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Concerns When Buying Panama Real Estate

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Written by Andrew Cowan   
Sunday, 24 August 2008 16:00
Buying real estate in a foreign country can be an exciting and daunting task, view all at the same time. Panama has become a hotbed for foreign investment and a magnet for U.S. retirees. The following list outlines some of the things to think about when you find a property you like in Panama. Clean Title – As with anywhere in the world, when purchasing a piece of property, whether it is a lot, a large plot of land, an apartment or a house, it is imperative that it has a clean title. In Panama, title records are made public and anyone can search through the registry and find burdens or encumbrances on the property. Checking the title will also show you the ownership history and the property lines, allowing you to make sure that you are purchasing the property from the true owner and that you are not being sold more than you are actually buying.

Feel out the land – Telling people you are interested in a parcel often elicits different reactions. Talking to neighbors is especially helpful as they may have lived there their whole lives and watched the goings on of the property. You an ask them what they think of it, if the price range is similar to what other parcels have been asking, if there are issues between the owner and any of the neighbors or if there are problems with utilities or services. It is best to visit a property before you buy it sight unseen. (You’d be surprised at the frequency this happens.

Survey the Land – One of the best ways to ensure you are getting what you paid for is to have a professional survey of the land taken. This should be done through a reputable surveyor, someone that you or your lawyer trusts. Real estate agents are out to make a sale and often put their back pocket ahead of your best interests. In this regard, a lawyer, who has to protect his reputation, Is the best person to recommend a surveyor. Having a survey done of every property is best, but it is especially important if a title check has discovered a boundary issue. A surveyor will be able to definitively mark fence lines and easements and make sure that the fence lines do indeed follow the property line.

Environmental Impact Study – If you are purchasing a parcel of land it may be required that you obtain an environmental impact study from a government licensed company. These companies test the water, the soil, report on the vegetation and the native animals and the extent of erosion and deforestation. These findings may impose restrictions on what you can do with your land, so it is imperative that you are cautious and make sure that the study is performed.

Building Permits – If you are purchasing a piece of land and intend to build on it, you must have the necessary building permits. These can be obtained from the local building inspector. Zoning laws vary from property to property, so it is important to know how your land is zoned. The laws mandate how you can use the land, what you can do in terms of development and whether it is commercial or residential. Also check if there are any development agreements that will impede your plans for building on your property.

These are just five things that are important when looking at purchasing a property in Panama. There are countless others that your real estate agent and lawyer will help you with. These are a good place to start.
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