Our Green, Mortgage-Free Home in Costa Rica

The Kemsleys’ stunning debt-free house is located in a tropical rainforest environment in Costa Rica. They’re completing the project piecemeal, paying for it as it’s built over the course of four years.

| June/July 2014

  • The Kemsley's Household During Construction
    Nita (the author) and Marty Kemsley hired out the labor on their home, and supervise its construction to ensure that each detail suits their desires.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley
  • Aeriel View of Debt-Free Shelter
    This “hacienda” is one of two debt-free shelters the Kemsleys have designed and had built.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley
  • Finished Bedroom in the Kemsley Household
    Upon completing their primary residence, the Kemsleys plan to open part of it as a bed-and-breakfast.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley
  • Outdoor Patio Overlooking Rainforest
    The rainforest surrounding the Kemsley residence is home to monkeys, toucans, birds and other wildlife.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley
  • Spanish Colonial-Style home in Costa Rica
    The hacienda is a Spanish Colonial-style structure that uses hydroelectric power and is completely off-grid.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley
  • Arenal Volcano Near the Mortgage Kemsley Household
    Stunning views surround the Kemsley residence, including a view of the Arenal Volcano.
    Photo by Nita Kemsley

  • The Kemsley's Household During Construction
  • Aeriel View of Debt-Free Shelter
  • Finished Bedroom in the Kemsley Household
  • Outdoor Patio Overlooking Rainforest
  • Spanish Colonial-Style home in Costa Rica
  • Arenal Volcano Near the Mortgage Kemsley Household

We built our first green home (our “casita”) in Costa Rica in 2008 and 2009 and are in the process of building another home on our property now that will become our primary residence and a bed-and-breakfast upon completion (our “hacienda”). We’re doing this project piecemeal, on a pay-as-we-go basis. No standing debt, no mortgage. We are very proud of our efforts to build and sustain a totally green home in a tropical rainforest environment. We strive to be carbon neutral, we employ hydroelectric power, and we have a source of pure fresh spring water, as well. Many baby boomers are looking for alternatives to living in the United States in their golden years.

We have been planning to move to Costa Rica permanently in 2015, but are currently living in Park City, Utah, while we build our dream home. When we aren’t in Costa Rica, we rent out our home as a vacation rental and luxury hostel, which helps us maintain the project and contributes to our building fund.

Initially we used the equity in our home in Park City, Utah. From there, we refinanced and pulled the money for the Costa Rican property purchase and casita construction. That way, the property in Costa Rica would always be free and clear. When we sold our Park City home, we no longer had the debt. When we started the hacienda project, we took a small loan on our 401(k) balance and are paying ourselves back the amount over three years at 10 percent interest. But the rest of our construction is strictly pay-as-we-go. It took us only nine months to build the casita, and it will take us about four years to complete the hacienda B&B. Our target move-in date is late 2015. After we have made the move, we will continue to work on finishing the hacienda and then the rental units and the swimming pool.

The casita is a simple two-bedroom cottage, about 900 square feet. It is made of concrete block and natural woods. The hacienda will be about 3,500 square feet, and is Spanish Colonial style. We purchased 2 acres of farmland that had spectacular views of Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano, a stream, and a corridor of primary and secondary rainforest. We wanted to protect that corridor and its myriad monkeys, toucans, birds and other wildlife. The water rights to the stream, the spring water and the hydroelectric power were part of the deal. We are completely off-grid.



Labor costs are relatively cheap — the most important thing is having a crew you can communicate with. Material costs and availability can be a challenge, as material costs fluctuate with the exchange rate. When we built the casita, the final building cost was about $40,000. Materials and excavation were about three-fourths of that.

We didn’t do any of the labor ourselves. Labor costs have been scheduled by the meter, and we have averaged out to about $50 per square foot.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds newsletter