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.