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Buying Property

Panama - Buying Property


When expats wish to purchase property in Panama, they usually find that the process is not that simple. On the other hand, they soon realize that they have the same rights as Panamanian citizens. One of the few restrictions on expats buying property in Panama is that they cannot purchase land or houses that are within 10 miles of the borders of Costa Rica or Columbia. As Panama is becoming a very popular place for expats, particularly retirees, property is relatively inexpensive. The procedures for purchasing property are much the same as in many other countries in the region.

Property in Panama falls into two categories. They are either "titled", which means that buyers own the freehold of the property, or they are "right of possession", which is similar to leasehold, where buyers do not own the property outright. Right of possession properties cannot be used to raise a mortgage and cannot help expats to qualify for an investment visa. Legal advice is essential when purchasing a property in Panama. Lawyers can help with the research that expats need to do and they carry out all the validation and security checks. It is always a good idea to ask around when finding a lawyer to help with this process and choose the one that is recommended by other expats who have gone through the same process.

Once they have found the right property expats can make an offer to the person who sells it. Before signing a contract which commits them to buy it, customers need to carry out a few checks on the property. The property and ownership records are available from Panama’s Public Registry or the Ministry of Economy and Finance. A lawyer can help expats to check if there are any financial or legal problems that might prevent them from becoming the legal owner of the property.

The sale of contract must be in Spanish, but buyers can request that an official translation be made available as well. Each contract is different, but it must include information on the payment method, which must be confirmed by both seller and buyer in order to avoid any penalties which can be incurred if there is a breach of contract. A deposit must be paid when signing the final contract. This can be between 3% and 20%, depending upon the property and its value, and this deposit is not given back if the buyer changes their mind in the last stage of the purchase.

A survey is also carried out on the property in order to check the structural soundness of the building and to ensure that the description provided by the seller is an accurate description of the building’s condition. Problems that are uncovered by the survey can later be dealt with before the sale is finalized. The property seller must make a legal declaration and provide supporting documentation to prove that there is no legal reason preventing them from selling it, such as any debts or legal disputes. The seller should also ensure that there are no outstanding bills attached to the property and any maintenance fees, such as water supply or sewerage. It should be all paid before the transfer of ownership takes place. The seller is obliged to ensure that their own mortgage on the property is dealt with by the time the purchase is finalized.

When it is clear that all the mentioned matters have been taken care of, the seller and the purchaser can sign the deed of sale, which must then be confirmed by a Notary Public. This document is then passed on to the Public Registry with copies of the documents that prove that there isn't any outstanding debt on the property. They will then authorize the transfer of the property title to the buyer. This process can take around 10 days. This way both sides are protected from any last minute problems that may occur. After this has been completed the buyer can take a copy of the deed of sale to the Property Registry and the Registry of Government Property, which is the part of the Ministry of Economy and Finance in Panama.

Property prices

The worldwide economic downturn has not affected property prices in Panama very much and the influx of foreign investors in the country has managed to keep the situation fairly steady. It is possible to purchase a property off plan at a very reasonable price and usually with a good discount. As there are many developments taking place across the country these bargains can be found in most places. However, when the properties are finished, there is not often much negotiating that can be done. Most sellers are happy to hold on to a property until there is a purchaser who is willing to pay the asking price. With the increased investment in Panama it is expected that property prices will increase by around 6% each year.

At the end of 2010 the average property prices in Panama City for an apartment varied depending on the location and size of the apartment. The average price for a small 90 sq m inland apartment was less than $150,000, while an apartment of a larger scale, such as 350 sq m, had an average price of just over $500,000. Beachfront properties are very popular and average prices for apartments on the coast in Panama City in 2010 were much higher than those further inland. For an apartment of around 80 sq m an average price of just over $175,000 was quite common, while the larger apartment of 350 sq m had an average price of $550,000. A beachfront house in Panama City had an average price of just over $900,000. It should be noted that these are the more luxurious properties and that there is a variety of properties that fall into lower price ranges as well.

Panama City is not the only popular destination among expats who wish to move to the country. Boquete is also proving very popular with foreign nationals thanks to its location. The town has a population of less than 20,000 and there is a large community of expats there. Prices in this area have been steadily rising over recent years, but they are still cheaper than many other areas in the country. For example, for the price of a small apartment in Panama City expats can purchase a house with a small parcel of land in Boquete.


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