I’ll tell you, from my perspective as an investor, as a businessman and as a realtor, what you should know when buying a house or other real estate in Panama.
If I want to buy a property in Panama, I would look for places that are on the way to being developed, as opposed to being completely developed, and I would look for properties that have actual infrastructure or future infrastructure in the area. The reason for this is, I know that if I invest in a place surrounded by those conditions, the value of my real estate will increase.
You need to be aware of the market prices as opposed to the appraisal prices. This is because Panama moves so fast, the appraisal companies might think that a property is worth an amount based on the actual cost of the property, without conducting a study or perhaps projecting the value of the property a few years in the future.
You need to know the developer. If you’re going to buy commercial real estate or a house or condominium where you want to live, you want to know who built it and according to that, you will know if that structure is going to last longer than others. I’m not saying that they build poorly here in Panama; I’m saying that some developers are very meticulous on the projects that they build. For instance, the developer Empresas Bern is my favorite. They’re a little bit more expensive than the average, but what they build, they have zero problems, zero cracks, zero anything, and they’ll deliver what they promised. That’s why I like to invest in what they’re building.
If you’re buying second hand, you have to know the legal status of the property, so that you’ll know if the previous owner has paid all the taxes and that there are no legal issues related to the real estate. You don’t need a lawyer for this, but it’s easier for lawyers to find out that information than it would be for a non-lawyer. The reason is that, as lawyers, we have passwords to reach information that not everybody has access to. And we have people who are “Registro Publico Catastro” (property registry), and we know what to look for. A person who comes to Panama might not know where to look, how to look and what to look for.
I would suggest that if you’re going to make an investment, you investigate through a lawyer and an accountant, both. The accountant certifies that the property has no pending taxes and the lawyers will certify that the property has no legal issues. When we are hired to investigate a real estate transaction or pending purchase, we have an accounting department in our law firm that helps us to give a full certification of the legal status and the tax status of the properties.