You really need to see a rental in person before you sign on the dotted line or pay a deposit. Finding a rental in Panama is different and requires much a more aggressive approach.
You can’t just walk in to a real estate office and ask to see all the rentals available in town in your price range and criteria. Most real estate offices do not even handle rentals, and if they do, they will only show you the few properties they manage. If you’re lucky, they will have one property that is a match for what you need. So, you’ll need to go to every real estate office to see what rentals they have. But even then, you probably will not find what you are looking for. You see, many of the best real estate agents do not even have an office. So, you have to learn about these agents by talking to people… lots of people.
Some towns have property managers but some do not and most of them do not have a store front office you can walk in to.
During a Panama Relocation Tour, we give you our proprietary contact list of who to contact in each area to find the absolutely best rentals. Our contacts are people we have been thoroughly vetted to make sure they treat you right… and no gringo pricing.
Following are 6 tips for finding a rental in Panama. They are in no particular order. You’ll also find 6 cautions.. or things to be aware when looking for a rental.
#1 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Ask everyone you meet if they know about a rental in your price range. You will usually get a lot of referrals of properties for rent this way. You will also get referrals to Panamanian real estate agents and property managers (who usually have many more rentals than expat agents).
#2 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Get a Panama cell phone. You can buy a cell phone for about $20 then add minutes as you need to. $10 in minutes should last you for about a week of house hunting. The Panama cell phone will make it easy for you to call potential leads and for landlords to call you. They will NOT call your US number.
If you insist on using your phone instead of a Panama phone, if it is unlocked, you can get a Panama SIM card so you will have a Panama phone number. Make sure you install WHATSAPP. This app is used by every Panamanian. The calls and text will be free. It will be a good way to contact property managers and real estate agents who handle rentals.
#3 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Rent a car then drive around looking for Se Aquila (For Rent) signs. Write down the number and take a photo of the house so you can remember what it looks like. Then call the number with your Panama cell phone. If they do not speak English, wait until you get back to the hotel then ask for someone to call for you. Local car rental companies are about $35 a day and that includes insurance. If you go with a national company it will cost twice as much usually.
#4 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Search all websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and yahoo groups about Panama. When possible, also post what you are looking for and ask people to email you or call your Panama cell phone or WhatsApp contact. Some web sites are:
Yahoo Groups – your area of interest
Facebook.com – search Panama pages
BEWARE that scam artists frequent some of these websites and especially expat forums.
When I moved to Panama I connected with a lot of expats on blogs. One of them told me about a rental that would be available in 2 months. I contacted the property manager to see it before anyone else knew about it. No sign. No online ad. That’s how you find the best deals!
#5 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Check the bulletin boards at hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. Many landlords never advertise their properties online. Instead, they will create a flyer or just write a rental description on a 3 x 5 card that they post at bulletin boards all over town. Some landlords or property managers only put a sign in front of the house – that’s why you need to drive around.
#6 Way to Find a Rental in Panama
Go to church. This is another place where you will find plenty of expats and some of them will probably know about some rentals.
The best rentals are found before anyone else knows about it, before it is online, and before there are signs at a bulletin board. That’s why it is so important to ask everyone you know if they know of any rentals.
CAUTIONS: These are important things for you to take in to consideration when you are looking for a rental in Panama
I strongly suggest that you rent for at least 6-12 months before you even consider buying a property. This will give you time to test out living overseas. It will give you time to test various areas to make sure you like the climate. Six months will give you time to get a residency Visa before you buy. Keep in mind, that for some, it may be better to rent the whole time you are living overseas so you have more flexibility.
A couple who came on a Panama Relocation Tours several years ago moved to Los Molinas. They rented a house for 6 months but decided it was way too hot in Los Molinas so they moved to the Jaramillo mountains near Boquete. They rented there for 6 months but decided it was too cold. Now they are living in Santa Lucia, a neighborhood 2 km from downtown Boquete. So far, they say the temperature here is just right!
If they had bought in Los Molinas, it would not be so easy to move to a different area!
The more criteria you add to your list, the harder it will be to find exactly what you are looking for. Decide what the top two most important things are then go from there.
For example, I’ve seen posts online that say they want a 2-3 bedroom house with an office, high speed internet, pet friendly with 2 large dogs, really great views, a fenced yard, and close to town for under $700 a month all inclusive.
The chances of finding a property that has all that criteria are slim to none, so you need to be flexible. Which two things are most important? The price? The view? Pet friendly? Go with the two most important things, then be flexible after that. If there is not a fence, it is easy enough to put one up.
The more pets you bring with you, the harder it will be to find a rental property. Some landlords will not allow pets at all. Some will allow 1 pet. A few landlords will allow 2 or 3 pets. If you have more than one pet, expect it to take longer to find a rental. So, plan a longer house hunting trip.
If you are on a tight budget, you may need to consider other towns than the top expat destinations. Panama City, Coronado, Pedasi, and Boquete are all more expensive than other areas like Volcan, Puerto Armuellas, Chitre or Las Tablas. Be flexible and explore other areas.
Don’t believe everything you read in the international publications or websites. Realize that many of them only tell the rose-colored glasses side of things and never mention the negative side of things. At Panama Relocation Tours, you’ll hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Realize that many Panamanian real estate agents take Sunday off to spend time with their family. Don’t expect them to give up family time up to help you find a rental. It’s not going to happen even if that is the only day you can see properties. Plan to be here on weekdays to look for a house.
#7 Caution– READ THIS
Snowbirds, people who live in Canada and other places that get cold in the winter months, flock to Panama from December to April. If you come to Panama during these months to find a rental, you will have less inventory and the prices could be much higher too. If you come before December or after April, you will have much more to select from and get much better prices. During a MAY Panama Relocation Tour, we saw an amazing 3 bedroom Ocean front condo in Coronado for $1400 a month if you rent now for at least 6 months. The same condo rents for $2400 if you only rent for December through April. Big difference!! It might make sense to rent that unit for 6 months starting in November so you can save $6,000??!!
BONUS! Luckily, because real estate agents and property managers know that about 60% of my tour guests move to Panama, they call or email me FIRST when they get a rental so I can let previous tour clients know about rentals before anyone else can get them. I’m also the first to know about house sitting opportunities which I pass on to my tour clients.
Here’s an example of a fully furnished two bedroom house for $695 a month.
DO THIS TOO!
Before you rent in Panama, make sure you read my previous article 17 RULES FOR RENTING IN PANAMA article –
What’s on the market in Boquete now?
(Sorry no photo on this one) $325 for studio featuring two twin beds with pillow top mattresses that can be combined to form a king bed; a small kitchen with electric oven top, refrigerator, dishes and cookware; large closet and bathroom with standing shower. French doors open to a large covered porch. No pets.
$450 for 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom partially furnished bungalow on over 2 acres of fruit trees, plants, and lawn. Gated, fenced home, metal doors, and barred windows. Beautiful property on quiet road in the country. Newer pressurized hot and cold water system to house, c/w large water storage tank. House is set up for internet and TV. Renter responsible for utilities. $450 per month, with renter to look after the day to day property upkeep and utility bills. Looking for long term if possible, but negotiable. 20 minute drive to downtown Boquete
$500 for One bedroom, one bath fully furnished includes internet, water, cable tv, trash collection and gardener. Great kitchen with 6 burner gas stove. Lots of storage. Washer and Dryer included. 5 minute drive to downtown Boquete
$700 Two Bedroom Duplex. Furnished and close to town. This duplex was made out of shipping containers. About 10 minute drive to Boquete.
$695 Spectacular Views! Zen Garden rental, in Volcancito, is a two bedroom 1 1/2 bath, fully furnished home, includes queen size bed in one room, two twin beds in the other bedroom PLUS sofa, dining table & chairs, TV, 6 burner gas stove, refrigerator, washer & gas dryer, pots & pans, microwave, dishes, glasses, towels, sheets plus patio furniture. There’s also a cozy fireplace and HUGE Patio. No pets.
$900 Two bedroom 2 bath plus loft. In Alto Dorado 3 minutes from town. Fully equipped modern kitchen, carport, lots of storage. $1000 mo neg. with 2+ year lease. Completely furnished in secure area. Inside pets only. Close to town and main road for easy transportation. Available September 1
$1500 Two bedroom, two bath condo. Fully furnished. Two story condo with covered carport. Living area is on second floor. Living room opens up to large deck with views of the mountains. Quiet area of Valle Escondido, a gated community.
$1500 4 bedroom, 4 bath house fully furnished plus maid’s quarters. Nice yard. Two blocks to town. Fantastic views from all rooms. The master bedroom is upstairs and includes an on-suite bathroom plus a hot tub.