Once you settle for a neighborhood, you should visit as many properties as you can, to get a good idea about current market prices and the types of properties available.
Where to buy?
You should take time to visit different parts of Panama to find your ideal property. Depending on your preferences (surfing, snorkelling, hiking…) and your needs (e.g. to be close to a hospital or school), Panama offers many possibilities. Here is a list of areas where expats often invest:
Panama City - In Panama City, you may find luxurious condos with sea views and villas in gated communities. Panama City has the advantage of offering many excellent restaurants, bars and shops. What's more, it's close to an international airport, international schools and state-of-the-art hospitals. Panama City is often compared to Miami and has many neighbourhoods favoured by expats: Punta Paitilla, Punta Pacifica, Avenida Balboa, San Francisco, Albrook and Costa del Este, to name a few.
Mountain villages - Properties in the mountains benefit from a fresher climate (between 18ºC and 24ºC). In the province of Chiriqui, Boquete is one of the most relevant real estate centres in Panama, with a great range of properties. Furthermore, it has been recognized by many specialists as one of the best places in the world to retire, resulting in an increased number of foreigners living there.
Coclé, El Valle, offers you a fresh climate, rivers and waterfalls all within an hour and 45 minutes from Panama City.
In Sora, at just 75 minutes from Panama City, there is Altos del Maria, a city project for foreigners with all the amenities you could want.
Pacific shore - Most high society Panamanian families have property on the pacific shore in Chame, Coronado, Punta Barco, San Carlo or Gorgona. In Coronado, you will find one of the best professional golf courses in Latin America, swimming pools, beach clubs, restaurants and a large range of houses and apartments. A bit further is Playa Blanca, famous since the construction of the hotel “Royal Decameron”, with a casino, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Finally, in the province of Los Santos (Pedasi) and Veraguas, some projects like the Playa Arenal, Punta Mala and Playa Venao have become the new destination for many expats, especially Europeans.
Bocas del Toro – The best-known archipelago in Panama as it offers many real state projects in several places like Isla Colon, Boca del Drago, Red Frog, Playa Larga and Isla Bastimientos. It’s also one of the most famous tourist spots in Panama, at just an hour from Panama City by plane. There you can find restaurants, bars, hotels, scuba diving clubs and many small islands close by. The Caribbean shore is one of the most sought-after places to retire.
Mosquito Bay - The government has declared the area an ecological reserve, so property here is at a premium. It is also a famous area to fish, especially for black marlin.
Pearl Islands - Located in Panama Bay, are a group of 100 or more islands (many tiny and uninhabited). Contadora, the most famous island, is just 1h35 by ferry and 35 minutes flight from Panama City. The beauty of the coral reef and the green vegetation is so impressive that the TV show Survivors have taken place several times in the Pearl Islands.
Coiba – Located off the Pacific coast, it remains a wild land, as it used to be a prison until 2004. It is now a protected reserve, and UNESCO declared the entire Coiba National Park a "World Heritage Site". Coiba and all the little islands around, are a wonderful spot to scuba dive – you may see dolphins, turtles, whales, orcas and sharks.
Once you have found your dream property, make sure to visit it during the wet/rainy season (May to December) to avoid any bad surprises. As there are many floods, you need to ensure that your property is safe and still reachable during the rainy season.
If you plan to buy land or a house in the countryside, make sure that there are no signs of someone living or farming on the land, who might also claim it besides the owner. In Panama, after a significant number of years of occupancy you acquire rights to the property. Therefore, it is important to protect yourself against squatter claims.