1. What area of Costa Rica would you like to build a house in? Costa Rica has many micro climates, so depending on what type of climate you want, you must spend the time to find that area. The coastal areas have temperatures of 35 C and higher ,all year round. If you want a more temperate climate, like around 25 C , then you want an area inland a bit, like around 3400 ft. above sea-level. Your land elevation plays a major part in the type of climate you will have.
2. When looking for a lot, ask "what are you getting for the money"? Is there any infrastructure, roads,hydro,water, internet and tv access? If not included, or easily accessible, these things will add considerably to the cost of your lot. If you will only live their part-time, is there any security? This is very important. Maybe you should be in a gated community with 24hr security. What type and size of house will you be building? Where will the house sit, on the lot? Is there room for it? What will be your views? Are there any creeks running through the lot? Maybe you can't build there. These are all things you need to consider when choosing a lot to purchase.
3. You must now find a competent architect. Look around. Someone that speaks both spanish and english would be most helpful. Check out some of the houses they have designed, and speak to the owners. If you are not going to be in Costa Rica when the house is constructed, then you will need a good communication system. You will want emails, pictures, faxes, and drawings during construction. The architect will supervise the construction weekly to make sure the house is built to his specs. You should spend some time with the architect, before he starts the design process, to let him know what type of house you want, and need.
4. You must now find a competent builder, one that has a lot of experience building houses in Costa Rica. Again, get references. Go see the houses they have built, speak to the owners. Does the builder speak english , as well as spanish? The builder must be willing to give you a construction contract, that specifies everything that is to go into the house. You should get a turn-key bid, and you should find 3 different builders willing to give you quotes. Your architect will provide all the specs for the main construction of the house. What type of concrete block, what strength and size of steel, what are the specs for the roof construction? This must all be incorporated into the contract. A very important part is the specs for all the finishings. Are you using ceramic or porcelin floor tiles? What is the grade of aluminum used for the windows and patio walkouts? Same for the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and the countertops, granite or marble? What type of stairs, and what are the materials and specs for the railings? Every detail must be included in the contract. The more you put in , the less chance of a surprise at the end, when the builder decides to use cheaper materials because he is running over budget. A well documented contract is a must. There are lawyers that will help you out with this, and they are not that expensive. A small cost up front could save you a bundle down the road.