The quality of construction in Nicaragua and of course, San Juan del Sur varies on the type of builder and the type of materials used. In Nicaragua, we use a lot of steel, reinforced block construction which is up to American standards because Nicaragua is prone to earthquakes. There are termites here too, so if you want to have a wood framed house, you would need to spend on care and maintenance. Usually you have to apply termite treatment on the house to keep the termites away.
The aesthetics of buildings in San Juan del Sur are colonial. They have the red tiled roofing. San Juan Del Sur is a fishing village that became a tourist spot and then later turned into an expat destination. The colonial homes here are not the same as the colonial homes that you will find in Granada, but the homes here are inspired by colonial architecture. They have white walls, red tile roofs, some even use palapa roofs. Generally, the houses in San Juan Del Sur are more modern than in other places in Nicaragua.
There are houses here San Juan Del Sur which are made with wooden frames and have roofs made from palapa which are palm fronds. Palapa keeps the water out but you have to change it every 5 to 6 years since it is made from organic material – they are palm leaves so after some time they will start to deteriorate. It’s very inexpensive to change palapa roofs.
There are some buildings in San Juan Del Sur that are about 100 years old. The central park and its cathedral in San Juan Del Sur is about 100 years old or maybe even older. The buildings and houses here are a mix of old and new construction. There was a lot of new construction done in the last few years as Nicaragua became a more popular tourist destination.
In the United States, you are held accountable for your building under local government law. It’s not quite the same in Nicaragua. If you are building a house here I would recommend that you take extreme caution in who you trust with your construction, because just like in many other places around the world, some builders in Nicaragua would take short cuts which may end up with a faulty building. So the outcome of your construction depends on who your builder is, how well-recognized, how well-recommended he is and his reputation based on previous jobs that he has done.
Getting a building permit is very easy in San Juan del Sur and the government is nowhere near as stringent on your capacity to build as it is in the US. Of course you will still need to get a building permit and there are also rules in place but the builders do not follow these rules by the book as builders would in the States.
I know that there are certain places in the US where they are very strict on what you are able to build, how you build it, and how close your building is to your neighbors. Zoning regulations are not followed strictly in San Juan Del Sur as they are in the US.