07/07/2012 08:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wanted: House to Let: No Boas, Bats Or Screaming Rats (The Costa Rican House Hunt Continues...)

Welcome to "House Hunters International" ... The Do-It-Yourself Edition.

Before we moved to Costa Rica, we watched the crap out of HHI, despite the fact that most every episode showed a couple with too much money and too little imagination bobbleheading their way around three houses making inane comments ("Yammer, yammer, yammer, vaulted ceilings!" Or "Drivel, drivel, flush, flush... granite countertops!") -- and always choosing the house with the American-style fridge (good luck finding the American-style supermarket, Betty).

Our version of HHI was squeezed between swimming, snorkeling, sloth-saving, bike riding, playing/coaching baseball, yoga class and rum drinks. But our one-month rental in the world's smallest casita, complete with screaming rat, was just about up, and we still hadn't found what we were looking for: something comfortable and big enough (nice enough?) that friends and family would stop asking, "Are you nuts?" and start booking their flights.

We checked Craig's List Costa Rica, HomeAway, VRBO, the Puerto Viejo Buy and Sell Facebook page, copied phone numbers from handwritten "House for Rent" signs on trees, and asked everyone we met if they knew of a three-bedroom house to rent...

We saw one beautifully furnished home with two huge screened-in porches and a kitchen with all of the parts actually in the kitchen (no sink hanging out the window), but moments after the realtor left, the current tenant confided that the house had bats. OK, we like bats, they eat mosquitos. Only this house, according to our new confidante, had 1,000 bats living in the roof. And 1,000 bats was slightly over our bat limit. (When it flies, someone dies!). She pointed out the guano running down the walls...and suggested in all seriousness that we get a boa constrictor and chuck it up into the rafters before moving in. (Okay, thanks, Agnes Moorehead, we'll keep that in mind).


Another house, that looked amazing online, boasted ocean views, deep shaded upper and lower decks, local hardwood floors and was "only a few hundred yards from the beach." Only it was a few hundred yards as the crow flies, and, as luck would have it, it turns out we're not crows. The "few hundred yards from the beach" was certainly measured vertically, and actually came in at around, oh, I don't know ... how far is "No effing way we're riding up and down this ungraded, 60-degree gravel track on our one-speed, rapidly rusting beach bikes?" (We're retiring, not training for the Tour de France).

There was the House of Fleas, the place right next door to the House of Pit Bulls, a one-of-a-kind home on a beautiful property featuring the perfect howler monkey habitat ("Definitely gonna need that monkey insurance if we live here...") -- but the house offered little to nothing in the way of indoor space and was more like luxury camping than anything else -- and that might not sit too well after a while (These sandwiches are wet!). The purple and white gingerbread was nice, if not twee, but clocked in at a 40-minute bike ride to town -- and town was where the bank, fish store, drugstore, ball field, and Mega Supermarket were. The all-glass house was interesting, but sat at the back of a hotel overlooking the guest rooms -- and glass tends to be... you know, see through. So... no.

But, finally, we found our spot. The day before we had to leave the casita, and after a sleepless night listening to the world's stupidest rat scream every time it got stuck in the casita walls (what the f#@k does it keep getting stuck on?) -- we signed a lease on a four-bedroom, two-bath house with a patio bigger than our old NYC apartment, and direct access to the beach through a private path, lined with huge strangler figs and hopping with frogs, lizards and crabs.

Did the two of us need a four-bedroom house? No; but we're expecting our parents, siblings, kids, cousins, nieces, nephews and array of friends to be visiting throughout the year, so we opted for a little extra space. (Hear that parents, siblings, kids, cousins, nieces, nephews and array of friends?).

Problem one solved. Problem Two: Does our new puppy have distemper (as in fatal) or just a runny nose? And why is euthanasia -- just $100 -- the first item on the vet's list of services?)

Costa Rican Retirement