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Kjersten Van Horn of River Ranch Farms Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
 River Ranch home in Boquete Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBuilding Costs in the Boquete Area Vary and Costs Have Increased But Are Still Much Lower Than Many Areas of North America or Europe

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)
Carlos Rivera of CMRW Construction – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account

 House and backyard in Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe Construction Cost per Square Foot range is based on the materials quality used in the construction of the residential project.

The North American Standard is anywhere between $70 -$90/square foot depending on the quality of construction and upgrades you are seeking (take your time choosing a floor plan).

Interior finishes can make the cost vary quite a bit. You may be able to save a considerable sum by going for alternatives that gives you the look and attributes you're after.
 
(House and backyard in Boquete, Panama, pictured.)
 
 
 

 

 

Manzar Lari  of Casa de Montaña – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Casa de Montana, Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe price to build a house in Boquete can vary depending on what kind of house and quality you want. The general range for a North American would be about $70 to $120  per square foot.
 
In building our house, we did lots of things wrong but everything turned out. However, we did our research around what architect and builder we wanted. We talked to a number of people and looked at what they recently built. We had a shortlist of a couple of architects and a couple of builders and picked one of each.
 
We knew that we needed to keep working and making money in the US while we were building our home here in Boquete, which was going to be a large home because it was going to function as a B & B. We basically managed the building process remotely and had somebody here in Boquete who also would periodically come in and monitor what was being done. We would get pictures every Friday from our builder and we would have a Skype call every Friday without fail for the whole year that we were building remotely. As a result, we had a structure, expectations, and follow through, and we kept our builder to his timeline and our building expectations. 
 
Our B & B is 6,000 feet of covered construction. Some of the areas are outdoor, covered areas, and a lot of the covered areas are rooms. Our construction cost ran to the high end of the $70 to $120 per square foot range.  
 
You can get granite and nicer fixtures in Boquete but there are limited choices here. You may go to the store and you will find, maybe if you’re lucky, one thing that you’ll like out of the options available. You may go out with your builder to the store and then you may find one thing that you like and you purchase it right away because it might not be there tomorrow and no stock coming for a while.
 
You can get granite and you can get higher end finishes, but most of the builders will not do the higher quality of work that you would expect somebody to do but they will get close to New York standards if you pay $100 a square foot.  However, your structure here in Boquete would probably be sturdier than the homes in the US because they’re built with a lot of concrete.  
 
(Manzar Lari's home and bed and breakfast, Boquete, Panama, pictured.)
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Wee-Yiong Fung of Prestige Panama Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Home construction in Boquete – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere are 3 types of construction in Boquete. The cheapest one, which costs around $500 per sq. meter (roughly $46 / square foot), is built with the standard A-frame aluminum roof with no anti-rust coating, half of the bathroom wall is tiled, you get the cheapest tiles for the kitchen counter and the floor, and your ceiling is covered with the cheapest 2x2 suspended ceiling tiles. 
 
The mid-range type of construction for a house in Boquete, which costs around US $650 per sq. meter, (about $56 / square foot) is built with a treated aluminum roof which would look like Spanish tiles, flat gypsum ceiling, tiles for the kitchen and floor (US $10 to $15 per sq. meter / 92 cents to about $1.40 per square foot), metallic fixtures, and even a hot water connection, too.
 
The third type would cost you around US $800 to $900 per square meter ($74 to $83 per square foot), which includes a more complex metallic roof, gypsum ceiling, a good kitchen with a granite countertop, a bathroom with a hot water connection, a better quality of fixtures, windows, etc.  
 
(Pictured: home construction in Boquete.)
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Philip McGuigan of Chiriqui United, an Association of the leading humanitarian organizations in the Chiriqui Province of Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
When we built our house here in Boquete, which is a pretty high-end house, it what turned out to be about US $100 per square foot. That is just the building; it does not include the land. We have American-style furnishings and this is the nicest house I have ever lived in. We have granite countertops, tile roofs; and the wood craftsmanship here is superb. The windows and doors that are big sliders, were all manufactured here in Boquete. All our woodwork was manufactured here in Boquete as well. The plumbing is of PVC pipes and the gas pipes are metal. Because it is a good idea, a lot of people put in whole house surge suppressors. Overall, the craftsmanship was what really impressed me.
 
If you are building a mid-range American style home, your cost to build would be around $70 per square foot.
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Penny Barrett of Fundacion Bid 4 Bouquete – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The cost of building a house in Boquete has gone up tremendously since I built here. Most North Americans who come here and buy a house would probably be investing US $200,000. You can buy cheap land on a not very nice road and or you can buy expensive land, which is closer to the town. The price range is from $1 to $50 for every square meter (about $4,000 to $200,000 an acre).
 
Years ago, there was no inventory of houses that would satisfy an expat so most people who come here built their own house just to get the amenities that they needed. Now, there is a larger inventory of these types of houses because some of the previous owners may have died or have gone back to the US. There are houses on the real estate market that are beautiful. You will see two-bedroom houses to eight-bedroom houses. Because of the problems people had in the past associated with construction, people tend to buy already built houses. More and more people are coming and renting first just to see if they like it. 
Paul McBride – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Boquete residential pool construction – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingBuilding a new home is one of the most exciting and fulfilling things to do.  Being able to take your dreams, your preferences and your ideas and create the perfect living space is both immensely rewarding while at the same time challenging.   At the end of the process you’ll have a home that is perfectly suited for your needs and finished to your exact specifications.
 
But, like most things in life, successfully building your new home takes research, planning, determination and effort.
 
In Boquete, like most of Panama, homes are built using concrete block or a material called M2.  This is a Styrofoam core product covered with a galvanized steel mesh that is used primarily for interior and exterior walls and sometimes flooring.  It takes the place of concrete block but still needs to be finished with a concrete coating or stucco.  Steel is used to reinforce the blocks or the M2 material.  The cost of using either material is about the same.
 
Boquete home blueprint – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere are some builders using new materials like bamboo, plycem and treated lumber.  However, in Panama I’ve found that the KISS rule (keep it simple, stupid) is one of the fundamental guiding principals.  New materials may be fine but who’s going to install them, who’s going to repair them and where do you go to get replacements?  When looking to build a house, it’s often best to go with the tried and tested building methods in order to save you time and trouble down the road.
 
BUILDING COSTS
 
One of the questions I get asked the most is “What does it cost to build a house in Boquete”.  My answer is always the same – it depends on what you’re building.
 
As a general rule of thumb, a good quality home can be built for around $80 a square foot (or $850 per square meter).  That will include finishings like porcelain tiles, granite counter tops in the kitchen and baths, good quality wood cabinets and doors and the standard aluminum windows.  This price should also include basic civil engineering (lot preparation), architectural drawings and the construction permit.
 
This basic price can be made higher or lower depending on a variety of factors:
 
Boquete residential indoor tile installation – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingFlooring – tile is the preferred flooring material in Panama and can run anywhere from $1.20 per square foot ($12.95/m2) to $60 to $70 per square foot or more.  Obviously, this has a big impact on the total cost of the home.
 
Windows – If you opt for a high quality European style window you can increase the total cost of the home by $20,000 to $30,000.
 
Cabinets, doors and closets – the more cabinets you want, the higher quality of wood and the more detailed craftsmanship you require can add substantially to the final cost.
 
Light fixtures – Light fixtures can be simple (inexpensive) or complex (more expensive).
 
Plumbing fixtures – expensive sinks and faucets add to the final cost of the home.
 
Construction changes – this is probably one of the biggest factors that I’ve seen that causes cost overruns in home construction.  Asking your contractor to change the plans (add an electrical outlet, move plumbing, change walls) increases the cost of the house substantially.
 
WHAT CAN I DO TO LOWER COSTS
 
The more involved you are in the construction of the home the lower the cost can be.  For example, if you negotiate a contract where you are responsible for purchasing your materials you can reduce the overall cost of the home.  However, keep in mind that Boquete is a remote place and we don’t have Home Depot or Lowes to run to when we are short on materials.  You can negotiate prices with suppliers and reduce your cost but you have to carefully coordinate the delivery to your building site.  There’s nothing more frustrating that having a building crew sitting around waiting for materials to show up at the site.  This means that you can plan on making lots of calls and doing a lot of running around to make sure that your materials show up on time.
 
Work with your architect at the beginning of the process to make sure that the home suits your needs.  As I mentioned above, nothing increases the cost of construction more than making changes while the home is being built.
 
A FINAL WORD ON BUILDING CONTRACTORS
 
Choosing a reliable and professional building contractor is THE most important decision you will make when building a home in Boquete.  Remember, the cheapest bid isn’t necessarily the lowest final cost and I’ve seen many expats run into trouble by trying to shave a few dollars off the contractor bid.  To find a good contractor do some research, ask around and find referrals before making a commitment.  Look at the jobs the contractor has done recently and find out if the contractor is licensed and pays the required benefits (like social security, sick pay and vacation pay) to his crews. 
 
With time, effort and a little patience, building a new home can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Victor Ortiz of Volcancito Village – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The cost to build a house in Boquete depends House built in Volcancito Village, Boquete, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingon the finishes you choose.  However, a good average is approximately $700 per square meter ($65 per square foot) for the construction area.
 
At this price, you would get a house with aluminum windows, a gypsum ceiling, a metal roof, wood doors, imported floor and wall tiles, wood kitchen cabinets and closets, and a granite counter top. It would not include air conditioning or heating because neither is needed in Boquete.  As a further example, the house pictured above is about 300 square meters (3.230 square feet), which would cost approximately $210,000 to build.
 
To these costs, you must also of course add the purchase the land.  The cost for the land ranges anywhere from $50 to $100 per square meter (very roughly $50,500 to $101,000 for a quarter of an acre).
 
 
Howard Jones of The Haven Hotel and Health Spa, Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Building a in Panama can be both challenging and rewarding if you work with the right builder.  Here in Boquete we have several good, reputable builders but they don't come super cheap.  In my opinion if you create a nice house it adds real value to the property so the little bit extra you pay gives youthe Haven Boquete – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living more in value than you pay. Expect to pay $880 to $900 / square meter ($74 to $84 / square foot) for a high standard of finish. I paid this and a little bit more for my building and I get great comments on how good it looks.  (Picture of my place-- The Haven, to the right.)
 
Allen Rosen – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The cost of construction in Boquete depends on whether you are building to Panamanian standards or international standards.
 
Traditional Panamanian construction is simpler and less expensive than international quality. Instead of granite counter-tops, you will get ceramic tiles. Instead of a  shingle roof, you will get sheets of steel. There will be no expensive wooden trim on doors and windows. There will be no hot water heater. There will be no enclosed garage with remote control. Sinks and toilets will cost a fraction of the high-end ones you would buy for an international quality home.
 
This is not to say there is anything wrong with Panamanian construction. Your Panamanian house will hold up just as well and just as long as a American or Canadian home, but it will be less luxurious.
 
And it will cost half as much.
 
You can build a Panamanian style home, anywhere in Panama, for about $40-$50 per square foot for interior space, less for car ports and covered patios.
 
An international quality house will cost about $80-$100 per square foot, depending on how much you want to spend on things like imported floor tiles, bathroom fixtures, etc.
 
 
 
 
 

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