• Ron Snell

Where Did You Say That Was?

So here’s a puzzle: How do you tell someone where a property is if you don’t have an address for it? What if there were no addresses anywhere?

In Costa Rica there are no addresses -- only directions. Although things are changing at a sloth’s pace, even in the capital city of San Jose, every location is pretty much still a sequence of "so many meters north and so many meters east of such and such a landmark." If you don't know the landmarks, you'll never find it. None of which is helped by the fact that some landmarks have died (trees) or been demolished (buildings) or repurposed (businesses). They are now "collective memory landmarks" that don't exist in reality but are still well remembered by cabbies and residents.

Down here, you don’t mail a letter to someone’s home unless you really don’t care if it gets to them. You use a mailbox service, and those are sparse. The reality is that the majority of the snail mail goes undelivered. GPS, email and cell phones revolutionize places like this.

In any event, out here in mountain and beach country we not only don't have street addresses, we don't have streets. There is a highway along the coast, a paved road from the coast to San Isidro, and a network of gravel roads connecting everything else. A typical description for a property might be, "Go south from here until you see the sign for this hotel, then turn left and go up the mountain until you see the soccer field, then bear right at the 'Y', go 500 meters and it will be on the right." Turns out that's a little long for the address space on an envelope or in your driver’s license. Oh, and that "500 meters" is anything from 100 meters to 2 full kilometers. Some people aren't that good at guessing distances.

The good news is that this will probably help combat mental deterioration as you age. Solving puzzles is supposed to be helpful in that regard. The bad news is that you might spend most of your twilight years trying to find one property.

As agents, we can save you a lot of time here. Plus if we don't find it on the first try, well, at least it’s our gas and shock absorbers that are getting used up while we hunt. Besides, we get to know a lot of fun people this way -- it's like real estate geocaching. And the triumphant feeling after a successful search? Priceless.

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