Ready To Talk
“Things are beginning to get back to normal.”
— Panama Circle Members Liaison Marion de Mena
The past half-dozen years have seen an aggressive run-up in pricing for both property rentals and sales in Panama’s capital city. Official bubble status was reached last year, when it seemed owners and sellers could ask nearly any price they wanted and find somebody willing to pay it.
No more. The sales market has flattened, and prices have fallen. Not as dramatically as elsewhere in the world or elsewhere in the region, but reduced and distressed sales are easy to find, and sellers are more negotiable than they’ve been in a decade.
We’re not looking to buy (though, if you wanted to own in this city, this would be a good time to go shopping), but we’ve had our eye on a house for rent in Casco Viejo. Rent first, we remind you often. We took our own advice last year when we moved from Paris to Panama City, not only because the city’s housing bubble had yet to come in contact with the approaching pin, but also because we weren’t sure where best we should locate. After weeks of apartment-viewings, we decided to settle in Paitilla, the little enclave on the point that’s separate from the rest of downtown, greener, and, we hoped, quieter. Plus, we like to walk, and, from here in Paitilla, we’ve been able to walk nearly everywhere we go on a day-to-day basis–to the grocery store, to the bank, to the dry cleaners, to the pharmacy, to our attorney’s office, to the mall…
Paitilla was the practical choice. But not my first choice. That’s Casco Viejo. So I’ve kept my eye out. About four months ago, our agent-friend in the city, Guilia Gonzalez, called to say she’d found the perfect place for us in Casco Viejo, a three-bedroom house on three stories with front and back balconies, a small private garden, even its own parking. We viewed it, loved it, and made an offer to rent.
“No way,” replied the owner, who had just finished the full and impressive renovation of the place. “I won’t rent for that amount.”
Then we’ll keep looking, we replied.
Last week, the owner got in touch with Giulia to say he’d like to accept our offer. We move in two weeks.
Stories like this are increasingly common. Some Panama City owners seem in denial; they aren’t accepting that the market has turned and are sticking hard to their pricing. Others don’t care. Investors from Venezuela, Colombia, and elsewhere who’ve put their capital into hard Panama City assets don’t need to sell or even rent. They’re happy to have their money in a market they perceive as safe and stable long-term. They’re not so interested in listening to offers.
But American investors? In many cases, their portfolios have taken big hits. They’re looking to their Panama holdings for some cash flow or capital return. They’re ready to talk.