More on Panama Real Estate

Joel is very good at internet research. He found a few things I’d like to share.

The first was written in January, 2011 but it’s still very useful and detailed information about buying real estate in Panama, the pros and cons, working with an agent, and a lot more. If you are considering buying property in Panama it’s well worth reading.

The second article is by the Panama Relocation Tours people. I am getting more and more respect for them for their very realistic and useful advice. They truly want to help potential expats rather than make money off them. Read this one too if you are thinking about buying property here.

(If you are considering one if their highly recommended tours, use my link. Thank you 😊)

Then, there is this more general post about the pros and cons of Panama by this family who made their home here.

If you are thinking about buying property in Panama, please do it with your eyes open. This is NOT the USA, Canada, or wherever you’re from. Things aren’t the same, and may not be what they appear to be. Of course you can find a great property and make a happy life, but you can also have some nasty surprises or fall victim to someone who does not represent your interests, which would be very unfortunate.

And, RENT first. LIVE in the area you are thinking of buying. Get to know the area, the people, the prices, and the features you will need. Panama runs on relationships and you will do much better when you know people. Your perfect property may not even be officially for sale. Maybe your neighbor’s coworker’s friend’s aunt wants to sell something good. You just never know!

Best wishes, good luck, and do your homework.

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There are earthquakes in Panama. We have felt quite a few. Panama is in the “ring of fire” known for volcanos and earthquakes. A few days ago we had a fairly big one, 6.1, on the Panama – Costa Rica border just down the road from us. We were sitting on the terrace at the time and it was a strange to feel the earth shaking and rolling under us. The locals said its the strongest they have felt, and it was fairly long also.

Reuter’s News

Pictures of supermarkets with everything on the floor made the rounds. There was news of some older homes damaged, but the injury in the news story is the only incident I’ve heard about where someone got hurt. I’m happy that our house is strong with reinforced corners and doorways. We don’t even have a crack.

I wrote a post in the past about our earthquakes and the tectonic plates. I’ve heard that they tend to move over each other rather than bump into each other which is why we tend to get the shaking and rolling quakes which are less destructive than the jarring, knock everything over type.

We also have volcanoes. The country was made by volcanoes! Thankfully the one in our backyard has been quiet for 400+ years, though it is still classified as active. Our neighbors in Costa Rica and Nicaragua have had more activity though with volcanoes spitting ash, smoke, and gas, and the occasional eruption.

But, we don’t have hurricanes, snow, deadly tornadoes, or many other weather related problems that cause trouble elsewhere. So I think all in all, Mother Nature is pretty kind to Panama.

An earthquake gives us something to talk about for days. I think it’s the most dramatic thing that goes on around here. Otherwise we talk about are the iguanas who ate the flowers again, the chance of rain, the cows who got loose, and is the water off again? La vida difícil.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Your House in Panama – Rent? Buy? Build?

I see it all the time in the expat forums – “we are exploring Panama and need recommendations on where to look for a house/property to buy”. Answers are usually – rent first for 6-12 months, I am selling a great house. PM me for details, and what area do you want? (we’re not sure, maybe somewhere near the beach but we don’t like heat and humidity.)

Seriously, if you plan to live in Panama, you’ve got to live somewhere. I can write my ideas, but I’d also be really interested in hearing from others who live here. Did you rent? Buy? Build? How did it work out? Did the process go smoothly, or what hiccups did you find along the way?  If you did it over, would you do anything differently?

I am no expert in real estate anywhere, and especially not in Panama so do your own research and homework. Don’t take my word for anything. If this topic interests you, also come back later to see if there are any good comments.


We rent. We came planning to rent but were open to buying or building at some point, but now we have decided that we are permanent renters. Our money is in the bank, not in the house. If we have a problem, we can call the landlord to fix it. If we decide to leave, we give proper notice and hand back the keys. It helps that we love our house and location, and our landlords have been super good to us. At our age and situation this is the best option for us.


It is possible to buy a house (or land) here even if you aren’t a resident. It is also possible to get a mortgage here but I know nothing about it, except that they require that it to be paid off before you are 70. There is no MLS here, or central database of available houses so what one agent is able to show you may not be the same inventory as another agent shows. There are also few resources to research fair prices. It can be hard to know what a property is really worth, and it’s not uncommon to have very overpriced homes on the market by sellers who aren’t in a hurry and just put them out there to see if someone will bite.

We have been taught that buying a home is a good investment. But, the reality might not be so attractive. We know of properties that have been on the market for literally years. The real estate market has been slow, buyers have the advantage, and the more expensive the home is, the smaller the pool of potential buyers.

You will be selling at some point. Maybe the reality of daily life isn’t what you thought it would be. Maybe you suffer a health setback and can’t manage in the house, or have to seek medical care back home. Maybe something goes on in the family that requires you to go back. Maybe you lose your spouse, or your own life and your heirs have to deal with selling the property here. This can happen wherever you live. It’s just more complicated in a foreign country. We know quite a few expats who have left the area and haven’t been able to sell their houses. I also know Panamanians with houses on the market for a lot longer than they would like.

Also, if you do buy it is extremely helpful to have at least months of experience living in your intended area. We would make very different decisions now than we would have when we arrived. What kind of construction makes sense for the climate and conditions? What features do you really need for your new lifestyle? What is a fair price? What do you need to know about customs, rules, infrastructure, convenience, neighbors, and other factors that will affect your daily life.


Then, there is building…. I would be really interested to hear from anyone who has built a house here! I don’t know anyone who has had the process go smoothly or on time. My Panamanian lawyer neighbor was so disgusted that his house was a year past due that he threw the papers on the desk and walked away. Another Panamanian neighbor has been working with the bank for months, many many months and finally only now has financing been approved. She and her husband are employed professionals, good candidates. All the gringos I know have stories of serious delays, and the builder not paying the penalties in the contract. It is customary for a Panamanian to be on site daily to oversee the progress. If you aren’t physically here, then what?

There are also people who buy a home pre-construction. There are glossy,  beautiful brochures and promises, but will the condo or house meet expectations and promises? There is no guarantee and if it doesn’t, you have little recourse. There is no guarantee that it will even be built months or years after you expected to be living there.


So, bottom line, in my opinion, if you are renting it is easy to change your mind. If you buy, proceed with local experience, local contacts, and lots of caution. If you build, expect major delays and problems. If everything goes well I think you will be a happy exception.

Ok you all, share your experiences! Fill out the picture and help the people planning their lives here.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Expat Article #5

My friend By has been writing a series of articles on being an expat that cover the points he has found most important or challenging in his experience.

View at

In this one he offers a few points of advice. Of course his experience is different from mine, and it will be different from yours but there are also common threads and ideas for all of us to consider.

To summarize…..

  • Don’t put a lot of “should’s“ on yourself. Give yourself time for the adjustments and don’t expect so much of yourself.
  • Expect to be out of your comfort zone and be ok with that, even welcome it. Expect that there will  be things that aren’t available, or that won’t work like they did back home. (Our experience with our on demand water heater was similar, and we find the “suicide shower” much easier)
  • the snowbird option – considering dividing your time between there and here if your lifestyle, preferences, and finances  allow. (We aren’t snowbirds, but we have found that maintaining a US address makes a lot of things much easier. Consider asking a family member or trusted friend for help in this)
  • “Stuff owns you”. I wholeheartedly agree. Life is simpler and there is great freedom in not being attached to stuff. I have seen the suggestion to put the stuff in storage for a year if you are having a hard time letting it go. After a year you’ll have an easier time determining if you still really need and want it.
  • Cultural differences and idioms can trip you up. (I have found people very understanding and patient while I learn. I have had trouble convincing people that’s it’s fine and helpful to correct me though)
  • Personal space, or lack of. (I have not found this to be a problem, but I’m also from NY and familiar with being packed into public transportation like a sardine. I’m not a touchy, huggy, kissy person though, so the custom of greeting friends with kisses on the cheek, and good friends with many hugs and kisses has been an adjustment for me. Some expats also want to hug everyone which has been hard for me as well)

By also mentions washing dishes in cold water, which we have always done here and never thought about it being a problem. The dish soap here is made to cut grease in cold water since hot water is not the norm.

Bugs, as in germs – We haven’t been sick much, and the most likely time is when traveling. I’ve read some info lately about the microbes that naturally live on and in your body and how important they are to health, and I wonder if we have been colonized with better microbes here which has helped our general health, and is part of the almost miraculous improvement in my dental health. The lack of freezing weather definitely affects the diverse insect population but I’m not sure what affect it’s has on the microbes, except freezing weather keeps people indoors or bundled up so they share less.

“Vale la pena” = It’s worth it. In my opinion yes, most definitely, and I haven’t found it any more difficult than moves I’ve made in the US (except for the language barrier).

As they say, YMMV (your mileage may vary). But, there is no place, no life that is free of hassles and problems. My husband likes a saying – “is the juice worth the squeeze?”  Yes, for us, most definitely.


Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Panama is a Very Positive Place

According to a recent Gallup State of Emotions poll, Panama and Paraguay are the most positive countries.

The poll did 151,000 interviews in 140 countries and asked these questions to determine the level of positive and negative emotions experienced by each person, and used the results to rank countries.

(Screen Shot from the link above)

The results of the most positive countries are all Latin countries except for one, Indonesia.

(Screen Shot from the link above)

Why is this? Family and community ties are very strong in Panama. We have asked many Panamanians what is important to them and the answer always is “family, friends, and enjoying life”. Imagine spending your life in this strong network of support and love. We are social beings. It’s built into us at a very basic level and social connections are critical for our mental, emotional, and physical health.

The USA, on the other hand, didn’t  score so well.

According to this article

Most Americans (55%) recall feeling stressed during much of the day in 2018. That’s more than all but three other countries, including top-ranking Greece (59%), which has led the world in stress since 2012.

Nearly half of Americans felt worried (45%) and more than a fifth (22%) felt angry, they told Gallup – both up from 2017. Americans’ stress increased, too, topping the global average by 20 percentage points.

“Even as their economy roared, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade,” Julie Ray, a Gallup editor, wrote in a summary report.”

Many of the problems in the US are daunting – cost of education, inadequate job prospects, lack of affordable health care, lack of affordable housing, just to name a few and if you watch the news, it sounds like the US is leading the world in going down in that hand basket.

I worked with many, many families while caring for my patients (I’m a former nurse). A family that gets along is not nearly as common as one would hope, and most families are separated by distance that prevents them from spending a lot of time together. It is typical to not know people who live within a block or two of your house, and it’s not customary to talk to people you don’t know around town. I was accustomed to this culture when I lived in the US but now that I have experienced Panama, I find it hard to go back. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain but when you experience it, it changes everything.

I’m not even getting into any immigration debates, but I will say that having more Latin culture in the US might not be such a bad thing. The Latin countries always rank at the top of all the happiness polls.

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Panama Cost of Living Article

Since we are on the subject of money, I wanted to share this excellent article that a Joel found today.

There is a lot of excellent information here.

However, two corrections.

  • If you arrive as a tourist from the USA, Canada, or another country that has friendly relations with Panama, you get a visa for 180 days. You can drive on your foreign license for only 90 days which is confusing, but a tourist visa is 180 days.
  • David does NOT have the same climate as Boquete! Not at all. Boquete is in the mountains at almost 4000 feet above sea level. It is much cooler and usually damper, rainier, and windier. David is at sea level, and it’s much warmer. Lots of Boquete folks can’t understand how people can live in hot David, and some of us David people find Boquete unacceptably cold much of the time.  I don’t know where people get the idea that Boquete and David are similar in any way – climate, elevation, culture, vegetation, lifestyle, cost of living, language requirements, amenities, etc etc. They are close in distance but a world apart in feel.

But, that said, this is an excellent article with a lot of great information.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Expat Wealth and its Dictates

This is article #4 written by my friend By, and it’s about having money and as an expat, more money than your friends and neighbors in your adopted country.

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Chances are, you do have more money in your adopted country, often a lot more. As By says, as soon as you step off the plane you get an automatic upgrade. This is true in Panama, but not always. Panama City, Coronado, Boquete, and other well known expat communities are expensive.  Many locals have been priced out of these communities and the ones who remain probably are fairly well off (or having an even harder time getting by).

But, in general,  look around at your neighbors. The middle class is doing well here in Panama and we see people driving better cars, upgrading their houses, and showing other signs of better living. But, still, many people live in very small and modest homes, extended families all live together, and people tend to work long hours for not much pay. Things are handed down and repaired as necessary, not thrown away and the yard is used for growing food as well as flowers.

By’s point is well made wherever you live. It’s about being sensitive to your friends and neighbors. Don’t flash your money and possessions around when they have less, and don’t expect more of them than their circumstances allow. (I’m talking about the locals, not the other expats but I think it applies in any circumstances).

I found this other, related article and thought it was interesting.

View at

ps. I hope the links work. Medium, the site where these articles are published, is a pay site. When I downloaded the app I could only read a limited amount before I was denied access unless I paid. I deleted the app, and now I can read articles in my browser without a problem. I hope the site works for you all, and I apologize if it is giving you any problems.

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It’s Hot

I know you’ve all heard that before. It’s the tropics and unless you are up in the mountains, hot weather is expected. We thought the rainy season had begun though, and the worst of the heat was over. Do they have Indian summer in Panama?

We’ve had some really nice rains and everything is green again. A couple of weeks ago the yard was brown and look at it now. I love the mani, or perennial peanut. When it has water it’s a beautiful green with yellow flowers and it doesn’t need mowing like grass. We take the weed whacker to it maybe once or twice a year since it seems to grow higher than it did in Florida, especially in the shade, but it’s thick enough that it needs minimal weeding. The Panamanians aren’t big fans because they are afraid that snakes like to hide in it but we’ve never seen a snake in the mani.

So, the rain is back, we’ve had some beautifully cool evenings. Then we woke up to heat, breezes, clear skies, and burning sun. The clouds didn’t gather in the afternoon and the rains didn’t come. Yesterday I got an email from Santiago saying he’d never seen it above 100 there, but here’s his thermometer.

I checked ours about 1PM and it wasn’t that hot, but it could have gone up more in the next couple hours. We also live on the north edge of town so it could have been hotter downtown.

Located in the shade on the terrace

Our dog may be nuts. She likes to lie out in the sun. This was also taken about 1PM, the same time as the thermometer picture. She’s either in the sun, in the dirt next to the house where she’s made herself a spot, or if I’m inside she’s behind the sofa or wherever I am. She takes good care of me and takes that job very seriously, so don’t come in our gate without a proper introduction.

It looks like today will be another hot and dry one.


People assume that David is impossibly hot. Florida was hotter in the summer. Pretty much anywhere I’ve lived was hotter in the summer. I remember 100+ degrees in Kansas many times. People assume that it rains continuously in the rainy season, but it doesn’t. Rains come in the late afternoon and soak everything, and then it clear up in the evening…. not always but that’s very typical.

It’s just odd to have summer weather again after the rains, but I see some clouds in the sky already so this too may be passing. One nice thing about Panama is that you can choose an elevation that suits your taste in weather. A lot of expats are in the mountains but I like it nice and warm so David is perfect for me, and we have AC for those hot afternoons.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

So You Want to Live in Another Country (Part 3)

Learn the language! It’s not as easy as one would think.

I don’t usually post writing by other people, but this series of articles by my friend By Edgington speaks for us expats as we navigate the joys and challenges of living in another country, and I think it’s well worth sharing.

View at

When I copy/paste the link it does weird things in my browser, so just in case I’ll try this too

By and his wife Mariah previously lived in Panama, and now they are in Colombia, both of which are Spanish speaking countries. You can get by in Panama with only English, especially in places full of expats, but (if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know what I’m going to say) but why? Why come here and hang out with only gringos? You can do that back in the USA or wherever you are from. Why miss out on this life from a Panamanian point of view?

Learning another language is a challenge, of course, but so worth it. You don’t have to be perfectly fluent, far from it, but if you can carry on a conversation you can have local friends, learn about the life, the culture, the food, what they value, and their sense of humor (which I especially enjoy). I have found the Panamanian people super helpful too. If you need a good plumber, the route to someplace, what is this fruit, or a multitude of other questions they will be happy to help you. I have found them very appreciative of my efforts to learn the language and endlessly patient in helping me along. We also have a repertoire of jokes about my missteps – you go to the canal to see las esclusas (the locks) not los esclavos (the slaves) and jugo de araña (spider juice) is not served for breakfast. (sounds too much like naranja = orange).

I am very happy living in Panama and for me, the biggest part of that is my friendships and interactions with the Panamanian people. I have been treated so well, and have been made to feel so included in their community and lives. None of that would have happened if I couldn’t talk with them. I give thanks every day to the friends who have helped me along the way, and to my very much loved teacher who patiently pounded quite a bit of Spanish into my thick head before I arrived.

It takes persistent effort over time, and using your new language every day at every opportunity, and the ability to tolerate frustration when it doesn’t work but little by little, a new word today, a new phrase tomorrow, it will get better. Buena suerte! 🍀 (good luck)

Posted in Panama | 15 Comments

Special on Panama Relocation Tours

Many people find that getting to know Panama with a tour works well for them, and the most highly recommended tour by far is the Panama Relocation Tour. I have written about them before HERE. I don’t promote other people and businesses unless I know them and would use them myself, and I have become a believer in these tours from talking with their clients and seeing many, many positive comments on social media.

If one of these tours interests you, I suggest you make plans and reservations ASAP! All the tours sold out through August and because of demand and a long waiting list, they have added three more tours.

This is the correspondence they just sent to me –


Panama Relocation Tours just added 3 new tours for 2019:

  • May 31 – June 7
  • July 5 – July 12
  • August 2 – August 9

This is a 6-day, 7-night ALL-INCLUSIVE Panama Relocation Tour which will take you throughout Panama! You’ll learn how to relocate to Panama the EASY way, plus how to get super affordable health insurance, the most affordable Visa options, how to find a rental, how to get your pet and household goods in to Panama. Plus, you’ll get to meet expats who live in each area you visit, see rentals in a variety of different price points and much MUCH more.

They have very limited space on these tours so you need to book ASAP to reserve your spot. Panama Relocation Tours is THE Retire in Panama Expert with 9 years of relocation tour experience, 100+ relocation tours and more than 2000 relocation tour clients.


The tour will take you to the most popular spots for expats, allow you to meet expats already living here as well as other fellow travelers, and it shares a wealth of valuable information on all aspects of relocating here. I have met Jackie Lange, the organizer and she says her main objective is to help people make decisions that are good for them, and avoid making financially and emotionally costly mistakes. She isn’t trying to sell anyone anything.  She just wants people to be happy and successful.  I also saw the group in Boquete recently at a restaurant. They were all laughing and talking, and a beautiful, new, comfortable bus was parked outside.

Of course if you have a good idea of where you want to live, and/or you want to organize your own tour you can certainly do that. But, the more I hear about Panama Relocation Tours, the more I am willing to share information about them. I’ve met a lot of very happy clients.

I am an affiliate, so if you want to book please use this link. They will share a bit of their profits (at no extra cost to you) which helps me maintain this blog and website (thank you!)

Here’s to new adventures and fun times!

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments