Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Choosing our new home - new gate part one

I know those of you reading this post that knows anything about living in Costa Rica will find my next statement absurd. When choosing our home here in CR, I mostly declined to look at homes that were part of a gated community. I didn’t want to live in one of the new cookie cutter complexes and I didn’t (and possibly still don’t) see an advantage to having a guard shack only to allow every Tom, Dick, and Harry to drive through. It seems like a false sense of security when truly these neighborhoods seem to be the first ones targeted for theft. All Ticos know if you can afford to live behind a wall with a guard you obviously have something that would be worth stealing.

But the real reason I didn’t want to live in a gated community like most gringos and rich Ticos related to small yards and no privacy. I wanted a large yard with fruit trees and a sense of ownership. I wasn’t looking for a spectacularly large yard which would need to be maintained by gardeners or a tiny plot surrounded by a brick wall. I wanted something that I could fumble around in trying to learn how take care of the plants since I’ve never had a real garden before and I find fruit trees fascinating. I wanted a tropical feel to the yard not a manicured niceness. That’s just not me.

I spent hours and hours searching the internet and narrowing down our choices. We were looking for something “special” but yet affordable. Plus, all the schools we chose for Azure were in the Central Valley. I thought this task would be easy but it turned out I was wrong for several reasons. One reason being that most Ticos don’t list their home with a gringo therefore their home could not be found on the internet. Another reason related to one of our realtors not grasping our requirements for a home and he insisted on showing us homes in gated communities or ones with walls around a small yard. I’m sure he thought we were crazy (and maybe we are!). One last problem seemed to be timing. The real estate market here was/is on the upswing and people selling to gringos know they can ask more for their home than the gringos would pay (this is nothing new) but more gringos are moving here and prices were moving higher (that seems to be different again depending on the location of the home). So, a lot of the homes fitting our requirements were now out of our price bracket.

What is my point here? I found a home that would work (it’s not perfect so we’re already planning some remodeling) but our security factors are lacking. Our plot of land is literally wedged between two coffee plantations. It seems someone “dug” out a triangle which has high slopes on both sides. Our western plot line actually has a deep ditch which flows with water during rainy season while our eastern plot line is not so pronounced. But it does mean trying to access our property from the back or sides is not easy and even trickier during rainy season when the ground is slick. But the access from the front of the house at the driveway was hilarious. The previous owner had a small white fence (desperately in need of paint) with a tiny metal gate connecting the two sides with a chain and no lock. All you needed to do to access the house was step over the chain or if you wanted to drive up, unhook the clasp. Needless to say, after moving in we did not feel very safe. We would wake at all hours of the night to check noises certain someone wanted to rob us. The good part of the scenario is that we do not live near enough to town to make us a huge target since most gringos in our area live up a different hill altogether and they have target written all over them since there is even a country club up that way. BUT we know everyone is a target and determined to build a stronger gate to make us feel more secure.

See my next post for a follow up on the gate.

By the way, I LOVE my yard! Patrick doesn’t like the fact that it’s on a hill which makes it difficult to mow and not much flat area so we can’t play Frisbee. But boy do we have fruit trees.


P & K Ashland said...

I can't wait to see a picture of the NEW gate.

Now I understand why you wanted a new gate.

Jim Ewan said...

I gather security can be a bit of a problem in Costa Rica - maybe you should check out comments from other ex-pats, for example,, They all have a view and experience as well.

Your new home sounds great by the way!

Jones Family said...

We have replaced our old gate with a huge wall and large sliding metal gate -stay tuned for more details. We do feel more secure now.

Thanks for the suggestions of other sites.


Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.