Why Panama?

To be clear…my blog posts get bogged down when I feel like I need to write something that I don’t want to write. (Every writer is now nodding their heads). We’re here in Panama and I want to write about what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling about it and my observations.

But this post needs to happen first by way of explanation, and it’s been bottlenecking the whole works. So here it is…if you’re wondering what we’re doing here and what the nuts and bolts of this endeavour are, or if you’ve ever thought about investing or retiring to a Central American country…this is for you. (P.s. the only thing worse than writing about my research is having to talk about it later…because you haven’t read it! haha).

Why Panama?

I started reading about investing in real estate overseas a long time ago. I’ve been reading and watching trends especially in Central America because…well because I’m a realtor with a travel bug but also because Dave and I lived briefly in Mexico and Honduras early in our married life and have maintained an interest in the people, culture and language ever since. It’s always been in the back of our mind that there’s a good chance we’d live there again. Dave has been diligent at keeping his Spanish alive.  Mine is gasping for air.

As we talk to people we realize that we’re not the only ones considering this…not by a long shot. With the rising prices in North America people are opening their minds to other options. Why pay an arm and a leg for home and food AND shovel snow! So as we talk to people and hear what they are thinking we mostly hear Costa Rica. Sometimes, we hear Belize. Mostly because they speak English but also the lovely pictures of beaches that you can find.

Here’s why we’re heading to Panama to check it out (yes, this post is late…yes…we’re here already). First I’d say, if you’re seriously thinking about something like this, you need to make a list of what you want and need. Be very honest with yourself and don’t forget that ‘where you go, there you are.’ You’re not going to be a different person when you move somewhere else. Just ask me. My electronic piano was shipped to Qatar where I would surely have more time to play it. It’s so lonely.

For us, at this point in time, we need an investment. Not having a mortgage isn’t the positive thing you think it is. In order to save, we need to push ourselves a bit harder. An income producing investment would be even better. So at the moment, we’re not necesarily looking for somewhere that would suit us perfectly to live out our golden years in happiness. First, we need an investment. This is why we’re thinking of a beach front condo. Something we can attract you to (the proverbial you)…for a lovely holiday.  And of course something we’d enjoy holidaying in as well.

I know us, we enjoy some city life. While spending a holiday in a quiet remote place might be just what the doctor ordered sometimes…I need things to do. This also points to Panama. Panama City is, apparently, the most cosmopoolitan city in Central America. We don’t need to live in it…but having it within a reasonable distance is a plus for us. Who knows, maybe by retirement time we will have changed our mind about this. So far, this is us being realistic about who we are.

The question we most often get is why Panama and why not Costa Rica? I think Costa Rica is more firmly in people’s minds as a beautiful vacation spot. And make no mistake…it is!!

For us, Costa Rica is out because of a few things. First and foremost, we’re not rolling in money. When we do make our investment purchase, we’ll need financing. Costa Rica is no longer offering financing for non-residents. Panama has a number of financial incentives for expats that Costa Rica once had but has discontinuted.  Incentives such as the Pensionado visa for retirees and a 20 year tax free exemption on new builds. It’s also much cheaper to live here (apparently…we’re checking that out).

This chart shows the comparison between Costa Rica and Panama in a nice little summary. It’s worth a read.

If we were younger, and richer, we’d definitely consider Nicaragua. Funny, no one asks us about that. Did you know that Nicaragua has the lowest crime rate in Central America? The real estate prices are affordable and there are wonderful colonian towns, surfing beaches, eco tourism, mountains, volcanoes…and all the other beautiful things you associate with its other neighbouring countries. There isn’t a nice city…but we might be the only freaks who think we need this.

Please check out the summary above and ask any questions you may have. We’re here now and asking questions. We’ve already hit our first snag at the bank…more on that later. It’s still unresolved.



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