I am happy to share some information that I think will be important to you if you are planning to relocate to Costa Rica.
This information is courtesy of our friend and expat Dave Murray. He and his wife Marcia have been in Costa Rica around 12 years.
To Bring Your Household Belongings or Not??
One of the most important decisions to make in relocating to Costa Rica is whether to bring your household belongings or to sell everything and buy new once you’ve relocated. Our recommendation, in most cases, is that you ship your things to your new home in Costa Rica. Here are some thoughts that will help you in making your decision.
At 2017 prices, it will cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to ship a forty-foot shipping container to Costa Rica. A twenty foot container will cost about twenty percent less. That price should include Costa Rica’s Customs duty which is very low on used household belongings. Don’t let the matter of Customs duty influence your decision. And understand that you’re paying for volume, not weight, so full or empty, the container costs the same.
Know, too, that most people are underinsured for the loss of their household contents. If you don’t believe that, check with your homeowners’ insurance agent. You’ve accumulated your household belongings over the course of years and unless you’ve done an inventory, with replacement costs figured in, you have no idea how much your things are worth.
First Question: If you were planning to move across town or across country in the States, would you pay to move your belongings, or would you sell everything and buy new at your new location? What about the family heirlooms, the art and collectibles, your clothing, the family pictures and all the other things that are especially dear to you? Would you move those or not? If you would move all that across town, why would you not move it to Costa Rica?
Second Question: Will you be buying or building a home, or will you rent an unfurnished home? Or do you plan to rent a furnished home in Costa Rica permanently. Obviously, if you plan to rent furnished accommodations, the decision becomes much simpler. You should be aware, however, that “furnished” accommodations in Costa Rica can vary greatly in the completeness of the furnishings and their comfort.
The financial component of this decision is actually pretty simple. Let’s just take your everyday stainless silver dinnerware (knives, forks and spoons) as an example. Let’s say that to replace what you already own (and which will last the rest of your lifetime) would cost $300 at Amazon. If you sell what you already own at a garage sale, you’re likely to get about ten percent ($30).
So instead of bringing your perfectly good silverware to Costa Rica, you bring your $30 and learn three things . . .
First, it’s not easy to find silverware for sale. The places you’d typically look in North America don’t exist in Costa Rica or they’re difficult to find. And if you do find acceptable silverware, the cutlery won’t be what you want, so you’ll have to keep looking to find that.
Second, the quality and the selection are not what you’re used to seeing, but you’ll have to spend a lot of time shopping around to convince yourself of that.
And third, anything similar to what you sold will cost more like $400 . . . but you only have the $30 from your garage sale.
Now, you replicate that same experience with your perfectly good furniture, lamps, rugs, bed and bath linens, kitchen appliances and utensils, cutlery, plasticware, cups and saucers, plates and bowls, hand and power tools, garden tools and hoses, the television, stereo, computer and printer, and all the other things you’ve accumulated over the years and you’ll soon see that the financial argument in favor of shipping your household belongings is compelling. At best, you’ll sell everything for ten percent or so of what you paid for it and you’ll replace it all in Costa Rica for 125% (or more) of what it all cost in North America.
The second consideration is the matter of the hassle. Furnishing a home in Costa Rica can be a daunting task. While there are a few home stores in the Central Valley, they’re not easy to find or get to, their selections are much more limited than what you’re used to, the quality is not what you’d expect, and the prices will shock you. Anything that’s imported to Costa Rica is expensive due to the shipping costs and Customs duties.
And while it’s perfectly legal and possible to order over the Internet and have (most, but not all) things brought in, you’ll pay the much higher Customs duty on new merchandise and shipping, too. And that won’t be cheap. And it won’t be quick.
Costa Rica has a furniture manufacturing industry that has a well deserved reputation for building quality furniture at prices that can be less than what you would expect to pay in North America. But it’s not the big stuff that will exhaust your funds, it’s the little stuff like the silverware and the garden tools. And communicating your desires in a language you may not speak fluently can sometimes render unexpected results.
A third thing to think about is the emotional connection you have to your belongings. You chose your dishes, your lamps, the furniture, and everything else you own for a reason. It was because you liked them, you wanted to own them, or you needed them. So the question is, are you really ready to give all that up along with your grandmother’s quilt, the ashtrays the kids made at camp, the decorative things you own, all those pictures, and everything else? You’ve spent years feathering your nest. Are you really ready to give all that up?
Clearly, there’s no point in bringing your winter clothing, the snow blower, or all your formal clothes unless you plan to join the country club, but most of what you own is goods you need or want, and it’s perfectly serviceable. Why discard all that and go through the headaches of replacing it when, for the cost of an intercity move in North America you can save all that money, time and trouble?
See you for FAQ Part 2 on Thursday