This week on the Roundup the theme is Housing. You can check out the Roundup tomorrow at Cyberbones.
I have an interesting insight to housing in San Jose because as A/CLO I'm a non-voting member of the Inter-Agency Housing Board which exists at every Post. Coincidentally John is a voting member, he's also the interim-President of the Board. Therefore, we've been on a few housing tours together.
Housing in San Jose ranges from apartments (which are all pretty luxurious) for singles and couples without kids, to townhouses, to single family homes. Every newly assigned home will be in a condominio which means gated community in Costa Rica.
The housing is farther away from the Embassy than it used to be due to security concerns. One family who still lives in the Embassy area experienced a break-in and theft. Luckily they were out of town and nobody was hurt. We live in a neighborhood of a suburb West of San Jose. This suburb is the closest that we'll assign new housing in. We have another suburb to the West of us that we're also assigning in.
We have contracts with two apartment buildings. One is not far from the Embassy, but is much more secure than single family homes not in a gated community. It's actually quite secure and the apartments are nice. The other building is about a five minute drive from where I live. Our current housing coordinator does a good job of looking at a wide variety of houses to pick the "perfect" one for each incoming employee and their family.
Some things you can expect in housing in San Jose: No fewer than three bedrooms, and no fewer than four bathrooms, including maid's quarters. You will have tile flooring, possibly throughout the whole place, but there's a chance you'll have wood floors in the bedrooms. The house/apartment will be constructed out of concrete, so you'll need to buy special nails and screws to hang things (I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to have someone from the Warehouse hanging your items) which can be found at many stores here.
There's very little central air-conditioning in housing in Costa Rica. You'll be able to get three units (usually used in bedrooms, however, I've seen them in common rooms in houses of singles or couples who have no kids) to use in your house. It's a very humid country, even at 3,300 feet above sea level. You'll want to have dehumidifiers in the bedrooms so your clothes don't get moldy. It's very windy where we live and having the huge doors into the backyard open as well as another window make for a very cool living room, if we open our front door it's even better (beware for neighborhood dogs, and wild birds that may end up in your house, as well as mosquitoes and biting gnats).
Your kitchen will probably be completely closed off and not very large since kitchens are made for housing staff to be in (although depending on rank, you could have quite a sizable kitchen). Your kitchen will have granite counter tops and probably very few drawers, although you may have quite a few cupboards. Warning - you may not have a dishwasher. You will have a water filter installed in your sink, and probably one in your fridge as well (the water here is potable though, and it doesn't taste very bad). Some kitchens I've seen recently have built in stoves, and I've seen quite small ones, you should make sure the size of your oven before bringing baking dishes.
Yards here are typically small, but most of the condominios here have common areas with playgrounds, pools, and sometimes tennis courts. You can usually get yard work done by the condominio's jardinero (gardner) for a reasonable price. Your jardinero will also be for hire for extra work like painting and car washing.
Most people here are very pleased with their housing, although there are people that are always unhappy. We're very, very happy with our housing, it's been great to us, although sometimes I do get a bit jealous after walking through some houses on housing tours.