Overseas Property Advice

Tips for Buying Propery in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

By ChiriquiDebbie

An expat and real estate associate with Keller Williams Realty Panama offers tremendous insight into the process of buying property in Panama. She focuses on the beach town of Puerto Armuelles, Panama.


Popular Areas in Puerto Armuelles, Panama for Expats

Other than the capital of Panama City, the most popular expat areas of Panama start along the "Gold Coast", on the Pacific side of the country, which includes Coronado and Gorgona. Other popular beach locations are Pedasi, Las Lajas, and Puerto Armuelles. On the Caribbean side of the country, the most popular expat area is the archipelago of Bocas del Toro. For folks who enjoy a cooler climate, the mountain towns of Boquete, Volcan, El Valle, and Santa Fe top the list.

Searching for a Property in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

Keller Williams Realty Panama is one of the best countrywide real estate companies in Panama and they are aactive listing on the MLS, called ACOBIR in Panama. Debbie Fishell is an active Keller Williams associate who works primarily in the Chiriqui province . There is a good site on the up and coming area of Puerto Armuelles called visitPuertoArmuelles.com, which has a classified section with some for sale by owner properties.

What Your Budget Will Buy You in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

In the beach town of Puerto Armuelles, previously under the radar, there is a tremendous amount of new infrastructure and business happening and expats are taking notice. Beachfront lots can still be purchased in the $20 - 30,000 range and nice Chiquita plantation homes (2 - 4 bedrooms) are available for $100-150,000. "Local style" homes can be found for $50,000 or less, but usually need to be remodeled to bring them up to north American standards. These are homes within 2 - 3 blocks of the sandy beaches, where there is fishing, surf, and swimming.

Before You Buy a Property in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

When purchasing property anywhere in Panama, it is best to use a knowledgeable real estate company and/or attorney to walk you through the process. If you work with an expat in Panama, make sure they are working here legally! Ask to see their work permit. If you work with an illegal (even if they are from your hometown!), you will have no recourse if something goes wrong.

Also, understand the difference between the two types of property ownership in Panama, TITLED and R.O.P. (Right of Possession).

Legal Assistance

It is always advisable & necessary to use a competent real estate attorney in Panama. There are not really escrow companies here and lawyers are the only ones who can do a thorough background check on a property and/or corporation for you.

In Panama City, I recommend Mayra Lamboglia de Ruzzi

In Chiriqui I use Anita Fidelina

Costs Involved in Buying a Property

Attorney fees to handle a real estate transaction are usually around $400 and are split between buyer and seller, if only one attorney is used. The seller pays 5% for real estate transfer fees and taxes. Filing fees are generally around $200, including notary services. If the buyer or seller does not speak/read Spanish fluently (all legal documents in Panama are in Spanish), then a translation can cost between $25 and $200, depending on whether it is a spoken or written translation.

Foreign Property Ownership

Foreigners have the same property rights as Panamanians, with one exception. Foreigners are not allowed to own property in their own name within 10 kilometers of the border of Costa Rica. Of course, there are still legal ways to have your dream beach house! ROP properties are not included in this rule, since they are not technically "owned" and Titled properties can be held in a Panamanian Corporation or Foundation that is set up properly for this. Another reason to hire a competent attorney.

5 Best Places to Buy Real Estate in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

The 5 best places to buy property in Panama include: 1. San Carlos and the other beaches along the Gold Coast heading west, which are not yet as developed as Coronado so they are more affordable. Property that is 30 minutes or more past the popular Coronado Beach are just as beautiful and will be about 1/3 to 1/2 the price for a similar condo or home. 2. Chame is another up and coming beach are where there are new developments starting to pop up. A new beachfront home is in the $200,000 range and condos run about $150,000 with an ocean view. 3. Santa Fe is in the mountains above the large central city of Santiago, with all amenities. The climate is cooler and more rural. Small farms and modern homes can be purchased for about $150,000. A new road being constructed from the Pacific to Caribbean coasts of Panama will bring growth to the area! 4. Volcan is another cool mountain town that many people describe as "Boquete 10 years ago". Homes in Volcan are 1/2 to 1/2 the cost that you will find in the Most popular mountain town of Boquete. The town has a rural feel and more expats are moving here, bringing better restaurants, activities, and interest to the area. A cute little home can be purchased for about $100,000 or less. 5. Puerto Armuelles is the last undiscovered beach area on the Pacific Coast of Panama. Once the site of a booming banana industry (in the 30's -90's), the town is just starting to experience a resurgence and tremendous growth is already being seen in the new infrastructural projects around town. Investment-wise, there are ground floor opportunities here and room for new businesses to profit. Beachfront lots and "Pananian-style" property can still be found for under $50,000!

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Steps in Buying Property in Puerto Armuelles, Panama

Basic Procedure for Purchasing Titled Real Estate in Panama

NOTE: All legal documents in Panama must be in Spanish. Your attorney should be able to provide an English translation for you. If you have a document in English, it will have to be translated to Spanish to be valid in a Panamanian court or for any legal purposes.

After you have found a property you like and negotiated the price and terms of the sale with the seller, here are the basic steps of the purchase:

• Step 1: Confirm the title. Prospective buyers should always have an attorney confirm title first. Request two original documents from the current owner – the Escritura, or deed, with a description of the property and the legal owner listed and the Certificado de Registro Público from the Public Registry, which will show any liens or encumbrances on the property. If these documents are not available, ask the seller for a property finca number (property identification number). With this information, your lawyer will be able to search for the title at the Public Registry.

• Step 2: Enter into a Promise to Buy-Sell Agreement. Once you have verified title, the next step is to sign a Compraventa, Promise to Buy-Sell Agreement. The buyer will place an earnest deposit, usually about 10% of the purchase price, and set a date for the transfer of title. During this time, you will arrange any financing needed and perform your due diligence. Make sure you add any contingencies that need to be addressed in this document and release you from your obligation to buy if they are not resolved. Unless it is spelled out specifically in advance, there is a penalty if either party backs out. You will also need a survey map. Hiring a surveyor is usually about $200-400, depending on the size of the property.

• Step 3: Transfer the title. Once the Promise to Buy-Sell Agreement is completed, your lawyer will draft the final purchase and sale contract and the new deed. All parties will then need to go to a notary public to sign the deed. Your attorney will file the deed at the Public Registry to be formally registered. When registration is complete, usually in a few weeks, you will be given a new Escritura and a copy is filed with the Catastro (tax office).

• Step 4: Transfer the funds. The safest way to pay the balance of the purchase price is by placing the funds in a local Panamanian bank and issuing an irrevocable letter of payment. Your lawyer will assist you in obtaining this document. When the bank is presented with the new Escritura, transferring ownership to the buyer, it will release the funds to the seller.


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