Looking at Panama for Retiring Again
My wife and I just got back from Panama (1/27/05). It was our first trip and was intended for two purposes. One to see if we really liked Panama and also to see for ourselves what you really get for your dollar in Panama both house and cost of living. We looked in and around El Valle, Bouquete, Volcan - and several developments along the Pacific. We saw some really great property for 2-4 dollars a square meter all the way up to $65 sq. mtr. And yes, all the land we looked at had water and electric up to within 100 yards. We also looked at typical, middle class, new Panamanian housing project with 1100 -1500 square feet houses and double lot (1/2 acre) for no more than $50,000. The same house for $25 -$30,000 on a single lot and no upgrades. Although modest by most Americans standards, it was quite sufficient for our tastes…sure we would probably do a few upgrades just as some of the other Panamanians living in that subdivision had already done. We live in Pinehurst, NC and are very aware of the cost of homes. As in most cities there is a variation in the cost of homes and properties just depending on their location. In Panama we saw the same thing for most of the same reasons. Americans and other foreigners that have come there leaving their very high costs areas, i.e. Atlanta, NY, California etc have driven up the market value. Those people are selling their homes in the US for huge amounts of money and feel that moving to Panama and buying a house in the mountains, on the ocean or a golfing community for $300,000.00 and up is a great deal compared to where they are coming from. We currently live in a golf community, why would I retire and move all the way to Panama and live in a golf community surrounded by Americans? I could stay here and do that.
I look at living next door to Panamanians as being no different than living next door to my current American neighbor. Both have just as much concern about the security of their property and it's value as I
do. I cannot believe that unless I act like an “ugly American” my Panamanian neighbors would not look out for my property and me just like my current neighbors do. I have been researching and reading everything I can on Panama for several months. Our recent visit convinced me you can retire in Panama, buy a house and live side by side with Panamanians, who by the way are the most hospitable people I have ever met. Or you can move to an overpriced expat community it's really your choice. I agree one trip does not make me an expert on this subject. However, to date everything I saw when I was there leads me to believe living, buying, or building a house in Panama is relative, you can retire there and live among the real people of Panama at a fraction of the cost. I have read every post on the yahoo forums, looked at all the files and have tried to absorb all points of view. I did come to one very, very important conclusion. You cannot go to Panama and for a couple of weeks and buy either a piece of property or a home and still have done your due diligence. We were lucky to have had an excellent friend that took us to many places to look. I now realize we must move there, rent and become one of them as best we can. We intend to experience the dry and wet seasons before we buy and or build. Only then will we ever come close to the real world we have chosen, which is Panama!