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Anne-Michelle Wand of United Country Bocas del Toro – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House with a dock in Bocas del Toro – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost to build a house in Bocas del Toro can vary. In general I tell people that to build a cement home such as Coventec or M2 (very much like stucco) it would cost about $100 per square foot.  To build the same home out of wood would cost a little less but the structure would not as durable.
 
If you plan to build in the outer islands, you will spend about 25% more in order to get your material there, and even if you have a good construction manager, you will want to be in Panama and on site checking in to make sure things are being done the way you want them.
 
There are currently many well-built homes for sale in Bocas del Toro at very reasonable prices, so I would think twice about building. Building your own home will take a year of your life, with many frustrations and delays. Obviously it can be done and done well since we have so many great homes both in Bocas and in the islands compared to 15 years ago.
JB Seligman of BUENA VISTA REALTY located in BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
200 acres wood plantation outside of Bocas Town – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe cost to build a house in Bocas del Toro is anywhere between US $60 a foot to $150 a foot, depending on how elaborate you want your house. The standard house, a good one, with single wall wooden construction and concrete pillars, will run you around $100 to $110 a foot.

Most people who come down to Bocas del Toro will say that it costs the same to build a house in Houston as it does to build a house here.  The reason is that we have logistics issues here. You have to get everything to Bocas del Toro. That’s what costs money. That’s 30% of the building cost. You have to get materials from the mainland and then transport it on a boat and go over there. It’s time consuming. You have to handle the material several times. By the time you are done, the cost to build on an island in Bocas del Toro would be about the same cost as to build a house in the mainland in the metro area of Houston, Texas. 
 
(50 minute boat ride to Bocas Town on Isla Popa, a 200 acre farm and wood plantation homestead, pictured.)
Ian Usher of House Sitting Magazine – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
How much is it to build a house in Bocas del Toro, Panama? It's a similar question to "How long is a piece of string?" The answer depends on many variables.
 
house build Bocas del Toro Panama expat gringo retire construction – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living
Obviously there are three main parts to the  house-build cost equation:-
  • land price
  • materials
  • labour
This picture shows my home under construction on a small Caribbean island about 5 miles to the south of the main town of Bocas del Toro itself.
 
Lets look at the three parts of the equation in a little more detail.
 
Land costs
It will depend exactly what you want and where you want to be. Like all land deals, as they say, there are three key ingredients: location, location and location.
 
If you want a small plot of land on the main street in town that may well cost you more than 30 acres of jungle. Do you want waterfront property - that will add to the price. Beach front, even more again. A small plot on one of the outlying islands may cost anything from about $20,000, going up to whatever you care to pay, depending on size and location.
 
Materials
Again, this is such a wide variable. Are you going to build with local hard woods? Maybe you will use imported pressure treated pine. Bocas del Toro is at the end of the supply chain, so transport costs are added to any hardware supplies you buy here. You can buy wood much cheaper elsewhere, but you still then have to get it here. Start at around $1 or more per board foot of lumber, depending on type and source, and go from there.
 
Labour
There are two basic choices here. Do you want a North American constructor who will (hopefully!) build your house to North American standards? This will obviously involve North American size wage bills. Alternatively you can contract local labour building to local standards.
 
It is possible to find a happy medium. I did much homework, and I suggest you do the same, and I eventually employed a local team and was very satisfied with the work they did.
 
A small basic house may cost around $40,000 to $60,000 to build, including all materials and labour costs, but you can obviously spend much more and build a finer property.
 
Are you going to be building away from town? Don't forget that you may have to factor in the costs of solar system, water system and more for complete off-grid living.
 
As other responses to this question have suggested, come down, rent for a while and ask a lot of questions of a lot of people before beginning your house-build.
 
Good luck if you do chose to move here - the rewards are great.
 
ianusher Ian Usher house Bocas del Toro Panama Caribbean expat retire gringo – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living
This is how my little piece of paradise looks now - small and practical, comfortable and easy to maintain.
monique born of Tesoro Escondido Eco Lodge and Cabinas – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Prices to build a home in Bocas Del Toro, like everything else, is all over the place. What will affect the prices: the materials you wish to use in your construction; whether or not you will use a contractor; how far you are from the building supplies (people often forget to consider the transport of materials and workers when building. this can really add up especially if you are on another island); and whether or not you are on site to supervise either the contractor or your workers if you decide to do on your own.
 
You can buy an existing simple wood construction for maybe $80,000, or maybe $120,000 if it is on the water. So a general answer is that to build a house will cost what you are willing to spend. $15,000 for a simple little house that you build with your own crew or $300k,000 for a very very very fancy home. This would not include the cost of the land.
 
There are a lot of existing homes on the market in Bocas right now, so visit a few and educate yourself as to how tings are done around here. If something is especially appealing, have a builder cost it out. Who knows, it might be cheaper to buy an existing building and maybe remodel a few things if need be.
 
Regardless of what you decide, it would behoove anyone considering moving here to look around. As you consider whether building or not in Bocas, my best advice would be to rent first, at least for 6 months to 1 year, before committing to building. Talk to people who are willing to share their successes and their failures. Who are the contractors that people actually recommend? There are a few nightmares stories in Bocas (as I am sure there are elsewhere) and if you can benefit from other people's experience, do it!

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