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169 Living, working and following your passion in Costa Rica with Jake Alexander

169 Living, working and following your passion in Costa Rica with Jake Alexander
169 Living, working and following your passion in Costa Rica with Jake Alexander

Podcast Transcription

[Richard Bexon]
Good afternoon, Jake. How are you doing?

[Jake Alexander]
Hey, Richard. Good afternoon. I'm doing great.

Thanks. Thanks for having me. How are you doing?

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, good, good, man. No, not at all. I've been watching eagerly as you've been recording the Visperations, I hope I'm saying it right, show that you guys have where you basically interview people, you know, trying to, I suppose, following their passions or that niggling business that they have and kudos to you, sir.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah. Thank you. Absolutely.

It really kind of shows the people who went from their typical status quo job into something that they've always wanted to do. And season one, we're showcasing people right here in Costa Rica.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Well, let me just jump straight into it. And we'll get a bit into that later, I'm sure.

But I mean, you know, with world economies somewhat stalled, you know, kind of realistic prices, you know, sliding a little bit, I would say in most, I know, definitely the UK, the US as well in some areas. I mean, what are you seeing happening here in Costa Rica, Jake?

[Jake Alexander]
I mean, people are still buying and selling. Just for example, I live in a gated community with 20 homes. And up until two years ago, there were 10.

So the past two years have been built out the other side of the community here. And every home is spoken for with the latest transaction as of a couple weeks ago. So, you know, while it's not, you know, red hot, crazy prices that it once was, there's still a lot of transactions going on here.

[Richard Bexon]
Why do you think that a lot of transactions are happening, Jake? What do you think of the things that are pushing that market to, you know, to, I mean, basically to have those people continue to buy real estate, where in the rest of the world, you know, it's not moving as hot?

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, well, I think just in general, you know, if you want to have a foreign asset, Costa Rica is a pretty safe place for it, which I lay claim to like the stability of the government. This is a place where you don't have to worry about the government coming and knocking on your door. And all of a sudden, your property is theirs.

And it's a very popular tourist destination. I'd say the majority of the people who did buy those other 10 are looking to do some sort of short-term, mid-term rental in them.

[Richard Bexon]
Yep. Yeah, it's incredible. I mean, like it's just such a strong vacation rental market here because we're not building hotels like gangbusters.

It's so difficult now to get permitting to build a hotel. You know, the demand, I mean, again, this year, I think it's what, like 2.5 million visitors will visit Costa Rica. It'll be the busiest year yet.

But there aren't really that many new hotel rooms coming online. So a lot of that is being gobbled up by vacation rentals and the demand is still very strong. And in your area of the country, Manuel Antonio, I mean, it's some of the strongest vacation rental occupancy, you know, in the country.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, and there's just not, you need a lot of dirt, you need a lot of water and a lot of resources for a hotel.

[Richard Bexon]
Yep.

[Jake Alexander]
But if you can put a home up here, I mean, the amount of resources you need is significantly less. The barrier to entry is significantly less. And if you can find a reputable property manager, you have someone that's, you know, is looking after your asset as opposed to, I mean, you've done the hotel game, you know, it's not as simple as finding a property manager.

[Richard Bexon]
No, no, it's not. It's a chainsaw juggling act, as I like to say. So, you know, and I mean, the interesting thing is, is if you can cash flow pretty decently a vacation rental here, I mean, it's a plus for reselling your business as well.

Meaning the next buyer that comes in, if you've just made their job easier of like, oh, OK, you're already making a six, seven percent return, like this is pretty. And the logic is there behind the emotion, as I like to say.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, if you can, if you can tie, you know, a history of returns to an investment, it definitely makes it that much easier as opposed to being the first one.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, yeah, I agree. Jake, how long have you been here in Costa Rica now?

[Jake Alexander]
So I first came here in 2010 to visit Costa Ricans that I used to do tree work with in Connecticut and then came down here after college for a couple of months and then I was going back and forth. I'd say, you know, full time here about five, five, six years now.

[Richard Bexon]
Wow. I mean, what would you say was the biggest challenge for you of moving and living here?

[Jake Alexander]
Getting in with the Pura Vida vibe and culture for someone who's like very punctual and on time and things get done today, not mañana or something breaks, it's not Pura Vida or, you know, it's that takes a little getting used to. And even if anyone's ever like tried to open up a bank account here, you know, you go into the office with all the paperwork that they tell you and then you think you're good to go. And then they're like, OK, and now I need you to bring me this.

You're like, but didn't we go over all the things I was going to need? Yeah, that takes a little getting used to for sure. And I think for some people it is the death of their dream in Costa Rica.

And for others, if you can adapt to it and kind of ebb and flow as the tide goes, you'll make it.

[Richard Bexon]
What have been the things that you like when you travel back to the States or whatever that you really miss, like the things that you really appreciate about Costa Rica?

[Jake Alexander]
That I appreciate about here, I'd say. It doesn't feel materialistic here, and maybe it's just because in Manuel Antonio, there isn't like a target or it's not that easy to get packages. Sure.

Like I can order something on Amazon, send it to Miami, pay a bunch of money to have a show up at the marina. Yeah, but I think what I've noticed, like walking around the States is there's just a lot of stuff for sale. And here, at least in Quepos, Manuel Antonio, yeah, you can walk down the street and find things, but it's not so much like push in your face.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, I think here is nobody really cares if you have a Rolex watch or you're wearing the lady's clothes, like you kind of stick out and look like a bit of an idiot sometimes when you're doing that stuff, like you look like a tourist.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, like you're better off, like, you know, don't draw attention to yourself, as opposed to, you know, in the States, like you want to be flashy, like you take that like Miami, South Beach mentality to here. And I mean, you're just putting a target on your back.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, yeah. I mean, let's change gears here to the kind of investment a little. I mean, do you think Costa Rica is a good place to invest?

And I mean, what investments have you made here?

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, I think I think it's a great place to invest. I think it helps if you are here. Yep.

But, you know, for example, and you need to be you don't need to be, but it helps to be a little risk adverse and find people that you trust to get to put you in a good spot. For example, I bought a lot in a gated community in Manuel Antonio that didn't have any water. And for people listening, if you don't have water, you're not getting a building permit.

You're not building your house.

[Richard Bexon]
And it's going to be difficult to resell it.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, possible. Yeah. So, you know, I have a realtor that I know here that I trust and people in the community that were working on the water project to get it done.

So I had faith that, you know, while it didn't have water, chances are that eventually would have water. And, you know, through a contact of yours, was able to source a concession to be able to use the stream behind the house and now actually got water a couple of days ago. But that was, you know, we're talking about two years later down the road.

Yeah. But, you know, in terms of value, it's we'll see what it sells for. But we're talking almost potentially doubling the initial investment.

[Richard Bexon]
I love to find land that doesn't have water, go out there with a hydrologist and find the water source, because as soon as I get it, again, the value of the property doubles.

[Jake Alexander]
Immediately.

[Richard Bexon]
You know, yeah, because I have I go from cattle land to now having a place where I can put a luxury home on it. So, yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
So, yes, I did that property. And then really because that one is just kind of getting perpetually pushed into the future again, kind of with that go with the flow, it's not happening overnight. In the community where I live, there was a lot that came up for sale and I ended up buying that and building, which building here is a whole process in itself.

But the thing that made it really work for me was that I lived 50 meters down the street. Yeah, that.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
So, you know, I could walk over if they had a question, they'd come knock on my door. Whereas if someone isn't here, there's tremendous value in having a project manager that is not the builder.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
So, you know, I'm sitting here in my again, I'm in flow. This house was supposed to be done June 15th. We didn't really move in until August something.

And that was like without kitchen cabinets or anything. Those eventually came. We're still working on the house and I think the final end date will be December 7th.

At least you'll be in it for Christmas. Yeah.

[Richard Bexon]
You're in it, you're in it, but it'll be finished by Christmas.

[Jake Alexander]
Yep. Yeah, it'll be finished by then. I won't be in the country, but it'll be done.

It'll be done by then. And but, you know, even that building process is not what is traditional in the US where you can build on a contract price. But for example, my builder, we did it on square footage.

[Richard Bexon]
Yep.

[Jake Alexander]
And he would send me a handwritten list of everything that he needed. I would take that list, forward it to Kongshu Plaza's WhatsApp. They would send me back a CSV file and upload that into my cart on Kongshu Plaza dot com and put the order in.

And then the truck shows up on Friday with hopefully everything that was written down.

[Richard Bexon]
Wow. You are in the weeds on that construction, dude.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah. Yeah. But that's that's just how, you know, and it works.

But again, if you don't have a project manager here doing it for you, like it's got to be you and you really got to keep eyes on your assets.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. I mean, I completely agree. You know, I mean, we constantly clean up construction project messes or yeah.

You know, and I mean, it's project management, really, you know, one on one. And not everyone in construction is great at project management, unfortunately, you know, and cost controls. And yeah.

So, I mean, where do you think the opportunity currently lies to invest in Costa Rica?

[Jake Alexander]
So funny ask that. So I was just in Golfito last weekend. And I don't know if it's rumors, if it's true, but supposedly Marriott came in and is developing that marina to its full extent.

[Richard Bexon]
They are because they've got the Enjoy Group behind them.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah. So so I think in Golfito, there's opportunity. There's also been talks of like another airport going in further south of Capos and kind of halfway in between.

So I think there's lots of opportunities south of Capos and Manuel Antonio, whether it be Oaxachal, you know, any of those kind of towns in between, especially if there's going to be another airport going in.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
And I think it's also a place where you'll find those lots that maybe don't have water yet. But with the right resources, you can find it. You got to be, again, you got to be open to a little bit of risk.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
I want to put all your I want to put all your eggs in one basket. But if you can diversify a bit, I really see that southern zone really expanding between, like you said, with Enjoy Group behind Marriott at the marina across the bay. You have Botanica, which I think is a Hilton property with that marina there.

So I think we're going to see a lot of development down that southern zone.

[Richard Bexon]
I agree. I agree. You know, I mean, I think it's, you know, that airport, I'm just not sure whether it's ever going to get done.

You know, I always say in Costa Rica, don't believe anything, you know, until you see it happen. You know, we're talking about the LeMond International Airport the other day. And I was like, OK, who's pushing a project in LeMond?

Because I was like, there's not enough, you know, transit for international flights to LeMond. Or Atena, I could see. The southern zone, yes, I could see.

But LeMond, I don't know, you know, but who knows?

[Jake Alexander]
But yeah, where are you going?

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
Porto Viejo.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. I mean, it's just not enough. Yeah, there's just not enough happening around there to put an international flight on.

But well, let's talk about Visperations a little bit. I mean, again, you're interviewing people that are following their dreams, their passions or have that niggling business idea in their head here. I mean, what trends are you seeing when you're interviewing people that are that are working, that started businesses here in Costa Rica or follow their passion?

[Jake Alexander]
Yes, I think a common theme is they they truly understand that go with the flow. And it takes time and you can't rush it and you can't get frustrated. And they all seem to be not looking for the next big thing, but kind of they get to a point and then they're like, OK, what else can I do to enhance my business?

Yeah. And then also they're very open to like advising and helping others. I think that's a very common theme that I found with these people.

Prime example, Brad with Rica Freedivers, he's had a number of students that have gone in through his instructor course. And then he on top of that teaches them freediving business economics. And now one of his students is opening up a store in Jaco.

He's got another student coming in, looking to open up one in the Sierra Bay, Drake Bay area. And between those two and a couple other connections, all of a sudden, a sport that was here, but not very spread out. I mean, you can find a freediving shop all the way down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica now.

[Richard Bexon]
I mean, that's pretty cool, and it's something I do in my business. And I was was with I was sat next to the real estate and hospitality at FIFCO, the company that owns Reserva Conchao in the West in W here and the brewery company. And he was like, Rich, if you want to come and see our desalination plant and everything that's going on, I'll show you exactly how it is and how we got from like 12 litres a second to 20 and what we had to do.

And I was like, wow, a big company opening their doors to a desalination plant where they've spent five million dollars, three years tweaking it will give me the answer in two seconds of how to get, you know, to increase my capacity by 50 percent in a desalination plant. Like that's not normal.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah. Yeah, they want to help. They want to help.

They don't they don't see it as competition. It's everyone's helping each other.

[Richard Bexon]
I mean, I think that that's the thing. Community is big in Costa Rica. But I think everybody understands of like no one's out to get everyone.

Everyone's here to make a living, you know, have a family, create a community. And like, again, if all tides rise, you know, if the tide rises, all boats rise. You know, so I mean, what businesses do you think are missing here in Costa Rica?

[Jake Alexander]
So I don't there's none that really come to mind when you think of Costa Rica overall, but there are. Businesses that are not certain places, I think Golfito is a perfect example of that for the catamaran tours are essentially money printing machines.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
And there isn't a catamaran tour there yet. And maybe this isn't the time for it to be there, but there will be a time when a catamaran tour will absolutely crush out of the Golfito Marina.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah.

[Jake Alexander]
And when that time comes, like I would want to be that person.

[Richard Bexon]
Oh, look, I mean, I think most businesses don't just rocket source as soon as they've started. I mean, you can take a look at Calypso, which has been around for probably like 30 years, you know, the Calypso catamaran tour. But if you're the first guy, usually the first guy wins, you know, but you better be willing to take your licks for the first couple of years while you get that set up.

[Jake Alexander]
But I think, yes, I think that's really kind of the opportunities that are out there, or even like I was mentioning with the free diving. It wasn't a physical location in Jaco. Well, now there is.

So if you can find a place, you can find a business that's working well in another area of Costa Rica. Chances are it'll work well where you would like to be if the volume of people is there. Yeah.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, Jake, this has been great. My last question for you, I mean, if you inherited five hundred thousand dollars and had to invest it into a business or real estate in Costa Rica, what would you invest it in and why?

[Jake Alexander]
So I would I would diversify. I don't know if I would do business. I've done business here and it's you just smile and shake your head.

It's I would go for the real estate, spread it out, check out the southern zone, work with a realtor that I know and trust. Work with someone like you and diversify that portfolio of five hundred K into some risky, less risky, et cetera, up and down that risk scale to to get the best return.

[Richard Bexon]
Well, Jake, really appreciate you taking the time to join us here on the podcast. I think I'll put all the the contact details for you and this operations link in the in the description down below. But thanks very much for coming on the podcast.

[Jake Alexander]
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

It's nice to catch up.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Have a great day.

[Jake Alexander]
You too.

[Richard Bexon]
Bye.

Let's Get in Touch!

Long-time resident and entrepreneur Jake Alexander discusses his experience working, living and investing in Costa Rica. We chat about the challenges he had, his advice to anyone looking to live or invest in Costa Rica plus his experience building.

Contact us: info@investingcostarica.com
Free Consultation: https://meetings.hubspot.com/jake806/crconsult

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