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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 02:56 PM EDT

Real Estate in Panama

Most people who visit are interested in the booming real estate market here in one way or another. There are new towers going up all over Panama City and the skyline is dotted with construction cranes. Along the beaches new developments are popping up so fast it's hard to keep track. In this section you will find articles related to real estate in Panama. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we sometimes take requests. Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
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Government Will Tear Down 21 Old Buildings in Panama City and Colon

Real EstateThe Director of the National Project Coordination (Conapro), Lenin Villalba, reported on Tuesday afternoon that in the coming days, 21 buildings will be demolished in Panama City and Colon, the provinces with the largest number of buildings that are in poor condition. (more)

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Panama Equity: Real Estate Sales Database

Real Estate Anyone who has researched real estate in Panama knows that finding closed sales data is nearly impossible.

In an effort to fill that information gap and bring more transparency to the market, Panama Equity in 2013 partnered with several leading real estate agencies and leveraged its membership in the Panama Association of Realtors (ACOBIR) to create an ongoing reporting system whereby closed sales are documented and logged into a database:

Click Here For Free Access To Database

Panama Equity is pleased to announce that our database now has over 100 verified closed sale transactions published in its ever-expanding list, and is constantly adding more city-based closed transactions.

While this represents a very small portion of the properties being sold in Panama as a whole, it's proven to be a tremendously useful reference for sellers trying to get a sense of how to price their property and buyers wanting to know what properties are actually selling for. And historically speaking, Panama Equity's data segment accurately reflects larger trends as a whole.

Panama Equity's closed sales data comes in an Excel sortable format, and includes elements like the age of the property, neighborhood, size, and price per square meter of the property sold. As the list grows over time, pricing trends can be more accurately identified and conclusions drawn.

We also welcome anyone who has recently closed a property in the city to share the information on the transaction in an effort to achieve greater transparency.

Access is available by clicking on this link:

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New ANATI Director Will Revoke Questionable Land Titles Granted During (Corrupt) Martinelli Administration

Real EstatePanama's National Authority of Land Management (ANATI) will revoke land titles granted during the administration of former President Ricardo Martineli, that did not follow the correct procedures, warned the new Authority administrator, Carlos Gonzalez. (more)

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Save $180,000 this week on a Naos Harbor Island Loft !

Real EstateInvestment opportunity for anyone with $269,000 cash this week.

Now you can buy in Naos Harbor Island a 138 meter 3 level loft for $269,000 and it is ready to deliver this week.

After 10 years of struggle, the developer Marcos Shrem has finally completed this building and some of the original investors still want to run. While walking away from this project made sense for many years, this is not longer true. These are the original contracts which offered better terms than currently available from the developer, and at a far better price, as the developer's price for this unit would be over $450,000 and would have contractual requirements that are not in the original contracts.

Save $180,000 and get a better contract if you have $269,000 cash to offer this week to buy units from people who have been holding the contract for almost 10 years and just want to run.

This is the property:


Sale Price $ 269,000.00 USD

1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bathrooms, Construction Area 138.68 m²

Location: Panama, Panama City, Amador Causeway

Contact us now at if you are seriously interested:

Premier Casa Panama

Tel: PTY +507.6082.4652 / USA 929.227.4083

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Higher Real Estate Costs Makes Living In Panama City Unattainable For Most Panamanians

Real EstateThe development of Panama City in recent years has converted the city into a place so exclusive that 84% of the working population of the country has no chance of living in this area, where there are apartments costing more than one million dollars. (more)

Editor's Comment: Contains lots of good information regarding current wages in Panama City, real estate prices, etc...

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Condo Absorption in the Panama Real Estate Market

Real EstateTower 300 of Luxor is one of our favorite developments in Panama City, and clearly other people seem to agree, as the 40-story tower now has less than 8 units left for sale.

The Allure, a high-rise just off of Balboa Avenue we’ve been promoting since it started construction has four units remaining and less than 10 on the resale market at any given moment.

Casco View, one of our favorite developments in the Old Town, has more than 70% presold before the start of construction (planned for August 2014).

Rewind to 2009: Panama City was dotted with cranes and everyone was making references to another Dubai, a potentially overdeveloped market where supply had to exceed demand. “There has to be a bubble in this market, this city is overbuilt” were the comments from most visitors, no doubt referencing the bubble in their own markets back home.

And as we reported in our series of reports on new condos on Balboa Avenue, supply did in fact nearly double over a 24-month period from 2009-2011.

But a funny thing happened in Panama. Or more importantly, a funny thing DID NOT happen in Panama.

Prices never came down, and developers kept building. Actually, prices did come down about 10-20% during the financial crisis, but that’s a far cry from markets like Miami, Las Vegas, or Valencia Spain and more a function of the fact that Panama’s always been a market driven by foreign drivers.

So in effect, while we did experience a correction, it was more a function of demand slackening versus excess supply.

Undeniably, there are a few buildings that still have plenty of apartments for sale, but they are concentrated into a few (that I wont name in this article but would be HAPPY to tell you in an email) poorly built properties that only a few agencies are willing to sell. And most of the new projects are commercial developments, which is a cycle seen in many healthy real estate markets: commercial following residential.

Now the cranes in the city are to finish off hotels, office buildings, and new shopping centers versus four years ago when they were finishing the newly built towers you now see dotting our city skyline.

What we are seeing in 2014 is that pre-construction is once again hot and on the heels of a new president coming in and several other factors, we may be ready to go through another real estate cycle.

There are, of course, risks in buying pre-construction with the two main issues being if the market comes down below the strike price and if the development fails to be delivered. But precon is also the best way to hedge your bet by limiting equity instead of plunking down for the full price.

If you know your developer and understand the risks, then the reward can be lucrative and a $40,000 deposit can double over the time that it takes to deliver the project.

If you are interested in exploring the Panama real estate market for properties in construction, both on the beach or in the city, I’m always available at We know the developers, we know the prices, and we are always available to help.

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Developing Real Estate in Panama - Not For The Faint of Heart

Real EstateBy Kent Davis for Panama Equity - Developing in Panama is not for the faint of heart, but there are some notable success stories of expats coming to Panama, identifying a need, and successfully and profitably executing a real estate development.

When Brian Wagner moved to Panama in 2007 from Seattle, he had a vision of what type of development he was looking to build. Focused on the affordable housing market, the types of projects and how they have materialized are quite different than originally envisioned.

“It took several years to find the right properties with the characteristics that lend themselves to inner-city affordable housing,” Wagner said. “With PH Casco View, the project’s feasibility required innovative building variances. This required lobbying and technical presentations , and we had to work our way up the Ministry of Housing before anything got done.”

His story is similar to that of Gema Fercasa, who came to Panama from Spain with her family, who set their sights on an area just outside of the San Francisco neighborhood near Parque Omar.

“I come from a family of developers, and in 2010 we knew that the party was coming to an end in Spain. So we started our research, of course focusing on Latin America, which at the time was really starting to pick up economically. We considered Brazil but found that the language was going to be an issue, and safety was also a concern. We also considered countries like Argentina, Peru, and Venezuela, but were concerned with the lack of judicial security and didn’t want to have to worry about the government coming in and taking over our assets. The Dominican Republic was interesting, but was not really a place we wanted to live, and we ruled out places like El Salvador and Honduras because of the crime and poor schools for our kids. We appreciated the fact that Panama was a dollar based economy, was very safe, was a financial center with available credit, and was a place that we could see ourselves living and raising our kids.”

Developing in Panama for these two expats was of course very different than developing in the US or Spain.

In some cases, developing in Panama has clear advantages:

For instance, according to Wagner, the local building materials and design in Panama are much simpler than in his native Washington State. “All three of the projects we’ve developed have been slab and block construction, as opposed to dealing with lumber, sheet rock, insulation and other costly construction methods. Building codes in Panama are also less rigid and at the end of the day, an important difference between high end and affordable housing are the quality and costs of finishing materials.”

For Wagner, the process has its expected challenges as well. Focused on the area just outside of the historic district in downtown Panama City, project planning has taken a lot longer than what he expected. Entities such as the municipality (Municipio), the housing authority (MIVIOT), the environmental oversight agency (ANAM), the tax authority (DGI), the public registry (El Registro Publico), and the land registry (Catastro), many of whom do not have any communication between each other, are all necessary to deal with to launch a successful development, which makes getting approvals difficult and time consuming. Gema’s first venture has also turned into a success, but was not without it’s challenges either.

“We were fortunate, in that we acquired a parcel that already had the zoning and permissions we were looking for, most notably the anteproyecto.”

Typically, getting to this stage would have taken four months to finalize the environmental impact study, four months to prepare the plans and submit them to the municipality, and then another five months within the municipality to get approvals, but according to Gema, “we saved at least a year by buying the land with approvals and we were able to start selling and taking deposits from buyers as soon as we closed on the land.”

In Panama as in Spain, developers are legally permitted to use buyer’s deposits to cover costs and not required to hold those funds in escrow. Both agreed that this was a huge advantage from a cash flow perspective.

The bank financing piece was also attractive for both Wagner and Farcasa. Banks in most cases will finance up to 80% of the cost of construction and in some cases banks will even allow builders to take a draw against the irrevocable letters of payment that the developers have taken from buyers to cover the balance.

“We’d never be able to do something like that in the US,” Wagner said, “but the rules and norms are different in Panama”

“Banco General ended up being a fantastic partner,” Fercasa notes. “In fact, they were eager to lend us the money because of the nature of our buyer, who was Panamanian. They knew they were going to get all of the other business from them…the mortgage, car loans, and new banking relationships. They were actually chasing us to write the loan!”

Both developers also faced very serious challenges, including having to replace their general contractor, incompetent attorneys and more. We plan on covering this and exploring the theme of foreigners developing in Panama more in the next chapter, so stay tuned!

All the Best, Kent Davis - Panama Equity Real Estate. Panama City, Panamá. El Cangrejo, Argentina Tower. Office: +(507) 396-0931 Mobile: 011 (507) 6030-6782 USA Number: 404 865 1629 Skype: kentpd22 View listings at

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Several Mafias Falsifying Titles And Land Documents - Stealing Land Worth Millions in Panama

Real EstateIn mid-2008, when the then governor of Cocle, Darío Fernández, discovered his mother had been involved in the illegal transfer of a property in the area of Piña, in Colon, he never imagined this would be the cause of his assassination three years later.

Fernández , using a radio station he owned in Penonomé, exposed the shady dealings of one of the many criminal gangs operating in Panama, who are specialists in stealing privately owned land from their rightful owners, from which they have earned millions of dollars in illegal profits, and they have even banded together to contract hired killings.

It all started when the politician and journalist (Fernández) received a call from the Public Registry, letting him know that the process of transferring a 12 hectare parcel of land in Colon that was in the name of his 93 year old mother - Juana Maria Jaen - had ended.

Fernández - who at the time was also the President of the Partido Revolutionario Democratico (PRD) for the province of Cocle - was amazed by the call and he immediately set out to investigate what was happening, because his mother had not sold the land, nor had she requested that it be transferred to someone else.

What Fernández discovered was a criminal network that had transferred the property at least eight more times times, that became theirs seemingly as if by magic in May 2008 - the property rightfully belonging to his mother.

Among those involved in these illegal transactions was the lawyer Ricardo Martínez Quiroz, a person well known to Fernández, and who had also been a member of the PRD in the province of Coclé.

Mayra Hall Conte and Julián Alfredo Nouvet Conte were also involved.

The three form part of the group of seven people indicted and convicted in 2013 for the murder of Fernández, which occurred in Penonomé on November 6, 2011 at the hands of a paid assassin. Martínez Quiroz remains a fugitive from justice in the case.

During the trial prosecutor Roberto Moreno said Fernandez was murdered after he uncovered a criminal network engaged in identity theft and illegally selling land. The network had generated gains of $1.5 million from these activities, he said.

Another case confirming the existence of these mafias - experts in "cloning" fake land titles - is that of the leader of the Hossana Evangelical Church of Panama, Edwin Alvarez.

He unwittingly became involved in August 2013 in a land sale through the falsification of documents in the Public Registry for 13 hectares of land located in Boquerón, Chiriquí, for which he paid $320,000.

The leader of the Hosanna Apostolic Community said the land would be used to develop camps, retreats and other activities that are not held at their churches.

The disputed land, claimed by the farmer Ricardo Sitton from Chiriqui, and which according to the investigations were fraudulently registered in Herrera, were previously transferred through four other people before they were obtained by Alvarez.

Alvarez had to face a criminal trial, during which he was prevented from leaving the country.

In the end he was acquitted, along with seven other defendants, "because they were surprised in good faith," according to the prosecution. Alvarez pledged to return the property to its original owner.

However, the case was not closed, because the evidence indicating the existence of a criminal network that is behind these actions led to the Prosecutor's Office of Organized Crime to open an investigation last December in order to determine who is criminally responsible.

Moreno, who is currently the Superior Prosecutor Against Organized Crime, confirmed his office has detected several of these criminal organizations involved in these types of crimes, and his office has at least four case files open related to these criminal actions.

He said on of these processes is that of the Pastor Álvarez, in which they are evaluating some of the evidence collected to determine responsibilities.

A dozen foreign citizens living in the Chiriqui highlands has also fallen victim to the tentacles of these criminal organizations, so the criminal courts in this province have opened four criminal cases.

Complaints about the illegal "cloning" of land and title documents began in 2006, and the most recent was presented in 2012.

It was said the usurped land has a value of between 3 and 4 million dollars in total.

According to the investigation, the illegal operations of this network include "overpricing" land sales to foreigners who have acquired the land, obtaining two titles on the same parcel of land, obtaining loans from financial institutions using these falsified titles, livestock theft, and the falsification of transfer paperwork used to steal the land from the rightful owners.

Officials from the Public Ministry are currently investigating to determine if corrupt government officials working in the office of the Public Registry of David are involved.

Because of the way this band is operating, the victims are comparing them to the famous television series The Sopranos.

In February the Third Circuit Judge of Chiriquí, Idalgis Olmos de Sánchez, ordered the National Police to arrest the lawyer Cley Estenio González Caballero, Daniel Polanco Rodríguez, Itza Dania Muñoz and Lot Jafet Muñoz, for their alleged participation in the network of "cloners" in order to proceed with the investigation against them.

There is another investigation that has been going on since September 2012 in the Public Ministry, that is looking into the actions of a criminal network dedicated to the illegal registration of 88 farms belonging to the State.

These actions affected properties in islands and the province of Veraguas, as well as along the coast in the area of Coclé del Norte, in the province of Colón.

In this investigation 43 people have been named in the case file, which has more than 18 volumes, in the Public Ministry.

Eight of these people face "precautionary measures," including José Edir Torres, who illegally inscribed 58 of the affected farms, and Jesús Morales, who illegally inscribed another 19 farms belonging to the State, according to the investigations.

Among those mentioned in the case file are several family members related to the National Assembly Deputy Freidi Torres, and the Former Director of the Office of Agrarian Reform Nadia Moreno, who has already given a first statement.

In another case, in December 2012 the Fifth Criminal Court sentenced Donald Lamb and his son Brent Duane Lamb to 24 months in prison, for a case involving the sale of a parcel of land in Colón, which was stolen from a company named Robsons Real Estates Inc., using documents that had been falsified in 2007. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: There are a couple of ways you could find yourself involved in this sort of a problem.

First of all, lets say you already bought land in Panama. You are a very honest and diligent person. You hired the best lawyers, did everything right. Crossed all your "t's" and dotted all the "i's" to make sure there were no surprises. You built your dream house in Panama, and have been living there happily for several years. Then one day you wake up to see heavy equipment moving around on "your" land. When you investigate, you discover that "your" land was - unbeknownst to you - stolen from you using fake documents, two years ago. The criminals transferred the land several times before it was eventually sold to the guy who owns the heavy equipment. Neither of you knew you were getting screwed, until it was too late.

Let's say you're a buyer. You are just now about to move to Panama. You also make sure everything is legitimate before you buy your land. Your very good and very honest lawyer checks everything out, and as far as they can tell, it all looks legitimate. So, you go ahead and buy the land. You get your permits to build a house - and they are issued by the government. You have an architect draw up some plans. You hire a contractor, and he starts to cut an entryway to build a road to where the house will be in order to start construction. Then a neighbor runs up frantically, screaming "what the hell are you doing on my land?" Little do you know, you purchased land that had first been "stolen" and then laundered by moving it from one person to another to another to another to another (all shell companies) before you bought it.

Or maybe they just go more direct. They fake the documents, steal your land, and then threaten to kill you and your family if you report it or protest. I know of more than one case in which the expat involved decided it was better to just flee the country, out of fear for their safely, rather than trying to stand and fight it in court. Remember, these people have already murdered at least one person in a hit for hire scenario. Taking out a gringo would not be that big of a leap.

Every one of these cases is a little different. I know of several involving corrupt government officials. The former Minister of the Presidency "Jimmy" Papadimitriu was forced to resign because of his involvement in the Paitilla and Juan Hombron land scandals. I personally investigated and reported on the theft of land in Chame, which apparently had the direct involvement of the Director of the ANATI. And I also know of other cases in Bocas del Toro involving expats, and organized efforts by corrupt government officials to steal land worth millions of dollars.

So what's the bottom line? How can you protect yourself? Investigate, and document. Take your time. Make sure you've got every possible angle covered. Actually find the neighbors, physically walk up to them and show them the documents. Ask them if they know of anything strange or out of place. They should know exactly who owned what, when. If something fishy is going on, it might come to the surface immediately. Before you lay down any money or sign any documents, do all of your due diligence research. Document the hell out of everything. Check for the dates of when things were last transferred or signed. Look at the names of who signed what, and do simple Google searches for those names. If any of them turn up as being linked to an ongoing investigation, run away with your money in your pocket. Spend more money up front (as an insurance policy) on private investigation. It's better to have to spend $2,000 to avoid a problem, than to lose $320,000 on a fraudulent land deal.

And another piece of advice I always give - Get a Panamanian bank involved in the deal by getting them to mortgage part of the deal, even if you don't need it. They will do all of their due diligence as well, which is a form of indirect insurance for you. They have teams of lawyers trained to sniff out problems, and they might find something you would have otherwise missed. This tactic will slow down your deal, and it might make it a little more expensive, and harder to do, but once again you won't lose your $320,000 (quickly, thank you very much...) Better to be slow and sure and safe, than fast and unsure and ripped off.

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Is The War Against Vacation Rentals Lost?

Real EstateIn the Central America region Panama is where the phenomenon of Holiday Rentals shows the highest growth, despite a law prohibiting it. According to an article in, the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP) "... has imposed eleven fines of $55,000 for renting out apartments to tourists for periods of less than 45 days."

Law 80 of November 8, 2012 in Article 21 reads: "any lease of less than forty-five days in the district of Panama, by people who do not possess public accommodation tourist permits (for buildings or residences) is prohibited. This act will be sanctioned by the Tourism Authority of Panama, with a fine of between five thousand dollars (B/.5, 000.00) to Fifty Thousand Dollars (B/.50, 000.00), depending on the seriousness of the offense and / or repetition of such act, by the lessor. Also subject to these penalties are people who by any means, including electronic ones, advertise these services. "

It is clear that activity damages the formal hotel sector, where entities must bear all the costs of exercising a formal trade and paying taxes, against a totally casual competitor.

In Europe, where in Spain alone holiday rentals generate $4 billion a year-the problem is confronted in various ways, ranging from a draconian ban in the Panamanian style, to its formalization by regulation and taxation. The main argument of those who oppose the ban is that the phenomenon will occur anyhow as holiday rentals are increasingly in demand by tourists, and therefore the best option is to regulate it. (

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Panama Capitalizes On Glimmers Of Resurgence

Real EstateBy Kevin Brass (NY Times) PANAMA — At the tip of Punta Pacifica, a neighborhood in Panama covered with skyscrapers, a narrow bridge leads to a new 25-acre artificial island.

The island, which covers 10 hectares, is the first part of a residential and marina development called Ocean Reef, originally announced in 1998 by Empresas ICA, a Mexican conglomerate.

Today, Grupo Los Pueblos, a Panamanian company hired by Empresas ICA to develop the project, is handing over the first lots to buyers planning to build homes there.

The project, with a marina and resort-style amenities, has all the elements of a development designed for international buyers seeking a second home. But of the 63 buyers so far, 56 are from Panama, said Alfredo Aleman, executive vice president of Grupo Los Pueblos.

Sales to foreign buyers dried up here after the 2008 global economic crisis. But developers like Mr. Aleman are reviving their global marketing efforts amid signs of renewed interest from international buyers in a city that is often called the Miami of Latin America.

Such optimism in the residential market is fueled by the continued strength of the local economy, analysts say. The $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal is scheduled for completion in 2015, although it has been mired in dispute and work suspensions. And First Quantum Minerals, a Canadian company, is planning a $6 billion copper mining operation in western Panama.

In the residential market, “a lot of the growth will come from existing multinationals that already have moved here,” said Justin Boyar, who tracks the market for Jones Lang LaSalle, a property consulting firm.

There is no central source of reliable real estate data in Panama. But agents say that prices increased 10 percent or more in the last year, with a jump in buyers from Venezuela, Colombia and North America.

For example, apartments selling for $186 a square foot six months ago now are selling for $205 to $214 a square foot, said Duncan McGowan president of Punta Pacifica Realty, a local estate agent (Panama real estate is typically transacted in dollars.)

The price increase is a contrast to the steady declines of recent years. After a building boom in which dozens of residential towers were completed, prices in many projects dropped 30 percent to 50 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to industry estimates. At the time, more than 300 towers were in the planning stages, under construction or recently completed in the city.

More than 50 percent of the buyers in Trump Ocean Club — which opened in 2011 as the tallest building in Central America at 932 feet — forfeited their deposits rather than complete the purchase of units that had significantly dropped in value.

Even as the global economy recovered, prices in the city were slow to rebound. And projects completed after the downturn have added more than 4,000 apartments to the market over the past three years, according to data tracked by Panama Equity, a local estate agency.

Yet many say that they believe that the canal and mining projects will attract more buyers.

“I think there will be two Panamas: the Panama before the expansion of the canal and the Panama afterward,” said Jose Bern, president of Empresas Bern, one of the most prolific residential builders in the city along Avenida Balboa, the main road on the central city’s waterfront.

Industry supporters and local residents also hope that the completion of a long list of infrastructure projects will help ease the city’s longstanding problems with sewage and traffic. A citywide subway system, the first in Central America, is scheduled to open this spring.

“The biggest hope is that it will release us from the massive amount of cars on the road here,” said Sandie Davis, a Seattle native who invested in real estate even before she moved to the city five years ago.

In 2006, Ms. Davis paid a preconstruction price of $117,000 for a three-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot apartment in the Costa del Este, a fast-growing master-planned, 310-acre development a few miles outside the city center. She rented it out for $1,800 to $2,000 a month, finally selling it in 2012 for $180,000.

Ms. Davis now lives in a 2,368-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in an older building in Obarrio, the city’s banking district, about a block from a new metro station. She paid $240,000 for the apartment, including the furniture, in 2009.

With the market in decline at the time, “it was a little bit of an emotional play,” she said, adding, “I’d seen the apartment a year before and fell in love with it.”

Most of the new residential activity in the city has come from Costa del Este. Empresas Bern is shifting its emphasis to the newer area, said Mr. Bern, the company president.

"We’ve completed delivery of our last building on Avenida Balboa,” he said.

Development is also increasing in Panama Pacifico, a 3,450-acre project at the former Howard Air Force Base, on the west side of the Panama Canal. Developed by the British company London & Regional Properties, the project plans for more than 20,000 residential units as well as office and commercial space.

So far, about 800 homes have been sold, most in the past two years, said Marco Ruiz, London & Regional’s director of residential development. As for construction, 270 homes were built in 2013, with 600 scheduled for completion this year, he said.

Eric Carrasco, a Panamanian who runs a tour company, recently purchased a four-bedroom, 3,330-square-foot home being built in Panama Pacifico. He says the new house will give his family a different life than what they now have in a congested Panama neighborhood.

“Now I drive my kids to school and it takes 45 minutes,” Mr. Carrasco said. “There, they will be able to ride their bicycles to school.”

About 80 percent of the buyers in Panama Pacifico are Panamanian, but the developers expects international sales to account for a larger percentage in the future.

“We know it’s going to turn around,” Mr. Ruiz said. “The demographics are there. They’ve always been there.”

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