Story and photos by Beverly Gallagher
The number one rule in real estate is location, location, location. You can buy the perfect house but you will have a hard time picking it up and moving it. Location is often measured in terms of natural beauty, tourism and infrastructure. In the Pedasí area on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, there is virgin beauty, a nascent tourism industry and limited infrastructure. Some who have rolled up their sleeves and sunk their heart and soul into a long-term vision for the area.
Some are calling Pedasí an in Panama an early-in opportunity. However, with most projects just getting off of the ground as the global economic crisis hit, and property owners holding on to their asking prices for dear life, it is possible that Pedasí may experience more grey skies before blue. While most real estate experts in the area will point to a recent huge drop in sales, this has not correlated with a decrease in prices.
“The prices have not dropped in Pedasí,” says Rafi Museri developer of Andromeda Pedasí. “Pedasí is a very stable market and the majority of the investment has been developers that have made purchases of raw land (not financed by banks, equity money raising)… In terms of valuing Pedasí, Costa Rica is the closest model. If a beachfront property today costs $100 a square meter, in three years time many believe that it will climb to over $300 a square meter.”
“Most sellers are quite stubborn and expect to command Costa Rica type prices for their properties, even though Costa Rica itself is no longer commanding those prices,” says Casey Halloran of New World Real Estate and owner of Casa Margarita Hotel in Pedasí. “A major correction in prices, however painful, will be needed for Pedasí.”
When people talk about property speculation, they usually point to Panama City and the stalled condo market. In the Pedasí area, says Claude A. Coirier, four year resident and real estate consultant for Pedasí Real Estate, “There are still some [speculators] but they’re not as big as 2-3 years ago.” Others claim the area is still feeling the effects of the quick-flip mentality.
“The asking prices just got out of control with rampant speculation,” says Halloran. “Locals got a taste of these high prices over the last few years, everyone then thought their property was worth a fortune, so now the market has come to a standstill while buyers and sellers cannot come to a consensus on what is fair market value in the area.”
Beauty on the Azuero Peninsula
The Pedasí area on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula enjoys some of the driest weather in the country. Covered in tropical dry forest and grasslands, the landscape offers contrasts with its rolling hills and rocky and sandy beaches. The beauty is unspoiled. It’s an area people call “The Tuscany of the Americas.” The rugged coastline of ocean bluffs and beaches dotted by swaying palms, might also bring to mind upscale beach towns in southern California such as La Jolla, way back in the day.
With a socially conscious developer leading the way, the silver lining in the paralyzed Pedasí real estate market may be the Azueros project conceived by the renowned French architect Gilles Saint-Gilles. Spread over 357 hectares (882 acres), the Azueros project houses a fledgling community of elegant and architecturally stunning homes and beach front condos. In addition to incorporating design elements native to the region, the project has also been involved in reforesting the cattle-grazed land.
In his own words, Gilles Saint-Gilles explains that “Azueros is a development that is inspired by and grows out of a consideration for the surrounding environment, a universe close to paradise, removed from the rush and noise of city life.”
Real estate experts across the board cite Azueros as the top project in the area, and one of the best in the country, which set high standards early on for further development. “It’s the quality in every sense,” explains Coirier. “First the quality, and also the training and education of people working on the project….make it one of the best in Panama.”
The town of Pedasí itself is a sleepy and picturesque town where locals still gather in the central plaza’s gazebo. Home of Panama’s first female president, Mireya Moscoso, the area has received a significant amount of special attention and exudes a mixture of elegance and simplicity. Though no longer in power, the area retains a sense of civic pride.