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Jonathan Stolarz of COSTA LINDA RESIDENCE CLUB – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Costa Linda entrance with condos – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingOther than the cost, there’s really not much of a difference between the houses in Panama and the houses in the US and Canada.  
 
In general, a 3,000 square feet house in Panama may have just 3 bedrooms. In New York, you don't have a lot of 3,000 square feet houses because it's so expensive. 
 
Since the cost of the land in Panama City is substantially less than it would be in Miami or New York City, the houses here can be bigger.  A house in Panama costs around $200 per square feet, so if you had a 3,000 square foot house in a nice, gate-guarded community, it would just cost you around $600,000, including the land and the house.  
 
With regard to the materials used, the houses here in Panama don’t use sheetrock for the finish inside the walls.  Unlike the United States and Canada, the houses in Panama have solid walls since poured concrete is used instead of sheetrock.  The houses also have ThermAcoustic walls and double windows because of the noise and of the outside temperature.
 
There are also planned communities like the one we’re developing in the Panama City area called Costa Linda which are similar to the ones in the US and Canada.  The projects like these could be condominiums where the common areas are jointly owned and are maintained through the homeowner’s association fees.  This is unusual in Panama, but the reason this is done is to make certain that everything is kept up.
 
(Costa Linda Residence Club, near Panama City, Panama with condos seen from entrance, pictured.) 
Robert Adams of Retirement Wave – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Condo with balcony in Panama with view of ocean – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingMost of the homes in Panama have an outdoor area. In Panama City, there are balconies in the apartments, like I have. In the countryside, it’s standard to have a little patio area. There’s a little concrete area in the back that we call a “bohio” where you end up spending a lot of your time because it’s very pleasant. You spend most of your time outside of the house here in Panama. The weather is very nice all year round.
 
The only difference is traditionally in Panama they have maid’s quarters for live-in maids. It is a very small room with its own bathroom. Over time, fewer and fewer homes (including Panamanian homes) have built-in maid’s quarters. That’s declining in practice. Either the homes have maid’s quarters or you are given the option of having it or not having it. That’s a little different from what North Americans are familiar with. Otherwise, you have a dining room and a living room that’s much more open and “outdoorsy” so to speak as there’s more emphasis on the outdoors here for sure. I consider the balcony to be another room in my house.
 
Panamanian houses have walk in closets and other closets like in the US. In the city, the condominiums have walk in closets. These are pretty common. The traditional homes here have limited closet space because people just didn’t use it so much in the past, but that’s unusual. If you’re going to build your home, you’re going to build closets in it. If you buy a house, you look for one that has the closets you want.  We have all kinds.
 
The old traditional homes when people had less money only had one bathroom. But the new construction and the construction in the last 10 years have more bathrooms. I have two bedrooms with two baths, plus a half bath that used to be connected to a maid’s room. I don’t have a maid so I use that room as my office area.
 
Panamanian houses don’t have a lot of carpeting because of humidity and other reasons. People use tile a lot. I have wood floors in mine. You can certainly have carpeting and rugs but if you’re going to live somewhere wide open and not have air conditioning, you would definitely have problems with molds or mildew. Panama is a humid country, even in the mountains. You have to keep things clean. That is why people used to have live-in maids. They didn’t have air conditioning and someone had to constantly keep the house clean for that reason.
 
I would not have rugs or carpeting in a place that I expect to keep open to the weather outside.  A lot of people have tile floors that they throw rugs over but deep pile just doesn’t make a lot of sense because it doesn’t fit the tropical environment here. You’ll probably find some fancy homes here and they make it a point to flaunt it because they’re proud of it, but that’s rare.
 
Again, adaptability is the key to success when you move abroad. If you’re coming down here and you’re from an area with a temperate climate, then you move into a tropical climate and expect everything to be the same, you’ll be disappointed. You have to stop and find out what people do down here.  When you stay in Panama for a while and you visit people, you walk into their homes and you see that they have tile and use rugs over them and some may have carpeting. You see there’s a wide variety.
 
I say to folks who are overly concerned about these things to stop and think for a couple of minutes about whether why they want to move anywhere. This isn’t the sort of thing you have to focus on. You can ask when you come down but it should not be a major concern or even a minor one. The most important is this: Are you adaptable? Are you flexible? Are you looking for a new adventure? Are you looking for a better life in some way, in some form? That’s the ticket. Then you come down, you visit a country and you look at it from the point of view point of what you need. And if what you need happens to be what type of carpeting you have, you can have it.
 
 Generalizations just don’t work. Most of the expats make generalizations, but they are just talking about their own experience and that of the few people around them. I deal with hundreds of expats all over the country and you just can’t make generalizations. I can’t do that because you can just find just about every kind of person down here.
Gonzalo de la Guardia of Panasurance – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Panama City condo showing open eating area – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn the US, since for the most part there is no house help like a cook or a maid, life is around the kitchen. So in the US, the kitchen is an open area where people sit around while you are preparing food and you can talk about your day. In the US, the kitchen is the more or less, the center of the house. In Panama, generally, the kitchen is out of sight because that is where the cook is. That is how Panamanian houses are constructed. They have a maid’s quarters or a maid’s room. So the strategy in designing the rooms in the house is different.
 
In the new buildings that I have seen, I can see that the expats have imported the concept of the open kitchen, which is now part of the apartment. So expats usually find very amenable places here in Panama because expats do not usually like having a maid in their homes. That is just not part of their culture. They usually just hire somebody to work for the day and when the day is over, the help they hired are gone. Panamanians are used to having maids.  When I was growing up, our family used to have maids who took care of us. Sometimes maids are even treated as part of the family because they have been with the same family for thirty years.
 
I would say that the architecture of Panama has been very accommodating to new challenges that are the result of different customs and how people live differently now.
 
In Panama City, generally, expats do not buy homes; they buy apartments not only because apartments were just recently built but because most apartments are already fitted with everything an expat would need.
 
Frank Kehanu – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Unless you find an old United States Department Of Defense or PanCanal (CFR35) (the US code of regulations regarding the Panama Canal) build per US Fed or Mil Code (Military Code) housing, you would not find wooden frame homes in Panama like you find in the US. Most housing in Panama, due to termite tropical issues are made of CBS (Concrete, Block and Steel) with galvanized (or hot washed) channel thrushes and channel roofing galvanized sheets instead of wood thrushes with plywood roof and shingles.
 
Also the potable water supply lines are all PVC and not current US Teflon CODE. Older Panama housing uses wrought iron or copper tubing for water supply lines.
 
Bathrooms hardly ever have nuisance odor remover or extractor fans.
 
Central air conditioning is nowhere to be found unless it is part of commercial RTU (Roof Top Units).
 
Due to tropical high relative humidity weather, carpet is hardly ever found; instead tile floors provide a cool, easy to clean and hypoallergenic surface.
 
In a traditional Panamanian home, minimum closed space is normal and linen closets, attics and basements are not found.
 
A family room is not a norm and not part of the culture in Panama. The living room serves that function.
 
Garage space is limited, which is the reason why you have so many street curbside parked vehicles.
 
Yards are a luxury in traditional Panamanian homes.
 
Storage space or sheds are not a norm neither in Panama. Garages do not cater to your vehicle's needs such as closet and benches.
 
Relative to the local Panamanians, if they live in the local Panamanian economy with the local Panamanian average per capita income, homes in Panama are definitely not cheap; they are un-affordable.
 
I almost forgot to mention the most important safety issue pertaining to you and family.  There is no way to get out through the bared windows of a traditional Panamanian house  in case of fire, so make sure to put out the fire as soon as it starts and make sure that the doors  (which are the only way out) are in your evacuation plan A & B.
 
 
Mark Hurt – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
It is true that here in Panama most homes are built with concrete blocks and then covered with concrete, with a tin or a poured concrete molding for sheets that are around 3 1/2 feet wide and come in many lengths.  These are screwed into the beams of the home which are metal 2 by 4s.  Windows are either plastic framed or metal framed.  Then of course title the whole place.  Carpet or rugs down here in Panama are a big no no.  it's to wet here and they tend to rot very fast.  Also dirt that flies in the wind and into your open windows covers everything.  My cleaning lady wipes everything down once a week, and sweeps and mops the floors every day.  The use of wood here really isn't the the way to go.  First off, wood is pricey.  Second, ttermites love wood. I bought some very nice hand made wood furniture which lasted about 4 years before I had to throw it all away.  Also remember that a lot of your inside furniture is made from wood and they will eat that as well. You won't see them, but when you start seeing small piles of saw dust on your chairs you got 'em.
 
Now another great thing about a concrete home is you don't have much that will burn, which is a huge plus. I don't know anyone that owns a home here in El Valle who has fire insurance.  its just not needed.  Our fire departments do very little; maybe put out a brush fire from time to time, which is the highlight of their year.  Mainly they help with a downed tree in the road, or if someone wrecks a car, or if someone is hurt and needs help.  I called them last year to help me pick up a older man who had fallen and he couldn't get up and I couldn't pick him up myself and load him into my car, so they came right out and did the job.
 
One big point I would like to make is don't use sheetrock in Panama. I have been seeing more and more loads of sheetrock being brought up on the trucks for someone's home but that's a big no no here. You will always be cutting out the bad places and re-doing them, if not from the water in the air, then it will be from a leak on one of your screws that hold the roof down. It's far cheaper to use a drop ceiling type.  That way you can run cables and if you do have a leak, you replace one or two titles. Done. 
 
Also we don't have crawl spaces under the home in Panama, nor attics.  Keep that in mind if you plan to air condition your home.  A drop ceiling will allow you to run that duct work and drop it any place you wish.
 
Fiberglass insulation isn't used much either in Panama.  They really don't understand it; they use the foil type.  Another reason not to use fiberglass insulation in Panama is that leaks and humidity ruins it pretty fast.
 
If you're having someone build your home in Panama, be hands on.  The locals are no that good at doing it right the first time.  I have seen many concrete floors that they poured and then have to go back and bust out a channel to put in a pipe they forgot about.  Also another big problem is power outlets.  For whatever reason they don't put many in; one to a room sometimes.  My home in the guest bathroom didn't even have one.
 
Have someone you know and trust oversee everything.  One example: sand.  Beach sand will cost you around US $30. a yard, whereas river sand will cost you around $12.00 a yard.  Workers love beach sand because they don't have to work so much to clean the small stones out of it. River sand, however, is perfect for floors, walkways, patios and sewer tanks.  Speaking of that, another point is many places in Panama outside of Panama City don't have city sewers, so everyone must put in their own septic system.  Anyway, that's a few things off the top.
Lourdes Townshend of Multimodal  & Logistic Transports Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
One big difference between housing construction (as in the US) when compared to Panamá is that apartment buildings in other places are more long than high, with a long corridor in front.  In Panamá you do not see those types of buildings.  In Panamá there are more 10, 20 or 40 feet high buildings, with balconies or terraces.  That, I suppose, is because of difference in weather.  Up north, you need protection from the cold weather, snow or ice; in Panamá, you want to receive that nice breeze and sunshine in your face.
 
Regarding single family housing, the difference is mainly that in the US (I don´t know about Canada) houses have attics and basements.  Also, in many complexes, houses are townhouses, mostly single units, and have fence regulations, as well as planted trees or reserved green areas.  In Panamá, it is very different.  People love fences of all kinds, and houses are very much in the Spanish style.  They don´t have basements or attics, and construction is very solid; not of wood.  There are parks and very large reserved areas more like protected environmental areas, like the "Parque de la Amistad", or Campana.
 
Houses in Panamá are painted in different colors, not only pastel ones, as is the case mostly up North.  Doors and windows are on style, instead of classic ones, with a lot of beautiful wood, bricks and stone.  Floors and terraces are very well decorated, and balconies have lots of flowers.
 
There are also communities called "houses for social assistance", which are small houses that low income residents can get at a very low price, and with a government grant.
 
Construction is booming in Panamá, and you can see so many varieties of construction that is almost a hobby driving around to see the new communities. 
Renate Jope of Panama Premium Real Estate – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
 
Homes in Panama are different than in the US mainly because they are built mostly with bricks or poured concrete, which makes them quite sturdy and heavy duty.  You can still find old wooden houses from the American Canal Zone, but the trend nowadays is to build with bricks and concrete. 
 
Most houses need air condition as the climate is hot and humid, it's the tropics!  But overall homes in Panama are built much stronger than in the US.  Especially the old, Spanish style homes tend to be real sturdy and spacious. 
 
In the interior, for example on the Azuero Peninsula, people have been building "adobe" houses for centuries (houses made from clay soil), they were cool, sturdy, inexpensive and would last very very long.  Unfortunately that tradition has been somewhat lost as building with bricks and cement has taken over.  You can still find one here and there but they are getting scarce.   
 
The natives still build their houses on stilts so that the animals have shelter underneath and houses don't flood in very rainy areas of the country.
 
Homes are very comfortable in Panama and built very well. 
 
 
 

 

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