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178 Playa Grande Update Investing is still HOT!

178 Playa Grande Update Investing is still HOT!
178 Playa Grande Update Investing is still HOT!

Podcast Transcription

[Richard Bexon]
Good morning, Richie. How are you doing? I'm well, how are you?

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah, very, very good. I appreciate you taking time out of what I know is a very busy day to chat with us about Playa Grande today. My pleasure.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Awesome. Well, the first question I always like to ask people, Richie, is just kind of get a bit of a market update here.

[Richie Valasquez]
I mean, they had a good comeback in late 2023. Real estate seems to have kind of, I would say, flatlined in the majority of the world. We've seen some declines throughout 2023.

[Richard Bexon]
But what happened in 2023 in Playa Grande?

[Richie Valasquez]
Well, it's good that you bring that up, because it's something that most of our potential buyers will come over here. And I think it's one of the first questions they ask is, how is the market doing? Because the market back home, wherever they're from, whether it's Canada, the US, even Europe, in some cases, has either flatlined, or it's starting to kind of dip a little bit.

To which my answer is, at least to my knowledge, in our area, in our general area, it really hasn't been experiencing that. And specifically to Playa Grande, it definitely has not been experiencing that. Because it's such a new community, I would say, if anything, the market has been still steadily climbing, a little slower than it did in 2021, 2022.

But it's still climbing, which is a good thing for everybody, I think.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I agree. I mean, from my, I would say, ivory tower over here, in the city, kind of watching the beach areas, what I'm seeing is that there are some price improvements in areas that probably were trying to ride this demand trend. But we're starting to see prices come down in non-key areas, on areas further out.

But Tamarindo, Playa Grande, Flamingo, Portreiro, I mean, it's still strong. And as you said there, prices continue to rise.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah, I think a lot of it has to do with just the reputation that Costa Rica has in general. And because Tamarindo has been just such a prominent tourist destination over the last 25, 30 years, everybody has either heard of it, or they know somebody who's been to Tamarindo. It's always something where you mentioned, I live in Costa Rica, I live in Tamarindo, and somebody's eventually going to say, I've heard of it, or I've been there.

And as long as that keeps happening, I think it just keeps bringing in more people. And then this is the running joke that we have here, as people who've lived here for a long time, is that we've a lot of tourists come here with vacation goggles. After spending three or four wonderful days here, the first thing they want to do is find out about real estate and possibly investing here.

And some people even want to come and retire here. So as long as that demand exists, I think the property value here in our area is going to at least maintain the way that it is.

[Richard Bexon]
If you were to get your crystal ball out and look at 2024, what do you think is going to happen in Playa Grande in 2024?

[Richie Valasquez]
Well, Playa Grande has been experiencing an exponential growth for about the last two years, two and a half years, I'd say right as soon as Costa Rica opened back up after lockdown. A lot of people, obviously, we all know that it started everywhere around the world where people were realizing that they could work remotely. So they were moving to different destinations and working from there.

But here, what's happening is we are completely a new community. Playa Grande was about maybe 20, 30 homes during the lockdown. Now we have 20, 30 new homes that have come up in the last year and a half.

And with that being said, it's nothing but really nice homes. Obviously, there's a couple of small homes here and there, but on the beach communities like Playa Grande Estates or even Las Ventanas at Playa Grande, we're seeing a million dollar homes coming up every single month. And I think that the market here is actually becoming a luxury market for the most part, at least for every part that's close to the beach or anything that has an ocean view.

Of course, you can still find lots everywhere. Guanacaste is a big place where you can have a nice ocean view. But to have the amenities that we have here in Playa Grande, it's not an easy thing to find.

So my crystal ball tells me that 2024 will still be a good year for sellers, for people like us that are in real estate. It's still going to be a good year. I think we're definitely going to experience a little bit of a lull as far as the amount of showings that we're going to be doing.

However, the amount of transactions is still, I'd say, in a healthy spot right now.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I agree. I agree. I think Grande just has something special.

And I'm going to ask you to describe Grande to listeners in a minute, but I think it's just special from its location and its feeling. I mean, there's an energy that Grande has where it's kind of young and, I'm not going to use the word old, but like middle-aged, older people, like it's fit. Most people are fit in Grande, right?

Because they're surfing or they're biking or they're walking. It's an active community. I agree.

[Richie Valasquez]
I think that's the biggest allure that a lot of us have. Why we all moved to Grande, why we all stay in Playa Grande has a lot to do with this kind of lifestyle that we're able to have here and still feel like we're close to everything, but we're also kind of a little bit away from everything else that's happening around the other communities, which is, I think, the biggest selling point for us. Yeah.

[Richard Bexon]
I mean, I'm not a surfer, so forgive me, but from what I understand, you can surf it all year round.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yes. I'd say there's definitely a season where it's the best time of the year to surf, which is our summer between December and I'd say the end of July. October is a little bit slow, but if you're really into surfing, you can still get some waves.

It's just a different ocean completely, but definitely waves all year round, which is something that we love about this place for sure.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. And again, it's one of those communities where you just see such a mix of people. I mean, you've got Onda there kind of bringing in younger folk, you've got a lot of the vacation rental owners are probably in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and you've got people that have been in the area for, I don't know, 30, 40 years as well.

So it has a community.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yes, definitely. The only thing we don't have, which is actually being worked on right now by some of the locals is a public children's park. So that's been a movement by some of the people, like you said, that have been living here for a long time.

I'll mention Matthew from Indra in one of our small hotels here, who he has his kids. And also, he's just such a community oriented person that he's been able to kind of gather a group of solid locals and done the whole process, going to the municipality and going through all the private avenues to kind of get some funds together to make this a reality. And from what I hear, we're really close to having that park within the next year or so.

So we're getting there. We're a small town, but we're getting there.

[Richard Bexon]
That's awesome. I mean, it's just nice to see those small towns organically grow though. I mean, that's one thing that I say to Costa Rica is it doesn't move fast.

And I mean, if you want to move quickly, this is not the country to be in, but that's the whole beauty of it. But I will say, because it moves so slow and things are difficult, only great ideas get done.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah, I agree. And one of the advantages that I think that we have over a lot of other parts of Costa Rica is that because it's such a hub for people from all over the world to come and live here, whether they're young and they want to come and work here part time and do the after college kind of job, people who retire come here. So it's like a big, I'd say, bowl of different minds with everyone's different perspective that comes and just kind of adds to this growth in a very healthy way, which I really appreciate about Playa Grande.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. I mean, I think one of the big issues on that, all the, I would say, issues that people are having at the moment, all their concern is water. I mean, how is Playa Grande managing?

Because I know some other beach towns are having issues with it.

[Richie Valasquez]
Well, I'm happy to say Playa Grande has had a very, I'd say, conservative way of managing water. So we have, because of the proximity that we have to a marine national park, and we're also, I guess we're sandwiched in between a marine national park and then also a river slash estuary that divides us with Tamarindo, that's also a wildlife reserve. We have some stricter regulations than other towns in our area.

So water for sure has been one of the biggest points, for example, because of our proximity to these wildlife reserves, we aren't allowed to really have a lot of loud music or loud hotels or big structures in this area, which, believe it or not, helps a ton in conserving water. But the other thing is that I do want to tip my hat off to the Asada, which is the company that manages the water here in our area, is that they've been very, very good at issuing water letters and also denying water letters when the projects don't make sense. One of the problems that Costa Rica in general has is that bribes are very easy to do in this country.

A lot of people in public positions of power are very susceptible to taking bribes. But I'm happy to say Playa Grande doesn't seem to have that problem. Otherwise, we would be in quite a pickle, just like some of the other neighboring communities are when it comes to issuing new water letters for new homes and new projects.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I agree. I think that's the beauty of, again, of Grande. When you go there, there are no towers, there's nothing obnoxious.

Everything feels like it's in harmony with that area, which, again, is National Park, you know, and kind of like a chilled beach life. I mean, what would you like to see in Playa Grande that's not currently there, Richie? I mean, a lot of people are looking for like, look, I would potentially want to move down.

I'd like to invest in something. What do you think is missing in Grande, apart from, of course, a playground?

[Richie Valasquez]
I mean, it's little things, really. We're not that far away from all of the amenities that Temerindo offers. If you were to drive through the main road, you can get to Temerindo within under half an hour.

If you took the back road through the farms, you're there in about 20 minutes, maybe a little under 20 minutes. So we don't really need the large supermarkets because they're close by. We don't really need the, you know, large amount of restaurants because we have a couple in town that are good.

But if you want something else, there's Brasilito, there's Flamingo, there's Temerindo, et cetera, et cetera. But I would say the small things are what we really miss in this town, which is maybe a little bit more retail space, you know, like bakeries. There's one in town, but, you know, we could use another one.

Mini-marts, we could use a, I guess, more complete one. We have one, but it's a little further away from the beach itself. It's not walking distance.

But it's just the little tiny details that, you know, would make the stay in a more, I don't know, just more of a comfortable place to be without having to go all the way to Waukesha for an ATM. These kinds of small little details, you know what I mean? But other than that, I don't really think we're missing anything major.

Everything's kind of close by anyways.

[Richard Bexon]
What stops that happening, if you don't mind me asking, Richie, because it kind of seems like like a no-brainer for somebody to kind of build that commercial space there. I mean, it doesn't need to be massive. I mean, it can be like, you know, two or three commercial units, right?

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah. I think it's just a matter of time. It's something that because we are, again, just such a small town that's slowly growing, I think that kind of investment is yet to come.

I wouldn't be surprised if we had this conversation a year from now, we'd at least have that little mini-mart at least close to the brewery. Because we do have a gym. We do have a brewery.

We do have, you know, pizza. We do have tacos. We do have fine dining.

Everything that you want, tennis club, we have surf shops. So everything is really there. It's just like a couple little things that we're missing.

And I'm not saying a lot of it, but maybe just a little sprinkle of that would help the locals here in Playa Grande, you know, stay local kind of a thing.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you're just missing a few elements to give it that like village feel, if that makes sense.

I mean, it's basically there. It's 90% there. So yeah.

Pretty much. Yeah. What are your favorite places to visit in Costa Rica, Richie?

I mean, you've been here for what, 20 plus years? 35 years.

[Richie Valasquez]
35 years. Wow. Wow.

Wow. Yeah. You know, I'm definitely a sucker for the Caribbean just because I'm from the Caribbean side of Honduras.

So I grew up with beautiful beaches and coconut in every single meal that you can possibly think of, whether it's seafood or just regular food, plantains, all of that stuff. So it's kind of nostalgic for me to go to the Caribbean side. I love Puerto Viejo and Uvita and you know, Tortuguero, all these areas are just familiar to me.

I also, it was one of the first places that I was visiting the most when I first moved to Costa Rica was the Caribbean side because my dad used to work on that side too. But with that being said right now, I'd say my two favorite spots are definitely visiting around Arenal and La Fortuna. That's just beautiful.

It's a short drive from where we are. So it's kind of like a weekend trip for sure. But also around, I would say Bahia Vagina, Bahia Uvita, like that part of the South Pacific is just incredibly breathtaking.

The amount of green and wildlife all year round. So it's definitely a place that we'd love to go.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. It's amazing you mentioned La Fortuna. I'm spending more and more time up there just because we have more projects kind of going on up there and a lot more investors looking in to that area.

I mean, just the variation in land prices goes from like, $20 a square meter up to like $150 a square meter, depending on, you know, and that's, you don't often see that huge variance in this country, you know, typically, especially not in coastal areas. But I think maybe because there is not that much, I wouldn't say there's that much structure in real estate, like it's individual private sellers selling it, you're seeing those variances. But I agree on La Fortuna.

I always say to people of like, look, if you've ever been to a wood in Indonesia, it just reminds me so much of that. And if you want to know where it's going, take a look at that.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah. It's a good spot. I mean, again, we sit right in the middle.

If you're in La Fortuna, you're close enough to San Jose and you're close enough to the beaches, which is kind of cool. It's the same with Monteverde, for example. It's that for us, for example, we have a very harsh summer.

So there's no rain, right? For about maybe four months straight. And it just dries up and it's really hot.

And there comes a point where, you know, you're at the beach and everything and you can cool off in the ocean or a swimming pool somewhere, but you really want to experience a little bit of a cooler climate. And all we have to do is just drive two hours from here. And we have the waterfall, we have the hot springs and stuff like that.

And it's sweater weather sometimes at night. So it's kind of nice, you know, you can get away for a little bit, which is what I think the big attraction is to that place. I think it's about what, like two hours away from the Liberia International Airport too, which is, you know, it's great and it's all paved now.

It's a quick drive over there. The roads are absolutely nice. So definitely I'd say La Fortuna is going to be experiencing a bit of a boom anytime now.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I agree. I agree. And yeah, I mean, it's just, it's a beautiful drive.

You know, you go around that lake, you know, and then after that, you know, it's, yeah, it's pretty straight from there. So, and I, I mean, I get you, I mean, even here in the, you know, up here in the cities, I mean, in kind of like March, you know, April time that wind stops and it gets hot here. I can only imagine you guys up in Guadalajara.


[Richie Valasquez]
I think we're upwards. If you're in the US, we can get up to about 110 degrees for most of us from here. It's like almost 40 degrees Celsius for sure in the shade.

[Richard Bexon]
Wow. I mean, Richie, I forgot to ask a question earlier when talking about Playa Grande. I mean, a lot of people look to, you know, buy something or build something from a vacation rental point of view.

I mean, does Grande give typically good returns to individuals?

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah. I mean, what I always tell buyers and people who are looking to build is that if you're trying to do a vacation rental is that the key is to have enough room for a family. So the more rooms, the more beds, the better your, your your business would go with vacation rentals.

That I think is the biggest key to us. We have certain restrictions in place in Playa Grande that like I mentioned earlier, it won't allow us to have hotels or anything like this. But another thing that it doesn't allow is clubs and discotheques and, you know, loud bars like in other places.

And even if someone were to, you know, figure out a way to open up a bar and try to stay up late to your point earlier about Playa Grande being a healthy place, everyone's in bed by like 1030 here. And I mean, like asleep. We are definitely people that, you know, we fall asleep early and we wake up super early to either go on a beach walk or go surfing.

It's just not that kind of a place. Again, if you if you're here on vacation and you and you want to experience some of that, you can always get a Tamarindo and have a good night out and then come back home. So to that point, a lot of the people that come and rent in here in Playa Grande in general, whether it's up in the hills in Ventanas or now on the beach in Playa Grande Estates or even in Palm Beach Estates, it's more of a family oriented community where you know you're going to have a full five day vacation without having to deal with loud music and your kids are going to be completely safe because there's not a lot of activity in the street and it just feels like a very safe place. So the traveling either with your whole family, which is a very popular thing right now, a lot of people, because of the way that we live right now in 2024, live away from their folks, live away from their brothers and sisters and cousins and stuff like that.

So a lot of people do come down here and have a family reunion, which kind of, you know, is really good for Playa Grande as far as the rental goes. That's high season kind of traffic. The other thing that Playa Grande is known for, and this is kind of like another, I guess, well kept secret that we have here is why is the occupancy in homes and hotels in Playa Grande so good year round?

It's because during the low season, we've discovered that this place is also a good hub for yoga retreats. So there are hotels like the Rip Jack Inn, for example, that have a very healthy occupancy, because they have also facilities for retreats, shalas, they have about two different ones, they're expanding for another one. A lot of people will also rent bigger homes and have private retreats here with five, 10 people, whether it's just yoga, or any sort of, you know, I guess, like healthy activity that involves nature and ocean and stuff like this.

This is the, I'd say the secondary market other than surfing, right, which is just that health retreat. And that keeps the homes full. So we're getting, like I was mentioning earlier, more and more homes that are getting finished this year, which have a sole purpose of being an investment for vacation rentals that aren't really going to be experiencing much of a low season as long as they're able to adapt to this kind of, I guess, activity that we have in Playa Grande.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, you bring up a great point there is that those areas when, you know, because our tour, you know, our busy peak periods here, December, January, February, March, you know, July, and kind of the first two weeks of August, well, towards the end of June as well. I mean, if you can fill those in April, May, September, October, and kind of somewhat of November with retreats, it's a great way to have a healthy all year round, you know, traffic to an area. And I mean, I sometimes, you know, I used to say that Playa Grande was the new Nosara.

And I still believe that, you know, from a point of view of, I mean, I say it from a point of view of living wellness, but it's at half the price. You know, it's a little bit smaller, of course, Nosara is and I'm saying Guion is here that like, you know, it's, yeah, it's laid out very similar. It's a subdivision, you know, the luxury homes, you have surf, you have yoga, it's wellness.

It's just much closer to everything.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah, I would say the difference would be Nosara has less restrictions with construction than we do. Right. And again, the park has a lot to do with this.

So Nosara is able to make, I guess, wellness centers that are bigger, that are, you know, filled with more amenities, for example, you have, you know, I'm not going to mention any names, but there are certain hotels in Nosara that are able to have about a retreat with 60 people and, you know, comfortably with like, you know, luxury amenities, right? Like everything is super nice. So they're able to definitely command a higher price for those kinds of retreats.

Playa Grande falls into more of the rustic experience of Costa Rica, where there's still a little bit of like roughness that happens. And then, of course, the I think the biggest, I guess it's a coincidence that it, it's the low season when it rains, for some reason, people don't want to come to the beach when it rains, because there's no sun, you can't do a lot of activities, etc, etc. But what happens in Playa Grande is that when it rains here, it just everything turns green, and it's beautiful.

And there's a lot of birds that come back. So it's like a completely different environment, right? And if you're here for that kind of a wellness retreat, it feels a little quiet.

But you can still hear the monkeys and the birds and everything's green. And it's wonderful. And it's what you picture Costa Rica being like when you haven't been here, and you either see it on YouTube, or you read it at a magazine, birds, green trees, waterfalls, etc.

That's kind of the allure of rainy season here to her for people who are looking for that escape that kind of a yoga retreat, for example.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah, I mean, it's people are blown away when it's like, you know, when it's kind of brown and dusty and be like, Look, in like two months, this is going to be completely green. And they're like, What? And then when it's green, it'd be like, No, this is all going to be kind of brown and a little bit dusty within two months.

And they're like, How is that so extreme those differences? Well, it's like a savanna. I mean, that like there, you know, it's like Africa, in some extent, you know, when the rain comes, I mean, everything just goes lush.

[Richie Valasquez]
It is it just has this beautiful allure when everything's golden. Sometimes if you kind of, you know, if you if you look hard enough, you might see a zebra or giraffe in the distance. That's what it looks like.

But it's also you have to kind of see the beauty in that too, which which I definitely do. I understand it's hot and it's dry and everything like that. But there's something like nice about it.

Like, every morning is still if you if you wake up at sunrise, on a day that you know, it's going to be 40 degrees outside. It's still really cool. And there's that mist and it's, you know, it's kind of nice.

Yeah, I don't we it's we live basically, and it's called a bosque tropical sector, which is a dry tropical forest. So you know, to that definition, like we absolutely like live in that environment. We do have wildlife, there's coyotes, there's, you know, there's deer, there's definitely a couple of big cats roaming around.

So it's all there. It's just a different environment.

[Richard Bexon]
Yeah. Well, my last question for you, Richard, I'd love to ask everyone, if you inherited $500,000 and had to invest in business or real estate in Costa Rica, what would you invest it in? And why?

[Richie Valasquez]
I would probably invest it in real estate. But for myself, a lot of a lot of the times, you know, when we think about having a little money in the bank account, we think about investments, we always think about, well, how can we get this to generate? So what I really what I really like about this idea of having an extra half a million dollars to invest in something, I would definitely go back to the La Fortuna Arenal discussion that we were having earlier.

And actually not not put all half a million dollars, I think that's way too much house for a place like that. But, you know, maybe maybe a quarter of that into a nice small lot with a view of the lake and just a nice, comfortable home for my family and I to enjoy. Yeah, I think that would be the ideal thing.

Something where there's absolutely no pressure since the money came without me having to work for it. And why not treat myself with something that's going to be there? And eventually, if you want to sell it in the future, you can always, you know, make a little bit of money on that or, you know.

[Richard Bexon]
If I had to, if I had to push you to make a return, what would you do? Oh, OK, if that was the case. I mean, I would still work.

I mean, I'm telling you, Aaron, I would work. The data says it works.

[Richie Valasquez]
Yeah, I would definitely look more for an opportunity where I could invest and hold. That would be my idea. If there was a chance to develop with that money, then yes.

Why not build a couple of homes and flip them? Yep. Areas like are picking up.

There are certain areas in the Central Valley and in San Jose, too, that have that bit of a, I'd say, appreciation as far as real estate goes. But it's definitely not the same as the areas where, you know, we're going to receive people from abroad that are going to come here basically to retire or figure out a way to turn this place into, you know, their own little slice of paradise, which I think helps a lot with the ROI and these kinds of investments. So, yeah, I would say definitely within our area, for sure.

[Richard Bexon]
Awesome. Well, Richard, I really appreciate you taking time to come on the podcast with us and share your experience. And anyone that wants to reach out to you, I'll put all of your contact details in the description, but very much appreciate your time, sir.

[Richie Valasquez]
My pleasure, Richard. Thank you for having us and for giving Grounded Real Estate a quick chance to get on the podcast. So I appreciate you and hope to see you soon, my friend.

[Richard Bexon]
Sounds good, buddy. Bye.

Let's Get in Touch!

We get an update on the developing beach town of Playa Grande from Richie Velasquez of Playa Grande Real Estate. We chat about what happened, what is happening and where Playa Grande is going in 2024. Richie gives his input on where he'd invest $500K in Costa Rica.

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