Report: The Real Estate Market In Panama

very time I talk to someone about my business and career, it always comes up that “they’ve thought about getting into real estate” or know someone who has. With so many people thinking about getting into real estate, and getting into real estate – why aren’t there more successful Realtors in the world? Well, there’s only so much business to go around, so there can only be so many Real Estate Agents in the world. I feel, however, that the inherent nature of the business, and how different it is from traditional careers, makes it difficult for the average person to successfully make the transition into the Real Estate Business. As a Broker, I see many new agents make their way into my office – for an interview, and sometimes to begin their careers. New Real Estate Agents bring a lot of great qualities to the table – lots of energy and ambition – but they also make a lot of common mistakes. Here are the 7 top mistakes rookie Real Estate Agents Make.

1) No Business Plan or Business Strategy

So many new agents put all their emphasis on which Real Estate Brokerage they will join when their shiny new license comes in the mail. Why? Because most new Real Estate Agents have never been in business for themselves – they’ve only worked as employees. They, mistakenly, believe that getting into the Real Estate business is “getting a new job.” What they’re missing is that they’re about to go into business for themselves. If you’ve ever opened the doors to ANY business, you know that one of the key ingredients is your business plan. Your business plan helps you define where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what it’s going to take for you to make your real estate business a success. Here are the essentials of any good business plan:

A) Goals – What do you want? Make them clear, concise, measurable, and achievable.

B) Services You Provide – you don’t want to be the “jack of all trades & master of none” – choose residential or commercial, buyers/sellers/renters, and what area(s) you want to specialize in. New residential real estate agents tend to have the most success with buyers/renters and then move on to listing homes after they’ve completed a few transactions.

C) Market – who are you marketing yourself to?

D) Budget – consider yourself “new real estate agent, inc.” and write down EVERY expense that you have – gas, groceries, cell phone, etc… Then write down the new expenses you’re taking on – board dues, increased gas, increased cell usage, marketing (very important), etc…

E) Funding – how are you going to pay for your budget w/ no income for the first (at least) 60 days? With the goals you’ve set for yourself, when will you break even?

F) Marketing Plan – how are you going to get the word out about your services? The MOST effective way to market yourself is to your own sphere of influence (people you know). Make sure you do so effectively and systematically.

2) Not Using the Best Possible Closing Team

They say the greatest businesspeople surround themselves with people that are smarter than themselves. It takes a pretty big team to close a transaction – Buyer’s Agent, Listing Agent, Lender, Insurance Agent, Title Officer, Inspector, Appraiser, and sometimes more! As a Real Estate Agent, you are in the position to refer your client to whoever you choose, and you should make sure that anyone you refer in will be an asset to the transaction, not someone who will bring you more headache. And the closing team you refer in, or “put your name to,” are there to make you shine! When they perform well, you get to take part of the credit because you referred them into the transaction.

The deadliest duo out there is the New Real Estate Agent & New Mortgage Broker. They get together and decide that, through their combined marketing efforts, they can take over the world! They’re both focusing on the right part of their business – marketing – but they’re doing each other no favors by choosing to give each other business. If you refer in a bad insurance agent, it might cause a minor hiccup in the transaction – you make a simple phone call and a new agent can bind the property in less than an hour. However, because it typically takes at least two weeks to close a loan, if you use an inexperienced lender, the result can be disastrous! You may find yourself in a position of “begging for a contract extension,” or worse, being denied a contract extension.

A good closing team will typically know more than their role in the transaction. Due to this, you can turn to them with questions, and they will step in (quietly) when they see a potential mistake – because they want to help you, and in return receive more of your business. Using good, experienced players for your closing team will help you infinitely in conducting business worthy of MORE business…and best of all, it’s free!

3) Not Arming Themselves with the Necessary Tools

Getting started as a Real Estate Agent is expensive. In Texas, the license alone is an investment that will cost between $700 and $900 (not taking into account the amount of time you’ll invest.) However, you’ll run into even more expenses when you go to arm yourself with the necessary tools of the trade. And don’t fool yourself – they are necessary – because your competitors are definitely using every tool to help THEM.

A) MLS Access is probably the most expensive necessity you’re going to run into. Joining your local (and state & national, by default) Board of Realtors will allow you to pay for MLS access, and in Austin, Texas, will run around $1000. However, don’t skimp in this area. Getting MLS access is one of the most important things you can do. It’s what differentiates us from your average salesman – we don’t sell homes, we present any of the homes that we have available. With MLS Access, you will have 99% of the homes for sale in your area available to present to your clients.

B) Mobile Phone w/ a Beefy Plan – These days, everyone has a cell phone. But not everyone has a plan that will facilitate the level of use that Real Estate Agents need. Plan on getting at least 2000 minutes per month. You want, and need, to be available to your clients 24/7 – not just nights and weekends.

C) Computer (Preferably a Laptop) – There’s no way around it, you have to have a computer & be savvy enough to use email. You would be wise to invest in some business management software, as well. If you’d like to save some money (and who wouldn’t) then you can get the client & email management software Thunderbird from http://www.mozilla.com and you can get a free office suite from http://www.openoffice.org The only downside to these programs is that they do not sync with your PDA or Smart Phone. A Laptop is a BIG plus because you’ll be able to work from home or on the go. New Real Estate Agents are often surprised by just how much time they spend AWAY from the office, and a laptop helps you stay on top of your work while on the go.

D) Real Estate Friendly Car – You don’t have to have a Lexus, but your Miata won’t do the trick. Make sure that you have a 4 door car or SUV that is comfortable and presentable. Keep it clean, and for God’s sake, don’t smoke in it! You’re going to spend a LOT of time in your car, and put a lot of miles on it, so if it’s fuel efficient, it’s a BIG plus. If you’re driving a sporty convertible, or still have your KILLER Jeep from college, it’s time to trade it in.

4) Lack of Proper Funding

If you’ve taken the time to create your business plan, than you should definitely have your budget, but I can’t stress enough the importance of having and following your budget. However, the budget alone doesn’t address the important aspect of funding. 90% of all small businesses fail due to lack of funding. Typically, new agents will want to have 3 months of reserves in savings before taking the leap into full time agency. However, money in the bank isn’t the only way to answer the question of funding. Maybe your partner can support you for a certain period of time. You can keep a part-time job that won’t interfere with your business as a Real Estate Agent. Many successful waiters make the transition to successful real estate agents with no money in the bank. When you start your new business, don’t expect to earn any income for, at the least, 60 days.

5) Refusing to Spend Money on Marketing

Most new Real Estate Agents don’t realize that the hardest part of the business

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Report: The Real Estate Market In Panama

Most likely, you have heard of the recent real estate BOOM currently occurring in Panama. Perhaps, there are several internet sites you have read or visited searching for further information on the topic. Or maybe you are one of those persons that have taken the decision already of buying an apartment or a beach house, but you don’t know where to start or wish to start your own real estate project in Panama, yet still need more information. Well, I have prepared this article in a practical and simple way in order to guide you in our real estate market. You will find this paper helpful, whether it’ll be for the direct buying of a property or to start your own real estate project in Panama or simply to have a more complete notion of this rising real estate BOOM.

What is happening in the Panamanian Real Estate market?

What is going on in Panama is without any sort of precedent. The market is growing rapidly and such real estate development has never been experienced before in our country. Monthly, we are visited for hundreds of foreigners interested in buying real estates in Panama, in the City, the coasts and the mountains. The constant rising of the value per square meter is almost in a monthly rate. For example: in January, 2006 it was possible to find apartments in Panama City for around US$ 1,000.00 per square meter, which is nearly impossible nowadays (US$ 1,200 – US$1,400 and rising). This has generated the value per square meter to triplicate in the city and even to quadruplicate in the rest of the country. The main real estate broker associations have foreseen that the general value of the land in Panama could rise up to 30% to 40% in the next three years, due to this price increasing flow.

Extreme luxury towers of over 100 stories, residential houses of over a million dollars, yachts and marine clubs, huge luxury hotels, golf camps designed by well-known international specialists, as well as top of the line malls, are currently under construction or in process of delivering in the next couple of years; renovating the face of the city into an international and cosmopolitan metropolis. Promoters, private investors and international real estate companies, from United States, South America and even Europe, have started the construction of real estate projects of great impact. Also, a great number of international real estate broker companies are currently setting up businesses in our country per month. Specifically we could say that seven of the highest towers under construction in Latin America are being built in Panama City, within the areas known as “Avenida Balboa” (this area is projected as the skyscraper in front of the sea in the city). We could mention, among others: Aqualina, Aquamare, Vitri, Ocean Two and One, Los Faros de Panama and Ice Tower, ready to be delivered for the year 2009; besides the hundreds of apartment towers bring developed around the city. Great beach lot projects, island resorts, as much as in the Caribbean Sea (Bocas del Toro) as in the Pacific Ocean (Pearl Islands); as well as delightful retirement mountains (Boquete, Altos del Maria) are part of the avalanche of real estate projects that seems just to be starting.

Which are the real factors that caused this real estate boost?

We all know that after the hostilities occurred in Panama in 1989, the Panamanian real estate market remained hesitant and the small amount of inversions in this sector were led in its majority into commercial projects. Eleven years had to run by after this event (year 2000) for the leaders in the tourist sector of the Panamanian government (led by the well-known Panamanian singer Ruben Blades) to take action initiating a serious campaign for the enhancement of the country’s image. Panama was shown as “the path less traveled”, stressing not only in the advantages of being and international banking services and offshore center, but also in the social, tourist, ecological and geographic elements that until then were unknown to the rest of the world. This successful campaign was promoted worldwide in the main international television chains, in Europe as well as in the United States. Added to this, something that has to be acknowledged, for the year 2003 Panama comes back to the international field with the announcement that a young Panamanian lady (Justin Pasek) won the Miss Universe contest, situation that allowed by extension the range of advantages of our country as a tourist and commercial destiny. Between the years 2003 and 2005, little by little the number of visitors increased as a consequence of these two important catalysts.

Meanwhile, small groups of professionals (lawyers, brokers, and independent professionals) were offering seminars about the Panama’s advantages or organized small real estate tours to foreigners. Several articles published in international retirement magazines (generation known as “Baby Boomers”) and second residences abroad, started to acknowledged Panama as one of the best countries in the world to live at high standard levels, but with low costs; all of this caused due to excellent projects addressed to this market, as “El Valle Escondido” in Boquete – Chiriqui or “Altos del Maria” in Panama. One of the main triggering factors of this real estate boost in Panama occurred last April 24th, 2006, when Donald Trump announced in New York City the construction in “Punta Pacifica” area in Panama City of a 65-story tower branded as “Trump Ocean Club International Hotel”, with a cost of 220 million dollars. Further more, on October of the same year, the national acceptance for the enlargement of the Panama Canal was given, initiating construction works in the year 2009. Starting from this point, there is no doubt that Panama would become the centre and role model of real estate investments in the area, situation that has been increasing exponentially.

Which are then Panama’s advantages as a real estate destiny?

Well, let’s get into the subject. Let’s study those advantages that Panama offers and that will allow you, effectively, to take the decision to buy a property in our country, as many foreigners have done. From the real estate point of view, we could mention:

-*- Panama offers the best banking center in the region, with the use of the American dollar as legal currency and with top of the line banks (HSBC, CITIBANK, BBVA, etc.) which will facilitate the process of obtaining mortgages for foreigners, offering a fast international bank transaction process for deposits and reservation of properties.

-*- Panamanian immigration law has one of the best retirement programs in the world, which will allow you to become a “resident” in less than two months. This program offers several incentives as the possibility to import goods and personal values into your new properties free of import duties, as well as motor vehicles also free of import duties.

-*- An outstanding service, utilities and infrastructure system for properties, such as: high speed Internet (there are five of the main Internet interconnection Networks crossing through Panama), Cable and Satellite TV, public potable water, wide range of telephony offer, fixed and cellular.

-*- The opportunity to buy extreme luxury apartments with ample spaces to a price amazingly low compare with apartments of the same quality in USA and Europe.

-*- The opportunity to acquire properties exempt to the 0% of property taxes for a period of 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years (depending on the date of construction’s commencement).

-*- A vast variety of companies and bilingual professionals involved in the real estate market.

-*- If you are a businessman, Panamanian law has fiscal benefits to constructors and promoters that start real estate projects in the country.

Additionally, there are other advantages to take into consideration that even when you are not directly involved in the real estate business, they can become helpful at the moment of taking the decision of buying a property:

-*- Panama has been acknowledge for companies as Pinkerton Intelligence Agency as a high standard security country in contrast with the current situation in neighboring countries.

-*- You can hire house keeping services for a low cost (around US$ 150.00 per month)

-*- Up-to-date high standard technology available.
-*- The opportunity to acquire products from all over the world in the Colon Free Zone, due to the noticeable position of the Panama Canal and the transit of over 14,000 ships per year.

-*- The conditions of Panamanian taxation law allow the tax payer not to pay taxes on bank interests or even income taxes when the service and/or business are performed abroad.

-*- An exceptional geographic position to perform international commercial transactions, with fast access to the Pacific Ocean as well as to the Atlantic.

-*- Panama has a low-risk profile in regards to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

These are some of the many advantages that Panama can offer if you decide to acquire a property in our country, whether it is to invest or simply to relocate and enjoy life.

Which are the most attractive places to buy properties?

To better answer this question, we have to divide our answer in four groups: Panama City, the mountains, the Pacific shore and the Atlantic shore.

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