Have you decided to buy a Panama property?
Most likely, you have never bought an overseas property before.
With such an unfamiliar task, it is good to have some guidance.
In this post, I suggest questions to ask before and during your property search.
First, take your time.
There are plenty of properties available. Don’t feel pressured to make a hasty decision.
Just as in the US or Canada, there are fast-talking, high-pressure salespeople in Panama. Although, in Panama, these salespeople are just as likely to be taxi drivers as realtors.
Your Where, What, When & How Much
Before you take a deep dive into a property search, you need to know exactly what you are looking to buy. Take a good look at your needs and determine what you consider non-negotiable.
If you have a clear picture of your ideal property, your search will be faster, more fun, and ultimately more successful.
Specifically, before you buy a property you should determine your ideal property’s where, what, when, and how much.
Consider the following questions to help clarify your criteria for your perfect property.
Where In Panama?
Panama is a small country, but even so, before you start looking for a property you should narrow down where in Panama you would like to live. It will save you a lot of time and expense.
Here are some questions to help you narrow down your location options:
- Do you want to live at the beach or in the hills? In other words, what type of climate and setting do you want?
- If the beach, do you want beachfront or a near the beach property? If near, what do you consider near? A 3-minute stroll, a 10-minute drive, or some other standard?
- Do you want to live in a place with a sizable expat community? or do you want the opposite? or somewhere in-between?
- Do you want to live near services? If so, what does that mean to you? A short stroll to a coffee shop, 5 minutes from a supermarket, or a 15-minute drive to a hardware store.
- Do you want to live near an airport? If so, is a hub airport (e.g., in David) sufficient or do you want to be near Panama City’s international airport?
- Do you want to live in or near Panama City? For some people, living near a major international airport, the best health care facilities, and the various entertainment venues and services a big city provides is essential. If that is true for you, keep in mind that there are a number of hill and beach areas in or near Panama City as well.
- Is living near good health care important to you? If so, avoid places far from the bigger urban areas. The more remote and rural an area is the fewer health service options available. Three health care rich options would be near David, Santiago, or Panama City.
- Are ample shopping options a consideration? If you like to shop, you might want to consider bigger towns such as David, Santiago, or even Panama City. Smaller communities will have shops, but not a wide variety of them.
- Is fast Internet important to you? Do you need it for work? If so, you need to find out about the Internet providers, their speed, and the cost in the areas you are considering. Be realistic, the Internet will go out from time to time. But some providers, or micro-areas, are hit more often than others. Know these areas or providers and avoid them or plan to mitigate for any outages if you can. Another Internet-related factor is electrical outages, so make sure to ask about those as well. Remember, you can always get a generator if it is an issue for the area you want to live in.
- What activities do you want available to you?
- Water sports, like surfing, standup-paddle boarding, or kayaking? If surf is what you want, do you want world-class waves such as Santa Catalina, or “old man surf”, as my husband fondly refers to the surf in our town of Puerto Armuelles, or something in between?
- Fishing If so, do you prefer lake, river or ocean (surf-casting/trolling or casting from a boat).
- Bird watching, Golfing, Hiking, or Biking
- Theater or live music events
- Volunteer opportunities
- Regular expat get-togethers
- Work opportunities or availability of business ventures
The point is to make sure the place you are exploring offers the types of activities you enjoy.
Once you narrow down which part(s) of Panama you’d like to consider calling home, you need to visit that area.
Online research is one thing however, exploring a place in person is the real test of whether you will be happy living there.
Keep in mind, it takes time to get a good sense of a place. You need to give yourself some time to explore and get to know an area. Think about what it would be like to live there. To help you do that, I suggest you consider doing the following during your visit
Things To Do During Your Panama Visit
- Get to know some of the locals and expats in the area
- Explore the places you’ll eat and shop
- Discover what activities the area has to offer
- Find out what it’s like in the different seasons: rainy and dry
- Figure out how you’re going to spend your time
- Picture yourself living there: what will your daily life look like?
What Is Your Ideal Property?
Now that you have a better idea of where you want to live in Panama, it is time to clarify what your ideal property looks like.
Again, you will more quickly find your perfect property if you are crystal clear about your most important property criteria.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Why do you want to buy property in Panama? This will help determine what type of property you are looking to buy. For instance, is it for: Investment?, Your primary home?, Rental property/income?
- What type of property? For instance, do you want: Beachfront? or near the beach? In the hills?
- In town or near-services? which services?
- Large or small-sized property? For instance, do you want a property with room to build a small hotel, rental units, a large house and a shop, or a small house with a garden?
- An undeveloped lot on which to build your dream house?
- A ready-to-move-in house? or a house to remodel?
- If you want a house, what features do you want the house to have?
- Do you want to buy a titled property? ROP property? Does this matter to you?
- What are your ‘non-negotiables’? That is, what must the property offer for you to live contentedly there for many years?
- What are your ‘nice-to-have’ features?
- English-speaking doctors nearby? Expat get-togethers? Not many expats in the area? Gated community?
Once you are clear on your ideal property criteria, you can assess if the property you just fell in love with is really “the one”. You don’t want to buy a property only to find out that you were blind to the fact it did not meet a critical requirement on your list of non-negotiables.
Do you have a timeline for when you want to move to Panama?
Ideally, you should start well before that date. It can take time to find a place that resonates with you. And as you will see in the task list below, you need to do more than simply find your ideal property.
When creating your timeline, factor in these tasks.
- Research locations
- Visit the place(s) you are interested in
- Spend sufficient time in your chosen spot before you buy
- Timing of finances: Do you need to sell your home, explore financing options, or perform other money-generating actions in order to purchase a Panama property? When do such actions need to occur?
- Potentially, select a real estate agent(s).
- Search for & visit your ideal property
- Hire a good lawyer
- Purchase your property
- Obtain your residence visa(s)
- Get a Panama drivers license and bank account
- If applicable, build or remodel your new home
- Move to Panama. Decide if you will ship your household furnishings or buy them in Panama, and more. (Check out my Move To Panama Checklist for ideas.)
These tasks don’t have to be done sequentially, you can have them overlap. And of course, some of them can happen after you purchase your property.
It All Takes Longer Than You Think
Keep in mind that these tasks may take longer than you think. Not only are they unfamiliar tasks, but everything in Panama takes longer than most North Americans anticipate.
How Much $?
Do you have a ball-park figure of what you can afford? Based on your finances, how much can you afford to spend on a property?
Do you need to sell your home or business before you can buy property in Panama? Do you want, or prefer, to take out a loan or use another financing tool?
People commonly think of taking out a mortgage to buy a home. However, obtaining a mortgage in Panama can be time-consuming and at times difficult to obtain. I write about how to get a mortgage here.
An easier and common financing method that many foreigners use in Panama is seller-fiancing. That is when the seller of the property offers to finance the purchase. For an example, you can check out our seller-fiancing.
Looking for other ways to finance your purchase? A few years ago, I brainstormed 18 ways to finance your Panama property purchase. Not all of the ideas are ideal, however, perhaps they will get your own ideas flowing.
You need to do your homework. Be clear about where and what you are looking for. Then explore the community and property to make sure it is what you want.
Consider the wisdom of renting before you buy. This allows you to fully discover if the weather, the community, the lifestyle of your selected location is right for you.
Already know you want to live in Puerto Armuelles? Check out our beautiful properties for sale.