Panama a Second Home

Panama as a Second Home and Retirement Destination

What Leading Publications Are Saying

Recent Press Coverage about Panama as a Second Home and Retirement Destination

N.Y. Times rated Panama the #1 place to visit…

By NEW YORK TIMES
Published: January 6, 2012

“It’s been 12 years since Panama regained control of its canal, and the country’s economy is booming. Cranes stalk the skyline of the capital, Panama City, where high-rises sprout one after the next and immigrants arrive daily from around the world. Among those who have landed en masse in recent years are American expatriates and investors, who have banked on Panamanian real estate by building hotels and buying retirement homes. The passage of the United States-Panama free trade agreement in October is expected to accelerate this international exchange of people and dollars (the countries use the same currency).
Among the notable development projects is the Panama Canal itself, which is in the early stages of a multibillion-dollar expansion.

Other high-profile projects include the construction of three firsts:
The Panamera, the first Waldorf Astoria hotel in Latin America (set to open in June 2012); the Trump Ocean Club, the region’s tallest building, which opened last summer; and Frank Gehry’s first Latin American design, the BioMuseo, a natural history museum scheduled to open in early 2013.”

“Mick Jagger, Donald Trump and Brad Pitt – not to mention 007 – have a soft spot for Panama, says Teresa Machan, so the rest of us may be surprised to find that its charms are remarkably affordable…”

Teresa Machan – London Telegraph
25 Oct 2008 – Comment

Artículo del  Lodon Telegraph –
Teresa Machan
12:01AM BST 25 Oct 2008

Mick Jagger, Donald Trump and Brad Pitt – not to mention 007 – have a soft spot for Panama, says Teresa Machan, so the rest of us may be surprised to find that its charms are remarkably affordable As property specs go it isn’t often there’s the opportunity to park a yacht out front. “I thought I’d woken up in paradise,” says Philippe James, recalling his first morning in Panama.
James, a 59-year-old property developer from Devon, discovered Panama by accident in 2001. Caught in a storm in the Caribbean island of Aruba, he was invited by a fellow yachtsman to sail to Panama’s mysterious San Blas islands. Arriving late, they moored in a small lagoon near the Spanish fortress town of Portobelo, where they woke to palm trees and smooth waters.

“Within a month I’d bought a £43,000 lagoon-front property and a yacht which I keep in my garden,” he says. James, who bought his first property in Colón province, has just purchased a second property in Panama City’s up-and-coming old quarter, Casco Viejo. Alongside Colón, Casco takes a starring role in the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

When 007 touched down in Panama City earlier this year, he could have been forgiven for thinking he had been re-routed, on a secret mid-air missive from M, to Hong Kong. But, while the city’s vertiginous waterfront skyline and dramatic mountain backdrop resemble that of the Asian city, similarities don’t stop there: Panama is the second-largest free-trade zone in the world, after Hong Kong. The sky is a tangle of cranes hovering over pencil-thin towers of gleaming glass and steel in various stages of completion. Landfill sites dot the coast as reclamation forges seawards.

RELATED ARTICLES
Panama canal widening raises fears about tolls 19 Aug 2009 In the city’s exclusive Punta Pacifica area, where Donald Trump’s
”billowing sail” structure, the Ocean Club, is taking shape, an entire mini-city is under construction. The project’s estimated investment of more than £125?million makes it the largest real-estate investment in Latin America. According to the IMF, Panama is the fastest-growing economy in the region.

All of which makes fertile territory for a Bond film. Sean Connery himself is rumoured to have three properties here, and Tom Cruise, Michael Jordan, Oprah and Enrique Iglesias have all been fishing in Panama’s property pool. Mel Gibson recently snaffled a condo and Mick Jagger has bought a house in Pedasi on the ”tuna coast”. Buy into Trump’s Ocean Club and you could be sharing the pool deck with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt – the couple recently bought a £5.8?million penthouse in the luxury condo/hotel complex.

The privacy afforded by hundreds of tiny islands strewn off the Caribbean and Pacific coasts has long been part of Panama’s appeal. Before one man and his canoe holed up here, the country’s most famous exile was the Shah of Iran, who fled to the Pearl Islands in 1979. It is now a weekend playground for local urbanites, with yachts leaving daily from the Ocean Club’s marina, bound for a private beach club on the island of Contadora.
All right for some, but what’s in it for the rest of us? Panama has 300 sunny days a year, a largely bilingual population and is very affordable, with plenty of first-world trappings that extend to medical services. Add to that tax incentives and immigrant perks (see box), hassle-free property registration and ownership, a low crime rate, stable economy with a US dollar currency – and property in idyllic locations.
There are places to avoid. Pockets of poverty co-exist with new wealth in Panama City, while Colón city has a reputation for violent crime.
Travelling requires patience: roads in and around Panama City become jammed, particularly during rush hour. The trappings of the Tropics include the mosquito – there is a low risk of malaria in Darién and San Blas provinces, and visitors are advised to have a precautionary jab.

Geographically, this strip of land between the Pacific and the Caribbean has it all. Packed into an area the size of Scotland it has vast tracts of virgin rainforest, island archipelagos and coral reef, 15 national parks and 40 conservation areas that host more bird species than in all of North America. It is also home to the world’s greatest short cut, the Panama Canal. Work on the £3?billion Canal expansion, which began last September, will generate thousands of jobs and possibly fuel a mini-property boom.

“The country is attracting 150 per cent more inquiries on our portal than this time last year,” says Property Showrooms’ Gareth Milton.

“The purchase process is very straightforward and Panama offers a cheaper alternative to the US.”

European luxury lifestyle group Nikki Beach begins construction of the Hotel Nikki Panama City this month. Prices here, and at its Playa Blanca property, start at £172,000 – at the beachfront property more than 20 per cent of buyers are from the UK.
“American expats have a foothold in the market but the weak dollar coupled with a new flight from London to Panama City has boosted interest from the UK and Europe,” says Khadine Henriquez, investment manager at Merged Visions.
Panama offers hip city lofts and beachfront condos as well as palatial Pacific pads, ranches, alpine haciendas and island retreats. “Many international purchasers buy two properties – one in the city and a second in the highlands – as do many middle-class Panamanians,” says Jaime Figueroa, CEO at Panama All in One.According to relocation company Initia Panama, a mountain retreat can still be had for about £45,000 and beachfront property for £85,000. Sacrifice the beachfront view and you could shave £30,000 off that.
Arriving in 2005 with open minds and a few exotic birds, Paul and Jenny Saban set up home in scenic Boquete, an emerging expat hideaway in the Chiriqui Highlands. They paid £230,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom property on four acres. “We lived in Alton, Hampshire, at an elevation of 700ft. Now, we live 4,000ft up the side of a dormant volcano surrounded by tropical forest,” says Paul, 57.
He and Jenny, 64, founded Paradise Gardens – a bird garden, butterfly house and sanctuary for rescued birds. “We have everything we need, including high-speed internet and excellent medical services,” says Paul. “We feel very at home here.”
The words “at home” are commonly echoed by newcomers. Like Philippe James, who says he’s “here for the beauty, not the investment”, most buyers are motivated by Panama’s laid-back lifestyle and the opportunities for travel and cultural exchange, rather than the chance to make a fast buck.
Rightmove is registering eight times as many inquiries for Panama as four years ago. With a high standard of living at a fraction of the cost of Europe or North America, Panama has huge retirement advantages – it ranks third in US magazine International Living’s annual Global Retirement Index. Retirees come for affordable real estate and healthcare and other benefits, but while it has been called the New Florida, Panama’s appeal extends far beyond the Pringle set.

The historical centre of Casco Viejo, juxtaposed against Panama City’s powder-blue skies, has an enormous attraction for those after character and a lively neighbourhood. The crumbling façades and skeletons of once-glorious buildings are slowly metamorphosing into elegant heritage gems. Arco Properties has several UK clients on its books. “The British tend to appreciate Casco’s beauty and potential,” says co-founder Patrizia Pinzon.
Bond star Daniel Craig, while on location, checked in to the Canal House hotel, a restored colonial mansion and a convenient base for the scenes that were set largely in Casco’s atmospheric streets. The National Institute of Culture features as the Gran Hotel Andean (set in a fictional Andean town) and the ruins of the old Club Union Building, former home of Noriega’s notorious Officers and Troops Club, were transformed into a glamorous cocktail venue. Located on a choice swatch of real estate, the neoclassical waterfront building has already been snapped up for development by New York hotelier Paul Stallings.

Briton Suzanne Ambrogetti researched extensively before deciding to renovate a one-bedroom apartment in Casco in 2007 after her husband went to work in Panama for Unicef. “The gated condo scene wasn’t our thing,” says Suzanne, 41. “We didn’t have cars and we enjoyed having cafés and restaurants on the doorstep.” They paid well under Casco’s current going rate of £1,300-£1,700 per square metre and appreciation looks set to continue.
Of his own slice of Panamanian paradise, Paul Saban offers a final word of advice. “This kind of move requires a certain pioneering
spirit. Looking back, I wish we had done it sooner. Quality of life is paramount, and we have found that here.”

Panama: “The Skinny on Six-to-Die-for Second Home Destinations-Your Piece of Paradise”

Panama is the new Central American bargain where the US dollar- the market currency- goes a long way. A former gas company executive spent a year and a half researching a retirement spot with his wife before settling on a 2.4 acre lot on a beach resort near Coronado. “We wanted a tropical place with an ocean view in a politically and economically stable country” he said. “Panama just kept coming up.”
Conde Nast Traveler October 2004

How To Retire Abroad

A trend that demographers say will only increase as baby boomers start cashing their Social Security checks: Americans are retiring in other countries where the prices are low and the living is easy. Hot spots like Costa Rica, Panama and Belize look like Florida circa 1970.
Newsweek, March 14, 2005

Beauty and Tax Breaks Lure Buyers to Panama

Little wonder that Panama is increasingly lighting up the radar screens of those searching for an affordable alternative to more traditional south-of-the-border retreats in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Caribbean, where escalating prices increasingly rival those along America’s own beachfronts.
Touted as the “next Costa Rica” by travel magazines and newsletters like International Living, Panama is undergoing a land rush as its Tocumen Airport fills with planeloads of eager foreigners with cash in hand.

Yet despite the price increases, property here remains a fraction of what one would pay for similar real estate in the United States. And with enticements like a 20-year suspension of property taxes to those who build houses or renovate in a historic district, and an income tax hiatus for those starting some small businesses, the opportunities are appealing not only for those seeking a place to retire but also for entrepreneurs.

At least that is what Douglas Lonneker, 39, and Gloria Esguerra, 28, are counting on. Eager to spend a few years in a foreign country before their 2-year-old child is old enough to go to school, the couple recently bought, as an investment, development property in the western highlands near Boquete and in Bocas Del Toro along the Caribbean Coast, as well as an apartment in downtown Panama City, where they plan to live full-time. A real estate investor and stock market trader, Mr. Lonneker was attracted by Panama City’s thriving business community, including more than 100 international banks and a tax-free manufacturing zone, as well as a technological sophistication, including high-speed Internet service in his new apartment. “Everything works,” he said. “And because it’s a financial center for Latin America, it’s easy to establish banking relationships and locate money managers and accountants. You don’t get that in places like Costa Rica.”

Then, of course, there is the lure of Panama City’s urban lifestyle, including a young, hip population and a bevy of good restaurants, bars and nightlife.
New York Times, February 2005

Click here to learn more

In Panama, American Retirees Finding More for Less

Golf course manager John Sutton had enough of lawyers, telemarketers, and the US government. So the San Diegan and his wife took early retirement, sold everything they owned, and moved to Panama. Other US retirees are making similar moves, attracted by Panama’s favorable tax treatment of foreigners, the relatively low cost of living, the lush surroundings, and the eternally mild climate. ”We got tired of the snow,” said retiree Barbara Votava, who moved here from Spokane, Wash., with her husband, Bill, after he sold his business. ”This is as close to paradise as you can get.” In recent years, retired foreigners have been drawn to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and parts of Mexico. But Panama’s moment seems to have arrived. Boquete has turned up on several recent ”Best Places to Retire” lists.

Los Angeles Times, February 2005.

Golf course manager John Sutton had enough of lawyers, telemarketers, and the US government. So the San Diegan and his wife took early retirement, sold everything they owned, and moved to Panama.Other US retirees are making similar moves, attracted by Panama’s favorable tax treatment of foreigners, the relatively low cost of living, the lush surroundings, and the eternally mild climate.”We got tired of the snow,” said retiree Barbara Votava, who moved here from Spokane, Wash., with her husband, Bill, after he sold his business. ”This is as close to paradise as you can get.”In recent years, retired foreigners have been drawn to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and parts of Mexico. But Panama’s moment seems to have arrived. Boquete has turned up on several recent ”Best Places to Retire” lists. Modern Maturity , the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons.

“Panama is the best place in the world to retire.” A rating based on the low cost of living, stable government, clean air, climate, safety and outdoor recreation – from tennis and golf to river rafting. International Living, August 2004

“Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama Vie to Be the Next Florida”

“The quality of life, the cost of living is a lot better” than the U.S., says Mr. LaFoley, 56 years old, who owns a shopping center in Massachusetts.Countries like these are rolling out the welcome mat to Americans with a variety of financial incentives. The LaFoleys, for instance, are in Panama on a pensionado visa similar to what is available in Honduras, which lets them live there after proving they have $500 a month a piece in income. Panama also lets retirees import a car tax-free every two years, import $10,000 of household items tax-free, and buy property tax-free if it is the owner’s only home.

The Wall Street Journal, June 2004

“Panama is now where Costa Rica was 10 years ago. Panama is getting ready to explode.”

National Geographic Traveler, December 2004

The New Panama “Invasion”

A century ago, Americans took over this country to complete and run the Panama Canal. In 1989, we sent in troops to arrest national leader Gen. Manuel Noriega, now in prison in Florida for money laundering. These days, Americans are threatening to take over Panama by more peaceful means: We’re retiring here by the score. The biggest industry in Boquete, a town of 4,000 people located in an impossibly beautiful mountain valley full of whitewater streams and year-round tropical blooms, seems to be selling retirement homes to Americans. Prime ridgetop lots with a view of 11,400-foot Volcán Barú can be had for $100,000; you can buy a modest home in ticky-tack developments south of town for $40,000. The government is cooperating in this new invasion by giving 20-year property tax exemptions to new houses built by foreigners, which largely means Americans, Canadians and Europeans.” Oregonian Register Guard, June 2004.

Panama has no hurricanes ever- and no destructive earthquakes.

Panama is the only country in Central America in a climate zone that is absolutely hurricane-free. Truly blessed by nature, Panama also has none of the destructive earthquakes that plague its Central American neighbors. The Panama Planner, 2005 The quality of life, the cost of living is a lot better” than the U.S., says Mr. LaFoley, 56 years old, who owns a shopping center in Massachusetts.Countries like these are rolling out the welcome mat to Americans with a variety of financial incentives. The LaFoleys, for instance, are in Panama on a pensionado visa similar to what is available in Honduras, which lets them live there after proving they have $500 a month apiece in income. Panama also lets retirees import a car tax-free every two years, import $10,000 of household items tax-free, and buy property tax-free if it is the owner’s only home. A century ago, Americans took over this country to complete and run the Panama Canal. In 1989, we sent in troops to arrest national leader Gen. Manuel Noriega, now in prison in Florida for money laundering. These days, Americans are threatening to take over Panama by more peaceful means: We’re retiring here by the score. The biggest industry in Boquete, a town of 4,000 people located in an impossibly beautiful mountain valley full of whitewater streams and year-round tropical blooms, seems to be selling retirement homes to Americans. Prime ridgetop lots with a view of 11,400-foot Volcán Barú can be had for $100,000; you can buy a modest home in ticky-tack developments south of town for $40,000. The government is cooperating in this new invasion by giving 20-year property tax exemptions to new houses built by foreigners, which largely means Americans, Canadians and Europeans.” The Wall Street Journal, June 2004.

New Panama Promotional video - N.Y.Times Article