Articles Related to Rentals in panama city

Third, consider inventory supply and demand. The Costa del Sol, for example, is ridiculously over-supplied. So, even though prices in that part of the world have collapsed over the past few years, I wouldn't recommend it as a place to shop for a rental investment…though other parts of Spain's coast are a buy right now, as our correspondents in that part of the world have been reporting recently.

The key consideration, though, when looking to buy to let overseas is the rental manager.

You can act as your own rental manager, but I don't advise it. If you're not residing physically in the same place as the rental unit, I say definitely don't try it. I've had more than 20 years of investor-landlord experience in more than a dozen countries. This isn't something you want to take on yourself unless you're prepared to make it your full-time occupation.

Engage someone who knows the market, who has marketing infrastructure in place, who has developed a client list you can leverage, and who can show you proven management systems (for reservations, for inventory control, for reporting, etc.).

Our first apartment investment in Paris rented extraordinarily well the first year. However, the rental manager spoke no English and was perpetually late with reporting. So we switched to another manager, an American. Yes, he spoke English, but he, too, was perpetually late with reporting...and, more to the point, he got us less than half the occupancy we'd enjoyed the year before, though the market was stronger and tourism figures were up.

When you make a rental investment, you're choosing, first, a market; next, a rental manager; and, finally, a property. Before you make a particular buy decision, seek advice from the rental management agency you're planning to work with. What's more rentable? Two bedrooms...or one?

What matters most to would-be renters? Location, of course...but other, less obvious things can be critical. In Paris, you'll struggle to make a decent return off a fifth-floor rental in an apartment building with no elevator.

I don't recommend long-term unless you're well familiar with the market and have a rental manager who really knows what he or she is doing. In many markets, it can be difficult to evict a long-standing renter.

When we made the decision to rent our Paris apartment long-term, we interviewed potential rental managers. The one we chose impressed us because she made a point of telling us, with a voice of long experience, to whom she would not rent.

"We won't rent to such-and-such people, because they throw wild parties," she told us.

"We won't rent to so-and-so people, because they don't respect other peoples' property."

Etc.

In some contexts, her positions might be termed discrimination. We saw them as risk management.

A global portfolio of rental properties (or even a single well-selected rental apartment) isn't a strategy for getting rich quick, but it is one of the best options available today for solid, reliable returns with the potential for capital appreciation over time and immediate diversification, which should be an overriding agenda of every investor today.

What level of yield should you expect? A minimum of 5% per year net. Buy under-market or identify a market with some particular distortion at work (to do with inventory supply and demand, occupancy rates, seasonality, room rates, etc.), and you can net 10% per year or more.

Leverage can expand your return considerably. Lief and I are netting (after all associated costs and expenses) more than 20% a year right now, cash on cash, from a leveraged rental we own in Panama City.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. Watch for insights and recommendations for how to make an agricultural investment in part 2 of this series next week.

Editor's Note: Making a first rental investment overseas, building a portfolio of rental investment properties, managing rental properties long distance, and where to invest for the best net yields will be key topics of discussion during our second annual Global Property Summit, taking place in March 2015.

You can get your name on the Hot List for first alert when registration opens for what will be the biggest and most important global property event of the year here.

Continue reading: Evaluating A Property Investment In Abruzzo, Italy

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April 21, 2014

"Kathleen, my wife doesn't believe we can be safe and have a low cost of living in Belize or Mexico or Roatan or other places that I'm very interested in. She can always find bad news on the Web about muggings, murders, etc.

"How do you address these concerns?"

--Darrell B., United States

If you were to ask my husband for his advice on this subject, Lief might reply:

"Well...you could always make a move without your wife. You could leave her at home..."

And, in fact, that's an option. You wouldn't be the first reader we've spoken with who has resorted to that strategy.

I don't recommend it, though. Relocating overseas shouldn't mean giving up your nearest and dearest.

We get this question often, and, instead, here's what I recommend:

Take this step by step.

Suggest to your wife that you and she take a trip somewhere on your list. A 10-day vacation, say. No pressure. No commitment. Just a vacation.

In most every case I've known where this strategy has been employed to try to adjust the thinking of a reluctant spouse, the result has been positive. If the reluctant spouse keeps even a slightly open mind...and the motivated spouse doesn't push too hard...usually good things result. Specifically, usually, the reluctant spouse has a surprisingly great experience and then is open to a similarly low-key second step...maybe a more extended visit to another interesting place.

This approach can stretch out the decision-making process, but that's OK. It's not a race.

We've had many cases at conferences, for example, where a reluctant spouse has come along for the ride, maybe kicking and screaming at first. Every time I've spoken with said spouse, maybe a couple of days into the experience, the story goes like this:

"I didn't want to come here. And, on the first day, I had a pretty bad attitude. I was sure this was all a waste of time because I was sure I wasn't moving anywhere. But now that I've had a chance to speak with others who are already living new lives in new places and now that I've seen some of the options up close...well, I have to say, I'm intrigued..."

Your wife seems especially concerned about safety. Don't try too hard to argue her concerns away. Instead, again, get her on a plane. Try to get her to go see for herself. What she'll see is that these places that have your interest really are beautiful and appealing. No place is 100% safe, and bad things happen everywhere, but the places we recommend are safer than many places Stateside and certainly not "unsafe."

Sure, if you Google around, you'll find scary statistics—for anywhere in the world. Ignore the statistics and the one-off horror stories.

Get on a plane. Worst case, you and your wife will have a vacation, return home, and move on with your lives. But I believe, based on long experience, that if you can get your wife to take this first small step, you and she will be on your way to the adventure you're dreaming about.

Bon voyage.

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Owners of apartments in the next building we toured don't have to debate whether or not they're comfortable renting short-term, as the HOA documents for this building require all leases to be one year or longer. This was the first time I've heard of a building in Panama City specifically forbidding short-term rentals, but I think this may become more common. As the short-term rental market in this city has expanded dramatically over the last decade, more and more residential (as opposed to investor) owners are fighting back against transient renters in their buildings.

In this second building we viewed one of several developer units still available. The asking price for this 287-square-meter three-bedroom apartment is US$630,000, which works out to US$2,200 per square meter. Similar apartments in the building are renting for US$3,200 per month. That rent would translate to a net annual yield of 5.3%. A smaller two-bedroom apartment on a higher floor is priced at US$2,600 a square meter. The projected annual net yield for this place is a bit higher at 5.6%, based on monthly rental income of US$2,200. In both cases, the yields are in the acceptable range, but buying at the highest end of the current market leaves limited upside for capital appreciation.

The next apartment was in the Trump Tower, which I learned has also banned short-term rentals—despite many original buyers having been sold on the idea of being able to put their apartments in the rental pool of the building's hotel. By all accounts, the hotel is struggling, as is the resale market for this building. Pre-construction prices were as high as US$3,500 to US$3,800 a square meter when Donald launched the building. (Really, he didn't do much more than sell his name to the developer and make an appearance at the groundbreaking.) The apartment we saw is listed at a little more than US$3,500 a square meter fully furnished.

With no opportunity to rent short-term, buying the place furnished could be a negative. It's possible to find a renter for a long-term furnished apartment in Panama (I've rented out my furnished apartment on Avenida Balboa long-term for the last five-and-a-half years), but this market is narrow.

This Trump Tower unit is one bedroom and 90 square meters. It feels a lot like a hotel room (which, again, was really the idea when the building was conceived and launched).

Given the size of the unit and the fact that many units in this building are unoccupied and available, the estimated monthly rent of US$2,100 is high. I'd say drop that down to a more realistic US$1,500 a month. That means you're paying US$3,500 per square meter (beyond the acceptable high-end per-square-meter range for this market) for an investment that might be expected to return you 4.5% net per year.

In other words, this apartment is a pass unless you simply want to be able to tell people you own in a Trump tower.

Those first three apartments are all in buildings at posh addresses. The fourth apartment we viewed is not. This unit is the final developer unit in a building recently delivered in El Cangrejo and much more modest in terms of size and amenities. This project was built for a more local market, but it is priced as though it's on Balboa Avenue. They're asking more than US$2,100 a square meter, which is too much given the location and building amenities.

Still, using the developer's US$1,600-a-month projection for rental income, your net yield for this two-bedroom unit would come in at 6.8%. However, I'd say it's unlikely you'd achieve that rent. Ocean-view apartments on Balboa with better amenities are renting for that much. On the other hand, it's worth noting that there is a strong rental market for El Cangrejo; some prefer to be in this part of the city with restaurants and shopping on Via Argentina within walking distance.

Bottom line? The first two apartments are priced well but would generate only a reasonable, not a great yield. They're question marks as investment properties. However, for an end user they could be right on the mark, depending on what location and what kind of lifestyle you're looking for.

The final two units are simply overpriced and therefore don't make sense for an end user or an investor.

Is that the best Panama City has to offer? No. These four units were chosen as case studies, for educational purposes. Dig a little deeper, and you can find well-priced units in good locations where the numbers work out to net you an annual yield of 8% or even a little better and that come with the potential for steady capital appreciation.

Lief Simon

P.S. This is the kind of thinking and discussion we engaged in over the three days of last week's Global Property Summit. You have 48 hours remaining to purchase the complete set of recordings from the event at a prerelease discount of 60%.

Go here now to find out more about our new Your Dream Home Overseas: The How To Buy, Own, And Profit From Foreign Property Program.

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where to live in panama

From Paitilla we moved to a renovated Spanish-colonial house in Casco Viejo. The house was great (historic and architecturally interesting) but too small for our family long term. Also, Casco Viejo, this country's World Heritage Site neighborhood with centuries of Spanish-, French-, and American-colonial history, while, no question, our favorite part of Panama City, is also an increasingly maddening place to try to commute to and from. The ever-expanding construction (renovation of old houses in Casco Viejo and never-ending erection of new high-rise towers in every other part of Panama's capital); infrastructure (further expansion of the Cinta Costera to include an extension around the Casco Viejo peninsula over the sea, plus re-running phone and electricity cables underground and building the new city metro); and beautification (relaying the old brick roads in Casco and landscaping along the Cinta Costera) projects this city is investing in mean that getting in or out of many spots within it, especially during rush hour, is an experience to test the patience of a saint, as they say. Casco Viejo is one of those spots.

Finally, we had to admit that we liked the idea of living in an old colonial house in Casco Viejo more than the reality. From Casco we moved to Marbella, in the center of the city. Much more convenient location. In addition, this is one of the few places in Panama City where you find houses. Most of this city is given over now to apartment towers.

Alas, the convenient location in the heart of the city has meant that, over the past two-and-a-half years that we've been living here, we've watched as our neighbors have decamped, one by one, and the houses they've left behind have been rented not to other families but to commercial enterprises. Our neighbors now include CompuLine and an architect's office. In addition, Monday through Friday, our street serves as a primary parking lot for employees of the half-dozen banks within walking distance. Every morning at 7:30 when we leave for the office, we have to maneuver carefully out of our driveway and between the solid rows of parked vehicles on both sides of the narrow street. If we return home before 6 p.m., we often find someone else's car in our driveway.

Where to next?

We've agreed we'll make just one more move. I'll schlep our stuff and ourselves from one point in this city to another once more, but that's it. So we've been taking our time, trying to make sure we get this right finally. The search has extended, now, as I said, for more than a year.

We talk often about the inefficiencies and other downsides of trying to find a house to rent or buy in a market without a multiple listing service (MLS). One is that, because no agent can know everything that's available at any time, you must work with as many agents as possible. This translates into a considerable investment of time, both yours and the agents'.

We've undertaken this most recent Panama City search in fits and starts. We travel often and are out of town for extended periods. However, when we've been in the city together, Lief and I have dedicated an hour or more a day to this effort, going out, sometimes, with five different agents in a single week. In the end, we've worked most closely with three agents, each of whom has invested even more time than we have trying to find us the ideal place to call home. Joselyn, Thelma, and Andre have chased down owners, made inquiries of doormen, and followed up on Se Vende signs, tips from friends, and local classified listings that have gotten our attention. They have tolerated our seriously schizophrenic approach, which has had us renting, then buying, now renting again, as we've tried to consider every possibility. Along the way, they have negotiated rents and lease terms, down payments and seller financing. With each agent, we have come very close to signing on the dotted line at least once.

Frankly, we've been nightmare clients. We've been certain of our plan and then reconsidered it completely. Through it all, Joselyn, Thelma, and Andre have been patient and gracious, helpful and accommodating.

Now, again, we believe we're at the end of this search. We've found a Spanish-colonial house that checks all our boxes. It's big enough for our family, plus private, and it's been recently renovated to include new bathrooms and a new kitchen, as well as a swimming pool and a nice back yard. It's also in a pleasant, well-kept residential neighborhood that is within walking distance of our office, meaning no daily commute! With the help of the agent (in this case, Andre), Lief has beaten up the owner on price, and, as of yesterday morning, when we did a final walk-through of the property, we're ready to move ahead.

We're very happy for Andre, who will make a nice commission from this deal. However, the situation is highlighting another downside of doing business in a property market without an MLS.

What about Joselyn and Thelma? Each has made a big investment over many months, and now, it seems, is going to walk away with nothing! They're both pros and understand, I realize, that this is the way it goes in a market like this one. None of us had any way of knowing how all this would play out. Now that we do, though, Lief and I can't help but feel bad for the two ladies who have been both pleasant and persistent in their efforts to find us what we were looking for, even when we didn't seem to know ourselves.

We're sending Joselyn and Thelma each a small gift, along with our heartfelt gratitude and best wishes.

But, jeez, that hardly seems a reasonable return for the efforts they've made. Especially as, I have to admit, I hope we never find ourselves in need of their services again.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • Matthew J. Downs, founder and president of the new, non-partisan organization known as the Center for Medicare Portability, based in Washington, D.C. (www.medicareportability.org), writes:

 

As you likely already realize, if you're an American living, retiring, or traveling overseas, your Medicare doesn't travel with you. Currently the United States prohibits Medicare from paying for medical services for retirees outside the country and its territories. The nearly half-million retired Americans living overseas and the millions more who travel extensively abroad must either go without care until they return to the United States or pay out-of-pocket for the care they need. We see this as a fundamentally unfair situation for retired Americans who have paid into Medicare their entire working lives. This restriction on Medicare coverage is also unfair to American taxpayers because it ignores the potentially huge cost savings to Medicare offered by lower-cost healthcare options abroad.

The time has come to make Medicare portable and to give ordinary retired Americans the same benefits enjoyed by Americans working abroad for U.S. companies, active and retired military personnel, retired civil servants, and even members of Congress...

  • Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice writes:

Recently, as we were trying to make our way back to Beijing from Kashgar, in the far west of China, we were reminded that even though we may not involve ourselves in the internal mechanisms of our guest country, we still are affected by them. In this case, we were traveling during "Golden Week," China's eagerly anticipated week-long national holiday, when nearly all of the 1.3 billion people residing here enjoy a full week's time off from work and school and take the opportunity to travel.

Well, not all of them. Official estimates reported that "only" 647 million drivers and passengers took to the roads. An additional 79 million passengers, including us, used the railways. We were actually fortunate that we were able to get train tickets at all. Tickets sold out 12 days in advance--the day that they became available...

  • Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice writes:

Sometimes, just the name of a place can conjure up images of the strange, different, and exotic. Mandalay, Marrakech, Casablanca, Kathmandu...

When I first read about the Silk Road, I heard the name Kashgar, China. I liked how it rolled off my tongue. Kashgar. I imagined men in turbans sitting on plush pillows passing around the hookah, women in flowing gowns cooking pots of stew, the children tending to the camels resting amid the sand dunes, sounds of Middle-Eastern music bringing life to a desolate land...

  • Years ago, a friend--a smart guy...a guy who'd been around the block...done business all over the world--engaged an attorney to help him structure his holdings to mitigate his global tax liability.

My friend spent more than US$100,000...didn't understand the structures he ended up with...didn't want to ask more questions, because they led to more answers he didn't understand and more billable hours...and, then, a few years later, found he was in violation of some French tax code he'd never heard of. Certainly, he didn't mean to run afoul of the French tax authorities. And, even when presented with the facts, he didn't understand exactly what he'd done that he shouldn't have done.

In the end, he had no choice but to pay the resulting US$50,000 fine...and, then, to hope no further surprises awaited him down the line.

I joke now and then in these dispatches about how mind-numbingly complicated, as I like to say, this international tax and structure stuff can be.

It is. And it doesn't have to be.

At first, when you're starting out, making your first foreign real estate purchase or setting up your first offshore corporation, it's intimidating. You don't know what you don't know. You fear you'll end up like my friend, breaking some tax law you didn't know existed...

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

My investment focus is real estate and other hard assets. When I've invested in stocks, I've mostly lost money. The problem for me with stocks is that you have to pay attention on a daily basis to each and every company in which you own shares. Hard assets make more sense to me for many reasons, including the fact that values aren't likely to change by 10%, 20%, or even 50% or more in a single day, as they can for stocks, simply because some piece of bad news related to the company in question is circulated.

On the other hand, real estate is not very liquid. Even in an active market, it can take months to find a buyer and complete a sale. Metals--precious and industrial--are more liquid and don't require the same capital commitment that real estate can. You can buy a fraction of an ounce of gold if you like. The premium on that piece of gold will be high, but the point is it's an option if you don't have enough cash to buy more.

On the other hand, gold and silver are typically seen as places to store your wealth rather than as investment vehicles. Prices of these metals reflect sentiment as much as anything else. Industrial metals, more specifically rare strategic metals, are an exception. These can be both a hedge against inflation and an investment in a hard asset that has the potential to increase in value as consumption surpasses demand.

Rare strategic metals are used in every modern product you can think of, from iPads to cell phones, from flat-screen TVs to jet planes. They are "rare" because they are difficult to mine and are generally by-products of other mining operations. Mining them is dirty work...not environmentally friendly. Most mines producing these metals in Western countries have shut down due to the cost of complying with environmental guidelines and restrictions.

As most of these metals aren't to be found on the commodities exchanges alongside gold and silver, prices are controlled by the supply/demand cycle rather than by investor speculation. A manufacturer who needs indium for his product is going to buy the amount of indium he needs no matter the price. The amount of indium needed for any single unit of production is so small that the effect on the final product price is insignificant.

The metals in question include but are not limited to:

  • Indium -- used for LED screens, flat screens, cell phone displays, and jet engine bearings...
  • Tantalum -- used for capacitors for cell phones and cars, surgical instruments, and medical implants...
  • Gallium -- used for integrated circuits, lasers, fuel cells, and pharmaceuticals...
  • Hafnium -- used for electrodes, light filaments, and computer chips...
  • Tungsten -- used for light bulbs, welding, munitions, and jet engines...

The problem for the small investor is finding a way to invest in the metals directly, as, unlike gold and silver, you can't simply call up your broker and place an order.
A group out of Europe has addressed this challenge. SwissMetals, Inc. (SMI), working with sister companies involved in the industrial metal industry in Germany and Switzerland, has created packages of different rare strategic metals that you can purchase as an individual investor.

Unlike some physical gold programs that require a minimum investment of US$125,000 or US$250,000, the lowest-priced basket is currently priced at around US$6,500. The highest-priced basket is currently selling for around US$23,500. And SMI will arrange for storage of your metals until you're ready to sell (which is a good thing as these metals are sold in kilograms rather than the ounces that gold and silver trade in).

An investment in rare strategic metals doesn't replace the need for some gold and silver in your portfolio as a hedge against currency crises. However, I see this new asset class as an excellent inflation hedge as well as a play on the continued growth of the global economy. With stocks, you have to decide which company in which country will do well. An investment in rare strategic metals doesn't depend on which products or which countries are doing well. As long as the products that use the metals are being made and sold, your asset value has the likelihood of increasing. That's the kind of "sit back and watch" investment that makes sense to me.

You can inquire for more details on the four different baskets of rare strategic metals currently available from SMI here.

Mention you are a reader of the Overseas Opportunity Letter when you inquire about the rare strategic metal baskets at SMI, and they will give you four years of free storage on the "D" basket and three years of free storage on the other three baskets.

***

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 order "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas"!

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In fact, I wrote that line. Then I proceeded to use examples from the notes I'd made throughout the week to support the claim. Only many of them didn't.

When we moved here, a gallon of milk cost US$3.75. Today, it's US$4.75. Big jump, of more than 25%. About 7% a year, on average.

Same is true for a loaf of bread, which cost US$1.25 when we moved here and costs US$1.60 today, and a Pizza Hut personal pizza meal combo (a favorite of Jackson's). For this, we paid US$3.25 when Jack arrived on the scene with us. Today the same lunch costs US$3.95.

Meantime, three-and-a-half years ago, a pound of ground beef cost (in the place where we buy it) US$2.90. Now it costs US$2.60. I won't bore you with more grocery cart examples but will ask you to take my word for it: Some cost as much as 25% more today than they did when we first began shopping for groceries in this city three-and-a-half years ago. Other things cost about the same or even a little less, like the pound of ground round.

One of the biggest bargains in Panama City when we moved here was a movie ticket. You could see a first-run movie in English for US$3.25. Today that same regular showing ticket costs US$3.95 (depending on the theater...today there are also more options for where to see a movie and more screens than when we were first movie-goers in this town, and prices vary a little cinema to cinema). Panama City theaters also offer VIP seating. These tickets cost US$8.75 when we bought them for the first time. Today, they are US$10.50, which is about the same as a regular seat in a movie theater in Baltimore, Maryland (my most ready point of reference in the States).

The big bargain in current-day Panama City movie-going is concessions. A large popcorn and two large Cokes combo is but US$4.

Lief's haircut cost US$3 when we moved here...and it costs US$3 today. Dry cleaning is one of this city's biggest bargains. Our dry cleaning bill worked out to about 90 cents per item (averaging all things, suits and dresses with blouses and shirts) three-and-a-half years ago...and works out to about US$1 today. We send nearly everything to the dry cleaner except jeans and underwear.

Panama City residents are currently up in arms over the cost of gasoline. The government was subsidizing the price at the pump but stopped, and prices have risen to over US$4 a gallon. I leave gas prices aside from the general cost of living, though. Yes, they can be a significant part of a family's budget, but they are also affected by bigger-picture variables and can operate outside the local economy.

Back to my intended opening point: The cost of living in Panama City has risen in the time we've been living here, but, in fact, probably not by as much as Lief and I thought before we took this closer look today. Some costs are up noticeably, others only marginally, and some things we buy day-to-day actually cost less today than they did three-and-a-half years ago.

We eat out maybe twice a week, on average, and, recollecting prices in the restaurants we've returned to again and again over the past few years, we'd say they've increased only slightly. This is anecdotal, not scientific data, as we haven't kept a spreadsheet. Still, Lief, more careful with our money than I am, is comfortable saying that restaurant prices are not worryingly more today than they were three-and-a-half years ago.

We're waiting now for them to increase further, however, because the minimum wage in Panama has been increased from US$416 to US$490 per month. Most restaurant staff earns the minimum wage, meaning restaurant owners are now struggling to absorb a nearly 20% increase in salary overhead. They'll have no choice but to pass that along to diners, as some have done already.

What's the bottom line of all this? Panama City isn't a "cheap" place to live. It wasn't when we moved here three-and-a-half years ago, and that claim would be a little less true today.

On the other hand, as I point out often, you want to consider cost of housing separate from cost of living, as these two things can operate independently of each other. Panama City over the past three or four years is a great example of what I mean by that.

We moved to Panama just as property markets around the world began a decline that would continue for the next three-plus years (and that, in some places, continues still today). We arrived just as the Panama City property bubble seemed breezing toward its pin. I spent weeks searching for a rental that I thought would be big and comfortable enough for our family and that came with a rental rate that wouldn't set Lief's head spinning. We paid more than we'd budgeted, more than we wanted, to rent a place I wasn't really happy with. But that was the market.

Within six months, the market changed. Panama City's property bubble didn't pop, but it began, just after we became residents of the city, a slow exhale that has brought rental prices down by as much as 25% from their highs of 2008. Much easier today than back then to find the apartment you want in the neighborhood you prefer for a price that seems reasonable. This is mostly thanks to increased and increasing supply. And it's great news for the would-be renter.

The sales market, too, has slid over the past few years so that prices per square meter stand today, as well, about 25% less than during the Golden Era. As with rental rates, this deflation was needed and welcome and largely a result of added supply.

Panama City is seeing greater numbers of both tourists and foreign businessmen, some passing through, some stationed here long term. Meantime, it also has been fostering greater and greater numbers of residents who qualify as middle class and who both want and can afford to buy a home of their own. Great volumes of new housing supply have continued to come online, from Trump Tower (no, the local middle class isn't buying here, but transient execs are) to suburban-style communities within commuting distance of the capital (where more and more of Panama City's local workforce is migrating). It's not all being absorbed, and some high-rises stand with many unoccupied units, but the rate of purchase is enough to keep prices from continuing down.

That's Panama City. Elsewhere in Panama? It's a completely different story, with different supply-and-demand variables in play. I'll leave a discussion of the cost of living and of housing in Panama beyond its capital for another day.

Suffice for now to say that, while Panama City is not cheap, elsewhere in this country can be.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • Over three days in Scottsdale, Arizona, at our Retire Overseas Conference, which will kick off April 30, we're going to introduce you to the world's best options right now for spending your time and your money...the best places on earth to live, retire, invest, or start a business.

Starting in Latin America.

We give a lot of virtual press to Latin America because this part of the world is sunny, accessible (from North America and, depending on the destination, from Europe, too), welcoming, interesting, diverse, friendly, home to established and expanding communities of expatriates, bursting with business and investment opportunity, and, in some spots, sublimely affordable.

If this is the region that has your attention, be you a would-be retiree, entrepreneur, investor, or adventurer, where, exactly, should you focus your interest? It depends, of course, on your agenda.

In Scottsdale, therefore, with the help of the dozens of experts, expats, and advisors who will be sharing the stage with us over the three days of this one-of-a-kind event, we'll introduce you not only to where...but also to why.

Specifically, in Latin America, we'll show you...

  • We'll organize the program in Scottsdale in April geographically. And, after we've considered the top havens of the Americas, we'll move on to Europe.

Because not everyone is cut out for life in the tropics or the developing world. I appreciate the many delights, benefits, and opportunities associated with living and doing business in Latin America, but, for my money, the best quality of life in the world is to be found on the other side of the Pond.

For me, life in France, specifically in Paris, where we lived for four years before moving to Panama City, is as good as it gets. But that's me.

If you, too, are tempted by the idea of launching a new life in the Old World, this part of the program we're planning for Scottsdale will be of great interest...

  • If, though, you're looking for super-cheap and exotic, your best options lie in Asia.

Here, I'm no expert. The time I've spent in this part of the world has been as a tourist. I can tell you of natural wonders and historic monuments of note from China to Vietnam, Thailand to India, but that kind of reporting does you little good if you're considering starting a new life in any of those places.

However, I know four people who know this part of the world better than anyone else you're likely to find anywhere, who know it from the point of view of the resident expat and retiree, and who have experienced this region over more than two decades. Paul and Vicki Terhorst and Wendy and David Justice are Asia expat pros, and they'll all be joining Lief and me in Scottsdale next month to introduce the assembled group to the current best lifestyle and retirement options in the region.

Why in the world would anyone want to live or retire in Asia in the first place?
Because, again, it can be super-affordable. This region boasts a number of the most cost-friendly options anywhere. Pockets of Thailand, China, Vietnam, and India, for example, can be downright cheap.

Plus, living on this side of the planet, you'd have access to some of the world's most beautiful beaches. And your life would be full of the exotic, the unexpected, and the adventuresome.

That is to say, the culture shock would be significant. For some, this reality is thrilling and invigorating...for others, intimidating, even terrifying.

In Asia, as well, you have an added challenge related to residency (though Asian Correspondent Wendy Justice reported this week on your best legal options for arranging to stay full-time and indefinitely in this part of the world...see below).

The easy alternative can be not to approach Asia as a full-time choice but, instead, to create a retire-overseas plan that allows you to enjoy the benefits of Asia (super cheap and super exotic) part-time. Don't worry about trying to organize permanent residency. Stay as long as you can as a tourist and then move on. How about three months in Chiang Mai, where your retirement budget would stretch far indeed, followed by a few months in the south of France?

This is the kind of strategizing that our team of Asia correspondents will help think through for the benefit of all those assembled with us in Scottsdale in April.

As Asia Correspondent Paul Terhorst puts it, "See Asia. See Asia now. We're living through the Asian century, after all..."

If you're considering this part of the world, where, specifically, should you be looking?...

  • "One important point to be made about retiring in Southeast Asia," writes Asia Correspondent Wendy Justice, "is that not every country in this region offers a retirement visa.

"Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, for example, do not have any sort of extended visa specifically for retirees..."

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

Taking on the renovation of an historic property in France has been the occupation of many a retiree from the U.K. and the U.S. The romantic appeal is undeniable, and, thinking the idea through more practically, property prices in rural France can be really cheap.

I know this because my wife, Kathleen Peddicord, is perpetually paying attention to this market.

This week, for example, she sent me a Skype message to draw my attention to a 200-square-meter property for sale in a small town in Midi-Pyrenees. It's on the market for €97,000, or about €500 a square meter. I don't know current renovation costs in this part of France, but I figure maybe €1,000 a meter, depending how fancy you renovate. That means you're looking at €1,500 a square meter all in, which is a reasonable total. Still, that translates into a total cost of €300,000, which may not fit everyone's budget. The property listing is here if you're interested.

Or, for about the same money, I noticed today, you could buy an entire French town to renovate and restore. I made the mistake of telling Kathie about this over breakfast this morning...

It's the town of Courbefy, which is returning to the auction block for a second time May 21. The town was put up initially for auction last month but got no bidders at the reserve price of €300,000.

Courbefy was abandoned in the 1970s. Since then, several groups have tried to turn it into some kind of tourism destination, with no luck.

With the press coverage the upcoming second auction has been receiving, this one could be more successful. Many potential buyers have been showing interest, including one Paris group that is considering the offer as a land buy. They want a place to raise cattle...meaning they'd tear down many of the 19 old buildings standing (or near-standing, I guess) on the 20 hectares the town occupies. What a shame that would be.

France has plenty of options for the would-be renovator, as does Italy. Most are in the countryside, but not necessarily far from a town or city. Our stone farmhouse in Istria, Croatia, waiting to be renovated, is about 30 minutes from the main town on the coast but only 5 minutes to the nearest town with a shop and a restaurant. This kind of setting can be appealing for a quiet retirement.

Of course, a renovation project is a lot of work, which is another benefit in retirement...it gives you something to do. And doing this kind of work in the foreign country you've chosen for retirement can be a great way to become part of your new community. You'll get to know the local tradesmen and vendors, and, immediately, you'll have a circle of acquaintances who likely will become friends. This is how Kathie and I initially made new friends when living in Waterford and Paris.

Renovating our house in Ireland years ago gave us the opportunity to get to know much of Waterford County beyond where we were living. We traveled around in search of workshops and stores in Waterford and beyond, discovering parts of this country that, otherwise, we might never have known. The same thing is happening in Medellin, Colombia, where we're currently renovating an apartment. We've traveled all over Medellin and the surrounding towns in search of antique shops, lighting stores, furniture craftsmen... Again, the renovation project is helping us to penetrate quickly from the tourist to the local community.

The inventory of old historic properties for renovation is great in Europe, especially in France and Italy, but not exclusively so. Colonial towns in Latin America also offer interesting options...in Casco Viejo in Panama and Granada in Nicaragua, for example...in Cafayate (for small town) or Buenos Aires (big city) in Argentina...in the old town of Montevideo in Uruguay...

Not necessarily historic but nevertheless interesting options are to be found, sometimes at very appealing price points, in places that have experienced dramatic growth in the last 30 years. Our apartment in Medellin is a good example. It's in a building that qualified as high-end when it was erected 35 years ago, but, since, the place had been allowed to deteriorate. Most of the apartments in the building, including ours, haven't been updated since they were built. They need complete overhauls, but the as-is price points make the proposition interesting from an investment point of view. Panama City and Puerto Vallarta offer similar options.

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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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