Land Confiscation In Any Country

“My concern is that Nicaragua is a socialist/communist dictatorship. Back in the 1980s, land was taken from Americans. What assurance have you that this isn’t going to happen again?”

— Maritza P., United States

In fact, the land confiscated in the 1980s in Nicaragua was taken from Nicaraguans. Perhaps some land was taken from Americans, as well, but, fundamentally, this was a Nicaraguan v. Nicaraguan issue.

However, to answer your question directly: You have no assurance that the local government isn’t going to confiscate your property…not in Nicaragua…and not anywhere else either. In the States, they call it Right of Eminent Domain…which translates, roughly, to mean that the U.S. government has the right to take your land (or house or whatever) if it believes it has a better use for it (say a highway or the expansion of an airport).

The possibility of national confiscation exists everywhere. Is it more of a concern in Nicaragua right now than anywhere else? I don’t believe so…

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“I am gathering all the information I can about moving to Panama, either Panama City or Boquete, from Tyler, Texas. My husband, who is a retired university professor, and I are searching for an affordable long-term lease while we settle in and look everything over. I’m having difficulty finding many one-bedroom or small home leases to consider. How do you think would be the best way to find out what’s available?”

— Pat F., United States

I understand, and I sympathize. It’s no easy thing right now to find an apartment to rent in Panama City. Everyone we spoke with before taking up residence here last month told us not even to try to arrange a Panama City rental long-distance. You’ve got to be on the scene, they assured us, ready to go to see an apartment as soon as it becomes available for rent and prepared to make a decision and leave a deposit on the spot.

We dismissed these suggestions as so much sensationalized rhetoric at first. But, as we owned a small apartment in the city already, we decided not to push things. Sure, it’ll be easier to find a bigger place once we’re in the country, we figured…

Easier…but still no piece of cake. The reports we’d received of how competitive the market has become? In fact, they were understated. I spent a solid two weeks pounding the cracked and muddy pavements of this town searching for an appropriate rental that fit our budget. In the end, we increased our budget twice…were gazumped…and finally resorted to a personal plea to an owner friend of a friend.

Bottom line, though, we’ve found a great place that we’re looking forward to moving into next week. Here’s the secret: Don’t try to go it alone. Enlist a local agent’s help. We worked with Giulia Gonzalez and recommend her highly. You can contact her here: Panama@LiveandInvestOverseas.com.

Having said that, here’s the conundrum: An agent (like Giulia) earns her money as a percentage of the rental rate. Meaning an agent isn’t typically interested (especially in the current market, where there’s no shortage of high-end business) in spending a lot of time helping you find a small, cheap unit. Because her fee is likewise going to be small.

Your best bet for finding a small, cheap rental is through the local classified ads. However, unless you speak fluent Spanish, practically speaking, this doesn’t work. Maybe you can make out the ads…but can you call to schedule viewing appointments? Can you ask questions of the owner to clarify details? Can you review the contract (which will be in Spanish, of course)?

If your language skills aren’t up for the challenge, you need an agent’s help.

Which brings us back to our conundrum.

Here’s my suggestion…the strategy we employed to find a studio apartment for our marketing manager: Engage an agent (like Giulia) and offer to pay her a reasonable flat fee to search the classifieds for you, to arrange the viewings, to help you understand the particulars, and to review the contract. Pay her enough to make it worth her time. You’ll save money (and time and hassle) in the end.

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