Now that you’ve decided to move to Panama, it’s time to start looking for a rental.
Maybe you’ve already found rentals online that you love (at first sight!). But don’t rush into paying a deposit for your dream house just yet. Renting a house in Panama is different from many places. You need to see the rental in person before you sign a lease or pay a deposit.
Let’s look at some things you must know first:
Searching for rentals in Panama
Short-term rentals (less than 6 months) are hard to find. If you’re moving to Panama only for a few months, your best bets are Air BnBs, hostels, and hotels. Some hotels are set up as an apartment with a kitchen.
Panama City has a minimum 45-day rental requirement, but that does not apply to hotel stays. Some Air BnB hosts ignore this. But following the rules in your new country is always a good idea.
A long-term lease in Panama is over six months.
Ads in Spanish usually have better prices. You can use Google Translate or Google Lens to translate the ad.
English ads target foreigners, so they’re often more expensive. It’s easy to overpay as a foreigner without knowing the going rates. To avoid that, look for rentals aimed at Panamanians in Spanish.
You’ll need to take a more proactive approach to find a rental in Panama. You cannot walk into one real estate office and expect to see all the rentals available in the town you are interested in. They will usually only show their listings if they have any.
Your search needs to start with some soul-searching to determine your budget. Don’t push your budget to the limit. Save room for unexpected expenses. Then start checking the websites listed below to find a good match. To help you learn where the towns are located, see this map of Panama:
Best places to find rental ads
• Facebook Marketplace
Click on Categories, then select Rentals. You can select a certain town and a radius. And you can even set it up to notify you of new listings. Check rental prices in several different areas to get a feel for the prices in each area.
You’ll see a wide range of ads on Facebook Marketplace. And you find ads directly from the owners. When looking at rentals in Spanish, look for the word Se Alquila or Alquiler. If you’re looking for a furnished rental, look for ads that say “amoblado” (furnished).
• Check websites with rental listings like:
o Craiglist in Panama
o Realtor.com Panama
Be careful with ads on agents’ websites. Sometimes they are just lead generators, meaning the rentals don’t exist. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.
WARNING that some ads are scammers trying to get you to send a deposit to hold the rental. Never ever send any money to anyone until you see the property yourself. Unfortunately, you cannot trust people anymore.
A Private Tour is a good way to find rentals because some of the best rentals are not posted anywhere online; there is only a sign in front of the property that says Se Alquila or Se Renta. Your Private Tour Guide can call the number and make arrangements for you to see the rental and also have rentals lined up for you to see. They can also take you to see rentals you’ve found during your online search.
Some areas in Panama are more expensive than others. Panama City and the Coronado area have higher rental prices of $1000 or more. Boquete has a lot of high-end rentals, but you can also find rentals for under $1000 a month there.
Other areas in Panama have more affordable rentals. If you prefer warmer weather, the towns between Chitre and Las Tablas in the Azuero Peninsula are very affordable. There are several beach communities there too. A client recently rented a furnished two-bedroom ocean-view property for $600 (see the photo below).
David (pronounced DA VEED) is a very affordable town with many amenities. A client recently rented a furnished one-bedroom for $220 in David. Dolega, just north of David, also has very affordable rentals.
Also, check Penonome (about 2 hours west of Panama City) for affordable rentals. I often see ads for furnished three-bedroom, two-bath houses with a pool for $650 there.
There are affordable rentals in Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean side of Panama too. A tour client rents a furnished one-bedroom facing the Sea for $495.
If you prefer cooler weather (no air conditioner needed), Volcan is an affordable mountain town with lower prices than Boquete. It has many amenities, including a 24/7 hospital and nice grocery stores.
There is a rental to fit every budget in Panama.
Determine what your budget will be in Panama so you can target your search in areas that fit your budget. After searching some of the ads on Facebook Marketplace and the other websites I mentioned, you’ll have a better idea of prices in each area. This will help avoid the frustration of not finding a rental within your budget in some of the higher-priced areas.
Here are examples of rentals in different areas. These were all found with online searches.
The BEST Source for Rentals is word-of-mouth
Many rentals are not advertised. They get rented through word of mouth. This is also a great way to rent directly from the owners.
Do you know anyone living in Panama? If so, tell them you’re looking for a rental. They may know people renting houses. Once in Panama, don’t forget to ask people you meet about rentals. You never know where you’ll get a lead from.
Except for a very short-term AirBnB, you should never rent a property without seeing it first. The photos in ads can be deceptive.
Beware of net listings
In a net listing, the agent advertises a rental with a markup above the owner’s price. The markup is the agents’ profit. And sometimes, you’ll find the same house advertised for several different rental prices on different websites or on Facebook.
I first discovered that agents do net listings when my son was looking for a rental. He saw a two-bedroom house for $695, and later that day, a different agent showed him the same house for $895. Guess where the extra $200 a month was going?
If you’re working with a real estate agent, always ask to speak with the owner to verify the price and the terms.
In Panama, don’t be surprised if you see the same house listed in 3-4 different places by 3-4 different people at 3-4 different prices!
Check the agents’ credentials
Many agents are not licensed. A license is not required in Panama. And some expat agents don’t even have work permits to work in Panama legally. Panamanians do not need a work permit.
Ask to see the expat agent’s work permit. Remember, you can’t usually hold them liable for deception if they don’t have work rights. If you’re working with a Panamanian, ask to see their “Cedula” to verify who they are. A Panamanian Cedula will NOT have an “E” on it.
Do these things before signing a lease agreement
Ask questions! Make notes of what the owner or agent says is included in the rent. Then verify that everything they told you is in the lease agreement. You should always get a written lease agreement with all the terms in writing.
Verify what’s included in the rent and what it will cost for things not included.
Here’s a list of items to check:
• Is electricity included?
Coastal areas don’t usually include electricity costs in their rentals.
Check the typical electricity bill. The costs can vary. For instance, if you use the AC all day, your electricity costs will be above average.
If you rent a condo on the west side of the building, it will be much hotter and your electric bill will usually be higher.
Many rentals in the highlands include electricity.
• The internet speed
Some areas have fiber optics with over 100 Mbps download speeds. But you’ll find other areas without Fiber Optics and with <10 Mbps.
You may want to do a speed test at the property to verify the internet speed.
Verify that internet is included in the rent and who the service provider is.
• Is there hot water on every faucet?
Some properties only have hot water in the shower. Some have hot water at all faucets.
• If it’s a furnished property, check what items it includes.
Sometimes, furnished can mean the bare minimum or too many unwanted items (clutter).
• Is there a reserve water tank?
During the dry season (December to April), there could be low water pressure and even no water. Ideally, you should only rent a property with a reserve water tank.
• Are pets allowed?
Even if the ad says pets aren’t allowed, you might be able to negotiate one pet for an extra deposit.
Be honest with the landlord about how many pets you have and how big they are. Many landlords in Panama welcome pets.
• Noise levels & other things to consider
Check if the place is close to traffic or if you’re in a noisy neighborhood. You might have to visit at night to get a better idea.
Verify parking spaces, elevators, and generators in condos. Some condos have generators only to operate the elevators during a power outage. Some condos have generators that operate elevators and an electrical outlet in each room.
Some condo complexes allow AirBnb rentals that are used for family parties, so it can get loud, especially on weekends. Some condo complexes require a 3-6 month minimum for a lease. Find out what the rental rules are where you are leasing.
• Who’s responsible for any repairs?
The maintenance is typically not the tenant’s responsibility.
• The deposit terms
It’s customary to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit worth another month’s rent. But it’s never customary to pay the last month’s rent upfront. And remember, you should not pay any tax on top of the rent.
You can get out of a lease with 30 days’ notice. But you will not get your security deposit back.
Check the landlord’s requirements
They may ask you to submit a rental application. You might also have to show your passport, residency card, proof of funds, and recommendations from previous landlords or other references.
Don’t forget to check any rules about using the house. Some landlords do not allow smoking on the property.
If you’re moving into a condo, verify their rules too.
If you’re moving into a condo, find out when their gas connections were checked. By Law, it should be every three years.
See our Complete Panama Relocation Guide for a comprehensive list of 18 important questions you should ask before renting in Panama.
NEVER rent for more than one month without seeing the property.
Don’t go by the pictures on websites. They can be many years old or very different from reality. And nowadays, almost all pictures get edited, meaning they look much better than the real thing.
Ideally, visit every property in person to make sure you get what you want. Don’t forget to explore the neighborhood to see if you have access to any facilities you need.
If you’ve done some research and have a shortlist of rentals, you can visit them while on a Private Panama Relocation Tour. Our private tours are customized to your needs with just you, your family, and a private tour guide. Your private tour guide can help you find the perfect rental.
Signing the rental agreement.
Check if your lease covers everything the ad or the landlord said. The lease agreements in Panama are usually in Spanish. So, if your Spanish is not up to the mark, ask your immigration lawyer to help you. Some landlords or agents may provide a translated lease for you.
It’s a good idea to have language in the lease that if the house is not as represented when you move in, the landlord will return 100% of your rent and deposit.
To know more about what NOT to do when renting in Panama, read, The Mistakes I Made When Renting in Panama. Read this article to learn how to avoid costly mistakes!
Whether you want to retire in Panama or have other plans, the country offers many wonderful opportunities, including beautiful rentals. But doing your homework will help you avoid unnecessary stress and make a positive start to your new life.
Here is the Complete Panama Relocation Guide with all the information you need to make your move to Panama a success. You’ll also get a list of reliable real estate agents to help with your rental search.
Gerald Cretton says
Merci Madame Jackie,
It is a truly pleasure to “know” you through your broadcasts,
I m a Swiss,American pastry chef , retired
Waiting on selling my home in Phoenix az
I really want make the move to Panama in the next year
BUT I DID WAN TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DO.
I certainly will order your guide when things settle here.
Et bonne Journee
Jackie Lange says
Gerald, You’re welcome. I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the information about Panama!
Coleen Dakota Van Dyke says
Once again, great advice! I will be in an AirBnB from October 27th when I arrive until December 30th at CasaMar. So, I best start searching for something being rented via an owner, as soon as I arrive. Thank you for reminding me about all the data to watch out for, it is extremely appreciated!
Jackie Lange says
Glad the info was helpful! You’re very welcome.