Wednesday, April 04 2012 @ 09:54 AM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
Editor's Comment: In my opinion, buying just about anything in Bocas (right now) is bat-shit crazy. There's no rule of law there. The local authorities are completely and totally corrupt. You have no real guarantee you will actually end up owning whatever you think you're "buying." I've seen so many land disputes in Bocas, and specifically on Isla Colon, that I can no longer recommend with a clear conscience that anyone invest 50 cents there. In terms of buying real estate or building a home, you will end up spending at least $100K or more on land, materials, labor, etc., and you'll get screwed at every turn. Your total investment will probably end up more like $250K, or more - a lot of money to sink into an environment with little or no rule of law and unsure legal security with regards to land ownership.
Keep Your Money: Anyone who wants to live in Bocas del Toro he should keep their money in the bank and rent something for a couple of years. About the only way you can keep from becoming a victim in Bocas del Toro is to be broke, or to not have a lot of money to spend, either on land, construction, or services. Remember the case of the guy who's house was burned down because someone wanted to steal his land? What about the couple who invested their life savings to build a beautiful house next to the beach, but now it turns out that they were scammed years ago and they don't actually own that parcel of land, and what they "actually" own is away from the beach in a mangrove swamp? Their house has been "for sale" for several years, but they will probably never be able to actually sell it, because they don't own the land under the house. This is the "trickle down" effect of an old scam. How do you know you're not going to buy some kind of an old problem like that? For that matter, someone might even try to sell you that specific house.
Not A New Problem: There have literally been dozens, if not hundreds of similar cases. People contact me about these kinds of things all the time. Every local official and Bocas lawyer is corrupt. Remember the lawyers who convinced a large investor to buy land that they knew would be in legal disputes for years? The lawyers wanted the buyers to buy those disputed lands (specifically), because they knew they would get paid again, to fight for or otherwise defend the claim in court. The lawyers in Bocas del Toro have no scruples or morals. They will steer you towards a problem, and then charge you to get the problem fixed, or else they will conspire behind your back with your "legal enemies" to screw you again. So if you are an independently wealthy masochist who loves to bring unnecessary stress into your life, then yes, by all means. Buy something in Bocas del Toro. Go right ahead.
Did You Hear That Disney Is Coming To Panama? On top of the lack of legal security, corrupt local government officials, and unscrupulous lawyers, you should only believe what actually exists. There's always some sort of "plan" to build one thing or another. However, almost none of them every actually take place, or are ever built. Only believe what you can see, touch, hear, smell, feel, spend, lick, or screw. Everything else is a sales pitch. If you rent for a couple of years, then you will be able to determine (without having a significant vested interest) if there's going to be some significant investment in the neighborhood that could increase land values, or if the electrical system is actually going to be upgraded, or whatever. And for the record, from the user's point of view, it should make no difference whatsoever if the power at your wall socket comes from a hydroelectric dam in Changuinola or a nuclear reactor on the moon.
The Bottom Line: My advice - Run! As fast as you can. Hang onto your money, and invest it in something that's much safer (like teak), and then rent something if you really want to live in Bocas. If you're speculating that in the future land values might increase, you should know that the only people who managed to really get themselves hurt as investors in Panama in the past seven years were speculators who had convinced themselves they were going to make a "killing" on one thing or the other. Many of them got ripped off. The lucky ones were able to simply escape with a percentage of their original capital, without getting totally crushed. And of course there have been a few road kills along the way.
Please Make A Note: I suspect many will ignore my advice. In about two or three years from now I expect to be hearing "I should have listened to Don..." You have a tremendous advantage right now - if you still have your money in your hands. Once the check is signed or the funds are transferred, it's too late. I normally hear the horror stories once the bleeding has commenced, and usually people contact me either because they want to hire a lawyer, or to bitch in public about how they got screwed, so I hear about their problems after the fact. Luckily for you in this case it's still very early and the "Exit" sign is lit. Normally all of these deals sound great - and legally bullet proof - when you're going in. But then time passes and one day you turn around and you see that bitch "I told you so" Karma standing there with a strap-on, a bottle of lube, and a mischievous grin...
Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.