By Lydia Carey
Panama City remains a hot market for luxury real estate in Latin America. That, combined with its tax incentives and year-round beautiful weather, make Panama a logical place to relocate in the Americas.
©Photo by Timothy Scott
We first reported on luxury real estate in Panama City just after the 2008 financial crisis rocked the U.S. housing market and rippled out to effect so many others. Panama at the time was experiencing incredible growth (close to a 10% annually), its real estate market was solid as most of its construction and home purchase loans were given through Panamanian banks. Venezuelans escaping Chavez were moving their capital here. A building boom was taking place in downtown Panama City then with the infamous Trump Ocean Club (now Bahia Grande) in the final stages of construction and dozens of other projects in the works.
These days, Panama's growth has mellowed out to a more stable 5% but it continues to be the second fastest growing economy in the Americas. The country remains a hub of business and development in Latin America, even more so since the 2016 expansion of the Panama Canal and the recent diplomatic shift from Taiwan to China which opened up its markets to Chinese investment.
Panama's real estate market has matured, says Duncan McGowan of Punta Pacifica Realty, "You're no longer seeing focus on any one project—like when the Ocean Club stood out as the pinnacle of luxury. Today you can buy existing inventory in one of the older luxury high-rises or you can buy pre-construction in one of the new projects."
That combination of old and new means lots of available luxury real estate.
"We don't have a problem like San Francisco or Boston," agrees says Kent Davis, founder of Panama Equity Real Estate, "there's plenty of inventory, it's a buyer's market. Now, you can't compare apples to grapes, between older and newer properties, but there are plenty of opportunities."
McGowan adds that all that competition has upped the ante for developers.
"I think the developers themselves have stepped up their game. In the new construction being built there's more attention to detail, a higher quality of finishes, and more concern for creating a quality product because there is more competition in the market."
Prices have seen a bump in past decade, but it's to be expected with a strong U.S. dollar and new earthquake safety building codes that have made construction more expensive, costs that, unfortunately, have been passed on to the buyer. However, good deals still abound in the luxury market. There is even some movement away from epicenter of downtown Panama City to developments in what might be considered the suburbs but are still within city limits. Places like the new luxury gated community Santa Maria Golf Course and Residence.
Where to Buy Real Estate in the Capital of Panama
Santa Maria is a planned 4,000-residence community, with a Jack Nicklaus' designed 18-hole golf course as its core amenity. It's envisioned as a self-contained community, with resort-quality extras like athletic facilities, swimming pools, walking paths, all ringed by commercial spaces. You can buy a 4-bedroom residence there for about 1 million, condos for $600,000 and up, starting around $3,100 a square meter for the best of the best locations.
"Santa Maria is an important development for folks moving here with families," says Davis, "the area has several good schools nearby. You'll see a lot of wealthy Latinos here either being pushed out of where they lived or pulled to Panama for work or business opportunities."
Branded projects are also extremely popular. La Maison by Fendi Casa in Santa Maria by developer Durex Group features the interior design of Italian luxury fashion brand Fendi. The building offers ultramodern facilities that include a business center, various swimming pools, and even a mini golf range. Apartments there are 317, 362, and 406 square meters and running for $3500/3600 a square meter, with 360-degree views of the golf course below.