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Way down south: Cost of living research hypes Costa Rica life

By Edd Staton and Jessica Ramesch
Housing, Travel, Snowbirds Slideshow
February 24, 2013 - 11 comments

Ecuador, Panama and Malaysia rank among the top locations to buy overseas property, according to a new report from

The report flagged the Grecia region in Costa Rica as a key location for low-cost, high-value real estate abroad.

Researchers highlighted a two-bedroom hillside home on the market for $95,000 as an example of the type of property currently available in Grecia. It featured a large balcony with views of the surrounding forest and coffee plantations.

In Merida, meanwhile, the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan province, a range of move-in-ready colonial homes were identified for less than $100,000.

“High-grade real estate is available at rock-bottom prices when you’re willing to look overseas,” said’s Dan Prescher. “And if you are interested in buying abroad, then these are the places to start your search.”

Other hotspots highlighted in the report include Batu Ferringhi in Penang, Malaysia, Cuenca in Ecuador and Mexico’s San Miguel de Allende.

Edd Staton, an Ecuador correspondent for, writes:

Cuenca is a place of colonial churches, venerable old mansions, shady parks and fountain-anchored plazas. Ecuador’s third-largest city, it’s arguably the most attractive, too. The climate is near perfect, the cost of living is low, and there are plenty of activities.

Yet despite the ever-increasing numbers of expats discovering this, you’ll find property here is still affordable. Take, for instance, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, ground-floor condo I found in the quiet residential neighborhood of Las Pencas. It’s just a three-minute walk from a major supermarket, shopping and restaurants, and not far from the historic quarter. There is almost 1,000 square feet of living space, plus a large wrap-around yard and amazing views of the surrounding mountains. It’s listed for just $84,900.

For $250,000 you can buy a house right in front of one the city’s four tumbling rivers. Fronting the Tomebamba River and steps away from the Inca ruins, it’s the best location in town. It has six bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a living room, dining room, office, and terrace.

Jessica Ramesch, the Panama editor, writes:

I love the mountain town of Cerro Azul, just an hour from Panama City. The location is part of it – almost equidistant from the city to the west and the international airport to the east. I can go anytime, even if just for the day. The minute I turn north from the highway and head into the hills, my pulse slows. The mountain views are soothing, and the streets lined with pine trees signal cooler climes.

What makes the picture complete for me are the little A-frame homes, many of them with neat handkerchief gardens. One of my favourites is bordered by lilac and saffron blooms. Off to the side, there’s a blue bench with a trellis overhead. I’ve often stopped to sit there… I don’t know the owners, but it’s the kind of place where you just know they wouldn’t mind.

Here, a $115,000 house has me dreaming. It’s a sweet Swiss-style home with stonework along the ground level and a wood-paneled upper facade. It’s got four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and the lot is nearly half an acre. The immaculate little gated development has security, a social area, and pool. Excellent value.

Elsewhere in this town, $315,000 gets you a home that would cost double in Canada. Contemporary Spanish architecture with plenty of windows – framed with tropical greenery – to let in the sunlight. There’s an open-concept gourmet kitchen and dining/living room (with fireplace and bar), a movie and games room, and a balcony with dining/barbecue area overlooking the mountainscape.

The three-level, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home is gated and has a garden. A little bridge leads from the pool to a bohio – a patio with thatched roof, hammocks, and lounge area. There is even a caretaker’s home.

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