What are we doing in Panama?
My husband and I came to this country in 2006 to escape winters in New York and to build a small real estate investment portfolio.
We were seniors who had enjoyed owning our own businesses as artists and writers in the United States, but we wanted greater latitude in our lives. We wanted a foothold outside the States and more affordable and adventuresome lifestyle options… but without too many complications.
When we looked at the country closely and considered all the practicalities involved, Panama gave us the confidence to make the move.
We were interested in beach living, specifically, and we recognized that oceanfront property values were rising steadily in Panama. So we decided we would secure beach homes we could live in, rent, and sell as soon as possible after our arrival on the ground.
We flew to Panama City on a cold January afternoon, and after a few joyous days reveling in the city’s welcome sunshine this time of year and a few wonderful evenings of outdoor dining, we made a plan.
We’d arrived in Panama with a couple of friends, also interested both in making new lives in this country and in building property investment portfolios. We decided to split up so we’d be able to get to know more of the country more quickly. Our partners headed to Bocas and we set out for Coronado to explore and compare.
At that time there were few condos in Coronado, but houses on lush lots in good to excellent condition were on the market from US$70,000 to US$200,000. We liked the region, became members of the Coronado Golf and Beach Club, and put a deposit down on an interesting hexagon-shaped two-bedroom house with a casita (for US$75,000) and also a three-bedroom, two-story house with caretaker family home on the premises (for US$150,000).
While we were enjoying glorious sunshine in Coronado, our partner-friends over on the Caribbean coast were suffering through three straight days of rain. Finally, they came to join us on the Pacific.
We four closed on the real estate purchases we’d identified and applied for permanent residency.
Fast forward 12 years… and here we are still in Coronado!
We have moved from houses to condos and have acquired a two-bedroom apartment in Panama City (an excellent buy in 2008).
At this point, we’re spending about six months a year in Panama and six months in the States. When we’re back in New York, all of our Panama properties are rented.
I began my international living and investing experiences in Hong Kong, where I worked as a ballet producer and bought a home that rose in value with the tidal wave of China’s opening.
After I returned to the States from Hong Kong I began looking around for my next adventure. Panama caught my eye as offering a similar level of opportunity to what I’d enjoyed in Hong Kong. This little country has an economic engine that compares with that of Hong Kong but is far less expensive.
Panama also offers permanent residency with a lot of perks. And it’s only a five-hour direct flight from NYC.
Living at the beach in Coronado is a great contrast to the unrelenting pace and prices of New York. The fresh sea air and daily beach walks relieve my arthritis and rejuvenate my mind and body.
My cost of living has remained relatively low thanks to tax exoneration and affordable monthly fees, plus I enjoy excellent public transport to and from Panama City.
I drive my golf cart all around Coronado and take the bus weekly to the capital for my urban fix. I am involved with fundraising for Ópera Panamá, now in its 10th year with several productions annually.
The arts have always been important to me, and I would not want to live anywhere without regular access to cultural events. Panama City is not New York, but comparisons like that are foolish. Panama is becoming a hub of Latin culture with artists from South America and Spain presenting regularly at concerts, theaters, and galleries.
Music in general is important in Panama, and there are many venues, both indoors and out, from clubs and stadiums to festivals and fairs.
I love sharing my expat experiences with others also interested in changing their lives and seeing the world as an inviting, exciting place to explore and discover.
I think that many people today, young and old, feel trapped and cannot see their way out. I have helped friends, family, and even strangers who’ve gotten in touch adjust their perceptions and go forth.
I think of it as my small way of both paying back… and paying forward.
Part-Time Panama Expat