Quality Of Construction In Panama

“My question is for Lief, since it is to do with real estate.

“Can you comment or update on the quality on new construction if you buy a lot in Panama?

“Also, how good are Panama contractors?

“Can a Panama or Belize bank finance new construction loans?

“Your newsletter is great and you are doing a great job.”

–Bernard R., United States

As I write, our new office in Panama City (where we relocated last week in the wake of the flood of our former office two months ago…it took us two months to find suitable new digs!) is awash with “worker guys,” as we refer to them. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, plasterers…plus another set of worker guys running cabling for our internet system.

It’s bedlam. We moved in before the place was ready to be occupied because we’d already been operating without an office for eight weeks. Working from home can be great…but 25 people trying to work together from different homes every day for two months is a hair-greying experience, I can now attest.

So we all showed up here at our new base prematurely, realizing that’d mean working alongside the worker guys.

Again, it’s bedlam.

Can I comment on the quality of the work? This current crew of worker guys is probably representative of all the crews of worker guys we’ve worked with in Panama over the past 15 years we’ve been building, renovating, etc., in this country. Some of the work is impressive. Some is a disaster. Some of the guys are experienced, competent, and careful. Some are dangerously not so.

This new office didn’t come with a kitchen, so we’re building one in. The custom cabinets were installed yesterday, and are exactly what we were hoping for. The drawers open and close as they should. The corners are square. The refrigerator fits in the space for the refrigerator. Etc.

Note that none of these kinds of things can ever be taken for granted when attempting something like custom cabinetry in a foreign country.

So…cabinets? Great.

Meantime, however, the electrician has poked holes in walls where we recognize no reason for him to have poked holes. Now we’ve got to plaster over and repaint.

And the plumber caused a pipe to burst and flood our new IT room.

Remember, we decamped from our previous office because of a burst pipe that went undetected over a weekend causing a flood from which we weren’t able to recover. So here, now, in this new office, another broken pipe flooding water all over the floor six days after we’ve moved in is a cause for concern. I threatened to kill the plumber if he didn’t halt the flow of water immediately.

In other words, here, as everywhere, construction quality varies extensively depending on who you’re working with. You need to be on site during construction (or at least making very regular inspection visits) and pay attention to the quality, both of the materials (of the cement being used, for example) and any finishes.

Regarding financing, some Panama banks will give construction loans (Scotiabank is one). In Belize, Caye Bank will lend for construction.

Continue reading: Back To Basics In Belize

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