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Insiders Speak About The State Of Panama’s Property Market

Three Insiders Speak Candidly About The State Of The Panama Property Market

Should you buy now in Panama City? And, if yes, what should you buy now in Panama City?

What about the rest of this country? Where does it make sense to be shopping right now for beachfront? For farmland? For a little home in the mountains overlooking a lazy river?

Panama right now qualifies as the world’s most enigmatic property market. We’re living here, and keeping up with the ongoing market changes is not easy thing, even for us.

Four months ago, we found a house we liked in Casco Viejo. We made an offer to rent.

“No way,” replied the owner. “I won’t rent the place for that amount.”

No problem, we told him. We’ll keep looking.

Two weeks ago, the owner got back in touch to say he’d like to accept our offer if it’s still on the table. We moved in last weekend.

Stories like this are increasingly common. Some Panama City owners are in denial. They don’t want to admit that the market has turned and are sticking hard to last year’s 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 to 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 are increasingly open-minded. 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. This is true not only with rentals, as in the case of our Casco Viejo house, but also with sales. You see “Distressed Sale” and “Reduced To Sell” signs for the first time in 10 years in Panama City real estate agency windows now, and agents in this city are, again, for the first time in a long time, going hungry.

Meaning this is probably the best time in a decade to be a buyer in this market.

But is it time to buy…or just to look? Will prices fall further, for sales, for rentals?

And, again, what about Panama beyond the capital? What’s the state of this country’s coastal and interior land markets? Have values throughout the country softened as much as they have in Panama City?

Panama remains one of the most appealing real estate markets in the world, a recognized safe haven. The smart money continues to migrate here. But what, exactly, does it make sense to shop for today?

And what if you’re looking not for an investment but a place to live? Should you, in that case, think about buying or renting?

To help us understand this fast-moving and still-expanding marketplace (yes, Panama’s economy continues to grow, worldwide financial meltdowns notwithstanding), I’ve invited three people with long experience buying, selling, and renting in this country to participate in a candid, insider conversation. No spin, no color, no promises, just honest discussion among three of the savviest Panama property investors I know.

Specifically, I’ve asked resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon, who has been a buyer, a seller, and a landlord in Panama City for nearly 10 years; Scott Taylor, an investor-friend who has focused his attention on pre-construction opportunities in this city for the past four years; and Rebecca Tyre, a Canadian who took up residence in Panama about four years ago, to join me for a special “State of the Panama Property Market Teleconference” tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 20.

We’ll kick off at Noon EDT. We’ll speak honestly and openly about our personal experiences as property investors in Panama over the past decade, and we’ll share details of our current holdings, as well as our plans for exit. We’ll begin with a from-the-scene look at the Panama City pre-construction and resale apartment market. Scott has agreed to share details of his current strategies both for buying (yes, Scott continues to invest) and selling.(If you invested in a pre-construction unit at some point in the past and are taking delivery of it now, what should your exit strategy be? How do you find a buyer?)

Then we’ll talk about renting in the Panamanian capital. Rebecca, who rented in Panama City for two years, then moved, two years ago, to the interior of this country, to the small coastal town of Las Tablas, is right now in the market again for an apartment in the capital. “What a difference two years have made,” Rebecca explains. “In those 24 months, prices have, in some cases, quadrupled.”

But that’s not the full story. For it is possible, Rebecca is finding, still, to get a good deal. Again, she has agreed to share details of her own strategies for sourcing a comfortable apartment in a good location even if your budget is modest.

Finally, we’ll consider Panama beyond its capital. Lief will talk about opportunities on offer on the coast and in the highlands.

“I had an e-mail the other day,” Lief reports, “from a developer in Boquete. This largely American-driven market is being harder hit, perhaps, than any other in the country as a result of U.S. market woes. This guy who wrote to me the other day is looking to sell his land for the same price he paid to buy it more than four years ago.”

Lief will share further details during our discussion tomorrow.

Panama Circle Members, of course, are invited to listen in as our guests. We’ll be in touch separately to send you dial-in details.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. There’s no shortage of information available on Panama’s property market. Websites, chat groups, blogs, real estate agency blasts, electronic newsletters…I know you’re receiving input and intelligence about real estate opportunities in this country from many, many sources.

Here’s the thing: Most of them are unreliable. Because most of them are speaking theoretically and from a distance. After 25 years scouting global property markets, here’s the most important thing I’ve learned: You don’t want to take your advice about what and when to buy from anyone but someone living in the country and currently buying himself. He (or she) is the only one you can trust to give you the straight dope on the insights and recommendations that will allow you to buy safely and to position yourself to make money.

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