Just about every week I get an email 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. Near those areas, you can find some great real estate opportunities often for 50% less or better.
Affordable means different things to different people. It depends on where you are moving from. If you current 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 for more than 20 years. 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 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 not an accurate way to determine the value of a property. 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 for 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 price of the less expensive homes drives 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 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 do go up if the seller knows there is a foreigner interested in their property.
SMALL COFFEE FARM IN BOQUETE FOR $125,000
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.
ONE ACRE PACIFIC VIEW LANDSCAPED GARDEN HOME – $169,500
5 Minute Drive to the Beach Only $118,000
In Puerto Armuelles. There are 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms upstairs, a maid’s quarters downstairs with a full bath, and a covered carport. A large water holding tank and pump are there, for a back-up water source. A new hot water heater was installed, providing hot water to the entire home. The house has been painted inside and out, including the roof. There are new light fixtures and ceiling fans installed in every room. The kitchen counters have brand new custom tile and back-splash and new sink and faucet. Both bathrooms have new tile on counters and showers, and a granite counter-top in one bath. There are park-like views from every window. Beautiful, solid hardwood, floors throughout and constructed of old growth redwood imported from the United States. This home was one of the first to be built in the Las Palmas subdivision. It is fully TITLED!
One Acre Pacific View, Garden Home
This immaculate, beautifully landscaped, former coffee farm, has views clear to the Bay of Chiriqui on the Pacific Ocean and to eastern hills of Costa Rica. This one acre, former coffee plantation has approximately 2,000 square feet, of under-roof living space.
The house comes with 2 bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a dining/lounge area and a living room. The kitchen is centrally located so food can be served through an arch into the living room or via the breakfast nook into the lounge.
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.
Custom designed furniture, barbecue area, standard appliances, pool equipment, and more.
A very slick design. Power is generated by solar panels with a back up generator that runs on propane. Generating your own power is easy and affordable. Water is provided by a well and treated by the included 3 part purification system.
You don’t need your own boat, but the Parcel 6 home enjoys the use of the dock just steps down the beach.
Buy the Parcel 6 home for $20,000 down & $2,171/month.
In Panama, the BEST deals (realistic prices) are usually in Spanish… not English! That’s why it is better to work with a Panamanian friend or Real Estate Agent. I know a guy who bought a nice house in Caldera for $35,000 working with a Panamanian friend to do the negotiating with the seller.
Here’s an example of a property just outside of Boquete. YES, there are affordable houses near Boquete too! The style may not be what you are familiar with but it’s comfortable and it is very easy and affordable to make modifications to any property. KEEP AN OPEN MIND!
In Panama, you cannot walk in to a real estate office to find out about ALL the properties for sale in an area. Many real estate agents will ONLY show their listings and many do not share commissions so they won’t allow other agents to show their listings.
It has been my experience, that many properties are for sale and for rent with no sign out front. You will not find them listed anywhere on the internet. Sometimes Panamanian real estate agents know about these “off market” opportunities. Many Panamanian real estate agents where born and raised in the town and know everyone and everyone knows and trusts them.
If a property is advertised by a real estate agent, it is rarely an exclusive listing. It’s common to see the same house advertised on 5 or 6 real estate websites (often with different prices). The seller has agreed to pay a commission to who ever finds a buyer.
ALWAYS go see the property before you agree to buy. Never sign anything until YOUR attorney has done a complete title search to make sure 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.
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. 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 house that is move-in ready.
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.