Nov 15 2012

Considering a “Typical Tico House”

When we got a call from a Tico friend that his house was coming available for rent, we started thinking about moving from our beloved cabina. Why, you may ask? Well, our house in Baltimore is currently rented to a family who intend to buy it in a year or so. We know that we will need more room at that point since we plan on shipping some personal items and one or two pieces of furniture that have sentimental value to us. So when our friend called, we went to look at the house and thought through the idea of renting an unfurnished house at this point in our journey. To be honest, we considered the house because we love the property so much. It’s just beautiful and is located in one of our favorite parts of San Ramon where the elevation is lower, the weather a bit warmer, and the views to the Gulf of Nicoya are breath-taking. It would be private, quiet, and we would have some great neighbors nearby.

A Costa Rican "Suicide Shower"

Though we decided NOT to rent this particular house, we wanted to share with you the process we went through and the costs that would have been involved, in the hope that it might help you in your investigations. First of all, this is a “typical Tico house” which means several things:

  • The house does not have hot water in the kitchen or bathroom sinks, and the shower in the bathroom is equipped with a commonly-used “suicide shower” – so named because the on-demand shower head heats the water via electricity.
  • There are no closets or cabinets of any kind built into the house.
  • The ceiling is low and the house is dark, with minimal lighting.

This being said, we still considered the house, thinking of ways we could improve it to meet our needs. We looked into installing hot water, bringing in an electrician, and buying shelving. We even looked into doing some further renovations like raising the ceiling and painting all of the walls. We could make it cute, I was positive, so we carefully considered the pros and cons. Though our friend was willing to give us a long-term lease, when all was said and done, we decided that it would be too expensive, and too risky to invest this much money in a rental house.

It would have cost approximately $1,000 to have hot water installed in the kitchen and bathroom. And who knows what it would cost to do more extensive renovations. But, following are our estimates of what it would have cost to equip the house as-is (with mostly used furniture and appliances) and to pay the monthly bills:

Start-up expenses/Need to buy: $4050

  • Refrigerator – $500
  • Microwave – $150
  • Coffee pot – $75
  • TV – $300
  • Couch, chairs, tables – $600
  • Kitchen table/chairs – $300
  • Bed & dresser – (mattress: $400; bed platform: $200; dresser: $150)
  • Curtains – $50

    Yes, it would break the bank!

  • Towels: $25
  • Washer & dryer  – $800
  • Install Internet – $300
  • Pantry shelving: $200

Projected Monthly Expenses: $735

  • Rent: $400
  • Sky TV: $35
  • Land line:  $10
  • Internet: $60
  • Electric: $100
  • Propane: $10
  • Water:  $10
  • Gardener (4 hours/week): $60
  • Housekeeper (4 hours/week):  $60

So, at the end of the day, we are still living in the Cabinas and are as convinced as ever that it’s a great deal, with everything included, great staff, and some nice neighbors thrown in to boot!

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