John Quam Editor in Chief Howler Magazine Costa Rica

Living in “paradise” has its challenges. We all want to experience the culture and way of life, yet we still want the conveniences that we had in our home countries. That is not so often the case. The ease of life is created by learning how to deal with the issues that we face daily.

Getting uptight about the process does no good. Frustration is not going to help move things along faster, and getting upset and impatient is a waste of time. Sometimes we just must laugh at how simple things turn into big issues. Hearing the clicking keys of the computer at the bank’s platform desks makes me think they are playing games like solitaire. The need to move traffic through and get all issues handled doesn’t seem to be a big priority. Customer service is very different here.

I was party to an issue that took place with a local bank regarding a real estate purchase. The total amount was not lots of money, just $24,000. The bank made it seem like a multimillion-dollar transaction.

The USA has its hands so heavily in the banking system here and in most countries. Transactions that are simple back home are nearly impossible here. Transferring money from U.S. accounts should be easy when you show a purchase agreement.

Easy to purchase… hard to pay

The attempt to do things right per the bank’s instruction even failed. The lady selling the property and awaiting payment was told by the bank to send information about the purchaser’s life and banking history. All was given as requested. Once the bank received that, it proceeded to ask for three years of tax returns. The funds were sent from a managed investment account. All funds were clear and clean. Yet the bank held up the transaction and refused to allow the money to be deposited. With frustration, it was returned to Merrill Lynch.

So, does Costa Rica want investors to come here? Why are they making it so difficult for people to transfer money to purchase properties? We have a problem here, as in many places in the world, with individuals laundering money or hiding money to avoid taxes. Last month we had an article written by Ivan Granados, a leading attorney in our area, about the apostille. This is now required by the banks to affirm the origin of the funding documentation. The answer to getting money here is to follow the procedures outlined. But the U.S. has made this such an issue and can cause problems for individuals who want to transfer monies here.

Knowing this procedure up front is the proper way to avoid the above issue. But we should be able to accept the instructions from the bank and not have to waste time and effort pursuing our dreams and finding only discouragement. Always ask in advance what procedures need to be followed to avoid having to deal with inept people giving wrong information, costing time and money. We should be able to trust the advice we’re given, but knowing before you enter into a deal is very wise. The U.S.’s long-reaching arms and control affect many of us here. Ask questions from qualified, knowledgeable financial or legal professionals to avoid problems.