Almost 10 years ago when our Luxury Latin American contributor made a trip down to check out the Boquete, Panama market there was a little shakiness in the air. It was right after the U.S. economic crisis and for a destination with a lot of U.S. expats, the thought that home sales would slow down was worrisome. Some agents she talked to felt a slow down might be helpful, keep the building market in the area sustainable. Some also believed that the market could make a precipitous drop.
Thank goodness the first scenario was more like what happened. Slow sales in the States didn’t stop the market from rolling along in Boquete. It did mean that few new housing developments have been built in the last few years, developers choosing instead to grow out existing properties — like Valle Escondido, Lucero and Boquete Canyon Village. Many properties changed hands along the way due to financial and other reasons.
We recently chatted with Boquete real estate agents at Casa Solution and some of their associates — a group of three agents that claim about 70% of luxury home sales in Boquete. These agents are excited about new developments in local infrastructure — a new local hospital, a newly paved 4-lane highway connecting the city to nearby David, updated water treatment systems, new shopping malls and more. Boquete is growing so much that people are actually complaining about parking now!
Panama is a stable, growing economy with a lot of benefits for retirees including a low cost of living overall and a relatively low crime rate. The country’s connection to the U.S. makes many of the cultural attractions you find at home, also available in Panama. Ryan Braash, one of the local agents we spoke to, says that for folks looking to live a more active lifestyle than simply eating out or laying on a beach, there are LOTS of options in the Boquete area. Mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, waterfall diving, and treks out to see the country’s wild flora and fauna are increasingly available from local, knowledgeable and dependable guides — outdoorsy types drawn by the area’s natural beauty.
While some of the drawbacks that we learned about in our first review of Boquete, like Rights of Possession Properties, have been mostly remedied, agents in Boquete still warn against purchasing real estate in Panama without a close look at local laws and a good real estate agent to help you through the process.
“Some expats believe that you can just hire an attorney and they will take care of your real estate deal, thus saving you an real estate commission. Most attorneys practice law in multiple areas and do not specialize in real estate. I have had to educate attorneys many times to avoid mistakes. I have witnessed expats make some very big and costly mistakes because they are either misinformed by online friends, try to buy and close property deals themselves, and/or they have an attorney that is not up-to-date on recent changes in law/regulations,” says Ryan Braash.
When you do buy you will find that the tax burden in Panama for foreigners is relatively light and you can often get a 20-year property tax exemption on property purchased or improvements made. This is a good summary of some of the other benefits that Panama offers retirees and foreigners looking to live in and invest in Panama. If you were waiting for just a few more amenities to make the big move south, Boquete’s ready for you now, you just have to make the leap.