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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 01:48 AM EDT

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An Update On The Luxury Real Estate Market in Panama

Real Estate By Kent Davis - The luxury sector in the Panama city real estate market has seen a resurgence in the first two quarters of 2012 compared to the same period last year. Real estate developers for high-end projects have been reporting steady absorption in the $1,000,000+ price point. Most recent May sales include several units in Bahia Pacifica and The Point, both of which are projects delivered by the luxury development specialist Desarrollo Bahia.

According to our contacts within this development, approximately four $1 million+ units were sold in the last five weeks, meaning that the last remaining units in Bahia Pacifica are now almost depleted, with an estimated 24 units left in The Point. Luxury sales on the secondary market have also been strong, with Panama real estate agencies and project promoters reporting 21 high profile $1MM condo closings over the last six weeks. Venezuelans are still a large part of the demand for luxury real estate in Panama, continuing to expatriate their capital to Panama and oftentimes relocating entire businesses and large families to the city. High profile Venezuelans fleeing the Chavez regime bring seven figure bank accounts with them and have been typically drawn to the Costa del Este and Punta Pacifica neighborhoods, in a handful of cases, purchasing multiple properties for both investment and relocating family members.

According to fellow agents and what we have also seen from in house demand, a new segment of the Panama luxury real estate market is the European buyer coming from countries such as Italy, Spain, and Switzerland among other EU nations. Given the current economic crisis in Europe, some see this as a capital flight from the euro to the dollar. Top executives from major companies such as Oberecht, Caterpillar, and Proctor & Gamble have also made large apartment purchases in the first quarter of 2012 in buildings such as Allure, Pacific Point, and the Trump Ocean Club.

The construction and development pipeline of new supply for high end luxury real estate offerings has slowed down over the last four quarters, meaning future prospects for appreciation over the next 12-24 months are starting to strengthen on the uptick in demand and slowing down of supply. The long term prospects for a resilient luxury real estate market in Panama are strong, supported in part by the completion of major city infrastructure projects along with increased purchasing power and wealth creation in the local economy. This week’s announcement that Mersk will be relocating their regional headquarters will bring another wave of high level executives looking for high end housing solutions.

Punta Pacifica, Costa del Este, and Balboa Avenue are the three principal sectors where developers are still focusing on new luxury condo projects. Clayton, Albrook, Camino del Cruces and the new Santa Maria Country Club are the most prominent four neighborhoods for single family homes that have the highest offering for luxury homes in Panama. Based on feedback from buyers, the developers of the Santa Maria project have been reluctant to give deep discounts, implying absorption in the project has been sufficient enough to meet their sales targets and debt obligations.

Rental absorption in the luxury segment has also been consistent in the first six months of the year, with a large number of $6,000/month apartment rentals coming off of the market.

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Judge Tosses Appeals Filed By Fishermen, Upholds Evictions From Beaches

Real EstateThe governor of Cocle, Fernando Nuñez Fabrega, confirmed that the First Alternate Judge in charge, Kitzel Vega, denied the three guarantee protections that had been filed against the eviction orders from the La Pacora beach, and from the beach in Santa Clara. Last week the judge admitted the appeals filed on behalf of fishermen against eviction orders issued by the Justice of the Peace in Rio Hato. The eviction orders were issued against the fishermen because, according to the Governor, there are families living on privately owned property, and these are people who have been living there for many years. The fishermen protested and even made ​​street closures for this topic. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Panama needs to scrap this whole "rights of possession" thing and start over. There is little or no judicial security when it comes to property ownership. The farther away you are from Panama City, the worse it gets. At one point in time there were titles issued for practically the entire country - some of them going back to when Panama was a part of Colombia. Then Omar Torrijos woke up one day and started handing land to poor farmers, under the idea that "if you live on it (possess it), then it's yours." That was the origin of the whole "rights of possession" debacle. And now, forty years later, people are coming back with those old titles, presenting them in court, and winning, such as in this case. So if I have a title from 1955 for 200 hectares of land, then all of those "rights of possession" claims are no longer valid? Did you buy ROP land? Do you own it? Really? Keep your money, and rent.

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ANATI Is Processing Claim For Island

Real Estate There has been an application for a "special concession" in the National Authority of Land Management (Anati) since 13 July 2011 for a parcel of land measuring 141.5 hectares on the Canales de Tierra island, in the municipality of Bahia Honda, province of Veraguas. The request was made by the Italian-French businessman Jean Pigozzi, who since the late 1990's began to acquire large tracts of land in Panama, together with the American art dealer Daniel Wolf.

Pigozzi gained local prominence this week following a visit made by the president, Ricardo Martinelli, to Bahia Honda and El Pixvae, two coastal communities south of Veraguas where he has land disputes with the locals. As reported by some members of both communities, the surprise presidential visit included the threat of sending to jail those who do not cede their possessory rights Pigozzi.

Pigozzi's request has not had drawbacks in the Anati. On 4 April, the Director of Certification and Regularization, Carlos Dutari, set an edict so that anyone who thinks they have a better claim to the land can file an opposition within the next two months. In addition, the edict was taken yesterday to the office of the Justice of the Peace in Bahia Honda by ANATI officials, which also must be placed in view of the community.

Pigozzi sustained the application on Article 26 of Law 2 of 2006 which regulates concessions for tourism investment and the sale of island territory for tourist use purposes, and allows the concession for 90 years of island property, in case it can be proven the possession was for a period not less than two years. Pigozzi will not have trouble meeting this requirement of Panamanian law. Since 2003 he built a marine laboratory research on the island, and then a unique ensemble that includes a house on top of the island. And now, the Canales de Tierra island is now called Simca island, referring to the Pigozzi family car company. (Prensa)

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Trump Panama - Press Release

Real EstateNewland International Properties Corp, the developer and promoter of the Trump Ocean Club announces support from holders of its 9.50% Senior Secured Notes due 2014 to allow the completion of construction of Trump Ocean Club. On Monday the developer of Trump Panama announced that they have negotiated an agreement on the senior secured notes due 2014 have approved a Consent Solicitation amending the indenture governing the Notes to permit the release of company monies to fund the remaining construction of the Trump Ocean Club, including work on unfinished units.

Construction of the project, which is over 95% complete, should be finalized by July 31, 2012. Carlos Saravia, Chief Operating Officer of Newland, indicated that “this approval mitigates the remaining project risk, providing assurances to current and potential condo and hotel unit buyers, the brokerage community, and critical mortgage finance providers, as well as potential investors in other areas of the building, including the casino and commercial spaces. All parties can move forward with the confidence that the remaining unfinished units will be completed.”

Approval of the additional funding should allow the company to turn its focus to its longer term goal of a broad financial restructuring of the Notes, which it continues to work on in conjunction with the Steering Committee. To see more Panama Real Estate for sale, including Trump Ocean Club for sale and Trump Ocean Club Rentals, follow the links.

All the Best, Kent Davis

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Illegal Sale of Apartments Being Investigated

Real EstateThe administration of the National Mortgage Bank is investigating five reports of the illegal sale of apartments in the Urban Renewal Project in Curundú. The manager of the BHN, Rafael Guardia, said if this anomaly is found the apartment owner will be cited with a verbal reprimand in the first instance, and for repeat offenses they will automatically lose the benefit of the housing solution. "These are apartments whose cost is subsidized by the State with $35,000 dollars, and therefore they cannot be transferred for a profit," said Guardia. Each apartment has a market value of $50,000 dollars, of which the Curundú residents have to pay $15,000 dollars. In order to guarantee that the owners make regular payments for the apartments, the BHN will install a new branch exclusive to the area in the apartment complex, and they will use the "cold tap" system, in which agency officials will visit homes weekly to collect payments. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: When the government built these apartments the residents had to sign a whole bunch of paperwork saying they would live there and use the apartments as their primary residence. These apartments cannot be sold or transferred, at least until after they have been paid completely paid off. Basically, this is a "gift" of $35,000 dollars from the government. Is anyone surprised that some "juega vivos" are trying to find a way to sell the apartments to someone else in order to make some money? It's not going to work.

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How Can I Check On The Status Of My Property in Panama?

Real EstateBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Don, Your article today on buying land in Bocas reminded me of an article you wrote last month saying ANATI was going to process 350K property titles. I’ve been waiting on one of these since 2007, needless to say I’m the eternal optimist. However, on the other hand you stated “If you own titled property you damn well better know how to check the public registry online to make sure there's no funny business going on." Do you have a web site to check this out for property in Panama if the Province makes a difference I’m interested in Los Santos. Thanks I really appreciate your site. H."

Editor's Comment: You can check on your property on-line by going to the website of the Public Registry - www.registro-publico.gob.pa. From the home page, click on "Consulta Registral" and then "Consulta de Informacion Registral." If you don't already have an account you will have to register by providing some basic information such as your name, email address, cell phone number, etc. Once you log in you can enter the data on your property to check. Notice there's one section for "Property" and another for "Horizontal Property" which means apartments. Once you find your property registered in the system, you can go back and check on it about once a month or so. Any changes will be registered - and normally if you see something unusual happening (like, someone trying to steal or sell your land) you have a much better chance of putting a stop to it if you start screaming bloody murder, immediately. The guys who get really screwed are the ones who wake up one day and discover their land was stolen three years ago, and it's been sold five times since then.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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"Is It A Good Idea To Invest in Real Estate On Isla Colon in Bocas?

Real Estate By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - This morning I received a question via email asking (in general terms) if I thought it was a good idea to buy real estate on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. The author of the email asked me to not include the specifics out of privacy concerns, but I used that email to springboard off into this general piece of advice, which contains my opinion - for what it's worth - about about the state of affairs in the real estate market in Bocas.

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.

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Second Phase Of Construction Suspended in Pacora Neighborhood

Real Estate
Home construction site in Pacora, Panama
Home construction site in Pacora, Panama
The Metropolitan Health Director, Jorge Hassan said they will suspend construction on the second phase of the San Juan de Pacora neighborhood, due to a lack of maintenance the company in charge of the project has given to the plant. Residents of this community have closed streets in protest over the accumulation of sewage because the company has not property maintained the sewage pipes. Hassan said the responsible company was given a period of five months to resolve this problem, but to no avail. In his statements to the channel 2 morning news broadcast, he explained that initially they were going to fine the guilty party, but they backed off, because if they went down this road then the company would be able to continue to build. The IDAAN manager for the metropolitan area Abilio Pittí said today they would send equipment to suck part of the excrement from the pipes, but he said this is only a temporary solution. He added they will evaluate the possibility of passing the responsibility of the property to the government entity. Meanwhile, the residents of San Juan in Pacora, keep the street closed. (Dia a Dia)
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Is it time to buy real estate in Panama now?

Real EstateBalboa Ave ocean front one bed condo $128,000. Are prices coming down or is this the best time to pick up some good deals in Panama? These are always the million dollar questions. For each person the answer will be different, depending on if you are looking to retire here, looking for a second home to get out of the cold northern winters, or if you are an investor looking for capital appreciation or current cash flow ROI.

Looking at the fundamentals affecting the market this year we will find it is generally a good time to buy. On the one hand, this year and next will deliver among the highest numbers of finished condos coming on the market while on the other, some of the lowest numbers of new projects starting. These factors combined translate into a current oversupply of ready to move in apartments but a diminishing supply over the next 5 years (in Panama it takes about 5 years from the start of a new project to completion and delivery of ready to move in apartments on the market). (more)



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Government of Panama Tightens Up Rules To Protect Real Estate Buyers

Real EstateBill 421, recently approved by the National Assembly, introduces new measures to limit the abusive practices of real estate developers. The companies that charge a deposit from their clients must now sign a bond (guarantee) with the Ministry of Housing and Land Management. In cases where the promoter abandons the project, this bond will be used to repay client's deposits. In contracts between developers and consumers the clauses which raise the prices due to increased costs of building materials are capped at a maximum of 2% of the total price of the house or apartment, and the developer must be able to prove or demonstrate that the costs of the building materials actually did increase. Also, developers will be required to deliver projects with adequate water and sewer connections and services. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: Good. Finally. The government of Panama can do a whole lot more to protect consumers from the abuses of real estate developers. Many members of the English speaking community of expatriates who have purchased property in Panama have fallen victim to some kind of abuse - the stories are varied and the details change with each individual case, however the overall truth remains. The developers have been taking a "screw you, sue me if you want" attitude for years and getting away with it. It's about time the government finally stepped in to put a stop to some of the abuses. And I love the idea of the developers having to obtain a bond or guarantee to protect deposits.

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