Articles Related to Azuero sunset coast

Our plan right now is to build five of these casitas. Given the level of interest over the years, we expect these to be sold in very short order.

We're calling our new houses "casitas," but they're more spacious than that may imply. Each is two bedrooms and two bathrooms and includes about 105 square meters (1,200 square feet) of interior space. We've designed these to be an ideal size for a retiree looking for a home that is big enough to be comfortable but that doesn't require extensive care or maintenance. These casitas are also perfect for the second-home buyer looking for an inexpensive place to hang out at the beach now and then that can be rented out when the owner is elsewhere.

While Mango Village lots don't have an ocean view, this neighborhood will have its own hilltop clubhouse and swimming pool (with an ocean view). In addition, from this area of the property, you can launch a kayak into the tidal estuary and head from there directly out into the ocean.

While the designs for our new casitas have been completed, the construction plans are still in the works, meaning we haven't yet pinned down final pricing. However, we don't want to delay the launch of this important new phase any longer, so we're making these new houses available pre-construction.

While I can't now quote exact final prices for these first turn-key units at Los Islotes, I can tell you that we intend to bring them in under US$200,000, including the lot fee.

Again, right now, the plan is to build just five of these houses. I strongly encourage you, therefore, if you've been watching from the sidelines, waiting for a hassle-free way to become part of the Los Islotes community, to get in touch right now. You can reserve your casita with a fully refundable deposit.

Once we have the completed construction plans and the final price, you'll have two weeks to review everything. At that time, you can choose to proceed with the house purchase...or not. If you decide for some reason not to move forward, we'll refund your deposit and move on to the next person on the waiting list.

We expect to have the construction plans and pricing ready by the first week of January, so you won't have to make any final decisions until after the holidays. Right now, though, you need to get your name on the buyer's list.

You can do that by getting in touch here.

Lief Simon

P.S. I've been telling you about our adventures at Los Islotes for some time. However, to clarify and by way of full disclosure: Los Islotes is the private beachfront community that Kathleen and I are developing on Panama's Pacific coast. You can read a little more about it here.

Continue reading: Investing In A Beach Rental Property In Puerto Vallarta, Panama, Or Ambergris Caye, Belize

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The other big challenge in this region is electricity. We have power but not three-phase power. The new administration, under President Varela, is pushing the electric company to get three-phase electricity in place all the way down our side of the peninsula. Right now only single-phase lines run for the last 47 kilometers of this coast.

Generally, when governments speak of infrastructure plans anywhere in Central America, you can ignore them until you see dirt moving. Panama is an exception. This country has an impressive track record when it comes to following through on infrastructure promises. Panama is continually building and improving roads and bridges. We've watched over the past seven years as they've reinvented Panama City's main drag along the Bay of Panama from a simple road to the highway, parks, and pedestrian areas of the new Cinta Costera. When Panama announced a new international airport, everyone figured it would be a decade before it was built, but the new airport at Rio Hato was completed in about two years.

Still, we've been hearing about the planned road improvement at the bottom of the Azuero Sunset Coast for about five years. However, after President Varela's visit this week, the government focus appears certain.

The president didn't come out to Azuero's west coast on his own. He brought his entire cabinet. Kathleen and I had private meetings with the Minister of Tourism and the department heads for the Environmental Agency, the National Water Board, the Small Businesses Agency, and several others. Everyone is on the same page. The same talking points came up again and again—three-phase electricity, the new road, a new hospital for Mariato, and more and better schools.

The local turnout was tremendous. Everyone in the district wanted to be in Mariato to greet their president. Our project manager for Los Islotes passed hundreds of people on the road as he drove from his house up to Mariato. They were all hoping for rides to town. 

The hundreds who made it to the bandstand outside the Mariato mayor's office weren't disappointed. Their president spent the better part of an hour in the street speaking with the townspeople and shaking hands. He spent the entire day in Mariato giving speeches and holding meetings, including having lunch with Kathleen and me (and about 60 other people at a Los Islotes-sponsored event). This wasn't a whistle stop.

President Varela walked out of our lunch carrying a copy of our Los Islotes brochure in his hands, and his minister of tourism said he was so impressed by what we're doing ("this is exactly the product that Panama needs right now," he told us) that he is planning a site visit to the Los Islotes property with three people from his office.

Our team on the ground out in Azuero worked for days to prepare for the event, an effort that I think paid off. Kathleen and I like to stay under the radar as much as possible, but we've reached the point with what we're doing out on the Azuero Sunset Coast where we need some support. We can't provide three-phase electricity or build a road around the bottom of the peninsula ourselves. We're awfully glad the Panamanian government seems keen to step in at this point.

Lief Simon

P.S. Kathleen took a picture of me with President Varela at lunch, if you'd like to have a look. He seems like a nice guy.

Continue reading: Where And How To Buy Property In France

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But, to tell you the truth, it was mostly a dream in theory. Boy, it sure will be nice to be able to watch the sun set over the ocean from the terrace of the house we intend to build there someday...Kaitlin will be able to ride horseback on the beach...Jack can scramble around the hills in an ATV...yes, man, someday, that'll be great...

We spent this weekend at Los Islotes, and it appears that someday is closing in.

Los Islotes Project Manager Gary Moseley has been busy. Since the start of the dry season, about two months ago, Gary has been on the property full-time, digging out roads and otherwise moving dirt around. His objective is to cut all the roads for Phase 1 of the development, cover them with select material, as it's called, and install the accompanying drainage before the heavy rains are upon us again.

"We should make it," Gary informed us. "It's always something, you know. I need a new tire for the dump truck, and I had to have someone out earlier this week to repair the dozer. But we're making very good progress."

Indeed. Thanks to Gary's efforts we're now able to reach formerly unexplored hilltops and ridges. It's like discovering the property anew. And the really good part is that the views, often 360 degrees, from so many points, are, as young Jackson put it, "awesome." In front is the sparkling, crashing Pacific Ocean; behind and all around, rolling hills. Our neighbor in one direction is the Cerro Hoya National Park.

"I had to cut down a sizable tree this week," Gary told me soberly, shaking his head. "Nearly killed me. I argued with the bulldozer driver for an hour-and-a-half. Finally, I had to admit that he was right. We had no choice. But just that one. Otherwise, we're working the roads around the big trees as much as possible. In some instances, we're creating roundabouts."

"Yes, that's the idea," we assured him. "We understand that you're going to have to cut some of the big old trees, but every cut should hurt a little. As much as possible, we want the property to remain just as it is right now."

Well, just as it is right now...but a little more fully appointed. The plan is to create, in this spot where Mother Nature has so outdone herself, a community where we, our friends, and like-minded others can appreciate and savor the natural beauty while enjoying the full support of 21st-century comforts. This is a family legacy undertaking for us that we expect to take 10 years to build out in full.

The master plan calls for underground utilities, fiber-optic internet, and a waste-water treatment plant, plus a colonial-style town modeled on Antigua, Guatemala...a clubhouse...three pools...riding and hiking trails...a boutique hotel and spa...tennis courts...stables...a boat launch...

First things first, though. Right now, we need a place to spend the night. As our architect reminded us when we brought him out recently to take a look at the site where we intended to build the property's first structure, "No road, no house."

No problem, Ricardo. Now, we've got roads! And, now that we do, we're reconsidering our construction plans. Instead of the little house on the little lot that we've discussed with Ricardo, now we're thinking a bigger house on a bigger lot with a much better ocean view. This "Founder's Lodge," as we're calling it, will feature a communal room for gathering and dining, plus a terrace for sunset-watching and four guest suites so that friends can come and enjoy Los Islotes with us. The lot we identified with Ricardo a few weeks ago won't do. For the Founder's Lodge, therefore, this weekend, we chose a new lot, on a hilltop, with remarkable views all around.

We'll get Ricardo started working on the Founder's Lodge plans this week; however, we recognize that our new lodge won't be a viable overnight-stay option for 10 to 12 months. We want to be able to spend time living at Los Islotes as soon as possible...

"How about if we build, in the meantime, a simple structure, with wooden beams and a palapa roof," Lief suggested.

"Ah, that's a great idea," I said.

"On that hilltop over there," Lief pointed...

"Yes, yes, but, perhaps, rather than palapa, we could build something with a clay-tiled roof," I proposed.

"Yes, and a Spanish-colonial tiled floor," offered our friend Christie, who joined us for the weekend's outing. "And maybe a built-in bar at one end."

"Well, with a bar, you'll need running water," Gary added. "Plus, it'd be nice to have a bathroom. I could build one..."

"Great idea. But not too small," I suggested. "Allow room for a small piece of furniture, plus maybe a trunk where we could lock away supplies.

"And the wooden beams shouldn't be clean-cut or sanded," I continued. "They should be thick and natural, distressed..."

"I'm distressed," Lief cut me off. "My simple US$2,000 palapa structure is now something else entirely."

"Don't worry, dear," I assured him. "You'll love it."

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. We spent this weekend at Los Islotes in the company of the new sales and marketing team we've engaged for the project, Dennis Martinez and Christie Sweeney. Dennis and Christie are planning a schedule of regular visits to the Azuero coast to tour the property. First dates are March 21-24 and April 25-27. You can request more information about the plan for Los Islotes and the weekend tours here.

P.S. What else this week?

"It's important to learn at least a little Spanish before you start working in the local community where you decide to volunteer," explained Pamela Guachamín, representative for the foundation, to the group assembled in Quito last week. "That's why we start every volunteer experience with language classes."

The programs are highly customizable. You can volunteer on your own, with your family, or with a group of friends. You could organize a two-week program to include your children or grandchildren over one of their school breaks, for example.

Some programs include home stays with local families, with indigenous families in the north of the country, for example, where you could spend a couple of weeks helping them to manage their farms or other activities related to generating a livelihood. You could volunteer in a woman's shelter, maybe helping to teach the children of the women staying there while they regroup on where to go and what to do next.

You could volunteer as a teacher's aid or even a teacher in a village school. "It's not necessary that you have experience or any special qualifications," Pamela explained. "It's very difficult for these remote schools to find teachers. With your backgrounds, you would be very welcome to teach primary-age children.

"And the children will love you. To them, you'll be like a figure out of a fairy tale..."

  • American expat-entrepreneur in Ecuador Jeff Stern writes:

"Running a business in Ecuador, you learn that you have to pick your battles. Things work the way they work here. You'll run out of time and energy before you'll change anything. You need to accept that..."

  • Retirement Planning Correspondent Paul Terhorst writes:

About 10 years ago, my friend Jerry and his wife Helen retired. Before the big day, Jerry and Helen consulted their financial planner and concluded that their living expenses would go up in retirement.

By contrast, Vicki and I took extreme early retirement in 1984. When we did, we cut our living expenses by about 70%.

Why the big difference in retirement living costs? Simple. Vicki and I relocated; Jerry and Helen continued living in their home of 30 years...

  • Senior Editor David Sexton writes:

Nationality laws aren't known for their simplicity, but the options for gaining second citizenship can be broken down, big picture, into two categories--active and passive. The active approach requires some action on the part of the recipient--maintaining legal residency, marrying a local, or investing in real estate, for example.

Passive citizenship, on the other hand, is a matter of birthright, either jus soli (right of the soil), jus sanguinis (right of blood), or a combination of the two.

About 16% of the world's countries, nearly all of them in the Western Hemisphere, grant jus soli citizenship. If a child is born in the territory of one of these countries, say, the United States, Argentina, Mexico, or Canada, boom, he or she is a citizen of that country.

Most of the rest of the world grants jus sanguinis citizenship. Rather than as a result of country of birth, jus sanguinis citizenship is passed through blood relation. That is, the parents' citizenship(s) determines the child's.

So if a child is born in a jus soli country...say, Canada...to parents from jus sanguinis countries...say, a Thai mother and an Irish father...right out of the womb, the newborn would have jus soli citizenship from Canada and jus sanguinis citizenship from Thailand and Ireland. Lucky kid...

PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

One of the presenters at last week's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference spoke about bribery and corruption in that country, citing statistics from a relevant local study. I don't remember the specific stats, but something close to 80% of the people surveyed had at some time been asked either directly or indirectly for a bribe when dealing with an Ecuadorean government official. The survey didn't stipulate what kind of official--could have been anything from a police officer to a clerk in a government office or a minister.

The more interesting thing for me was that, according to the study, of the people who were asked for a bribe by a government official but refused to pay, some large percentage still got what they wanted. Further, a not insignificant percentage of people who did pay the bribe when asked did not get what they wanted.

Paying and still not getting what you're after would be frustrating. What recourse would you have? You couldn't go to the guy's boss and complain, saying, in effect, "I paid this guy to do something for me that he shouldn't have done...and he didn't do it."

Most retirees living in a foreign country won't ever encounter a direct request for a bribe. The exception might be a request from a traffic cop about to issue you a citation, for example. Otherwise, unless you are doing business in a country, you are, again, very unlikely to have to grapple with this issue.

What if you do, though? What if you find yourself in a situation where someone is asking you for a few dollars (or more) to grease the wheels? You have to weigh the pluses and the minuses of paying and your own tolerance for the idea in general. Me? My position is: Don't pay. Ever.

Others look at a bribe to a traffic cop as an expedition fee...pay the mordita (or "little bite"), as it's called, and you won't have to deal with the speeding ticket, say. As I said, it's up to you to make the call. My advice would be that, if you're open to the idea of paying a bribe, know in advance how much is appropriate, situation to situation.

In Panama, gringos generally overpay for traffic stops. They get nervous when they hear that the ticket will be US$65 and hand over a US$20 bill when five bucks will usually do. That said, the government here in Panama has been cracking down on police corruption. It still exists, for sure, but you may not be given the option of buying your way out of a ticket. More and more, traffic cops are simply writing out the citations.

A couple of years ago, when the anti-corruption push started, I was pulled over on the Pan-American highway driving back to Panama City, and the cop started writing the ticket practically before I got out of the car. He apologized as he handed it to me, saying, in Spanish, that he had no choice.

I'd never thought about it before that day, but it struck me then that ticket-writing quotas for cops must have started as an anti-corruption strategy. If you weren't writing tickets, you must have been taking bribes. Of course, in the United States today, ticket quotas are simply a revenue stream for municipalities in need of cash.

What about bribes related to doing business in another country? Again, my recommendation is: Don't do it. Besides the fact that it's illegal, paying a bribe marks you as a payer. "Pay once, and you pay forever," as a business associate in Nicaragua puts it.

Thinking more pragmatically, you also need to remember, as the survey in Ecuador highlighted, paying the bribe is no guarantee that you'll get what you want anyway.

In all my years of living, traveling, investing, and doing business all over the world, I've never paid a bribe. I've been pulled over by traffic cops maybe a dozen times in a bunch of different countries. I follow a simple strategy. When a cop pulls me over, I smile. I greet him politely. I try to appear a bit ignorant but not arrogant. Even if I speak the local language, I wait to determine the demeanor of the cop before letting him know I speak the local language.

When I was pulled over in Montenegro a few years ago, I rattled off a few options to the police officer through the window of the car--Parlez vous Francais? No. Sprechen sie Deutch? No. Habla Espanol? No. Finally, he suggested, "Italiano?" I said, sure, we can muddle through in Italian (though I don't speak it).

I got out and went to the back of the car where he and his partner tried to explain to me that I had been speeding. Writing with their fingers in the dust on the back windshield, they managed to convey that I had been doing 80 KPH in a 50-KPH zone.

Then they indicated in the dust how much the ticket would be (€125). I continued to smile and nod. Okay, okay, I told them over and over, pleasantly. Finally, they gave up, looked in the car at my family, and asked, "Vacacione" in some mix of English, Italian, and Serbian. I nodded yes...and they sent me on my way suggesting that I slow down. Easier to move on to the next victim, I guess they figured.

That strategy has worked all over the world.

I know others, though, who don't want to waste time with that kind of chit-chat. They get pulled over, they get out of their car, and they hand the cop their driver's license and passport with a US$5 bill stuck inside. The officer "inspects" their documents and sends them on their way. For them, the US$5 is an expediting fee.

And I've never heard of someone giving a cop 5 bucks and still getting a ticket.

I have only once been asked for a bribe outright. It was a police officer in Panama. He and a partner were working as a team with one clocking the radar and the other signaling for people to pull over. They were making a production line out of it. When the cop got to me, he stated flat out, in Spanish, "You can pay me or you can pay the ticket." I told him to write the ticket and was on my way within a few minutes.

Editor's Note: This week's essay from Lief is reprinted from the "Offshore Living Letter," Lief's twice-weekly dispatch on how and why to diversify offshore. If you aren't reading the "Offshore Living Letter" yet, get on board here now. It's free.

***

Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

Go here now to place your order for "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas"!

Image source: BeanZull

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buying property abroad

"Things are taking shape," he told us most recently. "The really good news is that we haven't been exaggerating when we've told people that nearly every lot on the property has a great view. Now that we're clearing away some of the brush, the perspective is changing. 'Wow!' is all I can say. Some lots of 360-degree views. It's something to see."

Indeed, we wanted to get out there to see for ourselves, so, Friday, we drove from Panama City to Santiago. Until we build a place to stay of our own on the Los Islotes property (more on this in a minute), Santiago is the most comfortable place to overnight in the area, especially since the opening of the new Mykonos Hotel in this city. I don't really get the Greek theme at work at the Mykonos, but I greatly appreciate that the hotel is now in operation. It sets a new standard of accommodation in this part of Panama (and rooms are only US$75 a night, a bargain considering both the property and the service).

When the Mykonos opened a few months ago, Lief and I wondered about its prospects. Again, we were awfully glad to have it as a place to stay, but, while every other hotel in Santiago is a couple of dozen rooms or so, the Mykonos has nearly 100! How will they fill all those rooms, we wondered, worried that they wouldn't be able to stay in business.

We shouldn't have been concerned. We got the last room in the hotel when we called Friday morning to make the reservation. A Ministry of Education conference and a rally for President Martinelli had every hotel in Santiago just about fully booked, including the Mykonos. This isn't uncommon, we learned, asking around. It seems this was the plan all along. More and more groups from Panama City are looking for options for places to hold meetings and conventions. Santiago is emerging as a top alternative.

Waking early Saturday morning in Santiago, Jackson remarked, "It's fresher out here, isn't it? Nicer..."

Indeed. Panama City is an increasingly urban and gritty place to be. Santiago, while one of the biggest cities in the country and, by some accounts, the fastest-growing destination in Panama, is still very much in the country. From the window of our room at the Mykonos we had views of cow pastures all around. Driving into the city Friday evening, we watched the local farmers harvesting their sugar cane.

Saturday morning, we made the drive down the east coast of the Azuero Peninsula from Santiago through the little towns (villages, really) of Mariato, Malena, Torio, and, finally, Quebro, to reach the turn-off to Los Islotes. We saw Gary's handiwork straight away. Wide new roads led us into the property. We three hopped out of our car and into Gary's truck for a complete tour of Phase 1, possible now thanks to the new roads.

We'd come to see the roadwork for ourselves, but also to finalize the lot selection for the Founder's Lodge we intend to build now. "I recommend you look at lots 1, 2, 9, and 10," Gary suggested. They sit along a ridge that I think would be a great choice for where to locate what you want to create. Lots 3, 4, and 5 would be great, too, but they're spoken for," he added.

We started at the edge of lot 1 and climbed the ridge through to lot 11. As Gary had explained, now that some of the underbrush has been cleared away, the views both of the Pacific Ocean in front and the mountains behind are even more impressive than we'd expected. When we reached lot 10, I was particularly taken.

"This is it," I said. "This is where we should build the initial small clubhouse and guest suites we need. Let's get the dimensions and the topographical details to Ricardo, our architect, this week. The sooner he can begin designing, the sooner we can break ground on the structure."

That agenda item taken care of, we wandered around the property a little more, enjoying the increased access. Some of the land we explored on Saturday we'd seen in the past only on foot and with the help of a machete to clear the way.

"It'll be a year at least, thinking realistically, before the Founder's Lodge is finished," Lief mentioned as we were driving around. "In the meantime, it'd be nice to have a place to come out for picnics and visits with friends. Let's build something up on that high point over there, a simple open-air structure with a red clay-tiled roof where we can sit and enjoy a cookout or a rum and coke as we watch the sun set over the ocean."

"I can have that spot cleared in a few days," Garry added. "And I can bring in some guys to build whatever you want as soon as you send me a drawing to work from."

We're on it. Now that dirt is flying, Lief and I intend to be out at Los Islotes at least twice a month. We'll need to create a place where we, the kids, and friends who accompany us out to the property can enjoy all the Los Islotes has to offer in shade and comfort.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • Ecuador Expat Jeff Stern writes:

Owning and running a chocolate business can be a bittersweet experience. Owning and running a chocolate business in Ecuador definitely is both bitter and sweet. I moved to Ecuador in 2007 with my wife Maria and our two kids, aged 9 months and 3 years at the time. For years we had been looking for another opportunity to relocate overseas, as both of us had worked in the international development field and spent numerous years living in various countries including South Africa and Nicaragua. That opportunity never came. We finally realized we'd have to create it for ourselves. We sold our house just before The Great Recession, packed up everything, and relocated to Quito, Ecuador...

  • Correspondent David Morrill writes:

One of the major challenges facing expats, especially those living in a country where the people speak a language other than the one the expats spoke back home, is communication. Finding reliable service providers can be difficult. And being able to keep up with local news and events, even with each other, is often the difference between a fulfilling life and chronic frustration.

In Ecuador, specifically in Cuenca, the answer is an e-letter service and website called GringoTree...

  • "So many choices...what do you suggest?"...wondered one reader yesterday.

If you have a particular agenda, your challenge is mitigated. If yours is a strict and modest budget, for example, you must choose a country where the cost of living is low (Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Thailand, and Vietnam qualify).

If you intend to start a business in your new life overseas, then your top choices are entrepreneur-friendly jurisdictions (Panama is the front-runner).

If you have an ongoing health concern, then you can think about moving only to those places that offer top-notch medical care (typically this means sticking close to a city big enough to have international-standard facilities).

If you're moving with children, international-standard schooling options are the make-or-break issue (Panama and Colombia offer great choices in the Americas). But what if you're not limited in any of these ways? What if you're not restricted by cost of living or health issues or school-aged children or the need (or desire) to start a business and earn a living?

Well, then, you could go anywhere.

And that's the trouble.

What do I suggest?...

PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

The idea behind Mahogany Park is straightforward. This riverfront community in the Cayo District of Belize has been conceived as an opportunity for retirees looking for a place to enjoy the simple life in a charming rural setting and on a very modest budget.

Mahogany Park isn't a gated community. This is more low-key than that, more for retirees more interested in becoming part of the existing local community rather than creating one of their own.

Mahogany Park is also about a year-and-a-half in the making. That's how long Belize developer-friend Phil Hahn and I have been working to put the pieces for this into place.

The piece of land where Mahogany Park is being developed was chosen carefully. The property sits on the Mopan River just outside the town of Bullet Tree. The location is quaint, quiet, and back to basics. The river situation means cooling breezes and pleasant views.

As I said, this isn't a "gated community." No clubhouse, no gym, etc. All of that adds cost for the owners, both upon purchase (every amenity must be amortized over the prices of the lots) and ongoing (in the form of HOA fees). Plus, all of that would change the face of what's on offer here. If you want a full-amenity situation, you have other good options in this country. If you want sweet and simple country living, Mahogany Park could be just the thing.

While this isn't a master-planned community in the traditional sense, the property will be supported by roads, water, and electricity. You won't have to dig your own well, for example.

In addition, Mahogany Park will include a half-acre park with access to the river for use by all owners, a nice place to meet with your few neighbors and maybe share a cocktail at sunset. Otherwise, the property is being given over to dozens of mahogany trees (hence the name). Three of the lots are riverfront; owners of these will be able to step out your back door and be right at the river (note that there's a 66-foot government setback from the river's edge for construction).

With lots ranging from about 1/8th to 1/5th of an acre and prices starting at US$25,000, Mahogany Park is a very appealing option for someone looking to retire to Belize on a budget, build a second home, or invest in a small rental property. You could put up a two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot house for as little as US$70,000, including the septic system, meaning that you could have a comfortable home of your own in this riverfront setting within walking distance of town (Bullet Tree) for a total of less than US$100,000.

Belize is generally best known for its Caribbean lifestyle. That's out on Ambergris, and that's where you should look if you like to spend your days diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Belize's Cayo is a different place entirely. This is inland, in the mountains, in a region that has managed to remain largely undiscovered and undeveloped despite all the attention other parts of this country have attracted.

Frankly, the Cayo is my favorite part of Belize. The older I get, the more I appreciate the attractions of simple country living on the banks of a slow-going river. If that lifestyle appeals to you, too, the Cayo is one of the best places in the world to enjoy it.

Finding serviced lots in a riverfront setting at the prices on offer at Mahogany Park isn't easy--not in Belize or anywhere. And at Mahogany Park, there are only 23 of them.

Phil likes to launch any new project with a special offer. In this case, he's convinced me to offer a US$5,000 discount off the price of the first five lots sold. That means you could buy a lot in Mahogany Park for as little as US$20,000. I don't know of any opportunity anywhere that compares. And, again, this one is very limited in scope.

For more information, you can get in touch with Phil here.

***

Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

Go here now to place your order!

 

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This is maybe the biggest decision you face as a developer in this part of the world. Will you pay the bribes that you'll be tempted to pay and that will, sometimes, be demanded outright...or will you resist?

We understood this choice going into Los Islotes. And we made the decision, consciously, that we wouldn't pay. Not because we find paying bribes morally or ethically appalling so much as because we knew that, if we paid, we'd be marked as payers. Pay once and you pay forever.

Plus, how do you know who to pay...or how much? How do you know the guy who asks for money on the side to make sure your application gets to the top of the review pile is actually in a position to make that happen? Or that the guy you pay to ensure that your plans are approved is even part of the approvals process? You can't know, not really. So you take a chance. Then what do you do when the hoped-for outcome doesn't follow? What recourse do you have? Pay off another guy?

Plus, in a country like Panama, government agencies turn over entirely from one administration to the next. What happens when the guy you paid to approve your not-quite-up-to-standards plans is replaced by the next president and the new guy the next president puts in place decides to take a look at said plans himself? Do you pay him off, too?

We know too many would-be developers who've gotten into too much trouble trying to grease the wheels in this part of the world. Seemed easier and certainly safer to us to do it the hard way--that is, to push, to reason, to plead, to remind, to follow up, and to wait. We've re-surveyed, re-filed, reviewed, and reconsidered. But we've never paid.

For more than three years. Through ministry resignations, firings, reorganizations. Through lost plans, misfiled proposals, misinterpreted report findings. Through manaña and manaña and manaña...

Finally, as of this month, July 2012, the Azuero coastal development project that Lief and I conceived some four years ago, is almost fully permitted. I still must say "almost," because a few small t's still must be crossed. But, as of this writing, we have permits enough in hand to break ground. We can build a road.

We can build a road or build a house and no inspector, no government official, nobody nowhere can come along and tell us to stop or fine us for not following the rules. This is the big-deal good news about having waited things out as long as we have.

The past couple of years, as, first, ANAM, the government agency tasked with protecting this country's "environment," and, then, MIVI, the Ministry of Housing, lost their chief ministers, triggering six-month-long backlogs in approvals for all projects in the pipeline, respectively, have been so maddeningly frustrating that we've had to put the entire project out of mind. We've pushed ahead quietly, behind the scenes, but we've focused on other things. Now, permits in hand, it's time to make a little noise about what's now on the books for this dramatically beautiful west coast of Panama's Azuero Peninsula.

A new sales director has been hired, a new website has been commissioned, and, Friday, Lief and I reviewed the plan and timeline for infrastructure work for the coming 12 months.

Los Islotes is a family project. Kaitlin, our daughter, has taken the lead on developing the new website. Jackson, our son, says he wants to start a Los Islotes newsletter. And, eventually, Lief and I plan to build a home on these oceanfront hills that will be part of our long-term retirement plan.

We need to work up to that, though. First, we'll build a smaller house, while we get the supply lines in place and the water and electricity installed. This house will be a good place to stay, with friends and visitors, when we're onsite, working, finally, in earnest, to push toward realizing the vision of the community we've long planned to create on Panama's Pacific sunset coast.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • Readers write every day to ask about the Live and Invest Overseas back story. How did Lief and I get started at all this? I'm working on a book that tells the story. I share an excerpt here...
  • Lief proposed to me early on the final morning of our return scouting trip to Ireland. After he'd popped the question and I'd said yes, we set out to find a phone.

This was in the days before smart phones, before roaming cell phones, and before Skype. To make a call from one country where you were traveling to another, you either had to use someone's land line (our B&B didn't have one we could use) or find one of those things called a public payphone. We found one in central Dublin, off St. Stephen's Green, and plugged in several pounds worth of change (this was also back before the euro, when Ireland had its own currency). I dialed my parents' number.

It was very early in the morning for them, but even if they'd been long awake, I doubt my news would have elicited a more enthusiastic response. As it was, my pre-dawn Baltimore-time announcement was met with near-silence. They'd met Lief, but only once. And, older now, I can imagine better what they must have been thinking. They were still reeling from the idea that Kaitlin and I were planning a move to another country a thousand miles away. Now I was remarrying, too? I can imagine now what they must have been thinking, but I can't tell you for sure, because they said little, not when I called to share my news and not over the coming few months as Lief and I engineered and then carried out the plans for both the marriage and the move...

  • "The caldera created by the massive volcanic explosion, one of the strongest explosions in earth's history, formed the basin for the evolution of what is arguably the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atitlán in Guatemala," writes Guatemala Correspondent and expat Mike Anderson in the July issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter, in production now.

"Beautiful by day and stunning at sunrise and sunset, with a near-perfect climate, easy access to North America, a moderate cost of living, and reasonable access to health care, for the adventurous eco- and nature-lover, this could be the ideal new home..."

  • Form TD F 90-22.1, or, as it's more commonly referred to, the FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report) form, is due this week.

Every U.S. person is required to file this form if you have a financial interest in and/or signatory authority over any non-U.S. financial account(s) that in aggregate have had a value of more than US$10,000 at any point during the previous calendar year. You could have had US$1,010 in 10 accounts or US$10,001 in a single account, and you meet the requirements for filing the FBAR...

Also This Week...from Resident Global Real Estate Investing Expert Lief Simon:

Pedasi is growing up. I first visited this part of Panama back in 2006, after speculators had already run up prices for oceanfront land. Since then developers have moved in. Houses are getting built. But what's perhaps more interesting is that, on this part of this coast of the Azuero Peninsula, it's not just housing developments being built. The area is developing, too. Not only the infrastructure, which is impressive already but being improved all the time, but the town itself, as well. Pedasi was little more than a village the last time I saw it. Today, if I were my wife, I might describe it as bijou. Anyway, it's cute. Charming.

Part of what makes it so is the colonial architecture. There's perhaps more of it here than in any other of Panama's Pacific coastal towns and very few modern-day buildings. This is one important difference between Pedasi and its big sisters to the north, Las Tablas and Chitre. Those towns are more nondescript, mostly because that's the best word to describe their architecture.

It's Pedasi's charming appearance that attracted the first wave of expats a half-dozen years ago. Back then it was the speculators and the surfers, typically the pioneers for discovering new coastal destinations.

Since my last visit to Pedasi two or three years ago, the second and third waves have moved in--the entrepreneurs and the developers--and these two groups have been busy. Three years ago, Pedasi had a few hostels, a small bakery, a restaurant, and an art/gift shop on the main square, but not much else. Today, Pedasi is home to dozens of small businesses, including several bakeries, boutique hotels, shops, restaurants, and a new bank building.

And several residential developments have been launched on the nearby coastlines. Houses are being built...people are moving in.

Kathie and I toured the area last week and saw a number of things of interest, which we'll tell you about in time. Today I want to direct your attention to what I'd say is the most appealing turn-key opportunity to own on this coast at Pedasi right now.

In one of the gated communities here, an American couple, Dennis and Christie, is building a 23-unit condo building with ocean views. The couple came down to Panama, scouted dozens of locations across the country, from Bocas del Toro to Boquete, but fell in love with Pedasi. They were drawn by the charming look of the town, as I've described, and also by the community they observed developing here. They liked both the place and the people it's attracting. And they decided to put their building and development skills and experience to work here.

Panama developers tend to try to squeeze out as many dollars from a project as they can. American developers tend to fit in as many amenities and quality items as possible. It's usually two very different perspectives.

Dennis and Christie are American developers whose experience has been building luxury custom homes in the States. The bottom fell out of the market where they'd been active for decades, so now they're transporting their experience to Panama. They turned their attention to Panama in the context of early retirement. However, as for many people, early retirement for Dennis and Christie wasn't about transitioning to doing nothing. It was about transitioning to doing something they love in better weather...and a better market. What Dennis and Christie love is building quality turn-key residences. That's what they're doing now in Pedasi. They've designed a four-story 23-unit building with three main floors and a penthouse level with three units.

The most interesting of the units are the two-level lofts with three bedrooms and three baths. You enter these units on the second floor, and an internal stairway takes you up to what is the third floor of the building (second floor of the unit), from which you'll have broad ocean views.

The building has been designed to allow for flexibility. Not more than 23 units will be built, but, if the loft version proves especially popular, they'll be able to convert other units to create four more lofts. I'm predicting that will happen. The lofts really are cool.

Ground floor units start at US$198,706. Again, there is flexibility. You can choose to have a spacious one-bedroom/two-bathroom unit with a den or a comfortable two-bedroom unit. Both are in the same 129-square-meter (1,389 square feet) footprint. Choose a 300-square-meter loft, and you're buying the best unit with the best views for US$600,000.

As the building is part of a gated community, owners will have access to all amenities within the community, which will include a spa, a beach club with swimming pool, a fitness center, a beach bar, tennis and basketball courts, and, of course, the long sand beach.

Pedasi town, with its restaurants and shops, is less than 10 minutes away. Las Tablas, with its supermarkets and other shopping, is less than a half-hour away. One of the best surfing beaches in the world is less than 30 minutes away in the other direction.

A new local airport is being built near Pedasi that will bring in new local airline service.

As I mentioned, Pedasi is growing up. Which means it's attracting growing numbers of tourists. And they all need places to stay. Even with more hotels opening up in the last three years, it's very hard today to find a room in high season, and rentals for people looking to stay for a few months or longer are thin on the ground, as they say. The condos at BellaMar will provide much needed additional rental inventory, making them ideal if you're looking for a place to spend only part of the year. You could rent your unit out when you're not using it yourself.

Assuming you rent your condo 25% of the year during low season at a short-term rental rate that is less than the going hotel rates (that is, working from very conservative assumptions), you could cover your carrying costs for the condo and make a net return of 2%. Not bad for a place that could double as your second home.

Spend only a few weeks a year here and make the condo available for rental during high season, and you could see net returns pushing double digits with just 50% occupancy.

Again, the developers have experience. Christie built custom homes for 11 years in Missouri. Dennis developed multi-unit apartment buildings. They know their stuff, which means you could buy a condo for a reasonable price and expect excellent quality. And a reasonable or better rental return.

The project is in pre-construction now. Construction will begin at the start of the next dry season (January 2013) and is expected to take about a year, with delivery scheduled for Jan. 14, 2014. Terms are reasonable. A US$5,000 refundable deposit will hold a unit for 30 days to give you time to come down to Panama, meet Dennis and Christie, and review the plans and the site. When you sign a contract, you put 10% down, with another 10% due after 30 days and a final 10% due 60 days from signing the contract. The balance is due at closing, and that balance could be financed through a local bank in Panama. Dennis and Christie are working with several banks right now to negotiate the best terms for their buyers.

To find out more, contact Dennis and Christie here.

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Read more here.

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