Friday, December 21, 2007

Steps away from the Panama Canal and city amenities; a rare opportunity

Beautiful single-family home in the Panama Canal
area a few minutes from strip malls,
supermarkets, pharmacies, schools, and all the
amenities you may need. This exclusive
neighborhood of Quarry Heights in the reverted
areas was once reserved for U.S. military
officers and has undergone a complete
refurbishment between 1999 and 2005. The
location retains the surroundings with fauna and
flora typical of the rainforest at only a 10
minute drive to fine shopping centers and all
cities other amenities. The neighborhood
features tennis courts, hiking trails, 24/7 security.

This spectacular home is new having been built in the last 1.5 years

The home has the following:
· 2 extra bedrooms with their own bathroom
· Main bedroom with bathroom and Jacuzzi that
includes an additional space for a small office.
· New kitchen with all brand new appliances:
Fridge, Stove, Dishwasher, Washer/Drier and heater.
· 2 car garage with roof and open space for two more cars
· Ample space to design a garden or build a pool

This house is one of the few homes being sold in
this wonderful area. It is perfect for a family
looking for peace and quiet, with the convenience
of being 10 minutes away from the downtown center of the city.

Key selling points and investment justifications
• Halfway between Panama Canal rainforest preserve and urban Panama city
• High resale value because use as former base
ensures low density of single-home units

• Ideal for investment and personal use
• 5 minutes driving from commuter airport and Panama's largest shopping mall
• Newly rebuilt
• Located in neighborhood with high demand for single-family homes

Price and Size Range: EUR 335,222 300 m2 home in 1000 m2 plot

Consult with your real estate agent.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

South of the Border,The Market's Still Hot

South of the Border, The Market's Still Hot
Americans Find Second-Home Boom Endures; Wildlife in the Neighborhood

December 14, 2007; Page W12
The housing slump has sent many Americans shopping south of the border.
Existing-home prices in the U.S. dropped 4.5% in the third quarter from a year ago, according to S&P/Case-Shiller. But they are still climbing in much of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Interactive map:

2 Waterfront homes are cheaper in Latin America, but closing costs are different than the United States.

Buyers are being enticed by the kind of double-digit appreciation that has all but disappeared in the States. In addition, a growing number of new developments are targeting Americans looking for good deals and a lower cost of living.
Since 2003, annual home-price appreciation has been running at 20% in the Dominican Republic, and could reach 50% in the near future, according to Boomerang Unlimited, a Napa, Calif., real-estate investment advisory firm. In San Pedro, Belize, the average price of a 2,200-square-foot home was $697,500 in September, up 18.6% from a year ago, according to a study by Coldwell Banker; the price of a similar property in San Jose, Costa Rica, was up 20.7%, to $389,900, the study said.
Prices remain low compared with those in the U.S., particularly for waterfront properties. Because Americans generally buy and sell properties throughout the region in dollars, not the local currency, home prices don't fluctuate with the various exchange rates, as is the case in Europe. What's more, the dollar generally buys much more house in these countries than it does in the U.S., because labor and land are less expensive.
Still, the rapid appreciation is drawing growing numbers of bargain hunters, making good deals scarcer and causing some customers to look beyond the usual vacation hot spots. In the Dominican Republic, Century 21 broker Dean Brown says that 80% of his buyers this year have been Americans, compared with half last year. Softec, a real-estate consulting firm, says in the past three years, investments in vacation homes in Mexico, primarily by buyers from the U.S. and Canada, have shot up by 60%.
Americans' appetite for investment opportunities is helping to spur a building boom in some areas. In Panama, 170 residential-building projects are under way, mostly marketed to Americans, and 100 more are in the pipeline, according to Panama Legal, a law firm based in Panama City. Among them, a 1,500-acre resort and marina by Naples, Fla.-based developer Todd Gates. The project, on Isla del Rey, one of the Pearl Islands near Panama City, is slated to open in 2009 and will have condos, villas and single-family homes ranging from $275,000 to $1.4 million. "It's like Florida was in the '50s," Mr. Gates says.
Some buyers are buying sight unseen. Shams Deitrick, a Walnut Creek, Calif., financial adviser, recently bought a furnished, two-bedroom "ocean view villa" for $375,000 in Canto del Mar, a new 35-unit development in the southern Costa Rica town of Dominica; the project has already sold out. "All I saw was the Web site, which showed a sloth 30 feet from the unit, and monkeys everywhere," Mr. Deitrick says.
He snapped up the home on the advice of a gym buddy, who said his own Costa Rican properties have quadrupled in value over the past four years. Although Mr. Deitrick isn't looking forward to the daylong flight to Dominica when he visits for the first time in February, he says he's glad he bought the property: "It just doesn't make sense to buy in the U.S. right now."
Preston Thompson, a retired Clearwater, Fla., hospital administrator, hopes to make some money in the Dominican Republic as a "serial renovator," moving into homes, fixing them up, and selling them. In July, he bought a 2,100-square-foot house for $265,000 on the beach in Cabarete, quickly added $50,000 worth of improvements, and put it back on the market for $489,000. If the property sells, he and his wife plan to repeat the process.
Getting the house ready to sell hasn't been as easy as he anticipated, however. Subcontractors were hard to find -- only one firm in Cabarete (population about 15,000) could do granite countertops, for example -- and the quality of their workmanship was "hit or miss," Mr. Thompson says. Worse, neither he nor his wife speaks Spanish, which made communicating with the workers difficult. He's also concerned that Americans may be turned off by local health-care facilities, which he says are very modest. For all of its current popularity, he says, the Dominican Republic is essentially still a developing country. "You have to put up with inconveniences," he says.
Earlier this year, Geoff Folsom, a Thousand Oaks, Calif., businessman, bought a 4,500-square-foot oceanfront penthouse, with its own private swimming pool, in Trump's Ocean Resort in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, a 30-minute drive from San Diego, Calif. He paid $3 million for the property, about half the cost of similar resort units he looked at in the States. Property taxes and maintenance costs are lower than in the U.S., too.
There are trade-offs, he says. The mostly undeveloped area outside the development's gates has few restaurants and hotels, and Mr. Thompson is concerned about recent news reports of armed robberies on nearby roads. Still, he anticipates that, as the area develops, appreciation rates will exceed anything he could get in the U.S. "You get so much better value south of the border," he says.
There are additional downsides to buying in this part of the world. The weather can be violent and unpredictable: Last month Hurricane Noel slammed the Caribbean, causing floods and mudslides, and leaving 147 dead. And insurance to protect against natural disasters, including earthquakes, may be impossible to obtain.
In addition, many foreign real-estate brokers are unlicensed and don't necessarily adhere to the business standards that Americans expect. Some, for example, encourage sellers to raise their asking price after American buyers have made a full-priced offer, even if no other bidders are involved.
Plus, not every place is a boom town. Seasoned real-estate brokers say that to be successful, developments need at least some amenities and should be within an hour's drive of an international airport.
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