Every week we get emails from someone who is considering a move to Panama, but they are concerned that real estate prices have gone up so much that they cannot afford to buy in Panama. It is true that in certain areas, real estate prices are high. Panama City and the Coronado area are much more expensive than other areas in Panama. Yet, near those areas, you can often find some great real estate opportunities for 50% less or better.
Affordable means different things to different people. It depends on where you are moving from. If you currently live in a high-priced area, like California or Toronto, you will think Panama prices are a bargain.
I moved to Panama from Dallas, Texas. There is more affordable real estate in some parts of Dallas, but it certainly does not have the perfect weather and spectacular views that I have in Boquete. There are trade-offs.
Some Panamanian towns are much more affordable than others. There are many really affordable real estate opportunities in Panama for both an owner occupant and for investors.
Before moving to Panama, I was a real estate investor in Texas since 1992. Many of the same techniques I used to find real estate opportunities there work great in Panama too. The best way to find the best prices is to ask people who live in that area if they know anyone who needs to sell. Taxi drivers are a great resource. Talk to people at bars and restaurants too.
Some of the best real estate opportunities are not listed, don’t have a for sale (“se vende”) sign, and you won’t find them on a website anywhere. You can usually get the best prices on a vacant house especially if the yard is overgrown.
You usually won’t find great deals (below market) listed with a real estate agent.. especially not an expat real estate agent.
Because MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is not widely used in Panama, there is no accurate way to determine a property’s value. Therefore, some sellers price their properties way too high. A good example is a neighbor on the road where I live. It’s on a steep slope with ocean views and mountain views. His house has been priced at $800,000 for more than 6 years. Realistically, it is worth $400,000 based on what other similar homes sold on the same street.
You’re not just buying a house, you’re buying a neighborhood. Some houses are in communities where all the houses are similar styles and price ranges. In those situations, it is easier to determine an accurate price for a house.
Other nice houses are built in an area surrounded by cheap little indigenous houses or shacks. This makes it much harder to determine the correct price because the less expensive homes drive down the price of other nicer homes on the same street. The same thing happens in the US and Canada when you spend $500,000 to build a house on a street with $40,000 houses.
In addition, you can’t really go by what it would cost to rebuild the house today because often it is much cheaper to buy an existing property than to build a new house. And building costs are so subjective depending on the costs of the land, who the builder is, and how the house is built. There is a huge difference in the price of land in Panama just a few miles apart.
If you are buying from the owner directly, you will usually get a much better price. But if the owner is Panamanian and you don’t speak Spanish, there will be a language barrier so it is best to use a Panamanian friend or real estate agent to assist with the negotiations. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes prices go up if the seller knows a foreigner is interested in their property.
SMALL COFFEE FARM IN BOQUETE FOR $120,000
This is a house I had previously rented for $600 a month (fully furnished).
It’s just right for my needs and only an 8-minute drive to downtown Boquete.
Sorry… it is not for sale!
I did a quick search on several websites and Craigslist Panama to see what kind of real estate opportunities are out there. There are MANY! Here’s an example of one mountain property and one beach property.
OCEANFRONT PROPERTY AND HOUSE FOR $100,000 IN THE AZUERO
Sometimes the house is not exactly what you are looking for but the views are amazing. This small house on a large lot with amazing ocean views is only $100,000 in the Azuero Peninsula. In areas where there are fewer expats you will find better prices than areas that have a high concentration of expats.
ONE ACRE PACIFIC VIEW LANDSCAPED GARDEN HOME – $169,500
19th FLOOR CONDO IN CORONADO WITH OCEAN VIEWS – $249,000
This condo is not right on the ocean but it does have incredible ocean views. Condos on the ocean will cost about $50,000 to $150,000 more and be half as big! A friend is renting a similar unit for $950 a month with a one year lease. Short term leases always cost much more.
This Coronado condo is a great place to call home, at least in part because it’s in a golf community with ocean views. The condo comes with a transferable membership which grants you access to the course, the golf and beach clubs, the equestrian club, restaurants, bars, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a spa, and another gym that regularly hosts pilates and yoga classes.
LOOK FOR LISTINGS IN SPANISH
ALWAYS go see the property before you agree to buy. Never sign anything until YOUR attorney has done a complete title search to ensure the person selling the property is the owner. Always have your attorney create the purchase agreement.
You can get a mortgage in Panama, but it will require 20-30% down. And you will be required to get life insurance naming the mortgage company as beneficiary. The mortgage will need to be paid off by the time you are 70 years old.
Even though it is not advertised, some sellers will sell with seller financing. It does not hurt to ask if the seller will take a down payment then monthly payments until the house is paid off. We’ve helped many Panama Relocation Tour clients buy houses with seller financing and zero interest.
I don’t recommend building anything in Panama unless you are here every day during the building process so you can keep an eye on everything.
I don’t recommend buying a fixer-upper house unless you can do all the repairs yourself OR already know reliable contractors in the area. In some areas, it is almost impossible to find good contractors. (Ask me how I know) If a real estate agent says they will help line up contractors to fix the house, do not believe them. It is better to buy a move-in ready house.
One other warning, do NOT buy real estate until you have your permanent residency Visa. You want to make sure you can live in Panama indefinitely before you buy real estate.