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Can a foreign builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?

Can a US builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?Is it possible for a foreign build start a construction company in Costa Rica? Yes, it is. But is it recommendable?

I get so many people asking me if they can start a construction company in Costa Rica that I have decided to write a blog about it. So next time, when anyone asks, I can just send him them the link.

Actually, that is how many of my blogs are born. Now, you can ask yourself what an MLS in Costa Rica can gain by telling you how to start a construction company in Costa Rica? Well, I really don’t know either, but here we go.

Let’s assume you are a builder in New Jersey and you want to start a construction company in Costa Rica. You have built houses for years and have a client base that will keep you going until retirement. But you are fed up with the cold in New Jersey so now you’re thinking of becoming an expat in Costa Rica. But, you need to make a living.


If you think you can just hop on the first flight to Costa Rica and start a construction company, you’re totally wrong. Think about all those Mexicans and Costa Ricans who want to start a construction company in New Jersey and have to jump through hoops to be legal residents.

Let me tell you that in Costa Rica, we’ll make you jump through the same hoops.

Of course, you can work as an illegal, but you won’t be able to renew your driver’s license after three months. Also, you won’t be able to get insurance. And of course, you will have to write your clients an invoice, which you won’t be able to do.

Can a US builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?
Weather conditions in Costa Rica are quite different.

Legal business

You can start a legal business through a corporation or other structure, even as a tourist. That means you can start the business but you still won’t be able to work. Before you hop on that flight, talk to an attorney and get all the details for starting a business as a foreign investor.

Also, attorney Steven Ferris wrote an article for the Tico Times, that explains the legal structure to open a business in Costa Rica.


You don’t want to direct a construction team with hands and feet. You want to be able to communicate in their language and not in yours. Do you know all the technical words that are used when running a construction company in Costa Rica?

Can a US builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, we use concrete block and rebar (reinforcements steel) for construction

Building code

Often, you hear other expats talk about Costa Rica not having a building code. Wrong! There is definitely a building code. We are in earthquake country for God sake. So there is, of course, a seismic building code and have some fun trying to understand the GUIA DE NORMATIVA Y CONSIDERACIONES APLICABLES A LA CONSTRUCCIÓN.

Are you worried about the electrical code? I can assure you it’s quite different than the electrical code in New Jersey. The Costa Rican electrical code was reformed in 2013 and can be downloaded here.

Local labor

Yes, many landowners in Costa Rica use a construction foreman to build their home. They don’t use architects, construction companies, electrical engineers, and structural engineers to design and build. Often, soil replacement was not used, even though it is necessary. BIG MISTAKE. That’s why so many homes end up with cracks all over, houses burn down or just slide down the riverbanks.

Can a US builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?
In Costa Rica, we do NOT use plywood to build exterior walls.

A New Jersey home in Costa Rica

If you’re a very good salesman, you might be able to sell the idea to clients here that you could build a New Jersey home in Costa Rica. You might get away with paying off the local authorities and your client will own a home that looks just like the one he had in New Jersey. Until the first 5.0 earthquake. Then, someone will be looking for you, so make sure you’ll hide in a deep hole.

Realtor from Michigan

The story is much like the realtor from Michigan who wanted to know if her real estate license is good in Costa Rica. I wish it was that simple.  There is quite a bit more to it before you’ll be able to start a business in Costa Rica. Unless you’re confident you can do this and aware that you can make the biggest mistake of your life.

Property owners

If you are a property owner in Costa Rica, and you want to build a home, hire a Costa Rican professional. Do not use the construction foreman or a builder from New Jersey to build your home. Unless you are very sure they know what they’re doing. Nonetheless, if you hire them, the result is your own responsibility.

Can a US builder start a construction company in Costa Rica?
A professional builder uses a structural engineer to design the construction

Start a construction company anyway.

I apologize for the way I have tried to hit home the suggestion that you should not start a construction company in Costa Rica. At least not until you’re a legal resident until you speak fluent Spanish and learn how to build a home to Costa Rican standards.

Do you still want to purchase a property in Costa Rica for your construction projects? Then contact us now. We do know a lot about properties in Costa Rica!

Feel free to leave your comments on this blog. If you like this article, please feel free to share it on your social media.

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While we’re at it, I DO want to remind our readers that we appreciate any referrals you can send us. Finally, please remember the American-European real estate Group’s agents when you refer a real estate agent. Because we DO appreciate your business.

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Ivo Henfling

Your West-side of San Jose real estate agent, covering Escazu and Santa Ana, Rohrmoser and Ciudad Colon. If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the Central Valley or looking for any property for sale in Escazu or Santa Ana, you need to contact Costa Rica real estate agent Ivo Henfling. Ivo has been selling Costa Rica real estate on the westside of San Jose, in the locations of Rohrmoser, Sabana, Escazu, Santa Ana and Ciudad Colon for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and those other areas. For Ivo, a deal is not a good one unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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