We ran into the same issue when we made our Costa Rica investments and didn't really find a good solution for a local mortgage there.
Maybe you saw this from the Tico Times already, but it lays out mostly depressing details on getting a mortgage in Costa Rica: http://www.ticotimes.net/realestate/25-mortgage-ti...
Please post back here if you find anything!
My first questions are what price range are you trying to buy a property in and do you have a home already in the United States?
My husband and I purchased our first Costa Rica property last year and were advised by our agent that in almost 6 years of working in that market he had only ever seen 1 American Couple successfully obtain a mortgage in Costa Rica and it was from Scotia Bank.
American Banks (like BofA and Wells) actually did lend in CR pre-2008 but that possibility disappeared after the crash. If you aren't going to be living in CR full time as you try to execute the deal I do not think it is physically possible for you to obtain a loan from Scotia Bank and not worth your time to try because the rates are so high.
How we purchased our property: Combination of Savings, Personal Loan with interest from a family member (4% interest) and a cash loan from Wells at about 8%. My husband was able to consolidate and re-finance the debt after we executed the deal but this was only possible because we bought a VERY modest property of 70k as a learning tool to really see what buying a home in CR would be like.
After a year or two we intend to buy a larger property in the same area and partner with some friends on it but I do believe a boots on the ground person employed only by you is KEY to executing anything if you are not in the country yourself. The company managing our property as a vacation rental was unable to get the power turned on in our condo for months because we had to get the meter switched into our name with the electric company (which is much more difficult to do in CR than in the United States). That kind of errand is not the sort of thing they are paid to do and our liaison wasn't able to devote enough time to the problem on a daily basis to make it happen which I completely understood but it was still frustrating.
I finally had to take a week off work and make myself incredibly obnoxious to ICE (the electric company) to get everything sorted out but our power is now on.
That being said if you are willing to start with a smaller property or have more cash reserves than we did as we were preparing for our wedding you can make the deals happen you just have to be creative with it.
@Alex Washburn makes really good points - the process is definitely not easy. We worked with a lawyer over there who is a US ex-pat who created and registered a local LLC for us, which owns our properties. The LLC helps when you are trying to do things like turn on utilities. I think the LLC also makes it easier to open a local bank account, which is convenient to pay utilities or other local bills or your property manager, etc.
Following Up + More details: @caroline
Our utilities were also opened using an LLC but since the power had actually been shut off the problem mostly came from ICE sending someone out to turn it back on plus installing a new style meter (which had to be approved by our HOA but that was another matter entirely and not particularly difficult).
Opening a bank account with BCR as an individual is easy and you can get an atm card in about 3 days but you will be limited to holding only a thousand dollars in it. Scotia Bank in Costa Rica will allow you to open up an larger account as 'business owner' if you own your properties in an LLC but the process of opening an account is much more difficult.
Leverage anything in the US so you can use the cash to buy in CR ( US home / 401K / other assets ..etc) ...pura vida !
@Bobby Short Depending on the equity you have on your primary residence you might be able to find a lender to finance the property in CR with your primary residence as collateral. Do you have a region in mind to buy in or are you just exploring the idea?