Banner

Panama Travel and Investment Resource

Banner

Recommended Sites (advertise with us)

Los Cuatro Tulipanes is Matt's apartment rentals in the historic district of Casco Viejo

Panama Vacation Rentals is Matt's go-to place to find rentals in Panama

- Habla Ya Spanish Schools are Matt's top choices for Spanish immersion vacations in Central America

- United Country – Panama is Matt’s go-to site to find premier properties all over Panama

Panama Real Estate Warning - Blood on the Streets

PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kent Davis   

 

x6700Everything that's wrong with Panama's agents and why I'm one of them.The following is a document written by my friend Kent Davis. Kent is a consultant in the City and he wrote the words below as a response to his many clients who were interested in details about making investments in Panama. Kent is arguably the most reliable agent I know in Panama and although his work clearly conflicts with our interests here at The Panama Report, we thought it was important to post.

Introduction: kentpd@gmail.com

Introduction


My name is Kent Davis and I have been in the Panama real estate game now for two years; humbly, things are going very well. Demand is high, supply is low, and good information about real estate in this country is very much absent from the market which puts me, the real estate agent, in a powerful position: in terms of selling real estate, all the stars appear to be aligned. What you as the reader need to understand is that nowhere in this expose are my words challenged: not by real estate associations or agencies or tourism board directors. I am using it as an outlet to present my own opinions and experiences with all the people I dealt with, on both sides of the Panama real estate fence. This is written in first person, mainly because I'm not a journalist and don't know how to write any other way.

I am sure I'll get a lot of flack (even rage) for writing this from other agents who rely on the tactics I'll discuss: and it is not without symbolic pride that I expose how even the most intimidating Panama real estate market is full of backstabbing and empty promises. Ideally, I'd like for this report to earn respect as the first true accounts of my place in the game, but that may prove difficult in an effort not to bite the same hands that have fed me. In the end, I am still a real estate agent. I still sell property.

In this report I detail my, at times, disturbing rise in the Panama real estate game from my first contact with Panama as an enthusiastic traveler, to my current success as a real estate agent. I was raised in a caring home by two wonderful parents, taught to avoid certain dangers and never question my ethics or compromise what I know to be right. But when those same dangers started feeding me a regular paycheck upon arriving in Panama, my morals and values became momentarily tested and tried.

The Panama real estate market is a national gold mine and what I describe in this report is that it's not nearly as glitzy or glamorous as you think. This report has been on the drawing board for some time now, but I decided when better to release it than at the height of one of the most talked about and competitve real estate markets in the world: Panama. I hope it to be an insightful meditation on the inner-workings of a beast that I have ridden now for almost three years for better or worse, through thick and thin.

Chapter I: About Me

Before getting into the “meat and potatoes” of this report, I should probably tell you a bit about myself. Feel free to skip to the good parts if you don’t really care, but in the interest of building a bit of credibility, I’ll fill you in on the guy behind the keyboard….I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii into a good Roman Catholic household.

I ended up attending high school in Virginia and later pursuing a degree in Marketing Information Systems at James Madison University in Virginia.

After college, I was fortunate enough to be recruited by one of the largest wholesale distributors of construction materials in the world, Hajoca Corporation. I spent the next five years working in places like Cleveland, Richmond, and ultimately Atlanta, Georgia. I ran their commercial plumbing supply business from 2001-2006, and I loved my job. At the peak of my career in the US, I was responsible for managing over $3MM worth of inventory and had ten employees working for me.

I never sold real estate, and I felt blessed to be doing something I truly enjoyed. And I made good money doing it. But there was a deep dark secret that no one new about...I always had this nagging itch to try and make something out of myself outside of the country--to live abroad and support myself doing it. And that’s how I ended up here.

Most of my clients usually end up asking me “ Why Panama”? So I tell them my thought process: I knew I wanted to leave the country, but I had to figure out a place where my skill set and business sense could find me a job.

My Spanish was pretty good, and I was always a a hard worker. Here’s what happened: after my 6 month study in Spain in 1999, I was exposed to the beauty and culture of that magical country and I decided that Sevilla was the place for me. The dollar tanked in 2004 and I scrapped that idea and set my radar south to Venezuela, which I saw as an emerging, resource rich country that could present opportunity for a gringo in the pipe, valve, and fitting business. Chavez came out of the woodworks and ended up proving himself to be a crack job, so I ditched that plan too.

Meanwhile, I kept getting promoted in the States and the idea of leaving became less and less appealing. Then one day in 2005, a surfing buddy of mine called me up having just returned from an epic Central American surf tour. “Dude, you gotta check out Panama! I'm telling you man, that place is so YOU". That piqued my interest and I began looking into it, and the more I discovered about the country, the better it started to look.

Costa Rica was on everyone’s radar in the 90’s. I think that we all know at least one person who struck it rich in Costa Rica after finding some amazing land deal and sitting on it for a few years to eventually turn an unbelievable profit. I had seen pictures and the place reminded me a lot of Hawaii, but in 2006 I felt like I had already missed the boat. That’s why Panama seemed like an attractive place – sort of like “the next Costa Rica”.

The more I looked into it (by talking to people that had visited Panama, researching on the internet, and basically doing as much homework as I could ), the place looked like it had some major potential.

So one cold February morning, I pulled the trigger. I quit my job, sold my car, and broke up with my girlfriend. Well, it didn’t actually happen that quickly, but I wont bore you with the details. But it all ended up with me here in my new Urban Jungle: Panama! I absolutely love this country and could write a novel about all of the amazing people that I have met and beautiful things that I have seen, but we'll save that for the email to Mom.

Why am I writing this report?

While I would love to say that my time and energy spent over months writing this report was simply my gift to new buyers, it's not necessarily all that philanthropic.

The first reason I decided to sit down and document my time in the industry was for myself. I decided that, years from now, it will be interesting to look back on a time and a country that was booming in every single way. So in documenting my journal-like experiences, I attempted to find a safe harbor where I could express, without censorship, my time in the Panama real estate game.

An author I like, Lois Guarino who wrote Writing Your Authentic Self, said a journal should be "a record of internal life ... It is a place where...you can commune with rarely explored parts of yourself and where those parts can answer back. It is this dialogue, carried on over an extended period of time, that has the potential to bear surprising insights, support truth-telling, and foster courage." Smart dude.

And that's where the second implication of this report became clear. In writing this journal and concentrating on specific issues, I decided the information might be useful to outsiders looking to find a Panama real estate agent of their own. The amount of misinformation and suspicious activity I've seen with Panama real estate agents is disturbing, so hopefully this report will help alleviate some of that tension and clear up some misconceptions and fallacies about the market here in Panama.

In the course of my job, I have come across some very talented and savvy real estate agents in this great country. People that had other, very interesting lives before coming to Panama and have managed to carve out a very nice slice of the pie selling real estate here. They have shown me the ropes, offered me guidance, and mentored me about the pitfalls to avoid and the tactics to use.

I have also been burned, stabbed in the back, lied to and otherwise screwed every which way from Sunday. I am not going to name any specific names, because that would be truly damaging and not the intent of the article. However, upon reflecting on my experience and always making NEW mistakes, I was able to document what happened and why, and I think that type of information needs to be made public.

The idea of living, investing, or retiring in Panama is more than a trend. I think this country has tremendous potential: as a new home for expats, as the play ground for central and south America’s rich and famous, and as a world class tourist destination. Either way, I don’t want some dishonest real estate deal turning anyone off to this country, so I figured the best thing to do would be to write a book and explain to people what to look out for. From somebody that's been on both sides of the game.

Chapter II:

Lets face it, Panama real estate is hot, and word is starting to get out to the savvy investor that something big is happening here. The way the agent in me likes to put it is that we are in the middle of the beginning of our economic boom, and it’s the economy driving the real estate market, not the other way around. 2008 is certainly not the year the boom started, but it’s still a buyers market, and I believe we have a long way to go.

I have had the opportunity to work with people from all over the world, and my clients have run the gambit; everyone from Fred and Nancy from Milwaukee looking to escape the winter chill to Mike Johnson, hedge fund manager from HLNP looking for opportunities and 7-figure land deals.

With that said, I have met some pretty worldly investors in the course of my 9 to 5. Inevitably In the beginning, I also met a few suckers that were like putty in my hands. And I have learned a great deal about real estate from some very smart clients who have taught me a thing or two. I have an inbox full of leads every morning, I get to meet amazing people from all corners of the earth, and I'm doing it all in Panama! Panama: Who would have thunk it!

“But with the credit crunch and the economic downturn in the US, hasn’t things slowed down in Panama for you?" they inevitably ask... Yes and no.

Yes- I have seen a definite slowdown in demand from our US market. Not necessarily because people are getting worried that Panama is no longer a good investment, but rather they are taking a “wait and see” approach with their local market, and want to see how their personal financial situation unfolds before they go and make any major life changes or major investments.

The flip side of that coin are the mature investors that have experienced the cyclical nature of the real estate game and are still comfortable investing in an area where they see a huge potential upside. And for the most part, any recent decline in US demand has been more than compensanted for by the European and Canadian markets. With the falling value of the dollar, there has been a feeding frenzy from places like Moscow, Toronto, and London where $2,000 USD per square meter is seen as a bargain.

That’s the beauty of this market; people come down here for so many reasons, and each client is a new challenge. I’ll get into this more later, but I always like to cover a certain number of criteria to discover exactly what each client is looking for, and that is half the fun. Sometimes it’s a tremendous letdown for them, because the days of $200,000 city apartments with ocean views and a large balcony are over, and it breaks my heart to tell people that all the hype they have seen on www.panamawhatever.com is outdated, misleading, and downright harmful to the image of real estate in Panama.

False expectations are one of my biggest obstacles, but once I am able to present an accurate picture of the market and help my client focus on the product that is right for them, we usually end up finding something that meets or even exceeds their end target. And that makes me feel good. Mission accomplished, now pay the man

Chapter III:

OK, so now that you’ve seen all the nice things about life down here, its time to take off the rose colored glasses and start looking at what is truly going on with this market. I think it would have to be acknowledged at this point that purchasing real estate, especially in a foreign country is all about trust.

Most of the people that come down here know very little about what is available, what a fair price is, and that they need to watch their back and leave a paper trail whenever possible, and these factors playing a huge role in the power, be it good or bad, of a Panama real estate agent. Granted, I am a pretty decent guy, and I have never lied or deliberately decieved anyone in the course of my work here, but there are some people out there that have made good money doing exactly that. MORE HERE ABOUT BAD PEOPLE MANIPULATING TRUST

However, from personal experience, it is VERY easy to either glaze over the details, tell the client what they want to hear, or allow them to believe flagrant misinformation. And that in my book is lying.

This market is full of misinformation and I have seen it first hand. In fact I have at times unknowingly participated in the dissemination of false and deceptive information. Other instances, I have allowed myself to believe the misinformation because I knew it was the answer my clients wanted to hear. I don’t do that anymore, because I know how to call a spade a spade and question what people are telling me, but that's not to say that in the early years of the real estate boom here, where clients were literally desperate to get into something, I did not always walk the high road.  And there are certainly people (agents) out there that still take everything at face value and never question the source.

In retrospect, I think that was more my naiveté than anything, but the fact remains that I had to do some major soul searching and come to a decision with myself and my creator that I would not willingly spread false information or “tell my clients what they wanted to hear”. But enough of that “holier than thou" nonsense, here are some of the things I have seen:

False availability and time constraints

"This is the last two bedroom unit I have left!"

"After that the price is going up over $200 per square meter!"

"As a matter of fact, I just had someone cancel on that unit, but you have to reserve it NOW!"

I used to use these tactics, and most of the time I had some very flimsy piece of information to support my cause: "I have only one two bedroom unit left!" What I wasn’t telling them is that I have one two bedroom left on the 4th floor facing the ocean for under $200,000. My mom always said, "Not telling the whole truth is lying" but it’s easy for an eager young salesman to tell these little half truths, when in fact they aren’t ACTUALLY lies.  In the example above, what I didnt know then ( and I know now ) is that developers often release units in stages, and if you have a client that's looking for, say, a two bedroom unit and there doesnt appear to be one available on the current price list, odds are the developer is sitting on a few choice units to sell at a premium later.  Again, its something you have to experience ( or read about ) to know.  So ask!

In the rare case that the real estate agent shows you the developer’s published price list and the building looks 90% sold out, ask the following: "Are all of these units actually sold"? Nothing wrong with putting your agent on the spot, and its an easy phone call to the developer to verify ( assuming the developer gives you a straight answer ).

How about this one: “ The price is going up next week!" Actually, in this market that could very well be the case, but don’t let that affect your decision. If you are really thinking about purchasing a unit in said development, odds are your agent ( if he’s good ) can get you in at the old price, at least that's what I aim for with my clients. Just make sure that when the price actually DOES go up, you are in a position to make a move and either put in an offer at the old price or accept the new price.

Useful Tip: Just remember, an extra $50 per square meter on a 100m unit ( $5,000) is a small price to pay for piece of mind, and the assurance that you didn’t just jump into something because the price was going up.

Promises: I usually tell my friends down here that the movie is starting at 8pm when it is actually scheduled for 8:30. We are lucky to make the previews. Know why? Because Panamanians have absolutely no concept of time. But it's not impossible to deal with. When that developer tells you that they are going to start construction in the next three months and should be completed with the project in 12-18 months, plan on AT LEAST two years.

Useful Tip: I've now come to learn, over my years here, that NOTHING gets done in this country in the month of November, the month of December, and the week proceeding, during, and after Carnival.  And this goes for small contractors as well: tenfold. They’ll show up two hours late and then be MIA for two weeks. How do you avoid that? You don’t, you just plan on it and take a deep breath because you know that you are paying a fraction of the price it would cost you back home.  And you go get a delicious $2.00 lunch from the lady on the street.

False representation: Scam alert! Everybody here in Panama these days seems to have a piece of property that someone they know is selling. Of course its titled! Ocean views! $2.00 a meter with road access! Under $100,000 in El Cangrejo! Nine times out of ten, you are not talking to the actual owner and are probably not getting the full story.

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to show a client a piece of property in the Caribbean or Pacific coasts only to find out ( after the fact ) that the gentleman claiming to be the owner is now only 'representing the owner'. Good luck ever getting in contact with the actual owner, or getting a straight answer from his representative.

How do you avoid this? Just like they taught us in sales 101: find the decision maker! In this case, I insist on speaking directly with the owner. If his “representative” is worried about getting cut out of the deal, then I draw up a very informal but binding contract ( with a space for everyone’s signature, including the potential buyer, the potential seller, and myself ) that protects everyone’s interest. That will show this bozo that I am serious, and that I want to speak to the man, and not the man’s man.

What’s Up With Competition In Panama?

Increased competition in any industry generally leads to more choices, better prices, and stepped-up service for both buyers and sellers alike. And with the rise of the real estate industry in Panama, competition has certainly increased ten-fold. But the market is far from mature, and the effects of competition in Panama are not as healthy as one might think. Competition also brings innovation, but at times this market seems to be trapped in the backwards thinking and antiquated systems of a colonial village of days past.

One of my biggest annoyances is the fact that there is no industry-standard multiple listing service, or MLS. Instead of writing a chapter on how this affects you as a buyer though, I’ve decided to lay out what it means to me as an agent: so that you in turn can get a different perspective and perhaps understand better what you’ll be up against.

The majority of my clients who arrive in Panama are already familiar with an MLS- essentially a giant warehouse in which properties from across the country are stored. The typical MLS system is a database of information that allows agents across said country to collaborate and buyers to compare and contrast. Information is consolidated and organized in such a way that it's as easy as selecting from a list that includes: a neighborhood, price range, size, amenities, etc. If you're reading this, you probably already know how an MLS works, so I wont get into it.

In Panama, that giant warehouse doesn’t exist. Instead, we have hundreds of small, competing warehouses known as real estate agencies. Each real estate agency in Panama has their own inventory of properties, some of which overlap with other agencies. Not unlike a tiny version of the really early MLS system in the USA, each agency generally has someone who compiles information regarding sales and new properties on the market, then posts it live for the rest of the agency employees to see: so that everyone knows the new product, and so that no one is selling property that’s already been sold. But keep in mind that all of this is done internally, and very few competing companies share their listings.

I can only imagine how useful a MLS service would be as a real estate agent. To think, after defining my clients needs, I could easily identify available property and present said property to my clients in a reliable and well organized format. Ha! That'd be the day!!  At this point its only a dream, because the concept of "sharing commission" makes everyone nervous, even though no one is seeing the big picture clearly enough to realize that we would all be 20 times more efficient and thus able to close 20 times as many sales...

The luxury of an MLS doesn’t exist and the negative effects are multi-fold. Primarily, the lack of an MLS limits each agency’s (and accordingly each agent’s) access to buyers, meaning if I had the most spectacular piece of property I knew about, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to find the best buyer for it because my reach was only as far as my marketing tools spanned. This applies to niche real estate like mountain property or beachfront property: it dissuades me from becoming specialized in a specific region or property type because there’s no direct or steady feed of buyers. For me, the easiest real estate markets to buy property in are the ones with various experts or specialists who know more about, say, waterfront valley property, than anyone else: so that when someone wants to buy waterfront valley property, they are referred directly to that agent.

Second, not having an MLS severely restricts the portfolio of many agents: so that if a client comes in looking for something like, say, waterfront valley property, chances are he/she will have nothing. As you might imagine, this restrains the agent’s flexibility in terms of what they can offer, thus encouraging them to push a different product. Any good company that's earned their stripes should be able to offer their clients both wide variety AND niche products. A good agency has the responsibility to acquire a wide enough spectrum of property listings so that they have something within their arsenal for any client that walks in the door. This however, is not a motto all agencies in Panama live by.

Imagine sitting down for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant in Italy, having craved mushroom risotto for weeks before your trip. What if the waiter not only told you he was out of mushroom risotto, and that no one else in town would have mushroom risotto, but in addition tried mercilessly to persuade you into ordering the steak fajitas.

“ I didn’t come to Italy to eat steak fajitas,” you might say. “I came to eat mushroom risotto! Give me my mushroom risotto!”

So you leave the restaurant only to find that no one in town has the mushroom risotto you’re looking for, and that no one will tell you somewhere outside of town that does, wanting instead for you to take a deep sigh and accept the house specialty: steak fajitas.

As a real estate agent in Panama, my job used to be extremely hard because I had to search like a gopher for that risotto and in the process avoid resorting to a bread-and-butter property which the client probably wont like. While I personally am a fan of referring clients if I don’t have what they want, most agents in the City are not, which leads me to my last point.

Not having an MLS in Panama makes my job difficult because I am not encouraged to communicate or interact with other real estate agents. The MLS system ensures referral commissions from agent to agent and the United States judicial system is pretty reliable if worse comes to worst: meaning one agent wants to sue another on the grounds of not compensating for the referral.  That protection does not exist here, so collaboration is pretty much unheard of.  Like I said, I've got no problem "phoning a friend" if I dont have a good fit within my inventory but I think I may be one of the few who believe in working together.

Why doesn’t someone just make an MLS?

Easier said than done and it’s been tried a number of times both in Panama and the further-developed Costa Rican real estate market. Main point, there is no where near the amount of organization and cooperation in real estate in this country to achieve an MLS. And the various sites that you’ll see online that claim to have an MLS basically just mean to say, “we’ve got a lot of listings.” Websites and agents use this tactic because it’s what foreigners know. Foreigners are familiar with the system so they search Google for “Panama MLS” but in reality nothing like what they want exists.

Does it sound Wild Wild West-ish? Does it seem like it’s easy for you to get scammed or confused by a market you’re not used to? Does the lack of an MLS make getting what you truly want, a mushroom risotto, an incredibly arduous and depressing task? Trust me, I feel your pain.

But as a real estate agent, those forces are what gives ME the advantage over my competition. Most reputible firms are able to offer almost all types of properties (with such a large inventory) and generally have access to the best sellers and most reputable developers.

Dealing With The Competition

My best clients usually end up being people that have dealt with another agent or agency before they found me. I love to hear horror stories of agents showing up two hours late, getting lost looking at properties, speaking very little English, or trying to push one particular property even though its not at all what the client is looking for.

My experience has been when the market is booming, the housewives come out to sell. This is especially the case here in Panama where no license is required. To close a real estate transaction, one needs a real estate license here in panama, but there are many ways around it and a good portion of those in the game are license-less and still acting within the scope of the law.

My competition is so worried about someone stealing their client that they forget that the buyer drives the sale, and not the salesman. I cannot tell you how many times I have gone to show a property ( with another agent, who knows the seller or has some other relationship with them ), and the other agent is so worried about me stealing their seller that they wont even publish the address of the property . Forget about me directly asking the owner any questions, which adds to the confusion, delay, and inefficiency as I have to wait for another agent to get back with me.

Because there is no MLS, the selling agent feels that they must protect their inventory because I could go around them and buy directly from the owner. I actually never have done that, because this country is small, and words gets out quickly about people who do things like that. Even with the juego vivo culture, people talk. Once you become known for doing something like that, people don't want to work with you. And in the end, in business its not who you know, but who knows you.

Maybe I should take a step back at this point and tell you that I haven't always walked the high road of ethics in this market. When I first came to Panama, I had never sold real estate, so I had no idea how much power an agent had, especially in a market where the client is relying exclusively on ME for information.

I was operating as an unlicensed independent agent working on my own, with no affiliation to any local real estate agency here. Basically, I was a free agent and I got my inventory by surfing the net and forming relationships with the few developers that would give me the time of day. I trolled hotels, casinos, and restaurants for tourists with real estate on the mind. Let me tell you, it was not an easy gig and once I found a potential client I latched on like a crab.

As much as I tried to position myself as "their guy" that could find them exactly what they were looking for, the truth was that all I had in my inventory was a handful of properties, which naturally became " the best projects in Panama." In fact, since these were all I had to offer, I was not presenting a fair and accurate picture of the market.

“Oh, you saw it in a magazine? That developer's no good, trust me you don't want to work with them.” Those real estate magazines were the end of me, because once my client got a clue and realized that there were hundred's of projects out there, I was out of a job as they usually went around me or better yet found a more "connected " agent.

This is a phenomenon you'll see a lot in Panama: with such limited inventory due to no MLS system; agents are pushing specific properties harder than ever, hoping to make the few they have as attractive as possible.

This put a lot of pressure on me as an individual, because the best real estate agencies are a one-stop-shop, offering legal, banking, and financing out of one office. Get with the wrong firm and you'll lose your shirt in more than one ways. Back to me for a second, or at least me two months in.

Eager to please, full of answers, and driving around this city like a deer in the headlights. I let developers walk all over my clients. I failed to advise my clients properly and I basically approached my new gigas if I were a pistol toting gun slinger in the wild west, shooting from the hip. But for the record: I never lied to any of my clients, I never stole from my clients, and I never knowingly cheated anyone out of anything.

That I can say with confidence, because in the end I am an ethical man and a strong believer in Karma. What I did do, however, was allow myself to fall into the world of hype. To take everything at face value and question nothing if I thought it would get me a sale. I also increased the price to include a nice commission for myself, which ( I found out later ) is not ethical. This is something also to keep an eye out for: agents (like me back then) who add exorbitant commissions on to the price tag, meaning the buyer pays more than the true value of the property.  Granted, agents do need to be compensated for their time but anything over 6% is considered out of line.

Well, we're standing here in this field and this farmer is telling me that what we are looking at is his his land, showing me a piece of paper he claims is a title and insisting that the neighbors sold their farm for $50/meter. My clients were hot to buy and I was hot to close my first sale so we shook on it and left with the understanding that we would review the terms of the contract and forward the deposit monies. Two weeks later, we delivered the $2,000 deposit check and one week after the contract was executed. Cha Ching right? Not so much...

One thing that struck me as a bit strange after my first sale is that this man, who was selling a 2.5HEC piece for $150,000 had to borrow my cell phone because he was out of minutes, and hopped on the bus after we closed the sale. Red flag number one and two...

It turns out that this guy was NOT the owner of the property, and this piece of land was NOT titled, but rather in the "process of being titled" which can last anywhere from two months to two years plus. Good thing I had formed a relationship with a very diligent and seasoned attorney, who eventually advised me ( and my clients ) to walk away from the sale.

Fortunately for us, the contract was worded in such a way that my clients could get out having only lost their deposit monies. Otherwise, that could have been a very bad situation. What to take away from this little tale of rookie salesman and over eager customers: make sure you are dealing with the owner or owner's agent, and make sure to get a lawyer involved as early in the game as possible.

It’s one thing to be buying in your native country, where you are familiar with all of the laws, restrictions, and pitfalls of your local market. Switch gears and put yourself in a foreign country and its a whole new ballgame.

Panama is a country that has its own set of ethics, a very complicated bureaucracy, and a culture of "juega vivo" that it is like nothing my clients have ever seen ( at least those that have never done business in South or Central America ). This country has always had a culture of taking advantage -- and not necessarily just taking advantage of foreigners. In a land of banks and the banking industry, one would think that opening up a new account would be as simple as it is in the United States. Walk in with a check, show some ID and voila! Not so much.

You have to have two letters of reference ( which are a joke, but an absolute requirement ), a Panamanian sponsor, two forms of ID, and a litany of mundane requirements. And I laugh when foreigners just try to walk into a bank and expect to be seen immediately and leave within the hour having set up a bank and pre-qualified for a mortgage.

Form a corporation, set up a bank account, do your due diligence. My clients are usually informed enough to know that they need to take care of this bullet list before they sign the dotted line, but they still have no idea what a pain in the ass it is to get any or all of this accomplished in the short time frame that they have allotted ( usually one week or less ).

That said, it becomes that much more important to be working with someone that is going to call you back, going to help you dot your I's and cross your T's, and basically act in your best interest when you return home.

Let me tell you about some of my experiences with agents here, without tooting my own horn: they don't show up on time, the speak little to no English, and they are usually interested in only selling you off of a very short list of projects that they'll get paid commission on. I don't want to dwell, because it is more of a cultural thing than a professional thing.

Panama's native language is Spanish, so why should it be unreasonable to expect anything other than Spanish? Some people go so far as to be offended if you want to speak English...I counter with this: when the majority of the buyers are from North America and Europe, then those buyers deserve to be dealt with in their native tongue. In the business of buying hundred thousand dollar properties, for me impeccable fluency in the language of the buyer is required.

And furthermore, buyers deserve to be treated with respect. That means following up on promises, arriving on time for appointments, and doing what you say you are going to do. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to beg, plead, and ultimately demand information from some of these developers because nothing seems to be accomplished via phone or internet.

Some people are still operating on the old school way of doing business, which is face to face. Get with the times! Answer your cell phone! Leave a message when you call me! Respond to an email!! Sometimes I get really worked up about the cultural differences and the laid back way of doing business and antiquated view on customer service, but I have to remind myself T.I.P. ( This Is Panama ).

In the end, I ended up getting a job with CPanama Real Estate Corporation, and that’s when it all changed for me. Working for a larger agency gave me a number of benefits, which allowed me to do my job better.  Developers come to US to list their properties, and I've got hundreds of listings to pull from.  I could go on and on about my current company, but we still to get into the dirt.

Chapter V: Investment Questions

So after welcoming a number of clients to Panama and spending significant time with them either on the road looking at properties or in the office discussing contracts, I like to think I’ve identified a few commonalities between the experienced buyers and the rookies.

For you, it might be helpful to know the questions that, for me, distinguish a seasoned buyer so that you can at least look as though you’ve done this before. International real estate can be different in each country across the globe, so just because you’ve purchased in Europe or Latin America, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll sit atop the pack in Panama.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself?

Panama is currently experiencing a gold rush and this means that hoards of people, both honest and devious, are flocking to the isthmus. The amount of shady characters who have arrived in Panama because they aren’t welcome elsewhere is frightening: so it’s always a good idea to get a good grasp as to who your agent is, where they come from, and how they arrived in Panama. The rookie investor who just jumps right into the deal without getting to know me first represents a trigger-happy tendency: someone who’s more interested in buying something fast, than doing due diligence and getting to know the agent who’ll be representing him.

2. How many sales have you made in the last six months?

Yes, it sounds a little personal, but knowing the record of a sales agent means knowing their productivity and accessibility. Top agents are always highly sought after for their hard work, honesty, and knowledge: so it makes sense to go with one who’s made a good number of sales in the recent past and isn’t looking for a sucker to break his/her slump.

3. Who do you represent?

This is the a great question a seasoned investor will ask anywhere in the world, but in Panama it is especially important seeing as though the credentials and regulations for those who sell real estate are simple and not enforced. The right answer should ALWAYS be you, the buyer. In order to have a completely fair and honest buying process, it wouldn’t make sense to be discussing negotiations with someone linked to the seller. The inexperienced Panama investor would forget to ask this and thus go into a deal with no one really on their side.

4. Do you have a support staff?

Because there are so many nuances associated with buying and selling real estate in Panama, oftentimes the amount of work for a deal is simply too much for one agent to handle. The best agents in Panama are partnered with good assistants or at least other professionals who can help them get the small (or niche) stuff done. Tasks such as forming corporations, finding comparable properties, and combing through contracts among other things. This will allow the agent to focus on you the buyer, while his team is busy hammering out the kinks. A first-time or naïve investor might bypass this question and mis-assume that his/her agent can take the process head-on.

5. What separates you from the competition?

Because the real estate boom in Panama is so hefty, there are a ton of real estate agencies competing for the same client (and in a lot of cases, the same property). A good question I like to hear is what makes me different from my competition, because it allows me to explain the service that I offer, which I feel is unique to Panama. It also allows me to detail the company I work for which is, in my opinion, top notch. It’s the inexperienced buyers who tend to not ask this question and instead go with the first, friendly real estate agent they find.

6. Where would YOU invest right now?

I really like this question because it allows me to be honest and actually reveal where I AM currently investing. It also represents a balanced point of view from the buyer, in realizing that the best value investment in Panama may not necessarily be what they were envisioning. If a better investment exists, than the one currently being considered, the wise investor always finds it with this inquiry. Oppositely, a novice investor in Panama might forego this question because they have their head set on something different (which might not be the best bang for its buck, or may be based on a faulty sources of information).

Bad Questions:

On the other hand, there are some red flags too: questions I get from clients on occasion that read inexperience. Here are a few of them, which you should try to avoid in asking your real estate agent in Panama, as it connotes less-attractive buyer qualities.

1. What's the cheapest thing you have?

OK, so maybe your interested in a small scale investment. Or maybe you'd like to get your feet wet with something inexpensive. But asking this question certainly tells me you are a tire kicker and in my experience it's these clients who are the most difficult to work for. A true investor in Panama, even if he/she is interested in something below, say $100,000, won't demand "the cheapest thing on the market" as they know that probably means poor craftsmanship, materials, location, etc. They would also probably be interested in something a tad above their price range if it meant big enough rewards.

2. Where would YOU invest right now?

I’ve listed this one in both sections for a reason. You and I are different, and this is not my money that we are playing with. It is my job to find out enough about your investment strategy to make recommendations and suggest properties based on your personal strategy and investment philosophy. I am 28 years old, and I plan on being here for a long time. With that said, I can afford to buy a piece of property and forget about it for 10 years. If you are looking for a short term flip, then we are not comparing apples to apples.

3. I want a beachfront condo in good condition close to the city under $250,000 ready NOW!

This may not seem like an unreasonable request, but if you knew enough about this market you would realize that the majority of inventory on the market will not be delivered until next year. Its not so much the question that is a red flag, its the reaction to the answer. " I apologize, but unfortunately that is not available in this market right now ". If the client is not willing to compromise a bitl i.e. raise their price range, allow for more time, or look further outside of the city, I usually tell them that my firm will not be able to help them and then I throw em to the sharks.

4. I would like to double my money in one year and then flip

If I knew exactly what the market was going to do in one year, I would be driving a lot nicer car. Hindsight is 20/20, and I've watched investors double their money in 6 months. At the time, I advised them that this particular investment could show promising returns, but in the end no on can predict the future.  A more reasonable way to put it is " my investment time frame is somewhere in the neighborhood of one year, and then I would like to get out."  I can work with that, because it demonstrates a clear investment strategy and gives me some parameters to work with.

The Rental Myth

It might be helpful too to provide the following approach I often see taken by real estate agents which buyers regularly don’t question as much as they should:

You can also read a lot of places that hotel occupancy in Panama is high. Both the City and various beach and mountain towns do indeed experience high rates of occupancy, but this fact, especially when proclaimed by real estate agents, can sometimes be misleading.

I have heard many times, clients say to their buyers “oh, you’ll have no trouble renting this out all the time for X amount of dollars.” In fact, when I was relatively new to the market, I believed and assured people of the same thing. Times have changed though and I’ve come to realize the truth.

Rental rates are high, because at the moment supply is very low and demand is high, so finding a tenant these days is not a problem.  However, make sure to have a good property management company (few of which exist in Panama) lined up before you sign the dotted line. And also keep in mind that in this dynamic market it is difficult to predict where rental rates are going as supply increases.

Additionally, it’s important to realize that tourism in Panama is very new also, so take tourism predictions with a grain of salt.  Granted, this country is experiencing significant growth in the tourist sector, but nothing is ever set in stone.  Long story short:  do your homework ( or get your agent to do it for you ) and check online at places like www.comprealquile.com or even craigs list for current rentals rates before jumping into a rental property.

Chapter VI. What To Know About Every Agency in Panama

First, it might be helpful for me to tell you what you should expect to experience upon arriving in Panama…

The onslaught of promotion will probably begin on your flight down here, from the in-flight literature to the chatty neighbor in the seat beside you. When you reach Panama’s Tocumen International Airport, you’ll find hundreds of magazines with beautiful buildings on the cover, filled with advertisements, unbelievable prices, and promises of "your dream home".

All of these magazines (and most of the content within) is paid for. This is not New York Times unbiased information, so take these magazines with a grain of salt and the understanding that almost everything you will read or hear in Panama has a spin.

Once in Panama, you’ll probably be approached by a number of people, both locals and foreigners, asking if you’re here for investment purposes. If you answer yes, chances are they are either selling something or have a friend who is. Fight off the sensation of feeling special, having made an “amazing contact in Panama just minutes after you reached your hotel.”

Trust me: it happens to everyone. Take a deep breath and stick to your plan. If you don't have a plan, find an agent. Not someone with a property that they are trying to sell, but rather someone who has access to what you are looking for ( more on that later ).

During your tour of the City or outlying areas, you’ll come across a second slew of shameless promotion: billboards, flyer's, magazines, newspapers, and TV ads. Ivanna Trump beckoning you to see her "jewel of Panama". Huge signs on job sites, some of which have grown dirty and rusted, promoting projects that are still years from completion, and still others that may never even get started.

So let’s say you’ve withstood this barrage of information and advertising and are still willing to consider buying real estate in Panama. What do you do?

Well, most visitors contact someone, whether it’s a real estate agency or an actual developer. Because the majority of developers in Panama don’t focus on sales (instead hiring agencies to do it for them), I would suggest finding a good agent and not ever getting involved directly with the developers.  Avoid the temptation of the shiny developer offices and beautiful people working the front desk ( more on this later ). FIND AN AGENT!

The first thing to know about Panama real estate agents is that not all of them will have a license. This is a double-edged sword: the obvious downside is that it’s not traditionally sound to do business with a professional who doesn’t have a license. Certainly not a misconception, but more of a general rule in business because we all assume that licenses usually require tests, and passing a test usually requires some body of accumulated knowledge or level of expertise.  Panamanian law does not require a real estate "advisor" to be licensed.  They can show property and close the sale, but the agency that they work for most be licensed and is subject to compliance with the law.

What this means is that some of Panama’s most competent and connected agents are foreigners and don’t have licenses themselves. These are usually the people that have been showing property in this market for some time, and can guide you through the pitfalls and headaches that you are likely to encounter, and advise you in your native language with an understanding of your expectations and your background.

These are usually the people that know the ins and outs of doing business in Panama, and have over time developed good business practices having done business at some point in North America or Europe. I have met some excellent unlicensed agents operating in this market, and I have learned a lot from them.

Long story short is that working with an agent that does not have a license is not necessarily the kiss of death, because some of these people end up doing a better job than a certified, card carrying Panamanian real estate agent. Many of the unlicensed agents also work for licensed agencies as "consultants" which is entirely legal

Because real estate is so new to Panama, it’s understandable that many of the locals who have obtained their licenses are not as well versed as they could be. In fact, most of the agents are still looking at real estate as a get-rich-quick business and a part-time gig, making them green to the market and its intricacies.

And while many foreigner experts in real estate have flown in from Costa Rica, Belize and even European nations to take advantage of the booming market, these foreigners are not permitted licenses until they’ve spent five years in this country and can pass a test that is entirely in Spanish.

The theory of the law is meant to protect Panamanians from losing jobs to foreigners. What that has translated into is a bunch of licensed Panamanian housewives, running around trying to close deals with no real knowledge of the market. All they see is what is directly in front of them, as opposed to a 5,000 foot view; that macro understanding of a market, and the effects of scarcity, over supply, pricing pressures, and the ability to identify true market opportunities. They lack that "big picture" approach that is important in real estate, especially investment-focused real estate. Granted, they may do a great job finding you a two bedroom pre-construction condo in San Francisco because in all honesty you could throw a stone from Atlapa and hit seven of them.

It doesn't take a genius to pick up a real estate magazine and make a phone call on behalf of a client to close a sale. However, if you are looking for solid and financially sound investment advice, a licensed Panamanian agent may not always be your best bet. Not to say they are not out there, but the whole license thing is worth only as much weight as the agent that is carrying it.

My biggest problem with agents in Panama really boils down to the little eccentricities that define this culture. What I am about to say will probably piss off a lot of my Panamanian friends and associates, but I think that most people, including the very Panamanians that I am talking about would agree with the following: Panamanians are chronically late for appointments, Panamanians never check their voice mail, there is no word for " follow up " in Panama, and the juega vivo culture is and always will be a part of life here.

That's why I really cannot stand working with most agents in this country: they never show up on time, I cant ever reach them on the phone, and after the first interaction they usually disappear. They may be great tour guides, and have tons of historical information about this amazing country, but in the end I would prefer to deal with someone that is professional, and accustomed to the North American way of doing business. So with that said, buyer beware!

Types of Agents

When I first arrived in Panama and started taking clients, I realized that to the first-time investor, a Jack-of-all-trades agent was fine. There were very little details and complexities to selling to these clients. After a while though, I found that truly savvy investors walk a different path. They look for expertise in an agent. So from that point, I started focusing on specific markets and referring a client, when I didn't have the proper inventory, to other experts like me in separate niches.

That being said, you probably won't often come across too many agents who like to do referrals. As explained earlier, this market doesn't breed a sharing mentality. Perhaps in the future, more agents will do this but to date, myself (and the handful of agents I refer to) are some of the only ones who work together.

Resale agents can find the good deals. The internet creates its own market, and prices can be inflated based on " what my neighbor is doing " pricing mentality. Certain agencies focus on existing properties, and have an entire department dedicated to actively aquiring new listings, keeping these listings up to date, and maintaining some sort of master database of properties sortable by various criteria ( The in-house MLS that I referred to in a previous chapter).  

Land guys have scouts in the interior of the country, scouring the beaches, mountains, and even the city for raw undeveloped land.  Most agencies do not focus on this side of the business, because it is very labor intensive and requires some very strong local relationships with landowners.  If you are looking for raw land, i am probably going to hand you off to one of three agents that specialize in "land", depending on where and what you are trying to purchase.

Master brokers- these are your best bet if you are looking for something either existing or in pre construction.  This is the agency that has a good relationship with a number of developers, brokers, and specialized agents ( the land guys ).  Often times, developers will chose to form an exclusive arrangement with a master brokerage, and pass along all of the sales and marketing responsibilties to said "Master Broker".  For this reason, the master broker will have relationships with a number of other small real estate agencies, because these smaller brokerage firms will be selling the master broker's product.  This "catch all " type brokerage house is usually the best type of firm to work with.

Knowing Thy Developer

There are about 10 big developers in Panama, and about 100 other “one hit wonders” who are doing their first project here and may be getting in over their heads. However, big does not necessarily mean best because some of my worst experiences have been with the “big boys”.

Preconstruction is based on trust- you see the slick designs and all of the fancy graphic renderings of what the building is GOING to look like, but the fact remains that all of this is based solely on promises. If you commit to the wrong developer, you are going to have problems. I have seen clients that have waited for five years for a project that was slated for completion in two, and I have seen other clients that were told that they would have to pay an additional $20,000 because the developer “underestimated the rising cost of materials ”  or was “unable to continue in good faith with the terms of the presale contract”. Align yourself with the right developer and you wont have any problems.  Find an agent that can give you a complete developer bio, and google them yourself to see what comes up.

I have seen horror stories in the last two years of clients being over promised and under delivered. I have even seen developers completely back out of their contractual obligations and refund all deposit monies to my clients.  I raised hell, but in the end there was nothing I could do, because of the wording of the presale agreement. There are definitely some companies in Panama that I now know to steer clear of, but when I first got started, I had no idea.

During my time here, I have compiled a list.  Lets call it:

A few things to consider when purchasing pre construction:

1) What other projects has this developer done? This is an obvious question, but too many real estate agents will glaze over the fact that this is the developer’s first project here in Panama and they have literally no point of reference for other projects anywhere else in the world. This is a big red flag. Actually, I would say this is a yellow flag…be cautious!

Just because a firm is doing their first project in Panama doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is going to be a disaster or will never actually come to fruition . It is just an indication that further research needs to be done, and your realtor should be in a position to tell you about the entire Development TEAM ( builder, architect, site engineer, etc ).  Make sure someone has a track record in Panama, because you DO NOT want to work with a bunch of hot shot developers, builders, and engineers ALL from outside of the country.  Its a recipe for disaster, because connections in the beauocracy can either make or break a project.

I like to keep a complete developer profile on all of the projects that I sell. Be wary when an agent tells you “ this is one of the most well known developers in Panama “. What are they known for-lousy projects? I would say “established” is probably one of the most important criteria for determining a developer, with a proven track record of similar projects. Just because the developer has built four gas stations in Rio Bajo doesn’t mean that they have the expertise to build a 60-story high-rise in Panama City.

2) Financing- I always like to give my clients some indication about what percentage of the building is sold, because in all likelihood the developer has some magic number whereby once they reach it, they’ll start construction. Most of the time, the developer usually wants to have at least 30% of the building sold before starting the site work and laying the foundation. Sometimes its as much as 50-60%, so its very important to ask your sales person how much of the building is sold, which is an indication of a lot of things.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen projects get held up because either pre sales have been slow, or there is some financing issue within the developer that will at best delay the project and at worst halt the project indefinitely. There are three projects here in Panama as we speak that I would not invest in for this reason, but I cant name names here, but give me a call and if you end up asking about this one, I’ll make sure to steer you clear of it.

There are those rare projects that are so well financed that the start of construction is a firm date that will be strictly adhered to and set in stone regardless of the amount of presales. However, that does not mean that after great hoopla and an on-time-start, the project may not come to a screeching halt because sales have been poor.

3) The Builder is one of the most important parts of any development team, and oftentimes the developer sub contracts the work to an outside building firm. Nine times out of ten, the company doing the building is Panamanian. In that rare instance that someone tells you “ They are bringing in one of the best building companies from Country XYZ to do all of the construction !” be vary wary.

Construction in Panama is a very sticky subject, and 99% of the work force is unionized so its virtually impossible to keep any sort of construction on schedule if a foreign builder is doing the work. Not only will there be political headaches and work stoppages due to protesting workers, but in all likelihood the building firm will get so fed up with the bureaucracy and the nuances in Panama ( availability issues, language issues, juego vivo, etc ) that they will probably end up picking up shop and heading back to their home country.

Useful Tip: Make sure that the project you end up investing in is being completed by a Panamanian building firm with a solid track record.

Take that extra hour and have your realtor drive you across town to show you another building that has been completed, so you can get a look and feel of the craftsmanship and quality of work that this builder has done. Things to look for in a model apartment or existing building:

lines, seams, and symmetry: start with the bathrooms- does the door close flush with the floor and wall? Is the toilet and lavatory set properly and plumed professionally? How do the walls line up with the roof?

Doors, floors, and cupboards- do they close and seal? Are tiles caulked, doors solid, and cupboards set even?

The way I figure, if the developer doesn’t put their best foot forward with a model apartment, what will the rest of the building look like? Has the existing building stood the test of time, or are tiles falling off of the roof, paint peeling from the walls, and doors coming off of their hinges?

Who do I like to work with? Again, without naming names, there are definitely certain developers that I feel more comfortable dealing with.

Quick point- if you think you can save money buying directly from the developer, trust me- its not a good idea. Developers dedicate very few resources to their sales department, even if they have a big beautiful office with very attractive and seemingly attentive sales people. Trust me, once you leave their office, you are not going to be taken care of. Good luck getting any of your calls or emails returned, and heaven forbid you should have an important question that you need answered like “ when is my next payment due “ or “ what does this notice that I received, all in Spanish, saying about Cancelado.”

Don’t try to buy directly from the developer; because 1) you probably wont get a better price and 2) you definitely need someone on your side should things go wrong.

VII. Contract Debacles

So you’ve found that perfect place here in Panama. Most of the time, some sort of deposit is required to hold the unit, usually between $1,000 and $10,000. By putting down money before signing, you are basically holding your specific unit and locking in the price. Most developers and real estate agencies that I deal with will hold a unit for 30 days, however some of them like to put added pressure and knock the terms down to four days.

You can usually get the number of due diligence days negotiated, and if you have money in hand, that’s usually enough credibility to buy yourself an extra week or two. I always suggest that my clients make sure that the deposit money is fully refundable ( less bank charges ) in the event that you decide to cancel.

Useful Tip: Get everything in writing (Spanish language): even email stands up in court in Panama.

First piece of advice, find yourself a good lawyer: preferably someone here in Panama who is already familiar with the project, location, or developer with whom you are signing your life away. How do you know you have a good attorney?

Connections are huge in Panama, perhaps more so than wit or talent. So I always like to refer my clients to the same three or four lawyers I know can get the job done simply because, as it seems, everyone owes these guys a favor or two. While it might seem logical to go for the biggest and the best firm, these guys are often overbooked and less able to give you, the lonely visitor, great customer service. I like to recommend my clients find a smaller firm (of which there are many), as the personal relationship here is very important. Prices with the smaller firms are also much lower so it's a win, win.

All legally binding contracts are in Spanish here in Panama, so what you will usually find is a contract in Spanish with a side by side exact English translation attached. If your contract is only in Spanish, someone like me should be able to get you a translated version. If your agent hands you a contract that is only in English, walk away because either there is something fishy is going on or you are dealing with rookies.

There are almost always two parties involved in the contract, the first being the seller and the second being the buyer. I like to make sure that the party listed as the seller is truly the seller. In the case of purchasing a pre-construction unit from an individual seller ( a resale ), make sure that the property is held in corporation ( or else the seller will be hit with 12% taxes and may try to pass this cost on to you ).

Also, make sure that the property is actually listed with the government as being held under said corporation. In the event of a pre-construction purchase directly from the developer, make sure that the seller in said contract owns said property or represents the developer in some way. This verification can be handled by a simple inquiry with the government agency on Via Espana.

Having come across a number of contracts during my days here, I have come to identify a few red flags. The following are clauses I have encountered, sometimes the hard way, which I believe are of the utmost importance for an agent in Panama to focus on:

Materials escalation clause: This is contained in every single pre-construction contract, with the exception of those that are within six months of being completed or in the event of a resale where the previous buyer has negotiated its removal. If you see a materials escalation clause in a contract for a building that is going to be completed within six months, I would get rid of it.

Otherwise, it’s a fact of life and not a dirty trick used by developers to squeeze that extra penny out of you. Actually, it is a dirty trick, but everyone’s doing it, especially in today’s inflationary times. However, there are ways to have this clause removed. First of all, know that the maximum possible rise in your price should be 5%. If I see anything more than this as an agent, I always make an effort to get it reduced to 5% at the most.

What I usually tell my clients is that because this clause is fairly standard wording, we need to do something that will set you the buyer apart from the pack. What does that mean? One obvious tactic would be to purchase more than one unit. If you are not in a position to purchase multiple units, don’t worry.

Another bargaining chip would be to put more than the required amount of money down, or at least accelerate the down payment time line (thus showing your interest and seriousness). Most projects require a total of 30% down before the unit is delivered. A typical down payment schedule is the following:

- 10% upon signing ( less the deposit monies)

- 10% when construction starts

- 10% three to six months after the start of construction

In the case of a unit that is more than one year into construction, the developer will often ask for the full 30% down upon signing the contract. Remember, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Some developers are eager to get a sale and will drop the escalation clause just for asking. At the same time, I am always on guard when more money is requested down, seeing as though it can indicate the builder is a) running out of money, b) behind schedule, or c) low on sales.

I always recommend my clients keep in mind that developers here are usually in the power seat: they often start buildings with very little down themselves, instead waiting until a certain percentage is sold to begin construction. What does this mean? Low risk on behalf of the developer CAN (but not always does) represent a lack of commitment. This is why, as noted before, I always recommend dealing exclusively with reputable developers. People like me, in the business, know these guys like the back of my hand. But as a new buyer, chances are these names will be new to you. In such case, do find an agent who can give you the green light before you start to fall in love with a unit and it's developer.

Maintenance Charges clause: Pretty much worthless. Actually, you can count on the developer holding this maintenance charge ( which is usually a flat fee or a per square meter charge ) for no more than one year after they deliver the building. After one year the developer’s obligation to manage the property terminates ( and they relinquish liability regarding any defects in construction ). That’s when the professional property management firms step in, and the fees can go up.

After the first year, the property administration ( home owners association ) takes bids from private firms and it is up to them to try to find a company that is offering prices at or near the original maintenance fees. That usually doesn’t happen, so budget on paying at least 25-50% more after the first year. That being said, to date there are very few property management firms in Panama, much less quality ones. So take this into account and make sure your agent is giving you proper quotes.

Cancellation clauses: Be vary wary if anywhere in the contract you see wording such as: The seller has the option to cancel this contract at any point, at which point all deposit monies will be refunded. I have seen this happen, especially in a market of rising prices where the developer feels like they can break with the original buyer and turn around and sell the same property for double.

Not cool anywhere in the world, but it does happen here in Panama, regularly: perhaps the result of such a new market. As a representative of the buyer, I always make sure that you are covered in the event that the project does actually fail. Some developers offer a return on all deposit monies plus an extra 2-6%. If I don't see any of this protective wording in the contract, I always inquire about it.

Non-transferability clause: Some developers include in the wording of their contract a clause that prohibits the buyer from reselling his property. Sometimes this will be "within six months of occupancy", or other times you have to get written approval from the developer. What does that mean? It means that they are going to try to collect commission, which comes directly off of your bottom line.

This clause can create it’s own set of headaches, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get around.  The best way would be to put the property under corporation and use nominee directors, and not your personal friends! Not only will this save you money in taxes, but in this case transferring ownership is merely a matter of passing the bearer stocks of the corporation to a new buyer without the need to create a new board of directors. In the event that you decide to "flip" the property before occupancy, a typical resale contract will be between two individual parties ( the selling corporation and the new buyer ), so in theory neither the developer nor the government does not need to be involved.


VIII.  Conclusion

I’ll make this short and sweet because nobody likes a speech or book that goes on for too long. This country is amazing! Cost of living is very low, the people are wonderful, and the real estate is still affordable for what you are getting. There are thousands of people moving here every month, and this country has absorbed them with ( for the most part ) open arms. Panama’s long history has always been one of tolerance: Religious tolerance, political tolerance, racial tolerance, and tolerance of foreigners living in country. Unfortunately, this tolerance has been extended into the real estate world and to date, no one has stepped up and called out some of the games that are being played and the tricks that are being used.

The real estate market in Panama has made and will continue to make smart investors a lot of money.. The negative stuff I mentioned in this report and not meant to dissuade anyone from coming down to Panama because the benefits (in my humble opinion) far outweigh the risks. Just find the right partner, and you’ll do fine. Know what pitfalls to avoid, know the tricks people will use, and know Im here to help if you need me.

Nothing makes me happier than a satisfied customer who will go home and tell all his friends how wonderful his experience purchasing real estate in Panama was. Like I said earlier, I am writing this report so you the perspective buyer can be clued in to what I the real estate guy have seen in my time here in Panama. I’m not going anywhere, and I will probably be hard at work while you are sitting in your office reading this boring report. So if you like what you saw here, give me a call, even if it’s just to chat about non-transferability clauses.

Your man in Panama,

Kent Davis

Real Estate Advisor

Email me: kentpd@gmail.com

 

Trackback(0)
Comments (61)Add Comment
0
Words of wisdom from one of the good ones
written by Jesse , October 29, 2008
Nicely Done
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
fair balanced info
written by yoo hoo , October 30, 2008
best article I've read here.
Very informative with pro's and con's (also cons)

;-)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
very clever
written by Alexander Gershfeld , October 30, 2008
Well done! Nothing sells better then honesty, even if it is a bit self serving. If you are looking or will be looking for a job at any time in the near future, please give me a call.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
...
written by Allan , October 30, 2008
I've had the pleasure of meeting Kent a year ago when I was looking to invest in Panama. Since then, I have made a couple of real estate investments and I am happy to say one of them was through Kent on my Pedasi purchase. I want to say congratulations to Kent for writing this refreshingly honest article on the trials and tribulations of purchasing real estate in Panama. This is exactly what happens and if you are not prepared for basic ineptness and complete incompetance by many people that call themselves business people in Panama, you'd better be prepared to reconsider any move to this third world onto second world status country. This is buyer beware on all fronts especially with regards to legal attorneys and lawyers who for the most part are incompetent individuals who have no idea of what it means to return a telephone call or email despite the fact you're paying them to serve your interests. Having said all this, if you have a tolerant and adventuresome spirt beyond human falicy and without temperment, I highly recommend Panama as long as you watch your step (especially around stolen man hole covers). Kent is one of those people that understand the N. American service standards. He bundles this enthusiasm and genuine need to want to be of help by providing an excellent service. I was lucky to have discovered this guy and would highly recommend him to anyone looking to find their way through the Panamanian jungle and those creature that inhabit it.

Lastly, I was completley unaware of the "other" services Kent states to provide his clients. Did I do something wrong Kent? Just kidding.

Best,
Al
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
how is the Real Estate Properties in Costa Rica Now?
written by Jaime Molina , October 31, 2008
Hi im looking for a porperty in Costa Rica i been search at http://www.cb-jaco.comfor good listing...Any body knows how is the economy in costa rica
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
3 Laws about Purchasing Real Estate in Costa Rica
written by Jaime Molina , October 31, 2008
Many people visit Costa Rica and feel like they never want to leave,(www.cb-jaco.com) which is why so many people begin to seriously consider purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. It is easy to see how it is possible to make a real profit purchasing real estate in Costa Rica since tourism is currently booming and likely to continue to increase. Even for people who are not serious investors, but simply looking for a nice place to retire, real estate in Costa Rica can hold extremely high potential.
However, even though now is a great time to purchase real estate in Costa Rica, there are a few things you should know prior to your investment so that you can move through the purchase as quickly as possible. First of all, one of the things that are going to affect you most is Maritime law, which prohibits you from owning land that is within the first 55 feet of the shore. Therefore, unless you want to engage in a long process that requires a large amount of funds, you probably will not want to look at oceanfront real estate in Costa Rica.
Second, you need to know that if there are any tax liens on the property, even if you have finished the closing process and paid your 60% deposit the property cannot actually be transferred. Therefore, you will a lawyer to check into this so you do not get scammed and lose your closing deposit. Along the same lines, there are many titles that float around that do not actually belong to the real estate in Costa Rica that you think you are purchasing.
In this way, it is possible to get scammed and pay a deposit on a property that the government will not be able to give you, since you were scammed by someone who does not really own the property. Therefore, you will have to make sure you always have a real estate agent and lawyer along when you purchase real estate in Costa Rica. http://www.cb-jaco.com
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Dam
written by Mit ch , October 31, 2008
that's a loong article! but really informative! thanks for posting: question...
do you have inventory for real estate on the caribbean coast?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Managing Director - Marina Operations, Management and Marketing
written by Stan Underwood , November 02, 2008
Nice piece, Kent! Very well written. Especially for a young guy!

I went into marinas after 30+ years of brokering and developing property of all sorts in Colorado. Even in the States, you need to pick your business contacts and associates carefully.

Keep up the great writing, Kent! And keep a lovely little Latino lady in mind for a Colorado broker-turned-marina-manager.

I'll be coming by to meet you and maybe do some serious business soon...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Thanks to all
written by Kent Davis , November 02, 2008
I appreciate the feedback and am here if anyone on the forum is considering an investmentin Panama. Feel free to contact me directly at 507 6700 1037.

Thanks to all, especially to Matt for putting this article on his site!

Cheers,
Kent Davis
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Property Valuations in Volcan area
written by Atish , November 02, 2008
Loved your article Kent. I need an honest and upfront answer on a Panama real estate question (very hard to find that in Panama):

We have invested in a fund that invests in property (land) mainly in the Volcan area. Can you please tell me what is the outlook for real estate in that area in the next 2 years ? Has the recent worldwide financial crisis affected it and if so how badly ?

I am very nervous and wondering if I should cut my losses and liquidate or stick it out for next 2 years.

Thanks.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
0
...
written by Kent Davis , November 04, 2008
Atish,

First of all, thanks for the compliments. Unfortunately, I cant really speak about the situation in Volcan other than it is an absolutely beautiful area and is well positioned to capitalize on the critical mass that seems to be growing from the Boquete and David areas. There are a handful of projects in Volcan and Boquete that are nearing completion, which should bring increased action to the area as new residents move in. Also, we are approaching what is typically the busy season here in Panama ( November to April ), which will inevitably bring more visibility to the area.

Without knowing the scope of the fund ( early withdrawal penalties, what the holdings of the fund are, etc ), I wouldn't really be comfortable advising you but I'd be more than happy to field any other questions you have directly at kentpd@hotmail.com.

Perhaps someone that is a bit more familiar with the market in Chirqui could pick up from here...



report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
BRAVO!
written by Bernard , November 05, 2008
Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
Excellent informational article for someone like myself that have been researching and seeking the type of information you provided here. I was just in Panama on 29Oct to 2Nov. You've done an excellent job here. AND DON"T STOP.
I look forward to meeting with you when I return to Panama; that is if you are not too too busy.
Keep up the good work.
Bernard.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Panama is a joke
written by JohnnyBGood , November 21, 2008
I'm originally from Canada and have lived all over the world. I have spent the last 5 years of my life in Panama.
Regardless of why I have come here and why I have stayed so long, I can only say one thing: Panama's time is finished.

I have a 3 story house in marbella with a private pool and I pay $1600/mo in rent. That was signed many years ago when there were good deals in the market. No more good deals. A shoe box apt in an ugly 30 year old apartment building (in cangrejo for ex) is going for $1500 -- we're talking seriously ugly and needs $100k in renos. Shoe box apt in a brand new building is going for minimum $2500/mo. It's really ridiculous ..

Please see yourself on encuentra24.com. Why would I want to pay $3000/mo for a 3 bed room in a apartment building in 3rd world Panama of all places?

Crime is going up tremendously. I hear of robberies regularly nowadays. My friend was just held up at gunpoint on via argentina the other day and last friday I personally was stopped by police TWICE at night and forced to pay $20 bribes (TWICE at two different spots) -- all because my friend travelling with me didn't have his passport -- but had a photocopy. This is typical ... but you have to draw the line somewhere.

To make matters worse the traffic is OUT OF CONTROL. You cannot drive anywhere from noon until 7pm on a weekday. You really need to plan out your time appropriately because you will be in serious traffic. They are spending millions on the new highway over ave balboa but that wont help this situation. Absolutely no public transportation system and for the love of god the taxies are utterly useless. Most of the time you cannot get a cab anyway -- god forbid it is pay day for the Panamanians!

I am thinking of moving to Miami of all places. Why? Because I can rent a beautiful modern 2 bedroom apartment near the beach (where I can actually swim on a beach) for $1000/mo. The gas is cheaper. Food is cheaper. Goods are cheaper. Utilities are cheaper (I pay $500/mo for electricity alone). The only thing more expensive are the restaurants. You can even get a maid for more/less same price.

Please -- do yourself a favor and consider Miami over Panama. Just look at the prices of real estate -both to buy and rent and ask yourself why you want to sacrifice and pay MORE to live in a really dirty 3rd world city.

Sorry for being so negative but this is the reality of the situation from a non-realtors perspective.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
Great Article
written by TravelerChris , November 24, 2008
Thanks Kent for a lengthy, but very informative article.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Wish we had more info like this
written by wade collier , November 26, 2008
Glad to see pros and CONS...i get sick of International Living's fluff writing. Thanks - i may look you up soon.

WC
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
Miami or you kidding me
written by Geoff Real Estate worker , December 19, 2008
Miami instaed of Panama theres a joke. The crash started in Miami! Prices in Miami were stupid and the hype was so over the top.

Panama's not perfect but panama is not the USA so you cant walk around Panama thinking your in canada or the USA.

I dont get your point and dont know why you vented on here when the discussion was about Real Estate not whta troublew you got into when on a vacation.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
...
written by Christine Russell , December 27, 2008
So "crime is going up tremendously" in Panama so you are moving to Miami?!
Are you kidding? I spend a good part of my time in Key West and must go to Miami on occasion - it is one of the most dangerous cities in the US. I would rather slit my wrists than go to Miami. Then there is the nearly bankrupt US government, the horrible economy, rising unemployement, recession (pending depression?) need I go on....I'll take Panama! After several trips to Costa Rica and Panama, and several years of research on both countries we are thrilled to have just purchased in Panama!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
a few questions about the Colon Carribean coast and about renting in PC
written by Lamer , January 05, 2009
Kent,
Your article is vital but...true to its Panamanian background, late. I understand that you had to live and learn before you could write it but, boy, I wished you posted it last year when I started buying property in Panama City. I ended up with what I now see as a pretty bad contract. I just hope that nothing turns out to be fishy with that development, other than it going slow. I am also very very afraid of later high maintenance fees. Is this more or less the case with beach property? Does the overly humid climate on the Carribean side and partially man-made beaches involve higher maintenance fees than the dryer beaches of the PAcific cOast?
Also, for letting a good property in town, who do you recommend as an advertisement agency and who as a rental management firm? What do you consider fair as their fee?
Thank you so much.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Who is kent?
written by George , January 08, 2009
What are you doing you silly boy....
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Agree with negative comments on Panama
written by Christopher Staab , January 15, 2009
I lived in Panama for 6 months in 2005 and moved to Miami. I have lived in other Latin countries and Europe, which were fine, but Panama is horrible! When I first arrived in Panama and turned on the phone, it rang after a few minutes and it was the electric company, saying that I owed more than $1,000 in over-due electric bills. I told them that they must be mistaken, as I had just moved to Panama a couple days before. Well, the bill for over $1,000 still arrived a week or so later and the electric company told me to pay it and then file a grievance! I had to write to the parent company in Spain to get out of this electric bill! I am pretty sure that the landlord was stealing electricity from my apartment for the building under the name of the former tenant, who was an American who moved back to the States, while the apartment was not occupied. After this, we started to lose our cable t.v. and Internet every evening, because a bunch of neighbors in our high rise building would come home from work and illegally tap into the cable, diminishing our signal since we were on a high floor. The cable company couldn't bother to fix it and simply discounted my bill each month (after I complained to no end every single month.) I ended-up having to move out of that apartment after 6 months, because it started to leak water from the walls which the landlord never fixed (and this was a nice building in the Zona Bancaria.) Getting back my rent deposit from the dishonest landlord, despite the fact that the apartment was leaking water, was a huge problem. For me 6 months living in Panama showed it to be a real mess and I have been back many times since to visit and don't see any improvement. With the corrupt police, the terrible nightmare traffic and the skyrocketing cost of living, I agree that Miami is a much better tropical locale than Panama, but it too has many similar 3rd World problems, like a high crime rate. I lived there for 7 years and have since moved to Pittsburgh, because it's America's "Most Livable City." Quality of life here is excellent, but Phoenix or Tucson are warm locales in the USA with way better quality of life than Miami (and let's not even compare it to Panama which remains a total 3rd World disaster in my opinion.)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
a thought
written by Lamer , January 17, 2009
I am pretty ignorant when it comes to Panama because I only lived there for three weeks and I did not have any unpleasant interactions with people. However, the last comment made me wonder if Panama was part of any economic and political associations that would force its government to cut on corruption, refine its judicial system, enforce law and support social programs...if scared foreign investors are not enough.
Mr. Staab'comment made me think of my own experience in countries in Eastern Europe, those who used to be part of the communist block (I.e. Bulgaria and Romania) and who, after the liberation, inherited huge corruption problems and gave rise to a chaotic wild west privatization where individuals would have done anything to make a profit. Slowly, and in great part due to the fact that they needed to comply with EU regulations in order to enter the EU, and lately because they became part of the EU, their governments have been "forced" to find solutions and individuals have "smarten up". Panama is a democracy as young as Romania (they both got rid of their dictators in 89), so it is understandable that the learning curve is steep. On the other hand, as it seems, the wild west features, entrepreneurial opportunities and its off-shore banking system has attracted investors who wanted to escape an overly regulated environment back home. Panama might be at a crossroads, where its wild west side must give way to a stable, regulated system while keeping the current incentives to atract foreign investors. Perhaps there is the new wave of investors now knocking at its doors, investors like Mr. Staab who would expect Panama to live up to its publicity, as a secure, highly functional environment...because if not, all they have to do is turn on their heals, go to Pittsburg and write a convincing (and ugly) Panama report from there.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Panama is a dump
written by Silverfox , January 23, 2009
Over-priced and arrogant. There is nothing here. There are crappy cities like this all around the developing world and there is always a boom somewhere. It's always 5 o'clock somewhere, right? It is just Panama's (second) turn. Soon the spotlight will move on.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
The Age
written by A real Licensed Agent , February 05, 2009

Good Article, but again foster the exact thing you seem to critic most: missinformation.
A few questions on this regard...
1. Are you a licensed agent in Panama? No need to answer. I know you are not,. You need to reside here for at least 5 years to become one, after you pass a rigurous test and get admitted to by the JTBR (Junta Tecnica de Bienes y Raices) the regulating body of the real estate practice in Panama, and obtain a bond from an insurance company, which needs to be renew every year with your license. The JTBR is part of the MICI, Ministry of Commerce. The JTB has its code of ethics, as well as a board of ethic which review and process complaints, that can be easily file at the MICI.
2. Did you ever buy the manual or attend a seminar by either one of the 2 associations of real Estate Agents in Panama, ACOVIR and UNACOBIN? Again, the answer is obvious, NO. If you had, you would know how things really work. Your knowledge certainly comes from the street, blogs and other web sites, and mostly articles written by foreing agents, who can spend years here, without learning spanish, and REALLY understanding Panama from the inside out, but mistankinly assume that they have a fountain of knowledge about this place they irresponsibly shared with newcomers.
3. Do you yourself perform due diligence on properties you are listing or showing to unsuspecting clients. Again, surely not. Which is an extremely irresponsible practice, and against the regulations of the JTBR. Agents are mandated by the code of ethis to verify the real legal disposition of any property, including land, for any future purchase by their clients, before the property is shown. Agents are mandated to do their homework before taking clients out for showings. Yes I know, the temptation to sell before your possible client leaves the country is too great, we can certainly skip a step or two... Not ethical! If you had know what the ethical way of proceeding was, your story about the rights of possession land and monies being disbursed by your client, on your recommendation no boubt, for a piece of land that ws not free to entere into contract with a htird party, would have never happended.
FACTS. The real estate profession IS regulated in Panama. No one should do business with newcomers and unlicesed people like yourself if they one the best customer service possible.. They should verify the license number of the agent with the JTBR, and any complaints, about fraud, misrepresentations, etc. should be filed with the JTBR at the MICI, and if there is money involved, with the corresonding authority.

Your article is not only self serving, naive, irresponsible, but truly fosters the exact thing you claim to one to prevent: misinformation.
Please go back to school, learn spanish, read the conduct manual and study all the applicable laws pertaining to real estate. I am sure your career as a writer can wait.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +7
0
RE: A Real Licensed Agent - I Recently Got My Brownie License...Want One?
written by The Great Panama Hoax , February 18, 2009
@ A Real Licensed Agent,

First, let me get my laughs out of the way...okay, all better now.

Since you so proudly say you are a licensed agent...why don't you share who you are and what company you work for?

First off...you do understand the reason that a person needs to reside here for 5 years in order to get their Panama real estate license is so Panama can try and protect jobs for Panamanians, right? For no other reason then that.

Rigorous tests? Come on. You act like a person needs to be a chemist or nuclear physicist to hawk real estate. Please. Selling shoes, real estate, cars...its all the same.

What on earth would getting a "manual" have to do with real estate sales?

I am a licensed real estate broker from California living in Panama...and I can tell you that in no way, shape, or form...would I say licensed agents in California are any better off then a real estate promoter who isn't licensed.

And that sure as heck also applies in Panama.

Its like when licensed agents go to that extra "class" and pay yearly dues to be a Realtor...instead of just a "normal real estate agent."

Its all added b.s. to get dues money, be like a union, more control.

There are no correlations between being a licensed agent, Realtor, broker...and ones experience.

Do you know what makes someone a "good agent" (whatever that means)...

Experience, being an investor themselves, actually working with buyers and sellers, knowing how the loan process works, what title insurance is, what happens when an Occupancy Permit is issued, entities, banking...on and on.

You know - actually DOING it.

In my experience with these "licensed agents" in Panama - its a joke.

They have absolutely no idea what to do.

You know why?

Because they have absolutely no idea what to do.

Panama has been lucky in which people from other countries had money to invest - and they invested in many countries - including Panama.

Therefore, all you licensed shoe salesmen - oops, I mean licensed real estate agents had to do was sign up people to pre construction contracts...mostly for buildings that will never get complete.

You licensed agents couldn't return phone calls, emails - do any added work what-so-ever because it was just a matter of handling the over flow from other countries.

Guess what?

That is now drying up...and you will have to actually do work.

Yup, like actually go out to properties to stage, take pictures, return emails, return phone calls....the horror!

You also say that a person needs to be a Panamanian to , "REALLY understanding Panama from the inside out."

Are you kidding me?

Like being able to identify what makes a good investment and not - in ANY country - takes any special skill.

You are so full of it...its funny.

If you mean *REALLY* - to mean bribes and pay offs..then, maybe you are right. Or, the correct politician to sleep with - they especially like the barely legal boys.

By the way...its ACOBIR...with a "B".

By reading what you wrote...its funny that you don't deny the fact the Panamanian agents suck.

Your only beef is that Kent Davis isn't (I have no idea) licensed.

Too funny.

Just like its going to be too funny when your easy income stream dries up from foreigners not wandering into Panama with a check and pen in hand.

Ooops, I guess thats already happening, huh?

I wonder if your manual has the topic: How To Eat With No Clients

---

Kent, love the article and marketing piece. Keep 'em coming. Teach 'em a thing or two.








report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
0
Kind of agree...
written by Trey , February 27, 2009
I live in Panama and even though I love this country, I must agree with the points made by some of the previous posters.

-Panama culture teaches people (not all of them though but a big part) that white people are all rich, so when the police stops you they will ask for a bribe.

-Traffic in Panama is the WORST in any country on the globe. There are way too many cars on the streets because there is absolutely no public transportation. Buses kill people and are in horrible condition; taxis won't take you anywhere because they end up losing money. In order to get around Panama you need your own car; and even at that, you will spend 3-4 hours of a regular weekday stuck in traffic to get from point A to point B which is only 1.5 km away.

-Panama realtors have indeed gone arrogant with the price... I lived in Argentina where you pay around $1200, $1500 a month for a nice furnished apartment in upscale Recoleta, yep in Panama they charge you $4500 to live in that dump called Punta Pacifica with 60-story buildings made of cardboard, water supply breaks down all the time and the traffic won't let you go anywhere. Who would spend $4500 a month in such a 3rd world country?

-Lack of maintenance. You are given a nice apartment but Panama people don't offer any maintenance at all!! A lot of these new buildings are getting ruined.

-Project cancellation: With the boom in 2004 and 2005 a lot of high-rise projects took place. Ice Tower, Palacio de la Bahia, etc. etc. etc.. a lot of them were cancelled and other ones are taking like 10 years to get finished. I won't even get started on the Trump Hotel in Punta Pacifica.. worst location ever.

Panama City needs some serious refurbishment if they want to establish themselves as a popular destination. Who wants to move to a country where the weather is unbearable (3000% humidity), traffic is a disaster, burocracy is retarded and people are seriously corrupt.

I'd recommend moving to Boquete or Volcan if you are looking peaceful. But if you want a city, heck San Jose (Costa Rica) is much nicer to live in. Panama is nice for shopping.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
Rent Price
written by Serge Bughovy , March 10, 2009
Mr. Trey I request thinks that is ideas beautiful an apartment of 300m2 the good value with $3500 for each month of hiring? It has a good sight of the sea and seems good for me. If this is I request very expensive name agent of to help to determine a property use of the resources in Panama. I wish that to be close to the casino and at the special houses to the women.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Hello, Mother Russia?
written by La Mer , March 10, 2009
Serge, do you realize that you are requesting whatever you are requesting in seriously broken English? How's your Spanish?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
0
Hello Mr. La Mer
written by serge , March 10, 2009
Apesadumbrado, mi pensando cada uno aquí habla inglés y me dicen que la mayor parte de Panamá habla inglés también. Aprendí por el inglés de las señoras splendourful, que la movieron a Rusia también desde los lugares la datación del Internet. Cada uno habla que I lo tiene inglés excelente.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Serge- please contact me
written by kent , March 11, 2009
Serge,

Cualquiera cosa estoy a la orden a ayudarle. Call me or email me if you are looking for something specific. Kentpd@gmail.com or 6030 6782. Ciao
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Kent
written by Serge , March 12, 2009
El Sr. Kent agradece. Ofrece de m' ¿ayudar con mis necesidades personales o de las necesidades albergan? Soy nuevo en Panamá y adquiriré los dos y todos los tipos d' ayuda.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Good Job
written by REO , March 26, 2009
Well done. Kent is spot-on correct. I have been living and doing business in Panama for four years now and I cannot say I can argue with most of the points he brings to the table. I've known Kent for about 2 years on both business and personal levels and am more than happy to say he is a very sharp, stand-up guy. I recommend his services to anyone thinking of moving to Panama.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
President
written by Max Koeck , May 07, 2009
Well done and accurate article. Only problem was oxymoron "New York Times unbiased" Kent returns calls and shows up on time...a rarity in Panama.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
...
written by Questioner , May 09, 2009
This was an interesting article...I'm a Broker here in the states and actually was just searching articles on traveling to Panama. I saw a "blurb" about Real Estate and figured I'd take a look. First of all, any type of Real Estate transaction process that entails any of the obscure, apparently unregulated actions mentioned here would raise multiple red flags in my eyes. Secondly, inflationary bubbles burst. The extreme ones explode. Without available credit and refinancing abilities, how are developers flooding the market with so much supply/new projects? Out of curiosity why is it unethical for the agents in Panama to show a property before doing the due diligence? Everything seems completely backwards to me, but to those of you who can make money and not get burned good luck!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Staab and BGood Spot On
written by DMorgan , May 10, 2009
Don't listen to the promoters; listen to people who have no agenda to sell. What Staab and BGood say is right. I lived in Panama City six years during the 1990s when the place was relatively sane, and have visited nearly every year since for my girlfriends and the fish. Now -- there is absolutely no way I would retire there -- I don't even want to visit anymore. The good -- the women, nightlife, restaurants, and decent folks, especially the unwealthy ones. The bad -- there is too much to mention. Believe me, the good doesn't outweigh the bad -- not even close -- unless your focus in life is "party". I have been to nearly every part of the country on medical missions and the friggin' foreign invasion has left no place untouched -- for the worse. Pedasi, 10 years ago a relatively undiscovered genuine Panamanian fishing/cattle village; now the foreigners have moved in and the fishing has crashed. My local friends have given up on the fishing they grew up with and now rely on shuttling tourists back and forth to Isla Iguana or troll around looking for whales.

Buyer Beware!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
I just left Miami for Panama-it's NOT true you can live on the beach....
written by K. Morgan , May 17, 2009
I am amazed at the ethnocentric statements, there are lots of cities in the US one rather not live in, drive in etc. the same complaints apply, in the states and just because of that one would not be so ignorant as to say "hey, don't go to the US. it's "la, la, la" based on downtown Detroit or bad places in LA, and Miami. Latinos are "Spics" or "wet-backs" in some places and rather than being asked for money the are harrassed because of their ethnic race there are places I'd not go in because of my religion...Panama is VERY open to "live and let live" So, look for the good, don't move in bad areas in ANY country or city!!!!
I just moved from Miami to Panama and the commets that Miami is "cheaper" and you can get a maid for less is UNTRUE!!!; a live in maid costs $200.00 a mo. in Panama; in the states a hosekeeper makes $10.00 to $15.00 per hour! and a live in is at least $900.00. An apt. on the beach costs at least 2,000.00 a mo. I live 20 minutes from the beach and I paid $1,500.00 my utilities went up to $500.00!!!
I suggest that newcomers learn to follow the rules if you are suppossed to keep your passport with you (as any other country including US.) you should; rather than complaining about the "brive" you should be greateful, after all that would NOT be the case in the states you may get deported!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
To the grieving ones.
written by Real Local , June 14, 2009
For those of you clowns that think they got scammed, got a raw deal and think that moving somewhere else will solve your issues, you are mistaken. You're the ones responsible for not doing your homework before renting or purchasing anything, no matter where you go, you will get scammed if you don't take responsability. The complainers sound like some of the people that got conned by Madoff.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Real Local
written by Sumfin Furryvrone , June 19, 2009
Ooooooooh......that gotta hurt.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
Response to # 25
written by Dave R. , July 05, 2009
This is in response to Trey (#25).

I find it hard to believe that you said "there is absolutely no public transportation". I agree that Panama City traffic is horrible but I think the public transportation is wonderful. You can go almost anywhere by bus although you do have to learn the system. Taxis are pleasant, plentiful, cheap, and efficient. I was there last summer and only rented a car for a run to El Valle. I would not want a car in Panama City. Besides the traffic, where would you park?

Within Panama City, I took a taxi for the longer runs and, brace yourself, actually walked a lot. I have always felt that walking is the best way to see a place and, with that kind of traffic, is often faster.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
BUYER BEWARE OF PUNTE DUARTE DEVELOPER PETER HUSS
written by Donna Gauman , August 20, 2009
I hate to admit it, but I got scammed by Peter Huss who is promoting a real estate developement in Punta Duarte. He requested a deposit on a oceanfront lot that was to be titled in the Spring of 2006. That was 3 1/2 years ago.The lot never titled to this day and he refuses to return my money, even tho he could re-sell the lot for much more than he contracted with me. I cannot stress enough...BUYER BEWARE!!! Never give any money directly to anyone. Make sure this is a contract that protects you as the buyer and go thru a reputable attorney that will have monies deposited in an escrow account.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
NOT EVERYONE IS BAD
written by RICKY , August 24, 2009
Sorry to hear these bad stories of MAFIA DEVELOPERS, they should HAVE THEIR NAME PUBLISHED on the NEWSPAPER, for everyone to see, believe me that we all pay for the bad news these so call "DEVELOPERS" do with their bad practices, these things only do damage to the rest us that are trying to do it right. I would like to know the names of these promoters and report them to the authorities, as a Panamanian we have to do something, give us a try please...........it is a shame and we apologize
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
...
written by American Boy , September 08, 2009
Without supervision from the United States government, Panama is nothing more than another Central American ghetto. These people can take a diamond and turn it into a turd! Shame on you, Jimmy Carter! You should have taken more land instead of giving these idiots the canal!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Detroit vs Panama
written by TJC , September 11, 2009
I am from Detroit. I never got stabbed in Detroit at 1 pm downtown like I did in Panama. I hate Detroit but feel safer there than in Panama where I lived for two years. Chepo is nice but still dangerous.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
Retiree
written by Davinski , September 30, 2009
What you can also do is put the money in an escrow acct in a local bank who will disburse the money once the deed for the property comes thru free and clear. The bank will charge you a fee but its worth every penny and you will sleep better.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
I know to Peter Huss very good
written by Panamanian , October 08, 2009
Please Donna Gauman you can call me for talk about your problem with Peter Huss, because I know to Peter Huss very good and I believe you, and I know that Peter Huss do that...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
owner
written by sebastien , October 11, 2009
Dammm im not here. Dirty shit always..... Panama is Horrible the people are like primates trying to steal bananas. Shitty and Dirty THE ZONA ROSA SHOULD BE CALLED THE ZONA CHOLA..... AND THE GIRLS HORES OR NOT ARE 100000000 TIMES BETTER THANK THE SKANKS FROM PANAMA.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
owner, Low-rated comment [Show]
0
...
written by Bea , October 12, 2009
As someone who has lived in 3 third world countries, and owned property in all of them, this is the most honest report of what it takes to finally own!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Sebastian feel sorry 4 u
written by Gringo , October 31, 2009
Sebastian, since you are the best and we in Panama are monkeys, do us a favor and stay away from this country; we are friendly but you have to learn to respect, do not know if you went to school (dough it), probably are the lowest of your class. So just stay away from here, we do not need people like you, we have enough of them and they are not Panamanians, smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Hey Sebastian
written by Dirk Gerhardt , December 17, 2009
Hey Sebastian I agree with Gringo, take your sorry white trash self back to where ever you came from, maybe you can get a job in Los Angeles or Miami distributing needles to the heroin addicts living in the streets. After you are done with that you can go get yourself a $3.00 dollar Crack whore and take her home with you. Get the f--k out !!!! Sorry piece of S--t !!!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
We have been preaching this for years at Villas de Playa Tortuga
written by Ric , February 20, 2010
Great Article.
We have been preaching most of the same for years here in Chiriqui. Our resident Engineer designed Buenaventura on the Pacific Coast of Panama. There are so many Illegal Developments popping up with dirt cheap prices. Many of these developments that are illegal are located within the 10 kilometers of the border zone and thus Article 121 applies. You also have many beachfront properties being sold to North Americans that are also located within the 10 kilometers of the border and once again Article 121 applies.

There also alot of fake titles appearing and like stated above many promises about getting title for beachfront properties.

We really like what you said about construction time. We are currently finishing the construction of three villa style homes that started out to be townhouses. The homes now with all the additions, which include a foundation of six feet high, front patio terrace, balconies, roof-top terrace, bathroom additions, extra bedroom and bath, raised driveway, roofing additions, and a few other additions, are near completeion, less one. This puts us at an average of 8 months for overall construction per home. However, with the cost of materials and labor going up we have never tried to renegotiate their contrcats. We have expressed that if they wish for the construction to go faster then they would have to pay more cash for it. They declined so to finish their homes the difference is coming out of our wallet.

Another great point is the marketing. When you visit our development you see us, the developers working, not walking around being all that. What monies we have coming in we put right back into the development for infrastructure. Case in point was the past year when all over Chiriqui there was massive flooding. Even, the most marketed retirement destination in Boquete got wasted by the mountain washing away down on the development. When the emergency response teams came out to see if we were flooded to their shock they found us watering our plants at our entrance. Why did we not flood? Engineering and monies put back into our infrastructure. Our beanchmark for water drainage is 5 kilometers away, that is why we did not flood.

We would like to list our development with you.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
If you don't like Panama, then why are you here...
written by Mona , April 23, 2010
Kent, I love you, and will read this report when I have more tiempo...On another note, I scrolled down to the comments, and am reading all these "I hate Panama," "The people are shit," etc.

I've lived in Panama for 5 years and LOVE it. And, frankly, if you don't, then get the F out!!! Stop your "gringo" complaining about how everything is backwards and the people are stupid and why don't they blah blah blah. If you really hate it so much, then PLEASE leave. Nobody is asking you to be here, and frankly, all you're doing is bringing negative energy... And, I'm sure 1/2 the people complaining can't speak a lick of Spanish to save their lives.

There are things that bother me, LIKE EVERY SINGLE NATION IN THE ENTIRE WORLD (fyi, I'm born and raised in California), but get over yourself and move on...

Also, I've bought and sold property here, and despite some hiccups here and there, it's fine...Heck, I've even made a pretty penny doing it (no, I'm not a realtor, I do Internet Marketing. My family and myself own...)

So, to end my rant on a positive note, Panama is a fantastic country and, despite being an atheist, I feel blessed to live here.

Boo ya ka sha! smilies/grin.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
0
Article followup
written by Panama real estate virtual tour , October 18, 2010
All,thanks for the comments! Make sure to have a look at our new panama real estate virtual tour, which covers many of the places mentioned in this article.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
NOLA to Panama
written by Dayallaxeded , March 02, 2011
I've only gotten to visit Panama once, but found her to be a beautiful, diverse, and friendly place. Overall, I found the people honest and helpful. Perhaps it matters that I come Louisiana--Panama City is amazingly like New Orleans and except for mountains and sloths, the more rural parts of Panama are very similar to upstate Louisiana. It is pretty easy to see that some areas of NOLA are not safe to go into and the same can be said of Panama City. If you want to be a city dweller, that is an element of "common sense" you must have or develop.

I would like to acquire property and one day, perhaps, retire to the Chiriqui area, perhaps near David, Bugaba, or near El Valle. I did not like Boquette--there were too many touristas and ex-pats who obviously hadn't mentally and culturally moved to Panama--they were still in NY, NJ, or TX in their minds. We tolerate those types in NOLA, too, but we're glad when they go home. If Kent is still checking these comments, I hope he can give me a lead on an honest agent/broker in Chiriqui or the El Valle area.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
NOLA response
written by Kent Davis , March 03, 2011
Dayallaxeded, thanks for the kind words! I would recommend Carlos Ruiz for the El Valle area. He's my go-to guy when it comes to mountain communities like Altos del Maria and El Valle that are close to the city. You can reach him at Carlospty@yahoo.com.

I have a great contact that handles clients in Boquete, but nobody that does the Chiriqui area as a whole. Get ahold of Lauretta, my contact in Boquete. If she cant help you, she can certainly steer you in the right direction: laurettabonfiglio@gmail.com.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Planning on retiring there. WHO rates healthcare access & expenses highly.
written by future expat , May 15, 2011
Kent. I see mostly references here to investment. I am looking to purchase to live there in retirement but near the Panama City area. Can you advise on areas higher in American ex-pats and the ones to generally avoid anyway. Searching encunteria24 doesn't give any ideas. Thanks.

PS. I am an International Living follower and have been researching for some time the right place. Have schedule future visits but dont trust the online developer info.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
0
...
written by Luzmila Trujillo , March 08, 2012
I truly love this article, it is refreshing and I beleive you to be honest about it. You truly described the game and the characteristics of the panamanian and our culture. I was looking for information on the house market right now in Panama. I'm a panamanian and have lived in the United States for 22 years. When I looked back at my culture and upbringings I smile. I miss it and yes there will always be THE JUEGA VIVO, it's in our upbringings. I have lived in the USA half of my life and of course my perspective in life is totally different now. I'm thinking about going back to Panama with the uncertainty of being able to find a job, get back into my culture and not even sure if I will be accepted with my knew ways, like getting to places on time. Jajaja. Well it was very nice to read an article about my Panama, and yes is a big place but small at the same time due to the fact that there are a few of those unlicensed real state agents in my family and a few licensed ones. jajajaja like I said you were telling the truth.

I wish you the best and maybe I will have the pleasure to meet one day you or look you up once I'm there.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
Renting in Panama
written by Janice Campbell , July 30, 2012
Thank you for your insightful article. My husband, myself, and sister plan to retire to Panama in the near future. We have decided to rent before we purchase. We are would love to live on the Pacific side as close to the coast as possible we are thinking near David. We are living on a fixed income and after reading and researching am not quite sure we will be able to live as cheaply as all the hype articles have stated. First of all, would you please recommend real estate agents or agent that work that area or do we need an agent for each town/village. We are not familiar with the areas and need good solid information. I appreciate any help you can give us. Thank you, Janice
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Renting in Panama
written by Janice Campbell , July 30, 2012
Thank you for your insightful article. My husband, myself, and sister plan to retire to Panama in the near future. We have decided to rent before we purchase. We are would love to live on the Pacific side as close to the coast as possible we are thinking near David. We are living on a fixed income and after reading and researching am not quite sure we will be able to live as cheaply as all the hype articles have stated. First of all, would you please recommend real estate agents or agent that work that area or do we need an agent for each town/village. We are not familiar with the areas and need good solid information. I appreciate any help you can give us. Thank you, Janice
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Mr. J
written by Johnny J , September 07, 2012
Yeah, don't go to Panama....they hate Americans, detest Canadians and Europeans, and you're not going to like it here. Lots of crime. You can't walk outside after dark and you'd better have barred windows and good locks. They prey on foreign women.....be very, very careful. You'd be much better off in Urban Chigaco.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
0
FYI
written by don black , May 29, 2013
Kurt Hocker, a real estate agent from Hidden Bay Realty, who serves Quepos and other Central Pacific areas in Costa Rica is claiming a downpayment back from Vitri Tower Corp in Panama through one page publications in Panama newspapers. Saul Faskha Eskenazi the celebrated real estate tycoon who represents Vitri has responded back with another publication stating that Kurt Hocker, from Hidden Bay Realty, Quepos, manouvered to have his associates pay a big portion of the dowpayment and a court ruling ordered Vitri to reimburse the downpayment funds to innocent third parties who were lured into the investment by Hocker. In addition Vitri stated that Kurt Hocker, an american who lives and works in Costa Rica's Central Pacific, sued on another court case his own investors or associates !!! and lost the case being sentenced to pay legal fees or costs. The judge ordered the judicial attachment or freezeing of the contract between Kurt Hocker and Vitri, yet Hocker wants Vitri, which is part of a conglomerate that has built 2 billion dollars worth of real estate, to reimburse a downpayment that has being seized or affected by two Panama courts. Is it correct to say that developers, real estate investors, property buyers and potential business partners should be extremely careful when dealing with Kurt Hocker from Hidden Bay Realty, Quepos, Costa Rica.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
0
Bit too optimistic and not really honest?
written by Paul123 , July 18, 2013
Some facts (you will probably delete this)

I have spoken to 2 real estate agents that mediate in rentals. They were very honest to me. Might be because my partner is Panamian and knows them well.

-> Rental real estate agent #1 told me:
New properties in his portfolio that cost over $1,000 / month are for rent for at least a year, sometimes without even 1 person visiting.

-> Rental real estate agent #2 told me:
1.New projects in the "upper" market are sometimes completely unrented, some buildings (like the LOFTs from the Dior or whatever that Italian designers' name is) are 90% empty without even 1 person calling to look at them!

2.Only "gringo's" pay more than $1,000 for an apartment here, you can get amazing discounts if you just ask for it and play your cards right

Not my words, but words from people who are out there.....


report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment

security code
Write the displayed characters


busy
 
Banner