Own in Panama’s Highlands… from Just $49,000

It feels like the highland town of Boquete is Panama’s fastest-growing relocation destination. There are a lot of “new things” around here…a new market, new theater, new library, and a new hospice are just a few. In fact, there’s little that can’t be found in Boquete these days.

And you’re close to the city of David, just 30 to 40 minutes away (the road is being widened and drive times will vary until it’s done). Taken together, David and Boquete are the ultimate twin towns. Join the hustle and bustle when you need to, then head for the hills and relax.

After David’s sultry heat, a weekend in Boquete has put some extra pep in my step. The mountain air…a cool 79 F today…has something to do with it. So do little pots of strawberries and blackberries for $2 each (get them plain or smothered in a sort of heavy cream called nata), potted orchids for $5, and vats of organic coconut oil for $7.

If I were the type to shout from the mountaintops, the words would be “healthful” and “abundant.” You can’t help but get a rosy glow, hiking up and down the hills, stopping now and then for freshly roasted highland coffee, available on nearly every corner.

If you have a roving eye for real estate, the “se vende” (“for sale”) signs are hard to overlook. Here the word to shout from the mountaintops is “value,” as properties on the market today represent the best value Boquete has seen in the past six years.

During the boom years of 2007 to 2008, a modest Panamanian-style home could sell for over $180,000. But economic woes in the U.S. and the global crisis mean buyers are now scarce on the ground and prices have come down. Today the same property would cost around $140,000.

U.S.-style homes were also selling for much more back in the day. A home that sold for up to $300,000 in 2007 is likely to be on the market for around $200,000 to $230,000 today.

What’s the difference? In these parts, the typical Panamanian-style home tends to be 1,000 square feet or less. The layout may surprise you. Bedrooms tend to be small, and terraces tend to be large… they’re considered the most important part of the home. Local families have always preferred the fresh mountain air to air conditioning. Thus the terrace is for leisure, quality family time, and socializing.

And then there are the kitchens. Panamanian homeowners can generally afford to keep a maid. In these homes, the kitchen/laundry room/maid’s quarters tend to be small or enclosed areas rarely seen by guests. Open or entertaining kitchens are catching on, but you’re likely to find them in newer “U.S.-style” homes.

Land prices in the greater Boquete district (encompassing Boquete town and surrounding areas like Volcancito, Alto Boquete, Jaramillo, Los Naranjos, and Palmira) average around $40 per square meter (that’s approximately $3.72 per square foot).

The closer you get to the Boquete town square, the more you’ll pay. Get 13,700 square feet (nearly a third of an acre) right by the town center for $49,000. Or pay $89,000 for a 1.2-acre lot overlooking the Valle Escondido sector just outside the Boquete town center. As for construction, you can build a basic but solid home for about $600 per square meter ($56 per square foot), or go all out and build something “American style” for $80 a square foot or more.

It’s that simple…if you’re happy to be 10 to 20 minutes by car from the Boquete town center, you can enjoy the same cool weather and mountain views for less.

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