Sunday, October 19, 2008

Panama Economy Stays Strong - Bucking World Trends

Panama Economy Stays Strong - Bucking World Trends

Date: 2008-09-18

Panama's economy will continue to grow, say analysts, resisting the global downturn led by US economic woes.

"The strong economic performance of the last few years continues, despite the deteriorating global environment," said International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials last week in a public statement.

"Panama was one of the fastest growing economies in the world in 2007 with real growth rising to 11.2 percent, following an average growth rate of nearly 8 percent in 2004-06 ... Growth in 2008-09 is projected to slow somewhat, to about 8 percent, with the Canal expansion and related investment activities partially offsetting the effects of higher oil prices and the slowdown in the U.S. and the global economy."

The IMF has also upped predictions for Panama's economic growth to 8.3 per cent for this year, up from a more modest estimate of 7.7 per cent in April's World Economic Outlook report.

"Despite a deteriorating external environment, economic prospects are favorable," concluded IMF board directors, "thanks to the Canal expansion project and associated investment, as well as improvements in competitiveness reflected in expanding export services such as tourism, communications, and transportation."

IMF directors commented that Panama's financial sector has not been negatively affected by the global financial turmoil, noting the 'remarkable turnaround' in the non-financial public sector as well; these factors, combined with the strong economic growth, contributed to Panama's improved credit rating from Standard and Poors earlier this year, earning the country a BB+ (stable).

Analysts at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, a global auditor, also estimate an increase of 8.5 to 9 per cent growth for Panama in 2008, in their Economic Perspectives 2008 report, "marking the sixth consecutive year of strong growth".

According to the latest report by Indesa, a Panamanian advisory and financial services firm, the economy is expected to grow 8.4 per cent in 2008 and nearly 10 per cent in 2009, putting Panama at the forefront of economic growth in Latin America , along with Uruguay and Peru, which posted first quarter growth results of 11 and 9.2 per cent respectively.

Panama's 2007 gross domestic product (GDP) topped $19.7 billion in 2007, and is projected to surpass $24 billion this year.

The driving sectors in Panama are construction, mining, financial services, transport and telecomnunications, and hospitality. Last year, both construction and mining grew by 19.6 per cent apiece according to Indesa, offsetting smaller gains in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.

In fact, it is Panama's service-based economy that has allowed it to weather rising oil prices, as well as its proximity to the US, where economic uncertainty has travelers opting for nearby leisure destinations. Panama is emerging as a significant business and tourism destination in the region for travelers from both North and South America, with the Tocumen airport acting as a regional hub between the continent's major cities.

In a report issued by the Panamanian government, authorities estimate the tertiary or service sector accounted for nearly three-quarters of the country's GDP in 2006.

"In the past three years (2004, 2005, and 2006), the tertiary sector has developed significantly, with growth rates of 6.8 per cent, 9.4 per cent, and 9.3 per cent," indicated the Panama Trade Policy Review to the World Trade Organization. "Mention should be made of the Colon Free Zone and of the hotel and restaurant subsector, which grew by more than 10 per cent. Other components of the sector also trended upwards significantly, such as financial intermediation, wholesale and retail commerce, and real estate.

"The high percentage of GDP that this sector represents and has represented in the past, shows that Panama is a service-oriented economy. In 2006 the sector accounted for 74 per cent of GDP."

The external sector has also been a strong economic driver, with the export of goods averaging five per cent annual growth between 1997 and 2006, reaching more than $1 billion USD. By 2006, the net export of goods and services represented one third of Panama GDP.

Despite the fact this year's numbers are down from 2007, which saw record growth levels of about 11 per cent, the overall positive trend is in stark contrast to regional predictions. The Economist estimates the mid-term trend for Latin America to average out at 3.9 per cent in 2012, while the IMF predicts a much better performance for Panama.

"The medium-term outlook is promising, supported by the canal expansion and other large construction projects," noted the IMF's board of directors last year in a public statement. "For 2007-10, staff projects average annual real GDP growth of about 6.5 per cent, [and] inflation of 2.25 -2.75 per cent."

IMF officials commended Panamanian authorities on governmental spending 'restraint' and improved tax collection in reducing public debt and creating a sound basis for economic growth. Declining unemployment, plummeting from 13.6 per cent in 2003 to 7.3 in 2007, was also cited, as was the positive impact of the Panama Canal expansion, expected to be completed in 2013 at a cost of some $5.5 billion.

"The project is expected to boost GDP growth and job creation, both directly and by stimulating related industries," noted IMF officials.

The Latin Business Chronicle has also placed Panama at the top of its Latin Business Index, thanks to $1.8 billion in direct foreign investment (DFI) in 2007. Panama beat out Chile, which saw more than $14 billion in DFI in 2007, taking the top spot for the higher proportion of investment to its GDP.

Inflation, which has typically been very low for Panama thanks to a currency pegged to the US dollar, has risen in step with the recent devaluation of the US dollar. While 2007 saw an increase over the previous year, going from 2.5 per cent to 4.2 cent, Panama's inflation remained well below all other Latin American countries, which averaged 7.75 per cent. However, inflation reached nearly nine per cent in May of 2008, which the IMF largely attributes to rising food and fuel costs

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pamela Oakes from SLAM to speak about “Managing Your Second Home in Panama” at AIREEC

Street Level Asset Management (SLAM) Panama Managing Director, Pamela Oakes, will speak at the American International Real Estate Expo & Conference (AIREEC) - "The Business of Global Second Homes and Resorts" - in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES--Street Level Asset Management (SLAM) Panama Managing Director, Pamela Oakes, will speak at the American International Real Estate Expo & Conference (AIREEC) on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008, at 10:30 a.m. PDT. The conference will be held Sept. 5-7, 2008 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA.

Ms Oakes will speak about “Managing Your Second Home in Panama”. She will explain the different options available to investors seeking to purchase and finance a second home in Panama and will provide recommendations for families who will move to Panama part of the year. Slides of the presentation may be downloaded from the company blog Additional information on Panama will be available from Sept. 5 for participants at booth E09 of the Central America section of the AIREEC exhibition.

AIREEC is a continuation of its ground-breaking maiden event in Manila, Philippines in December 2007. This year's theme is "The Business of Global Second Homes and Resorts" which responds to the tsunami of aging baby boomers entering their retirement years and the emerging "new rich" market from developing countries. Over 60 world renowned speakers, experts and leaders will talk about trends, updates, solutions, choices and options on the emerging "fad" of global 2nd homeownership and 10,000 attendees are expected from over 30 countries around the world.

About Pamela Oakes
Pamela Oakes has more than a decade of property management and relocation experience in Panama. Prior to living in Panama, Pamela lived in the United States, Sweden, Argentina and Chile and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. Pamela has a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Spanish from Drew University of Madison, New Jersey and studied for a Master's degree in International Politics at American University in Washington, D.C. Pamela has delivered presentations at numerous international conferences on real estate investment, relocation and property management issues in Panama.

Pamela has been an active board member of several non-governmental organizations in Panama including the Friends of the Children's Hospital and the American Society of Panama. In 2005, she received the "Distinguished American Citizen Award" from the United States Ambassador in Panama, the Honorable Linda E. Watt.

About SLAM Panama
Street Level Asset Management (SLAM) Panama is a full-service property management and relocation company based in Panama, dedicated to management of properties for foreigners investing in Panama real estate. SLAM services complement the after-purchase needs of clients by ensuring the preservation of their real estate investments. Additionally, SLAM works along with the law firm of Lombardi Aguilar & Garcia to assist in securing relocation and private client services for property owners moving to Panama.

.If you cannot see the presentation, click the link below to watch "AIREEC Panama":

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Great Panama City Land Rush

Panama City land increases by more than 100%

Now you see it...
Now you don't ... Demolitions continue in the San Francisco neighborhood
during the Panama City real estate boom to give way to new condo buildings
Business weekly Capital Financiero of July 28 quotes the magazine Espacios which says that areas such as Bella Vista, Balboa Avenue, and San Francisco have seen their footage prices increase by more than 100% in only 3 years.
For example, for 2005 the square meter in Balboa Avenue was under $1,000 ($92/sq ft) but sales have been registered now for $5,000 ($464/sq ft).
While in the sector of Bella Vista the cost of square meter varied between $350 and $400, but currently have been sold at almost $1,000.
The magazine states that $300/square meter were paid for San Francisco several years ago but now they reach $700 to $800 ($74/sq ft), with some estimates running into $1000. In suburban Las Cumbres, where 50 years ago land could be bought for $7 / square meter, its price has risen to $40-$50 / square meter.
According to a report by real estate company CBRE, the square meter of condos in Marbella, Bella Vista and San Francisco South) rises to $1,847 ($171.65/sq ft), the oceanfront (Balboa Avenue, Paitilla and Punta Pacifica) is at $2,335 ($217/sq ft) and the central area (El Cangrejo, San Francisco North) is at $1,463 ($136/sq ft).
Single-family homes in the San Francisco and Bella Vista areas are being purchased by local speculators who later resell at a higher price to developers who rezone several plots of land for multiple-story condos. Demolition crews are sharing the streets with soil landscapers rushing to end their construction before the deadlines set by property tax holidays.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Panama savings bank sells off properties

The Caja de Ahorros is a government savings and loan bank. This August 11, 2008, the bank will be holding an auction of properties mostly located in Panama City. Unlike another government-owned bank, most have potential for eventual rental to the local market or for developing tourism projects.

Among the properties being auctioned are:

135 m2 / 1454 ft2 Condo in Pelican Bay, 2nd floor, San Francisco section of Panama City, offered at US$112.262

49.1 m2 / 528 ft2 Condo in Plaza Madrid, 7th floor, San Francisco section of Panama City, offered at US$31,247

230.14 m2 / 2476 ft2 Single-family home in 72nd Street, San Francisco section of Panama City, offered at US$216,558 (!!)

Each property is sold "as is" to both foreign and local bidders alike. The last day to receive offers is August 11, 2008 at 9 AM.

For more information on how to bid for these properties, email properties

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Between Mountains and Beach

Situated in the foothill of Campana Mountain, this community offers the best of both worlds with easy access to the beaches and mountains. This exclusive project offers breathtaking mountain views from its retreat holiday villas surrounded by mature mountain trees. This spectacularly located resort is a mere 1 hour from Panama City ensuring that it will be a preferred destination for locals and foreign investors alike, for years to come.

These fabulous villas offer all the luxury features in demand from investors at a substantially more affordable price than similar beach and gated communities in the surrounding area. Offering 3 beautifully designed villas, the Andes, Alpes and Everest, with spacious floor plans and meticulously maintained grounds, residents will enjoy VIP treatment at the fitness centre, swimming pools, ecological path, and Club House in the exclusive social area.

This resort area offers many local services including a supermarket, hospital clinics, veterinarians, and excellent restaurants. With Panama's best golf courses just minutes away, you will also find excellent sports facilities including water skiing, horseback riding, and numerous children's attractions. All of this within a relaxed beach and mountain environment just a short drive to the city.

Key Investment Points:
- Surrounded by high-end beach and mountain communities
- Near favourite ecotourism destinations and urban Panama City
- High resale value due to low density of single-home units
- Investor-friendly landholding corporation regime and 15-year property tax regime
- Just 1 hour from Panama City
- New construction

Two Bedrooms 192m² to 192m² €115,000 to €130,000
Three Bedrooms 211m² to 211m² €129,000 to €144,000
Four Bedrooms or More 278m² to 278m² €179,000 to €194,000

Consult with your real estate agent.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Ocean views at unbeatable prices

Situated in the up and coming area of Parque Lefevre, this project offers investors excellent value in a great location. Parque Lefevre is located between San Francisco and Panama Viejo, site of the 16th century historic ruins of the old Panama City. Property values are rising in this neighbourhood but will most definitely continue to go up.  Supermarkets, pharmacies, dry cleaners, even a top notch shopping mall are all just a quick 10 minute drive away.

The Prisma condominium will be 14 stories high and offers 3 apartment models ranging from 61 to 87 sqm.  The building will have restricted access with 24/7 security. All apartments have balconies and enjoy a view over the Pacific Ocean or the City of Panama.  The 61 sqm apartment model offers 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and the 67 sqm apartment model offers 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  The 87 sqm apartment will offer 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  All models have a living room, dining room, kitchen and laundry area.  The social area boasts a swimming pool, events room, gym, children's playground and barbeque. All apartments come with one parking spot. 

Key Investment Points:

- Minutes from downtown Panama City 
- High resale value and demand due to low density of single-home units
- Investor-friendly landholding corporation regime and 15-year property tax regime
- 15 minute drive from commuter airport and Panama's largest shopping mall
- New construction
- Financing up to 70% possible

Two Bedrooms   61m² to 67m²   €50,966 to €60,000
Three Bedrooms   87m² to 87m²   €70,000 to €80,000

Consult with your real estate agent.  Prices, expected rental income and layout are subject to changes.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Villa in Panama City - next to the rainforest

Single home from € 963,000. Camino de Cruces, Friendship Road, close to El Dorado and new US Embassy. 2 levels, 406, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, maid r/b, large backyard with pool, surrounded by vegetation. In gated community with 24hr guard. Sold only with furniture.
Call +507 270-0864 or +507 6617-3321.

Features: Roofed Parking, Maids Quarters, 24 hour Security, Laundry, Storage, Garden or Park, Kids Park, Air Conditioner, Patio, Central Air Conditioner, Corner Property, Roofed Garage, Living room & Dinning room
Appliances: Refrigerator, Microwave, Stove, Dishwasher, Instant Hot Water Dispenser, Washer, Dryer
More pictures downloadable here
Google Earth coordinates 9.011289648163606,-79.54334242864977

Plans Lower Level

Backyard and pool

Living room and furniture

Friday, May 9, 2008

The ten most common pitfalls when buying abroad

December 11, 2005

The ten most common pitfalls when buying abroad

... and how to avoid them

With estimates that the Irish are spending between €2 billion and €4 billion on foreign property each year (between residential and commercial investments), it’s not surprising that so much can go badly wrong. From the investment companies and group schemes that buy multi-million investments, to the retired pensioner acquiring an old farmhouse in France, anyone can be stung abroad if they don’t know what they’re doing.

While many have lost money through fraud, more often it’s quite simply the buyer’s own fault.

Enda Faughnan, partner in tax and legal services with Price Waterhouse Coopers, was the keynote speaker at Ireland’s first developers’ conference last month. We asked Faughnan, an overseas property specialist, to name the 10 biggest mistakes Irish people make when buying a place abroad. This is his “watch out” list:

1 Picking the wrong location

“You would be surprised how many people pick the wrong place. Even in fairly reputable western European cities, there can be a huge difference between neighbouring streets,” Faughnan says. “You’ve got to do your research. You’ve got to consider current prospects, rent potential and future prospects. We recommend buyers choose a politically stable country with potential for good capital appreciation and good rent returns.”

2 Choosing the wrong sector

“Don’t go into the office market if that sector is flat. Don’t go into city apartment if prices are in freefall, or buy in the luxury end if nobody can afford to locally.”

3 Failure to consider Ireland’s tax claims

“Some people don’t seem to realise that when you sell an overseas property you’re also liable to pay capital gains tax in Ireland at a rate of 20%,” says Faughnan. “Furthermore, if you don’t structure your investment properly, you could end up paying income tax at an even higher rate on your day-to-day earnings.”

4 Failure to secure adequate title

“Title is defined differently in various countries. In some former communist countries, foreigners are not permitted to own land and must acquire property through purchasing companies. But companies can also come with unforeseen liabilities. In Bulgaria, the land registry system is in a mess. In other countries, it’s not unknown for properties to be deliberately sold to different people without each buyer knowing.”

5 Local succession rights

“Foreign inheritance taxes can be far higher than in Ireland — particularly in Spain, France and America,” says Faughnan. “On top of this, far more people than you might think can be entitled to take a chunk of your property after you die. In France, the system can allow many more extended family members to seek a portion of the inheritance.”

6 Failure to take exchange rates into account

“Outside the EU, exchange rates can play havoc with your ability to benefit from your overseas property. Buyers can have their profits wiped out by currency fluctuations.”

7 Failure to research local taxation systems

“In Ireland there is no residential property tax, but other countries sometimes have three or four different methods of taxing property. Local rates, services fees and other charges can take their toll.”

8 Failure to research an exit strategy

“There’s no point in benefiting from property value increases if you can’t then get your profit out after you sell. Some countries, such as China, will, through exchange-control restrictions, limit the amount of money you can take out at any one time. Others insist on a large amount being reinvested in that country.

“If you’re buying in Ukraine, it imposes heavy VAT on property purchases which you are supposedly entitled to get back. But in reality it actually takes between four and five years to do so.”

9 Failure to research interstate tax agreements

“Ireland has tax treaties with a number of countries ensuring that you don’t get taxed twice on the sale of a property. However, if you buy in a country that does not have such a treaty with Ireland, such as Turkey, you stand the chance of being double-taxed when you sell.”

10 Failure to recruit local help

“A local clown is better than no clown at all. There have been cases of buyers purchasing apartments from companies targeting Ireland only to find out that they could have bought them far cheaper over there.

“Sellers of foreign property recognise the Irish as cash cows and prices tend to go up once parties of Irish buyers arrive in a location. Take the trouble to go to your local market and always get local representation

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Panama bank holds property May sale

The National Bank of Panama is the equivalent of a central bank that does not issue currency. It also lends money to property buyers on a regular basis and has a portfolio of repossessed properties.

This April 15, 2008, the bank will be holding an auction of properties located in Panama City, Santiago, Changuinola, Herrera and Chiriquí province. While most of the properties are not the usual "choice" homes offered to foreign buyers, some have potential for eventual rental to the local market or for developing tourism
projects. Among the properties being auctioned are:

394.11 m² = 4242.164 ft² Home in San Antonio, suburban Panama City, offered at US$53,000

3.703 hectares = 9.15031 acres Land in Villa Rosario, close to Capira, Panama province, offered at US$19,500

49.1697 hectares = 121.500 acres Land in Cerro El Viejo, Las Minas, Herrera province, offered at US$35,000

15.0512 hectares = 37.1923 acre Land in Cerro Azul, Panama province, offered at US$65,000

20.0159 hectares = 49.4603 acre Land in Cerro Azul, Panama province, offered at US$84,500

Bidders must provide a refundable check for 5% of the price they are willing to pay. The offeror of the highest bid must pay in cash or have secured financing in order to be awarded the property. Each property is sold "as is" to qualifying bidders. The last day to receive offers is May 15, 2008 at 2PM hand-delivered at the offices of the Bank.

For more information on how to bid for these properties, email properties

Monday, April 28, 2008

Panama: Monaco with Bananas

Richard C. Morais 05.05.08, 12:00 AM ET

Who needs Liechtenstein or the isle of Jersey? We've got a lovely tax haven right in this hemisphere
In 2005 Alexandre and Aude de Beaulieu, Parisians in commodities trading and public relations, picked up stakes and flew to the Republic of Panama. For $60,000 they bought, renovated and equipped a shop in Casco Viejo, a decrepit Panama City neighborhood that was filled with squatters but so architecturally unique it is a Unesco World Heritage site. Their business: gourmet ice cream, with flavors like cinnamon and basil.
"Everyone told us we were crazy," says Alexandre. By which they meant that the entrepreneurs should set up shop closer to home. But France's thicket of taxes, regulations and restrictions on hiring and firing workers scared them away. "Panama is like California 20 years ago. Everyone I know is building something--a newspaper, a development. It's very uplifting."
The De Beaulieus' ice cream parlor, called Granclément, furnished with family heirlooms and antique scoopers, has got glowing writeups in the Financial Times and numerous local papers. When FORBES visited the shop in February, a European film crew was shooting Granclément for a travelogue to be aired on KLM flights. Down the cobblestone lane construction workers were restoring a crumbling palace as a five-star hotel, while the latest James Bond flick was being filmed in a nearby square.
Granclément is busy enough to generate maybe $150,000 a year in revenue, a good take in a country where shop clerks earn $4,000 in salary and benefits. So these 36-year-old self-starters and their four young children are on their way to becoming wealthy. This year the De Beaulieus will add supermarket distribution and a shop among the Miami-style high-rises and malls getting built in the modern banking quarter across the bay.
America's recent exit was in some ways the real birth of Panama. This lively backwater--famous mostly for flying maritime flags of convenience and hosting dodgy finance--seems to have found its voice. Democratically elected governments have clamped down (somewhat) on corruption, signed several free trade agreements (the U.S. Congress has yet to ratify a 2007 deal with Panama) and instituted tax and social reforms.
Meantime, even as the U.S. pulled up its drawbridge to many foreigners after the Sept. 11 attacks, its dollar was the standard for Panama, which (until lately, at least) has found the currency bulwark an additional attraction for some of those same itinerants.
Result: Panama's GDP has been compounding at 7% these last five years. "Something's happened," says Joseph Harari, director of Panama's Credicorp (nyse: BAP - news - people ) Bank and an executive board member at the Wharton School in Philadelphia. "We've always had very liberal tax laws. But we also use the U.S. dollar to run our economy. It all helped."

Panama's corporate tax rate is 30% and is levied on local income only. The U.S.' 35% federal corporate tax burden is, in contrast, the second highest in the world and is applied to global income. Caterpillar (nyse: CAT - news - people ), Procter & Gamble (nyse: PG - news - people ) and Hewlett-Packard (nyse: HPQ - news - people ) have all recently announced significant investments in Panama. The personal income tax, capped at 27%, is also limited; the De Beaulieus, for example, don't pay Panamanian taxes on their French investments, which face high levies at home.

Between the glass towers of HSBC and BNP Paribas, South Beach-quality apartment complexes emerge from every weed-choked lot, turning Panama City's skyline into a porcupine of cranes. New developments are granted tax holidays for 10 to 20 years. On the seaside Avenue Balboa, famed interior designer Philippe Starck is filling a 56-floor tower; Panamanian and Colombian partners have teamed up with Donald Trump to build the 68-story Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, financed by a $220 million bond offering.
According to one report 35 towers of over 20 floors are in construction. Besides the danger of overbuilding, there are stress signs of too-rapid growth: brownouts from an overtaxed electricity grid, a Third World sewage system under the First World high-rises. Filth is still pumped into the bay. The government says it is working on sewerage improvements.
Of course, the newly arriving affluent also want high culture and good health care. Frank O. Gehry is designing Panama's museum of biodiversity; Hospital Punta Pacifica is the recently opened affiliate of Johns Hopkins Medicine International.
The old Howard U.S. Air Force Base is a 20-minute drive from downtown Panama City. Dotted with ugly barracks, this 3,500-acre property is still oddly elegant, with rolling lawns and hills, reminiscent of an African savanna, interspersed with flowering rain forest. Europe's London & Regional Properties, with partners, recently won the contract for Howard.
The plan, says Dan R. Marcus, an American developer who just arrived to run the project, is to build 12 million square feet of commercial space alongside 20,000 housing units, all woven together in a "holistic way." Houses will be integrated into the lush forest; on hand, everything from fire stations to chic restaurants. A free trade zone grants Howard-based firms generous VAT to income tax breaks.
Backstopping all this glamour and hype are the canal and related ports. Some 14,000 ships a year make their way through the 50-mile link, paying a fee of up to $313,000. In 2006 Panamanians voted to build an additional set of locks, for $5.3 billion, that in 2014 will double capacity and finally allow modern and much larger container ships to pass through.
Full text in :

America's Loss, Panama's Gain
Richard C. Morais 05.05.08, 12:00 AM ET

Abraham Suchar is a 38-year-old Venezuelan who migrated to the U.S. and made good money in the Los Angeles construction boom of the late 1990s before hitting up against the real estate bust in Florida these last couple of years. Meanwhile, his childhood friend Roberto Molko, who married into a prominent Panamanian family, was down in Central America making a killing flipping apartments.

"Florida is now famous among Latin Americans for little fortunes. You come with a big fortune, and you leave with a little one," says Suchar.

So Suchar has joined his old friend in Panama, building office space. "With all the issues happening in the U.S., I have more of a chance to make a living here," he says. "And the quality of life is much better.

"Two maids and a driver in Panama cost you $1,000 a month," he added. His Danish wife and their daughters have yet to be convinced.

But January was Suchar's first month in Panama full time, and in that month the partners presold $17 million worth of real estate to Venezuelans fleeing Hugo Chávez socialism. Panama has low crime, says Molko; its clients are escaping the "kidnapping, robberies and assaults" routine back home.

The U.S. is losing out, too. Sandra Snyder, an American who has written the hot-selling starter's guide Living in Panama (TanToes SA, 2007), says Sept. 11 has been the excuse for the U.S. government to soak foreigners for $130 to consider a visa application. "Imagine what that means to a middle-class family, with four kids, wanting to take a shopping trip to the U.S. or visit Disney," she says.

So Latin America's arrivistes are bypassing the U.S. and heading instead to balmy Panama, where $5 and a 30-second visa form gets you waved into a country in which nearly all the top boutique brands are waiting for you in the marble-filled MultiPlaza Pacific Mall.

Full text in :

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Developers press ahead in Panama City

Oruga, Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg News
The Trump Ocean Club, above, has been credited with boosting residential prices in Panama City.

Developers press ahead in Panama City

PANAMA CITY, Panama: Showing a guest around his renovated apartment in Casco Viejo, this city's old district, the film director Luis Palomo shook his head over the sea of residential towers being built across Panama Bay.

"Are there really that many people who want to live here?" he asked.

It is a common question in Panama City these days. More than 35 towers, each of 20 stories or more, are under construction. Another 350 are in the planning stages, representing more than 40,000 units, according to local government estimates.

Fears that the market may be overheating were stoked last year by the abrupt cancellation of three of the largest announced projects, including the 104-story Ice Tower, which was to be the tallest development in the city.

"Right now, I believe the majority of the market is speculation," said Sam Taliaferro, a developer and consultant who writes the widely read Panama Investor Blog.

To José Manuel Bern of Empresas Bern, a local developer, the cancellations were a necessary "sobering up" for the market.

"We weren't ready for that," Bern said. "There is a ceiling for everybody. We're not Miami."

But some promoters are already calling Panama City the "Miami of Central America." Developers see Panama as a stable country, with an economy growing at a steady rate of 8 to 10 percent a year. Most Panamanians speak at least a little English and the U.S. dollar is the accepted currency.

"Panama is one of the safest countries in the world," said Julio Fernando Noval García, president of Spanish developer Grupo Mall, which is building Los Faros de Panama, a three-tower, mixed-use residential complex in the heart of the city.

Grupo Mall is not alone. Foreign investment in Panama grew almost 20 percent in the first six months of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006, according to government statistics. Construction activity increased by 17 percent, the data shows.

Developers are hoping a $5.25 billion plan moving forward to expand the Panama Canal will generate new buyers for the city's residential market. In addition, corporations like the computer maker Hewlett Packard and the construction equipment giant Caterpillar are moving their regional headquarters to the city.

Panama City also is increasingly popular with second-home buyers and retirees, like Frank and Maria Harrison of Chicago. Two years ago they abandoned plans to retire in Florida and bought a 4,500-square-foot, or 420-square-meter, condominium on the 11th floor of a waterfront tower.

"We really like city life," Frank Harrison said, adding that Panama's hurricane-free weather was another key factor in their decision.

But North Americans are only part of the equation. Venezuelans make up 60 percent of Empresas Bern's customers for residential towers in Costa del Este, a master-planned development being built on 300 hectares, or 740 acres, a few minutes outside the city center, Bern says.

Despite the much discussed concerns about overbuilding, the Panama-based developer Grupo Corcione is moving ahead with five tower projects in the city, including Ocean Sky, a 45-story tower with 106 units priced at $268,000 and $750,000.

Construction began in January 2007 and is expected to be completed by March 2009.

"We don't see a slowdown," said Ben Robinson, a consultant to Grupo Corcione. "There will always be speculators, but the long term prospects are very good."

In November, Newland International Properties sold $220 million in bonds to finance construction of the Trump Ocean Club, one of the most closely watched projects in the city. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the 69-story project, which is licensing the Trump name, will include more than 600 luxury residential condominiums priced from $500,000 to $12 million.

The Trump project is widely credited with boosting prices around the city. In the last two years, the average price for tower apartments has jumped from about $1,500 a square meter to $3,000 a square meter, or about $140 a square foot to $280 a square foot, in some projects, local experts say.

"It was as if the Donald Trump project lit dynamite under prices," said Paul McBride, chief executive of Prima Panama, Taliaferro's company.

Along with prices, complaints against developers have soared. More than 150 charges have been filed with the local consumer protection agency, according to Bill Schroff, a local consultant who runs a company called Panama Referral.

Two years ago, Schroff bought a tower apartment in the preconstruction phase, putting a 20 percent deposit on a unit priced at $157,000. Now that prices have soared, the developers are trying to get out of the contract.

"That happens a lot," Schroff said. The developer offered him $220,000 but he declined; similar units are now selling for $280,000.

Full text in

Thursday, April 17, 2008

SLAM Panama will be an exhibitor at "Escapes! Second Home Expo" Houston Apr. 19 and 20

        SLAM Panama will be an exhibitor during the "Escapes! Second Home Expo" set for Houston Apr. 19 and 20.

        Organizers say Texas is the "new hot spot for retirement, according to a recent study using U.S. Census data." Texas has now "leapt past Arizona and California to become the No. 2 retirement spot in the US. "Florida is still No. 1, but Texas is gaining." Spokesman Tony Wood suggests buyers from the greater Houston area, where the energy-driven economy is thriving, are in a better position than most to invest in a vacation home these days.  The market for SECOND HOMES has never been HOTTER!
  • 10 million baby boomers will have second homes by 2010.
  • 57% of homeowners age 55-64 will purchase a second home within 5 years.
  • 27% of wealthy Americans own a second home, 17% intend to purchase.
        The 200 exhibitors who will take part in the show at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center represent not just Texas destinations but Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, all reachable by nonstop flights from Houston. More info at : or email properties


Venue: The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, 1601 Lake Robbins Drive

Dates: Saturday and Sunday, April 19-20

Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Pre-purchased tickets are $10 online at; $12 at the door. Ticket admits one adult for one day of the Expo. Two-day passes available. For detailed information on seminar times, a list of exhibitors, hotel accommodations and area attractions, visit

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Panama bank holds property fire sale

The National Bank of Panama is the equivalent of
a central bank that does not issue currency. It
also lends money to property buyers on a regular
basis and has a portfolio of repossessed properties.

This April 15, 2008, the bank will be holding an
auction of properties located in Panama City,
Santiago, Changuinola, Coclé and Chiriquí
province. While most of the properties are not
the usual "choice" homes offered to foreign
buyers, some have potential for eventual rental
to the local market or for developing tourism
projects. Among the properties being auctioned are:

60 m2 / 645 ft2 Condo in Las Orquideas building,
2nd floor, Parque Lefevre section of Panama City, offered at US$41,500

289.25 m2 / 3113 ft2 Home in Altos de Cerro
Viento, suburban Panama City, offered at US$99,700

15 hectares / 37 acres Land in La Loma del
Roble, Aguadulce, Cocle, offered at US$36,500

3673.18 m2 / 39538.1 ft2 Cabins and Land in
Renacimiento, Western Chiriqui, offered at US$106,000

Bidders must provide a refundable check for 5%
of the price they are willing to pay. The
offeror of the highest bid must pay in cash or
have secured financing in order to be awarded the
property. Each property is sold "as is" to both
foreign and local bidders alike. The last day
to receive offers is April 15, 2008 at 2PM.

For more information on how to bid for these
properties, email properties

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Excellent investment in up and coming area

Already experiencing incredible growth, residential developments in Condado del Ray are an excellent investment: this unique project is nestled into 56 hectares of land with stunning views of the former Canal Zone, Panama City, the bridge of the Americas, ports of the Canal and the Metropolitan Park. An up and coming area, it is situated near Ricardo Alfaro Avenue and replicate (on a smaller scale) the well known Punta Pacifica development. The twin tower closed residential complex is designed to provide maximum protection for its residents, with a peripheral wall, controlled gated access with 24 hour security to both residences and parking, 4 high-speed elevators, a reserve water tank and an electrical plant for emergencies. 

The investor may choose from five 2 or 3 bedroom floor plans ranging from 80 to 130 sqm, with welcoming foyers, comfortable living rooms, separate dining rooms, separate quarters for household help, laundry areas, kitchen with breakfast area and terraces with gorgeous views. Each master bedroom suite offers a private bathroom and walk-in closet. In addition to the amenities of each tower, the project will include a spectacular Clubhouse with reception hall, bar, gazebos with barbecues, children's game areas, a jogging track, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, fully-equipped gymnasium, sauna, and basketball and football field.

A commercial complex will be built just in front of the main road access offering a grocery and video store within walking distance from your home. The condominiums will be built just behind the commercial complex, separated from it by guest parking and one hectare of green areas. Just 15 minutes away you'll find Metropolitan Park and Gatun Lake. Take a stroll through the park, catch some fish at the lake and return to your city home all within a few short hours.

Key selling points and investment justifications
  • Halfway between Panama Canal rainforest preserve and downtown Panama City
  • High resale value in an up and coming neighborhood
  • Investor-friendly landholding corporation regime and 15-year property tax regime
  • 5 minute drive from commuter airport and Panama's largest shopping mall
  • New constuction
  • 15-year property tax exemption 
  • Financing up to 70% possible

Price and Size Range:  EUR 60,900 - 114,195   Size Range: 80 - 130 m²

Consult with your real estate agent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Affordable ocean views in a tropical highrise

Situated in the highly desirable neighborhood of Costa del Este, this stunning building boasts 54 floors with spectacular ocean views, and offers formal entrances, master suites with walk-in closets and luxurious bathrooms, 2 additional bedrooms with private baths, comfortable living rooms, quiet dens, large dining rooms, sparkling kitchens, laundry rooms, and maid's quarters. There will be 8 levels of parking for owners strictly monitored 24 hours a day. Arrive in style to your apartment in one of the 4 high speed elevators.  There are two additional elevators for deliveries and service personnel.
The social area is designed for the discriminating visitor and includes a luxurious separate lobby, ballroom for receptions and events, a playground for children, swimming pools for adults and children, 3 jacuzzis, squash and racquetball courts, health center with sauna and steam baths and a gymnasium. All social areas have central air-conditioning.
Costa del Este is just a few minutes from downtown Panama City and the Tocumen International Airport. There are supermakets, restaurants, and all of the amenities one would need in this upscale community within walking distance or a 2 minute drive. The Southern Highway conveniently allows residents easy access to downtown, the mountains and nearby communities.

Key selling points and investment justifications
  • Located in best residential area in Panama
  • Ideal for investment and personal use
  • Multiple amenities with secure location
  • High resale value
  • 15-year property tax exemption
  • Condo system ensures comforts of gated community

Price and Size Range:  EUR 207,000 - 493,000     205 - 205 m²

Consult with your real estate agent.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Beach resort surrounded by mountains

Situated in Panama's first eco-park, with more than half its land dedicated to natural landscape, this exclusive project offers breathtaking views from its modern beach and mountain retreat holiday cottages, surrounded by an abundance of opportunity for recreational activities, beautiful landscapes, gorgeous sunsets, and ocean breezes. With all the natural attributes of Eden: winding river, sandy beach, inspiring mountains, and beckoning ocean, this spectacularly located resort is a mere 1 hour from Panama City ensuring that it will be a preferred destination for locals and foreign investors alike, for years to come.

This resort area offers many local services including a supermarket, hospital clinics, veterinarians, and excellent restaurants. With Panama's best golf courses just minutes away, you'll also find excellent sports facilities including water skiing, horseback riding, and numerous children's attractions. All of this within a relaxed beach and mountain environment just a short drive to the city.

Enjoy the white sand beach and warm waters: a strip of smooth, golden sand results in perfectly rounded waves, optimal conditions for surfers. The nature trails offer a variety of flora and fauna native to Panama. The spectacular mountain views and the natural lakes make this place a true ecological paradise. The resort will amaze you with beautiful nature and incredible panoramic sea views.

Key selling points and investment justifications
  • Surrounded by high-end beach communities
  • Near favorite ecotourism destinations and urban Panama city
  • High resale value due to low density of single-home units and catering to foreign investos
  • Investor-friendly landholding corporation regime and 15-year property tax regime
  • Just 1 hour from Panama City
  • New construction

Price and Size Range:  EUR 125,000 to 143,000    111m² to 174m²

Consult with your real estate agent.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Modern Home in New Neighborhood

This gated residential community is surrounded by spectacular green areas and 55 gorgeous 3-level homes, boasting walking paths, parks, 24 hour surveillance, and a fantastic clubhouse with swimming pools, jacuzzis, exercise room, tennis courts, miniature golf, and many additional services. Choose from 3 or 4 bedrooms, all with private bathrooms, walk in closets in the master suites, comfortable dens and family rooms, spacious dining rooms, sparkling kitchens, charming terraces and patios, covered parking and convenient storage rooms.

The first phase of a larger project, it is ideally situated in the recently developed residential area of Costa Sur and is just a few minutes from downtown Panama City via the South Corridor highway.  In just 5-10 minutes you can reach the best shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and other amenities while still enjoying the tranquility of Club Pijao. Costa Sur is an new urban development consisting of eight private gated communities in a 44 hectare setting.  It is ajacent to the very exclusive neighborhood of Costa del Este. 

Key selling points and investment justifications
  • Close to all the amenities of Panama City
  • Condo system ensures comforts gated community
  • Ideal for investment and personal use
  • Close to hub of the Americas airport
  • High resale value
  • 15-year property tax exemption

Price and Size Range:  EUR 313,000 to 395,000    324m² to 431m²

Consult with your real estate agent.

Beautiful Mountain cottage in Boquete

Sip your morning coffee from beans of the trees in your backyard, while feasting your eyes and ears on views of the Baru Volcano and the exotic birds' serenade: this wonderful 2500 sqf, 3 bedroom 2 bath cottage is situated 4500 ft above sea level on over a half acre with the perfect climate for growing oranges, and boasts a comfortable living room, quiet den, lovely kitchen, and even separate quarters for household help. Take advantage of the subdivision's clubhouse amenities.

An enchanting little mountain town in the middle of mother nature, unspoiled, waiting to be discovered, Boquete is a quaint town with healthy year-round average spring-like temperatures of 65-70 degrees, flora and wildlife that will elevate your soul and body to a whole new ecological lifestyle. Emerging in the highlands of Panama, from 3,000 to 11,400 feet above sea level, Boquete stands proud for its endless possibilities: it�s the perfect spot for leisure and excitement: world class hiking, canopy, coffee tours (best coffee in the world is found here, winner of the 4 latest coffee Olympics) rafting, biking, fishing, kayaking, golf, tennis and many more. Also, with over 900 species of birds inhabitants, bird watching is one of Boquete�s main attractions.

This paradisiacal place is considered one of the best destinations for tourism and retirement in the world known as �The valley of the flowers and the eternal spring�. But is its people what makes Boquete a forever place. Mild manners, cordial, quiet and hospitable, the nearly 15,000 residents of Boquete base their economy on the nurturing of flowers (especially orchids) and agriculture (mostly coffee).

Key selling points and investment justifications
  • Surrounded by high-end mountain communities
  • Near favorite ecotourism destinations and city of David
  • High resale value due to low density of single-home units and catering to foreign investors
  • Investor-friendly landholding corporation regime and 15-year property tax regime
  • 20-minute drive from city of David and it's international airport
  • Existing construction

Price and Size Range: EUR 167,000 230 m2 home in 2360 m2 plot

Consult with your real estate agent.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tales of buying property south of the border: On the cheap in Panama

San Francisco Chronicle

Tales of buying property south of the border

Sunday, November 11, 2007
Ten years ago, Americans who wanted to buy a vacation or retirement home thought of places such as Florida, Arizona or Hawaii. Today, they're just as likely to consider Mexico or Central America.
Last week, in the first part of this two-part series, I cited a number of reasons why more Americans are buying real estate abroad.
Mexico and Central America are attractive, especially for Californians, because they're close and inexpensive.
Some countries are easing restrictions on foreigners owning property and actively courting North Americans.
Each year, International Living magazine rates the best places to retire based on costs, health care, safety, taxes and other factors.
This year, it named Mexico No. 1, citing its "perfect mix of centuries-old traditions and contemporary lifestyles."
Panama, which had been No. 1 for six years, dropped to fourth place, mainly because of rising property prices and new visa restrictions.
Buying property in a developing country is not without risk. Many don't have the same property rights and judicial system we do.
Americans who failed to do their due diligence have bought homes from people who didn't have the right to sell them.
Corruption and bribery are not uncommon. Health care might not be up to U.S. standards. And the infrastructure we take for granted often doesn't exist.
Americans buy oceanfront property "and then find out the roads are bad, there's not a mall five minutes away. Right outside their beautiful complex is a lot of poverty," says Margaret Hussey, supervising producer with "House Hunters International" on HGTV.
Here are stories about Northern Californians who bought property in Mexico and Panama.
On the cheap in Panama
Glenn and Reinhild Gamboa were planning to sell their restaurant, home and cabin near Yosemite in five to eight years and retire somewhere cheaper, perhaps India or Bulgaria. But when they visited Panama last year, they realized they could do it immediately.
Panama had everything they wanted - warm weather year-round, cheap real estate and low living costs. Because Panama's currency is the U.S. dollar, there were no exchange-rate worries.
Finding a place, however, took some sleuthing. "There are no Realtors in Panama," Glenn Gamboa says. "You go through a lawyer or go to the mayor of the village and ask what's for sale."
Driving around, the Gamboas found a half-acre lot with a river on two sides in El Valle de Anton, a village in an extinct volcano.
"We found a lawyer (in Panama). The lawyer called the owner, we got together, made an offer and settled. It took about four days," Glenn Gamboa says.
They flew home and put their properties on the market. They all sold within 90 days.
The Gamboas paid $52,000 for the land and $90,000 to have a 3,400-square-foot cinderblock home constructed. Building in Panama takes patience and a certain inattention to detail. "They don't think it's important to have the tiles line up," Glenn Gamboa says.
Glenn and Reinhild Gamboa's home in El Valle de Anton, Panama, was cheap enough that they could retire early. Photo courtesy of Glenn Gamboa
Americans in Panama have to get used to seeing guards with Uzis in storefronts, and the food "is pretty bad," he says.
But for $430 a month, the Gamboas pay for a gardener; a maid; water; electricity; garbage; Internet; and life, homeowners and car insurance. They don't have health insurance. If they have medical problems, they'll pay out of pocket or, when they're Medicare-eligible, return to the United States.
The Gamboas have opened a cooking school, which brings in about $1,000 a month.
Panama is "safe, clean and the people are generous, amazing," Glenn Gamboa says. "I've been stopped five times (for traffic violations) by the police. But I've never gotten a ticket."
Read the first part of this two-part series at
Net Worth runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail Kathleen Pender at
This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Feb 7: SLAM Argentina conferences in Buenos Aires

Thurs., Feb. 7th is the, Expat Connection "Buying Real Estate in Argentina" Seminar @ Manifesto in Palermo (Humboldt 2160, corner Soler). For the third time, back by popular demand, this time we'll feature 9 speakers presentations and lots of time for questions and answers, from a local attorney to walk you though the buying process to an architect who'll talk about what you can expect if you decide to remodel your purchase. $150 for the seminar and *RSVP REQUIRED* Space limited! rsvp@ Speakers will include:
Local business lawyer,
Javier Canosa, to set the stage and give overview
Juan Kennedy to speak re: local tax implications
Local bank (tentative), to speak re: bank services available to Expats and how to access those services w/out a DNI
Transpack, International movers, to speak re: issues and rules in moving household and personal effects to Arg.
Architect, to speak re: doing renovations to older apartments and houses as it's a typical scenario here in BA.

US Tax attorney, Mike Heimos., to speak about potential US tax implications your real estate investment could have

US Investor and Property Manager, Dr. Christopher Grande, Executive Director of
Street Level Asset Management (SLAM) to speak re: his experiences and services his company offers. His Powerpoint presentation can be downloaded from here.
ReMax Realtors will to speak about the estate market and the role a realtor plays here
Manifesto, contemporary furniture and interior design, will speak their services