepal killed more than 9,000 people and injured more than 23,000.

If you are afraid for earthquakes or if you have any doubt if Costa Rica homes can withstand heavy earthquakes, you need to read this blog and you’ll see that Costa Rica homes are very safe to live in. In the 35 years I have lived in Costa Rica this was the first one that was a bit scary and the fourth worth talking about. Earthquake in Spanish is “terremoto” although the locals usually talk about a temblor,which is much less strong than an earthquake.

Motorcycles and you together on the roads of Costa Rica

by Ivo Henfling

Motorcycles on the roads of Costa RicaIn Costa Rica, motorcycles come out of nowhere in traffic. Motorcycle riders in Costa Rica have no respect for traffic laws; double yellow lines and traffic lights are non-existent. They will get right in front of you at the traffic light, zigzag between cars and use the sidewalks for shortcuts.

Driving in Costa Rica can be a challenge, just like it is in other Latin countries. If you have driven in France, Spain, Italy, Nigeria, Morocco or South Africa or in South Florida, then driving in Costa Rica is a piece of cake. You just need to pay a little bit attention to what is going on around you, especially the motorcycles. Do before you drive off, adjust all your mirrors to avoid blind spots and you’ll be safe, if you use them.

A motorbike is for transport, right? Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean the transportation of people, who said it does? In Costa Rica, a motorbike could be used for transportation of about anything that comes to mind, as you can see in all the photos I’m posting in this blog, a picture is better than a thousand words.

Costaricans always smell good

by Ivo Henfling

Costaricans always smell goodYou can smell a Costarican at any time of the day, men and women alike, they always smell good, as opposed to some other varieties of humans.

Now, you will probably say that you always smell good too and that you’re not a Costarican. That means you’ve either been living in Costa Rica long enough to learn the art of bathing or you have a sinus problem.

You might say this is a weird topic, but feel free to spend some time at the International Airport Juan Santamaría and walk past the lines of people waiting to check in on a flight to Europe. You’ll quickly find out how some travelers smell like after a 3-week vacation in tropical Costa Rica wearing the same clothing every day.

I just got back from visiting my mom in Holland and we’re walking through this small grocery store in the seaport of Zeebrugge, Belgium, eager to purchase some Belgian waffles and chocolate as well as some fruit. There is this man in the vegetable and fruit department, taking his time to find the fruit to his liking, who smelled like he’d not seen a shower in the last couple of days.

Does your Costa Rica listing agent pay attention to the bathroom listing photos?

by Ivo Henfling

How important are good bathroom photos in Costa Rica real estate?I’m a Costa Rica listing agent myself but I am always surprised about the photos some listing agents post on their website.  Is the listing agent really interested in selling the property advertised or is it a joke?

When you hire a Costa Rica listing agent when in the market to purchase a property in Costa Rica, you want to make sure you hire one who cares about you and looks out for your interest. One who will come up for you when wheeling and dealing with another agent or a seller, to get you not only the best deal, but one who will pay attention to the details. A listing agent who pays attention to the listing photos, usually pays attention to all the details of the transaction too.

I have seen bathrooms that are open and pleasant to be in and I have seen bathrooms that are claustrophobic. Some are elegant with chandeliers and marble while others have enough toilet paper rolls stacked on the toilet to last the rest of the century.

Some have shower curtains that are barely hanging onto the rod and others have an inviting Jacuzzi with an ocean view.

Some have their bathroom so cluttered with bottles, wet towels hanging over the shower door and the toilet lid up and other sellers take the time before the agent takes photos to get rid of the mess that make a bathroom look terrible in a photo.

The helpful Costa Rica home owner

by Ivo Henfling

The helpful Costa Rica home ownerWhen I list a Costa Rica home for sale, I always instruct the home sellers what to do and what not to do when we show their house to a prospect. At least I try to.

A Tico home owner will generally just instruct the housekeeper to let me in. This makes it much easier for a real estate agent because you can ask the house keeper to switch on all the lights and make sure the clutter is gone and disappear into her room when you arrive with the buyer.

A “reminder” phone call 30 minutes before the showing (if you are showing other properties to the same client) will make the house perfect for showing.

A gringo home seller is different.

Most gringo home sellers have carried a real estate license at one time in their life. It doesn’t really matter how many times you ask a gringo owner to not “be there”, “to walk the dog”, “to visit the neighbor”, “to play a round of golf” or “to go to the local bar and get drunk”, the gringo owner wants to help.

What are chunches in Costa Rica?

by Ivo Henfling

What are chunches in Costa Rica?“What about Deco Chunches? That is a name that would work great for your business” I said to my friends.

Years ago, I was just starting to work in Costa Rica real estate, I helped some friends who started a used furniture and decoration store to find a name for their store that people would recognize easier. Their store was selling not only furniture but a lot of decorative stuff and things for the home.

Unfortunately they had to close the store years later, due to “whatever” and the name got lost. But the store became quite known because the name stuck easily and fast with the public since everybody in Costa Rica knows what a chunche is and what chunches are.

Except you probably, but that’s why you’re here, to learn.

How to show your house in Costa Rica for sale if you have a pet

by Ivo Henfling

How to show your house in Costa Rica for sale if you have a petAre you selling your house in Costa Rica and you have pets? Are your pets like a nice and cute Doberman that scare the hell out of most people or maybe a scary poodle that bites you in the ankles when you turn around?  

Or a beautiful Siamese cat who you love so much but jumps a complete stranger in the face as soon as one walks in the door?

A lot of people are allergic to pets. Others are scared to death for pets. If you have pets, you love them, or you wouldn’t have them.

Well, I have some news for you. Not everyone loves pets and a lot of those are potential buyers of your house in Costa Rica. 

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