Panama Real Estate — Important Points to Consider Before You Buy

Panama real estate has been the subject of a lot of press, both good and bad. If you’ve done any research into the lively market in this country you have probably already encountered some ‘horror stories’ of scams, frauds and other tales of buyers getting burned by unscrupulous or just ignorant sellers.

While there is a great deal to be said in favor of buying homes for sale in panama, you would be well advised to keep in mind that this is still an emerging market that experiences growing pains once in a while. Some mistakes are just that — mistakes, others are intentional deceptions. What matters is that you, the buyer, educate yourself in every possible way so that you can make intelligent and profitable choices.

First, acquaint yourself with the three different ways property can be held in Panama — titled, rights of possession, and concession. The last two may not even exist in your country of origin, but they are common in Panama. Titled property is just the same as elsewhere in the world. The seller owns the property and holds title to that property which he can transfer through sale to the buyer. Rights of Possession (ROP) property is owned by the Republic of Panama. Rights of Possession can be transferred through a sales transaction, but the government is still the official owner of the property.

Concession rights refers to the right to use (usually coastal land or islands) for a fee and a specific period of time. Concession property is also owned by the government. Buyers often ask whether it is “bad” to purchase ROP or concession properties. The answer depends on how you intend to use the property and how secure you feel with your decision. For instance, if you were interested in building a ‘surf camp’ on some remote beach with very little capital outlay, an ROP property might offer you the chance to do so without the high price tag of titled oceanfront. However, if you were looking to build a high-end resort, with millions of dollars investment, then you might want to pay the higher price of a titled beachfront property to secure your investment.

Second, it may seem obvious, but deal with a licensed agency. Not all persons working for a real estate office need to have a license, but by law there must be someone licensed who represents the organization. If your real estate professional cannot supply you with a license number under which their office operates it is wiser to move along and find a more legitimate and legal representative to help you. In the unfortunate event that something turns ‘sour’ in your real estate transaction, you will have recourse with the licensing board should the fault lie with your realtor?

Third, be very careful of projects that offer little more than conceptual drawings and the plot for ‘a piece of dirt’. Panama real estate has very specific laws governing the permitting of developments. Usually it takes at least a year from the time a developer acquires the land for a project to the time development can actually begin. For large, high impact projects, the environmental permit can take much longer. Until a project is fully permitted and has been assigned a project number, the developer and any agent representing that project are forbidden to advertise or sell any portion of it.