The real estate boom started in 2003 and lasted until 2008 in Panama, when the real estate market was composed by buyers mainly from the United States, Canada, Venezuela and Spain. The majority was purchasing apartments under constructions in areas such as Punta Pacifica, Balboa Avenue and Costa del Este in Panama City; beach front properties in Coronado, Playa Blanca, Colon and Bocas del Toro, as well as in the beautiful islands the country possess, mainly promoted by real estate fairs, media campaigns and the internet, accompanied with competitive prices that made Panama attractive for real estate investments. Just in 2013, the construction sector contributed to the Panamanian economy 30.5 percent, which experienced a growth compared to 2012 of 1.2 percent.
Also, in 2013, the real estate, rental, leasing, professional services and business services was of 9.0 percent, generating an income of USD $2,316.1 million.
PANAMA: REAL ESTATE
Several sectors are influencing the real estate boom in Panama, including tourism, the Panama Canal Expansion, the consecutive economic growth periods since the Canal was transferred to Panamanian administration, and the tax incentives for investors, among others.
However there are other factors that are stimulating real estate investment in Panama. During the past several years, Panama has been consistently rated in the top ten for the best retirement locations worldwide by groups like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). A welcoming climate, controlled crime rates, excellent incentives for retirees, together with the natural beauty and ethnic diversity that is Panama, all appeal to the increasing number of baby boomers from North America and Europe who are looking for a different option for retirement.
The collective dreams of owning a second home, retiring in a foreign land, and making an investment in a tropical haven have lured hundreds to Panama. Whatever the preference Panama has something to offer everyone. Favorable retiree conditions like tax exemption on foreign source income make Panama a great option for investment and to live.
The reasons why Panama City is considered a great area for real estate investment.
- Convergence of two continents at the Bridge of the Americas.
- Rated the most “International City” in Latin America.
- Poised for tremendous growth in the next decade.
- Within an hour of some of the finest fishing and bird watching in the world.
- A one hour drive from pristine beaches and cool mountains.
- Located on the Pacific coast, yet it is only 45 minutes to the Caribbean.
- Has one of the most increasing numbers of expatriates in Latin America.
- Among one of the safest cities in the hemisphere.
- Excellent infrastructure (internet, telephone, roads, water, etc)
Benefits of Investing in Real Estate in Panama:
- US dollar-based economy
- Low inflation and zero foreign exchange risk
- Equal treatment of foreign and local citizens
- Property tax exemptions apply to all new construction
- Four times ranked number one for retirement living
- Panama is safe
- Lowest inflation rate and the most stable economy in Latin America
- Tourist friendly
- Has a wide selection of beaches and islands
- Has first-world infrastructure
- Has world-class sport fishing, diving and sailing
- Has no hurricanes or major earthquakes
Property Taxes in Panama
Properties with a registered value of USD 30,000 or lower do not pay property tax. For properties of a higher value, they pay as follows: 1.75% from USD 30,000 to USD 50,000; 1.95% from USD 50,000 to USD 75,000; and 2.1% over any property value above USD 75,000. On houses or apartments where the construction permit is issued after Sept. 1, 2006, the following Tax Exonerations for residential property improvements (homes, apartments, condominiums, duplexes) vary, depending on the value of the same, dor up to twenty years.
- Value up to USD 120,000: 20-year exemption
- Value from USD 120,000 to USD 300,000: 10-year exemption
- Value over USD 300,000: 5-year exemption
The exemption is transferable during the exemption period to any new buyer. The land itself is not exempted, and would continue to incur property tax if its value is above USD 30,000.
Rental Income Taxes in Panama
If you receive rental return on your property, you will be liable for income tax up to a maximum of 25% (on returns greater than USD 250,000). However, if you invest in one of the special “tourism zones,” you may be exempt from income tax for 15 years.
Real estate transfer taxes in Panama are paid by the seller, and are 2% of either the updated registered value of the property or the sale price, whichever is higher. The updated value is the registered value, plus 5% per year of ownership. If the property is bought by a corporation, it is customary for the shares of the company to be sold (instead of the property), thus eliminating the need to pay transfer tax. Alternative Progressive Tax Rate for real estate can be applied and qualified for that would significantly further reduce property taxes.
At 80 kilometers long is one of the modern wonders of the world. A visit to the Miraflores Locks and visitors center is a must see. Travel agencies can arrange boat trips on Gatun Lake with its island wildlife and good fishing, and a transit of the canal – is a once in a lifetime experience! Don’t miss the graceful lines of the Bridge of the Americas. You can also take a “Safari” style tour to visit the areas adjacent to the Canal and its banks, with interesting activities such as observation of wildlife in Lake Gatun.
There are safe areas for diving, snorkeling, kayaking or just swimming at your leisure, while admiring one of the beautiful and small waterfalls. Despite the high rise buildings and a skyline reminiscent of Hong Kong, with bright lights and commercial centers, Panama City is the only city in the world that has a tropical rain forest within its city limits.
Its beaches and harbors are beautiful, especially at sunset, and views from the palm-lined Amador Causeway with its elegant restaurants, superb. The history of Panama City can be traced through its origins in Panama La Vieja, supposedly ransacked by the pirate Henry Morgan, and “neuva Panama” now known as Casco Viejo. Take trips to the interior for highland springtime in the mountains of El Valle or Chiriqui. Climb Panama’s highest point, the extinct volcano of Volcan Baru. Visit dairy, coffee, flower, and vegetable farms in the bread-basket province of Chiriqui.
River rafting is at its best here, together with hiking, climbing and bird watching. Visit the beautiful beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, or the Pearl Islands, Bocas del Toro and San Blas.
No wonder these areas have been chosen by twelve countries for their television programs “Survivor”. The biodiversity and the geographical location of Panama on its land bridge (only 50 kilometers wide at its narrowest) have lead to an incredible variety of plant and animal life. Wilderness regions including rainforests and cloud forests click here in designated national parks. Panama is home to 940 recorded species of birds and includes habitats for 125 animal species found nowhere else in the world. With 1518 islands and 2988 kilometers of coast line, there is plenty of space for water sports.
Deep sea fishing iin Panama is world class. Marine parks on both coasts offer both diving and snorkeling. Surfing and whale watching are also popular. One of the hottest new attractions is Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, a special area for observing wildlife which is managed by the Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann Foundation, founded in 2000 honoring the ornithologist of the same name. Its main attractions are the Visitors Center, the Observation Tower, and trails system within the forest, which is approximately 1 kilometer. From the center you can photograph birds as orioles, weaving their nests on a “Higueron Tree”, as well as monkeys and other animals.
Most people who retire in Panama find themselves enjoying the property they have always dreamed about but could not afford in the U.S., Europe, or Canada.
About Retirement in Panama
There is definitely more in Panama than a canal! The amazing benefits of retiring to Panama used to be secret, but not anymore. Panama offers a very comfortable retirement, in part because the nation is much more developed than most visitors expect. Visitors are usually shocked after seeing the skylines and the infrastructure development in Panama City, its beaches and highlands, plus the many amenities the country has to offer.
Panama is fast becoming one of the world’s top retirement destinations and also a world class tourist location – particularly for adventure and ecotourism. Long overshadowed by its neighbors such as Mexico and Costa Rica where mass tourism is now the norm, Panama has been relatively unknown except for travelers with special interests such as world record deep sea fishing, birding, river rafting and rain forest experiences. All these exciting opportunities together with gorgeous beaches and great surfing, kayaking and diving, ensure Panama has something for everyone. It has an interesting cultural background, from stone age indigenous peoples (still in evidence) to the history of conquistadors and now a modern society with infrastructure that is first world.
One of the reasons why Panama is very attractive to retire and living is for its low cost of living, making luxury articles and comforts of your current life very accessible. Also, if you retire in Panama, you will enjoy the benefits of a developing economy where you can still take a taxi across town for under $4, get your haircut for $5, or enjoy dinner with a bottle of wine at a trendy Panama City restaurant for under $20 a person. There are also lots of activities for you to enjoy, from jazz clubs to art openings to English-language theater performances. You may be wondering what you will do when you retire…but when you retire in Panama, you will never find yourself bored.
Consistent with the general low cost of living in Panama is the affordability of available real estate in Panama. Most people who retire in Panama find themselves enjoying the property they have always dreamed about but could not afford in the U.S., Europe, or Canada.
Health care in Panama is also both inexpensive and modern. Many Panamanian doctors are U.S.-trained, and hospital standards are on par with what you would find in North America or Europe. In fact, Panama City’s major facilities are all affiliated with prestigious U.S. hospitals. Perhaps the most appealing advantage is the private health insurance and prescription drugs that are readily available and much less expensive than their U.S. equivalents.
Another major attraction that Panama offers its visitors and residents in Panama City is the new Panama Metro (Metro de Panama), a metropolitan subway line that was inaugurated on April 5, 2014.
Panama was voted number one country in the world to retire by non other that the New York Times in 2013.
Little surprise then in one issue of Modern Maturity magazine (the AARP magazine with the largest circulation of any consumer magazine in the world, upwards of 20 million subscribers) rated Boquete , Panama , the fourth best retirement destination in the world. International Living rates Panama even higher on their list at No.1.
Panama has a perfect location for every taste; from a cosmopolitan capital city to palm fringed beaches, cool mountain climates and tropical resorts, however the best fact is that it is affordable! There are many financial incentives for retirement. If you are looking for a second home or a retirement option , then Panama should be at the top of your list. A smart choice indeed!
With an US style infrastructure, Panama offers an easy transition particularly for US retirees. 75-80 million Baby Boomers will reach retirement age in the next 10 years in the US alone. US Government statistics show that most of them will not be able to sustain their current standard of living by relying on savings, assets or pensions.
More than ever before, U.S. baby boomers are considering retirement outside the U.S.A. Having traveled far more extensively and being more active and adventurous than previous generations, they are also identifying the need to maximize their diminishing retirement incomes, so the idea of overseas retirement is appealing to many. Discovering a less stressful environment also has a definite allure! The families of the North Americans who lived in the Canal Zone during the 90 years of North American presence look back at their “Paradise Lost” and very often return.
Additionally, Tocumen International Airport has decided to bet big. Expecting to double its capacity to service 18 million passengers for 2016, the administration of the airport decided to implement an aggressive investment plan that includes the expansion of the North and South terminals, at an investment of USD 769 million. The proposed expansion, which will be built at an estimated area of 150 hectares of land area, was conceived with the objective of maximizing the potential of the main international gateway.
Interest in Panama does not only come from the United States; many Canadians are heading further south than Florida for their “snowbird” sojourns – and staying for retirement. The increasing cost of living, overcrowding and higher crime rates in Florida, encourages them to take a slightly longer flight south! There are no direct flights, but it is easily accessible through various U.S. cities with comfortable transfers.
Despite the distance, Europeans are not unaware of the affordable opportunities that Panama has to offer. The Expatriate Telegraph (offshoot of a venerable British newspaper) suggests an alternative retirement destination to the usual venues of Spain, France and Portugal that retirees should consider, a “ warm, adventurous and inexpensive place to retire, Panama also offers an attractive incentive program for retirees ”. Again Panama compares most favorably with the more usual European choice of retirement destinations with its lower cost of living and great climate, not to mention the financial incentives.