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How to Buy Property in Panama

Photo: Viva Team

Photo: Viva Team

Buying property in Panama can be a cumbersome task.  The good news is that, when dealing with experienced professionals you can trust, it doesn’t have to be.

While some investors and expats choose to learn all the ins and outs of the process, many see no need to reinvent the wheel when there are others who do this kind of thing every day and are much better equipped to navigate the system.

As that latter group has learned, buying property in Panama isn’t about what you know.  It’s who you know.  And it is absolutely essential to work with a team you can trust.

Step 1:  Narrow Down Your Search.

Start looking for properties.  Take into consideration the type of climate, community, and culture that you’re looking for.  Whatever you’re into, Panama has an area that can accommodate your interests.

Once you’ve chosen your area, find a few listings that appeal to you and contact the seller, developer, or listing agent.  You can start by emailing them to see if you get a response.  If it’s a company who’s selling, research them online.  Try to verify whether they’re legit.

Once you’ve weeded out any bogus or unreliable sources, contact the sellers of your top candidates by phone to feel them out a little more.  Treat this more like an interview than just a cursory fact-finding mission.  You want to make sure that everything they’re telling you about the property and the process corresponds with what you know to be true.

If there are any red flags that pop up in your dealings with the seller, walk away.  Don’t waste your time and effort trying to work with someone who isn’t cooperative or trustworthy.

Step 2: Build Your Team.

Working with a team of reputable professionals is the key that can make or break your property-buying experience.  However you’ll be relieved to know that, having successfully weeded out any questionable sellers, you’re well on your way to building a team you can trust to work in your best interests and get the job done.

Like-minded folks often tend to run in the same circles.  So if your real estate agent is trustworthy, then you can usually trust others in his network.  (Note that the opposite is also true.  If a seller gives you reason to doubt him, run–don’t walk–away from the rest of his cronies as well.)

While you should certainly do your part to double check their reputation, it’s a good idea to ask the real estate agent or property developer for recommendations on attorneys, escrow companies, surveyors, or other professionals you’ll need.  This can save you a wealth of time and energy when trying to select these professionals from thousands of miles away.

So it’s important in this stage to evaluate whoever you’re going to be working with. This means real estate agents, attorneys, sellers, etc.

Step 3: Come See for Yourself.

The final step before pulling the trigger is to take a trip to see the property (or properties, if you’re considering more than one) for yourself.  Make arrangements to meet with the seller (or sellers), and see if you can go ahead and plan a meeting with the attorney you’ve selected to get the ball rolling.

Keep in mind that, depending on the seller or company you’re dealing with, you may be responsible for arranging for all your own travel, especially once you’re on the ground in Panama.  And we all know nothing ever goes wrong when traveling internationally, right?  Wrong.

Things happen.  Flights get delayed.  Cell phone service is spotty.  Make sure those you’ll be meeting know how to reach you and that you know where to find them as well.  Get their office number, cell phone number, home phone number, physical address, email address, and every other form of contact you can think of.  And always have a back-up plan.

Once you’ve connected with everyone, sit back and relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  Make sure to allow plenty of time to do everything you need to do.  Depending on the remoteness of the properties you’re considering, you may be traveling by boat, or horseback, or even on foot.  Don’t expect to be hopping in a car with a realtor and seeing eight or nine properties in an afternoon.

Step 4:  Let Your Team Get to Work.

Once you’ve selected your property, this is where the right team will really start firing on all cylinders.  Your attorney will start by drafting up a contract to buy and issuing a deposit to the seller.  The contract will spell out all the contingencies that must be met.

The attorney will then research the title or rights, liens, and any other legal issues with the property.  Hopefully you’ll find everything in order once your team has done their homework on the property.

If everything’s in the clear, your attorney will obtain a bill of sale and have the title transfer completed.  After that it’s time to disburse the funds, which you’ll need to have wired to a Panamanian bank.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  At least, it can be.  By delegating responsibility to a few trusted individuals, the process of buying property in Panama can be virtually hassle-free on your part.  In fact, if you’ve arranged everything properly with your attorney, you might not even have to show up for the closing.

Imagine that.  You take a trip to Panama to look at a property you’re considering, and the next time you return…it’s yours.

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