When we first published a luxury real estate article on Panama City a decade ago, what was then called Trump Ocean Club was the slick new game in town and the market was getting flooded with buyers from Argentina, Brazil, and especially Venezuela who were looking for a stable place to put their money. Meanwhile, a full-blown financial crisis was raging in the USA, which kept the market from overheating too much in this dollar denominated market.
The capital of Panama is a dynamic place though, the skyline changing every time I visit. Nothing stays the same for long. A wider parallel canal has opened up next to the old one for huge container ships. The “Panama Papers” came out and let to a range of embarrassments and banking reforms. As the Trump name has become toxic to developers and hotel owners, the angry orange one’s family name has disappeared from the front of the dramatic tower, now called The Bahia Grand Panama.
Yes, when you talk about luxury real estate in Panama City, it’s a little complicated. There’s not just one kind of buyer and there’s no longer just one kind of condo to buy at the high end either. As the luxury housing market has gotten more sophisticated, the skinny towers in the business district are joined by ones around a golf course, high-rises in a less crowded area, and a full-on renovation spree in the historic Casco Viejo area. The latter is not joined by a running and bike path that stretches miles between there and the city center, along the water.
A new marina, the Biomuseo, a subway, housing developments on Amador Causeway—all of these things have happened in just the last five years, on top of a wider and deeper canal costing billions. This is clearly a good place to be doing business.
It’s also a good place to retire too: Panama still comes out on top in terms of incentives they offer to woo foreign investment and to appeal to retirees. While some of the benefits have scaled back or phased out when it comes to taxes—you can actually get a better tax break from buying in a 10-year-old development than a newer one—the list of residency benefits is still long. There’s 50% off entertainment, 50% off mid-week hotel stays, 25% off airline tickets, and a $10,000 tax exemption on goods you bring into the country during a move for starters.
Moving to Panama is a surprisingly simple process too, with a minimum of forms and a couple months of processing time. No big anti-immigrant backlash here. Panama is moving full speed ahead at 5% plus economic growth annually and they know they need to be a welcoming place to keep that rolling year after year. If you’ve got a million bucks or two to invest in real estate, they’ll be really happy to see you.
The housing market here is active and liquid, but it’s far from overheated, with new developments seemingly opening every month. So if you like the heat and you like big-city, cosmopolitan living, take a look at “The Crossroads of the Americas.” You still get a lot for your money at the high end here and the quality of finishes and design keeps getting better each year. Check out our full article: