I have lived in Boquete since 2004 and have seen the costs of land and building raise considerably higher, especially the cost of land near the town of Boquete or City of David.
My husband and I built five homes in the Boquete area but that was back in 2004 to 2009. At that time to build a good quality home with higher end finishes the cost was about $60/ sq ft. Now that same nicely finished home will cost you $80 to $100 per sq ft. Why? The cost of fuel went up, therefore the cost of most building materials and cement went up. Labor has gone up some too but not near the percentage of building materials and labor is much less expensive here than in North America and Europe; thus your savings.
The cost of construction obviously varies as to the kind of finishings and fixtures one chooses and the complexity of your architectural design. For example, you can buy a good American Standard toilet for $100 or a fancy one for $400. You can install aluminum windows for a lot less than the PVC windows that are German engineered. Building a two story house is more expensive than a one story. Building on a side of a hill is more expensive then building on flat land. And so on.
One product here that is much less expensive than North America is wood products; doors, kitchen cabinets, vanities, and libraries can all be made in local wood shops and there are some very skilled craftsmen here that can make them for your building, just make sure you go with a reputable woodshop. Cedro (cedar) is a common hardwood used here and makes beautiful doors and cabinets. I don’t recommend wood for windows because the wood can take a life of its own with the weather changes.
Building your own home can be fun and rewarding. In the end you get what you want and or need. However, I do not recommend building if you don’t like to shop. You have to shop for your floor and bath tiles, your plumbing fixtures, your type of roof, your light fixtures, your doors and windows, kitchen cabinets. This must be done by the client, not the builder. How would the builder know your tastes? He/she can guide you but not choose for you. And here is where you get to costs.
There are many building supply stores in the David area now (about half an hour from Boquete by car), a lot more than there was back in 2004. You can get most or all of your building supplies in David. Or, you can also shop in Panama City and have your building supplies shipped to Boquete area where you will be building. There are plenty of building supplies in the city.
Finally, most important, to make your building experience a successful one make sure you choose a reputable builder. Get recommendations from people and go see that builder's work. See how you like the construction he/she has done. You can talk to former clients of the builder. Boquete is still small enough a town you can do this.
One more point on cost and a suggestion I have learned from experience; make sure you go through your building contract with your builder with a fine tooth comb. The contract should state the phases of construction and the payments made according to progress. That way you will have no surprises. And oh, if you are one of those kinds of people who changes your mind a lot, be prepared to pay extra for changes. Stick to your contract and you should be fine on cost. The contract should spell out everything and its cost.
And one last final comment: do not choose a builder that does not speak your language. So, if you don’t speak Spanish make sure you get a builder that speaks your language!
(Photo of a home I helped owners build at River Ranch Farms on a lot they purchased)