Missed the ‘real estate’ boat?
If you missed the boat with real estate in Costa Rica, Mexico and Southern Ireland then NOW is the time to get on board and buy property in Panama! Not only that but you get to live in one of the most desirable countries in the world! Panama currently has an under valued property market BUT prices are beginning to rise fast as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. To give you an example the average price of homes in Panama City has risen from $1780/m2 ($178/sq ft) in 2006 to $2890/m2 ($289/sq ft) in 2008. This is a 25% increase p.a. pretty impressive when you compare it to what is happening in the USA or Europe!
Property in Panama is booming. Why?
Quite simply it is a matter of supply and demand. More and more people want to live there or invest there! And it is easy to understand why that is! First and foremost it is affordable (you can still buy an acre of sea front land on Bocas del Toro for $35,000 or even a home for $95,000! Really, I’m not kidding! On top of this the climate is pleasant and varied, the country is incredibly beautiful, the dollar is weak (great for people buying property in GBP or Euro) and the cost of living is satisfyingly low, the country is very safe, there is a modern infrastructure and great telecoms, there is good health care (click here for more on Health), getting residency is easy, the people are friendly, English is understood almost everywhere, it has the second largest private banking sector after Switzerland and short term rental returns are between 10-15%. The economy is also on the up and up as the country attracts more money through the extension of the canal and from a 25% increase every year in tourism as well as the growth of the Free Trade Zone – second only in importance to Hong Kong. Panama is one of the best places in the world for retirees today with one of the world’s best discount programs which offers up to 50% off everything from public transport to movies, mortgage rates, doctor’s visits, electricity, restaurants and airfares. Not only this, but there is so much to do there: fishing, diving, surfing, walking, bird watching, canoing, sailing etc. And there are other incentives for foreigners to spend time here, invest on real estate here … or retire here. For example: newcomers who buy or build a new house don’t pay property taxes for 20 years, residents pay no taxes on foreign-earned income (very handy!), tourism investments have 20-year exemptions from import duties, fees for construction materials and equipment, and income, real estate and other taxes.
Different Kinds of Homes in Panama
Panama offers all kinds of real estate. City condos with ocean views, homes in resort communities in the cooler coffee growing highlands, properties on the Caribbean and Pacific islands and beaches and villas in golf resort communities are Panama’s most popular real estate buys for foreigners seeking a second home or to retire. In all the same places, there are also real estate investment opportunities.
Here is some good advice on buying real estate in Panama: Firstly it is important to know that foreigners, whether residents or non-residents, enjoy the same rights and privileges when purchasing and selling real estate as do Panamanian citizens. Secondly, selling or promoting Real Estate in Panama without a license is illegal. Licensed real estate agents have a driver license photo size ID issued by the Ministry of commerce and the Panama technical real estate board with their name, license number, and expiration date. Ask to see it if you are unsure about who you are dealing with. If you are looking to buy real estate in Panama it is important to know how the whole process works so that you don’t make mistakes.
For more excellent advice on buying real estate in Panama….
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Understanding the Difference Between Titled and Right of Possession Property in Panama
Titled property has a title in your or your company’s name and Right of Possession (ROP) means you have a right to reside on the land and to transfer this right. It is the same for foreign buyers or Panamanians.For a full description of the two ways of owning property in Panama go to Property Law
A little know law could save you a fortune…
According to Jessica Ramesch, The Panama Insider, International Living: “A little-known law in Panama means that you can get financing on your Panama residence at very low interest rates. The law, due to expire at the end of the year, qualifies buyers of certain homes for mortgage interest rates of 2% to 3%. Yes, there are conditions. The property must be a new build, your primary residence in Panama, and cost no more than $62,500…although local lobbies have been pushing to increase this to $82,000. The government has previously rejected raising the threshold, but now the minister of housing is promising to back an increase. This is good news for city-dwellers in particular, where it is becoming impossible to find property for less than $62,500. Looking to live like a local and save as much as possible? Compared with a traditional mortgage (current rates in Panama are 6.75% to 7.25%), this law could save you thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the year, particularly if the threshold is increased”. The editor of International Living magazine liked what she discovered about Panama so much that she moved herself and her family there in 2007.
Property Tax in Panama
For full information on taxation for land and property in Panama go to Panama Tax
Panama City currently still has an undervalued real estate market; however as has happened in countries like Costa Rica, Mexico and Ireland, prices have been rising as more people discover the advantages Panama has to offer. As a potential real estate investor, there are several areas to consider where you will find maximum growth opportunities. There are many residential districts in and around Panama City. Beautiful condos with fantastic ocean views are available in price ranges to suit all pockets. Many have the use of a pool, spa, gym and children’s play area. The most beautiful condominium towers like “Megapolis” and “Yacht Club” are being constructed on Balboa avenue right on the ocean. Beneath Balboa avenue there is another high class condominium area called Marbella overlooking Panama bay: near movies, restaurants and shopping. Bordering Marbella is a residential and commercial district called Obarrio with trendy restaurants, clothing shops and high end boutiques. This is a favored embassy area. Adjacent to Marbella is a luxury residential district called Punta Paitilla. This is an extremely dense area of high rise condos even by NYC or Singapore standards. Punta Pacifica, next door to Paitilla, is a brand new area where ultra luxury condominiums are sprouting from the ground with average units in the 1000 to 4000 square foot range. This is where ultra modern buildings such as the Dupont Towers and Ocean Aire will be constructed. The size, quality and conveniences of these properties will often equate to a property worth about 4 to 15 times their value in the USA. In most areas in Panama City, you can still find apartments around $150,000 like the W Tower, but be sure to check out the location before you buy, as in all big cities some areas have advantages or disadvantages that are not immediately apparent to a newcomer. The district of “San Francisco” is more “middle-class” and offers excellent housing value. This district is perhaps 2-3 miles from the city center and is considerably quieter. A newer three bedroom condo with say 1500 square feet, with a modest ocean view, could be purchased here in the $150,000 to $250,000 range like CaboMarzo. This area has a wonderful walking and jogging park. Bella Vista is hosting some wonderful projects like Bella Mar South and Bella Mar North. El Dorado is still another high quality residential, commercial and shopping area close to downtown with relatively more expensive homes and condos. As you might imagine, there are many other quality residential districts around and about Panama City. One US style development called Costa del Este has hundreds of homes and ocean view condos in the $300,000 to $950,000 range. It is located just outside the city, en route to the Tocumen International Airport. As the world economy deepend into recession there is a feeling that some of the new condo style high-rises being built in the city such as at Punta Pacifica or Punta Patailla are over priced and it may be advisable to wait until mid 2008 to see how the wind blows. There are more than 30,000 units about to come onto the market and this may be way over what the investor or end user can handle right now. On the other hand there is an under supply of office space and the price of offices has risen 40% since last year and is still rising. It could be an intersting project to buy up residential space in the city and convert it to offices.
Casco Viejo (Panama City) Property
Casco Viejo is a gorgeous, incredibly charming Colonial style town facing Panama City that as it gets bought up and restored, will offer the biggest returns on real estate investment than anywhere else in Panama as it becomes one of the most sought after parts of the city. Right now the areas above 10th Street are considered dangerous and one should still be careful at night anywhere in Casco. In 1998, Casco Viejo was recognized by UNESCO and the United Nations as a site of world interest, due to the physical and universal aspects of this historical location. It is located at the Panama Canal, just minutes outside Panama City and is a true cultural gem. Reminiscent of the French Quarter of New Orleans or perhaps Havana, Casco Viejo is the oldest city on the Pacific coast of the America. When the French tried to build the Panama Canal in 1881, Casco Viejo was where they lived. So Casco Viejo is filled with French balconies and French architecture which overlaps into Spanish. The Caribbean vibe crept in over the years, making this one of the most interesting architectural and cultural sites in the world. For those seeking a unique, romantic lifestyle or who have a passion for historic architecture and renovations, Casco Viejo is the spot. If you like taking coffee on a rustic balcony overlooking the ocean, Casco Viejo is for you. Casco Viejo has become a major tourist destination for those visiting Panama. Terrific photographic opportunities exist, particularly for those interested in architectural structures. A cafe culture mixed with deep Afro-Caribbean vibe is only one way to describe the highly eclectic mix of artists, foreigners and locals who choose to call this area home. Ultra hip night clubs, restaurants and whisky bars were the first investments to help revive this area. Beautifully restored loft apartments and other historical buildings, along with the Presidential Palace and National Theatre make this the most landmark-rich area in the country. With its colonial architecture, ocean views, views that look back upon the impressive city skyline, the America’s bridge, the Causeway. There is so much to take in the eye almost doesn’t know where to focus. We really cannot imagine many other places in the world where a rooftop BBQ would have a better backdrop.The property values in some parts of Casco remain somewhat depressed due to the fact that its residents are primarily squatters who have remained behind in buildings abandoned by landlords disgruntled due to rent controls. However, as the area is revitalized the prices will inevitably skyrocket and already show signs as properties come onto the market with 6 zeros. The limited size and number of potential buildings to restore ensures that the limited market will force a stead clime of prices. There is a great opportunity here for buying, restoring and reselling. To give you an example you can buy a 305m2 shell of a historic building for $265,000 while a restored 2 bedroom 100m2 apartment in such a building would cost you the same. Rental for a one bedroom apartment in a good historical building can be as high as $1,500 or more. Not only this but purchase and restoration of properties in this area receive incentives from the government in the form of tax exemptions and discounted mortgages. Even your rent is a tax deductible expense.
Old Panama Canal Zone Property
There are many real estate investment opportunities in the old Panama Canal Zone. After the U.S. military departed Panama at the end of 1999, they left behind a vast amount of land, buildings and residential structures. Many sharp developers have snapped up these properties and have begun transforming them into residential and commercial developments. The residential area of Albrook (formally Albrook Air force Base) is home to some of Panama’s most beautiful suburban homes. It features various parks and green areas, beautiful tropical gardens, and several schools (including St. Mary’s, an English speaking school). Also within Albrook one can find such amenities as restaurants including several which deliver, a bakery, banks, Blockbusters, Arrocha (local pharmacy chain) medical and vet clinics, as well as an El Rey Supermarket. Albrook is also home to a small international airport and full sized-shopping mall. Clayton has the Ciudad Del Saber (city of knowledge) which is a former military base converted to a tax free zone for any education oriented businesses. ILISA, a famous Spanish Language school in Costa Rica, recently made the move to this zone. We like this area for investment for two reasons: The location is good – it’s close to everything. Panama City is just 5 minutes away; the bridge heading to the beaches is 5 minutes, as is Casco Viejo. Yet this area feels very lush and residential despite being so close to the city. We also like it because it provides Suburban Living. The Former Canal Zone is the first true U.S. style suburb in Panama as it was built by North Americans FOR North Americans. Although it is very near the city it is an oasis of green yards, winding roads and parks. There is more spacing between homes and houses in this area are generally built to U.S. standards. It appeals to Americans!
Bocas del Toro Property
Bocas Del Toro is one of the last affordable pieces of heaven left in the Caribbean, and the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro is stunning. Palm fringed islands, white sandy beaches – in fact, Bocas has everything you ever imagined for the picture perfect tropical retreat to hang your hammock. The real estate opportunities for beach front properties, teak plantations, and island hideaways are here in abundance. Caribbean beach front property at prices that are still affordable is too good an opportunity to dismiss. Lots here start as low as $32,000! Wow! In the Bocas region you can buy whole islands, huge tracts of ocean front land for developement as well as small lots on which to build your home in paradise.
Boquete has a perfect spring-like climate at an elevation of a little over 3000 ft., with clean air, clear water and a friendly community. On the lush green hillsides gourmet coffee is grown and often the aroma of roasting coffee wafts through the town. If you love Colorado, Oregon or British Colombia, you will love Boquete. If you like beer you will love it too. A bottle of beer in a bar costs only 35c! The cost of property here can vary enormously depending on the location and availability of access and utility supplies. Land can still be found in outlying areas for less than a dollar a square meter but would probably require the installation of roads and power and water lines. Property closer to town can be priced from $10 to $100 per square meter depending on location and views. You can buy a picturesque 2500ft home for $65,000. Building costs vary according to requirements; a home with high end US style finishes and fittings can vary from $50 to $75 per square foot. Costs for simpler construction using cheaper materials can be much lower. There are few completed homes for sale and the rental market is one of demand rather than supply. Rental property is therefore a good investment here.
The Chiriquí Gulf: The Lost Coast” of The Republic of Panama, located on the Pacific Ocean in the Chiriquí Lowlands near the city of David is accessible by land, sea, and air. It is perfect for both retirement and investment in real estate. This gulf is famous for dozens of little islands and for three huge national parks, world class fishing, scuba diving and boating. It is among the most picturesque regions of Panama, making it a wonderful place to retire to. David has mooring available as well as a concrete pier and boat launch with dry dock storage facilities for boats of 30 feet or less in length. Development in real estate in this area, with an emphasis on Boca Chica and Boca Brava, has been taking off fast. Several sport fishing businesses have opened for business and a 5 star Sport Fishing lodge will be opened within a year on the one of the prettiest beaches in the Paridas Archipelago, at 20 minutes from Boca Chica. A dive operation is under construction, and several small hotels will be built in the area of Boca Chica and Boca Brava soon. A large reforestation project is being planted as we speak. Sailing is getting ever more popular in these beautiful ‘island speckled’ waters. In this area there are a number of private islands where investors can purchase real estate. If you have a bucket load of money and like your space you could buy a 46 hectare farm on an island with 1 kilometer of beach all for you, for just $2,500,000. This region remains pristine with white sand beaches, dense tropical forest and abundant wildlife. The tourism potential in this area is huge which means prices of real estate are set to rise.
Anton Valley: Ever thought about retiring to a crater of a volcano? This picturesque town sits in the crater of an extinct one! At 1000m above sea level its cool, spring-like climate makes it an excellent resort area, a longtime favorite retreat with the Panama City elite. Anton is known for golden frogs, square trees and a sleeping Indian girl awaiting her lover! No wonder it is popular with tourists too! Year-round average high temperature is 20° C (68° F), and the average nighttime minimum is a comfortable 16° C (61° F), with little variation between summer and winter Famous for its Indian market that occurs each Sunday featuring handcrafts, fresh fruit and vegetables and beautiful native plants, El Valle is a colorful mix of locals, Panamanian tourist and foreign retirees.
El Valle is approximately 2 hours from Panama City by good roads; look for the right turn off the Inter American Highway. Travel agencies in Panama City sometimes offer day excursions to visit El Valle. There are beautiful water falls, a mountain swimming spot and verdant forests filled with beautiful birds for the visitor to enjoy plus a man made canopy ride that provides a bird’s eye view of the tropical forest. There are many exciting things to do in El Valle such as biking, hiking or horseback riding in the mountains, viewing water falls or taking a dip in a mountain pool.
Not only this but there beaches down the mountain from El Valle just 30 minutes drive away You can enjoy the beach during the day and retreat to the cool mountains for a refreshing night’s sleep. Perfect! If you want peace and quiet and country life Anton Valley may be the retirement place for you.
You can buy 5 hectares of flat green land here (for development) for just $160,000. Could be an interesting project?The Azuero Peninsula and Pedasi is often compared to Costa Rica’s’ very desirable region, the Guanacaste province, for its friendly locals, attractive weather and strong Spanish colonial heritage. The only difference being this area is not nearly so well and therefore relatively undeveloped. If you love un-commercialized beaches, mountains and nature there is no place on earth like the Azuero Peninsula. The Azuero Peninsula is characterized by rolling hills, stunning beaches, and a rugged coastline, off which you can find some of the most pristine islands in the country.
If you want to get away from people and the stress of modern life this could be a retirement heaven for you. The Azuero Peninsula is located about 300km southwest of Panama City and protrudes south into the Pacific Ocean between the Gulf of Panama and the Gulf of Montijo. It is about 60 miles (100 km) from east to west and 55 miles (90 km) from north to south.
One of Panama’s driest regions, the Azuero Peninsula has just two seasons, one golden and dry, the other green and lush. In the golden season (December-May) you will find clear blue skies and crisp offshore breezes, while in the green season (June-November) you can expect intermittent rain and sun to bring out the lushness for which Panama is so famous. This area is one of the most physically stunning in Panama. Because it is remote, there is little development and large, pristine acreages are still available at very reasonable prices. Until it gets discovered prices will no doubt stay fairly low.
You can buy fabulous 1000m beach front lots here for $80,000 or a one bedroom ‘do-er-upper’ just half a block from the sea for $35,000.
The Pacific Coast & Coronado
Just one and a half hours from Panama City on the Pacific coast is Coronado. This is the first gated community created in Panama and is well established with individual private homes set in their own gardens. They range from 9 bedroom mansions on the beach for $3m to very pleasant 3 to 4 bedroom homes on one or to levels for $300,000. There is some new condo highrises currently being built on the beach here for around $350,000 for a three bedroom unit with incredible mountain and sea views. Just after Coronado is Punto Barko which is an area of mostly very up-market private homes on large lots. It is wonderfully quiet and beautiful here.
Just a few kilometers further on is Costa Esmeralda, another gated community again with privately built low-rise homes mostly set within large lots. As an example of price there is a large Mexican villa for sale here for $850,000. It has a main house with three bedrooms and three guest houses with one or two bedrooms each as well as a staff house set within 4000m2.One bay further down the coast is the fabulous new development Rio del Mar. A High-rise resort in a beautiful location.
The Property Market in 2008
Prices for real estate here have doubled and in many cases tripled in the last three years but still a three bedroom apartment in an older building in somewhere central like El Congrejo can be bought for $180,000, a lot of land to build your own house can be bought in beautiful Bocas del Toro islands for $35,000 or a 60 acre farm can be bought for $250,000 on the mainland with ocean access.