Three Facts About Buying Real Estate in Panama…and One Myth

Modern, fast-growing Panama offers an excellent variety of real estate. In Panama’s most popular expat destinations you’ll find everything…apartments, duplexes, townhouses, cute cottages, and more.

In bustling Panama City, condos are in good supply, and this year we are seeing some lower prices, from about $195,000 for 100 square meters (equal to about 1,076 square feet).

In the beach hub of Coronado—home to one of Panama’s most active expat communities—you can find apartments from about $190 per square foot and houses from as little as $150. In the cool, breezy mountain destination of Boquete, houses have historically been much more common, but these days apartments are coming online, both in Boquete and the neighboring city of David. I’ve seen prices as low as $83 per square foot in this region.

Before you set out to buy, here are some things you’ll do well to keep in mind.

Fact 1: Panama has plenty of titled property

Titled property in Panama is registered at the National Public Registry, where you’ll find records on land and construction all over the country. This means you know exactly what you’re buying and from who. Your Panama attorney can easily help you with the research, to make sure there are no claims or liens on the property you want to buy.

Some parts of Panama—particularly the Caribbean paradise that is Bocas del Toro—have more untitled or right of possession (ROP) property than not. That’s best avoided, as you risk having multiple claims of ownership on the same plot.

Fact 2: Panama has licensed realtors

Only Panamanian nationals can legally work as real estate agents in Panama. You can and should ask any agent you work with for their license number and then have your attorney run a search to see if there are any registered complaints. Working with registered, reputable realtors can help you ensure a smooth buying process.

Fact 3: Panama has no MLS

Like most countries outside the U.S., Panama does not have a single listings platform (multiple listing service, or MLS). You’ve heard, no doubt, of a U.S. seller giving a real estate agent an exclusive listing. Well that’s how it works here in Panama most of the time. A seller will give his or her listing to a select agent or group of agents. It’s ok—expected, really—for prospective buyers to meet with multiple real estate agents…no need to stick to one. Think of it like antique shopping—you want to look around to get the best deal.

Myth: Foreigners can’t own beach property in Panama

Actually, anyone can own property in Panama, as foreigners are accorded basically the same property rights as Panamanians. You don’t even have to be a legal resident to buy. That said, I always recommend renting for a few months at first. Many an expat has lived in one neighborhood, then fallen in love with another. Renting for a while can ensure you’ve zeroed in on the right barrio for you.

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