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Beach Living In Pedasi As An Expat: Your Questions Answered

For this month’s live Webinar Series we delved into your most asked questions about Panama’s most desirable beach community, Pedasi – Beach Living In Pedasi As An Expat: Your Questions Answered

Pedasi is just over a 4-hour drive west of Panama City and lies on the Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Panama.

This area has maintained its small-town charm and slow-paced lifestyle despite steady growth over recent years.With unspoiled beaches, access to world-class surfing, sport fishing, diving, and the top tourist destinations of Playa Venao and Isla Iguana, it’s no surprise that more and more people think Pedasi is the perfect place to call home.

If you’ve ever considered a move to Pedasi or thought about what life is like living there or want to learn more, then check out what we had to say on this webinar below.

P.S…You can also read along below.

Kent Davis:
Good morning everybody. It is 11:00 AM Panama time. We’ve got Tedd Tennis checking in from Pedasi. Good morning Tedd!

Tedd Tennis:
Good morning Kent. Good morning everyone who is already on, it nice to be here.

Kent Davis:
Yeah. Excellent. Well, I’m checking in from El Cangrejo, from home, obviously under quarantine so we’ll let everyone get started here in the room. We’ll give folks a couple of minutes to get online. It’s always interesting to hear where folks are from, so you know, it’d be fun to see you guys as you hop on to check in and say, hey, checking in from wherever you happen to be. The weather report here is 85 and sunny, and a few clouds in the sky. We’re coming in on our rainy season, but the rain hasn’t started in earnest yet. Tedd, how’s the weather and Pedasi before we get started?

Tedd Tennis:
The weather’s good, as always. The dry season starts in mid-December here basically. So it hasn’t rained since then. So we’re definitely crispy bone dry right now, but beautiful weather sunny skies every day.

Kent Davis:
Fantastic. Hey, look at you guys. I love this. Folks checking in from different parts of the country or really the world. We’ve got Georgia, South Africa, Texas, California. Wow. Well, once again, we appreciate you guys joining us. I think there’s going to be quite a few people on the call today, so we’ll just make some small talk for another minute or two before we get started in the bulk of the presentation. Again, I’m Kent Davis, Managing Director of Panama Equity along with Tedd Tennis who runs our Pedasi office. Tedd has got a really cool backstory. Tedd is originally a Michigander. Tedd, you first came to Panama in the 90s, wasn’t it?

Tedd Tennis:
My first trip down in, by the way, impressive use of the term, Michigander Kent, kudos to you. I don’t know where you heard that, but that’s absolutely accurate. I am a Michigander from Lansing. We might have some Lansing folks on here at this point. I was at the University of Michigan studying in the early nineties. I met a guy who was from Panama and I came down to visit. So my first trip would have been in 91 on vacation for a couple of weeks, you know, we cruised around the country and did some sightseeing. And that’s 30 years ago. It’s amazing. It’s been almost 30 years.

Kent Davis:
I can’t even imagine. And you know, I’ve been here for 13 years now. So things have changed a lot just in that time and Tedd saw these changes for twice as long. Tedd, you’ve been in Pedasi since when?

Tedd Tennis:
Full time it’s been 11 years. I’ve been coming here. So my Pedasi connection was through my friend who I met at university and we’re both into free-dive spearfishing. So I was coming down here for years from Hawaii when I lived still in Hawaii. I was coming here every year to go diving and fishing for a couple of weeks at a time and fell in love with the area. I really liked Pedasi, for a lot of reasons that we’ll probably get into here in a minute.

To check out our amazing Pedasi properties and land, click the link here.

Kent Davis:
And I tell you what being based here in the city, there’s nothing I look forward to more than getting in that car and driving to Pedasi because it’s a beautiful drive and when you get there, it’s a whole other world. So speaking of which, the first question is, is where’s Pedasi and how do I get there?

Tedd Tennis:
So Panama sort of counter-intuitively goes West to East geographically. So Central America kind of comes down and then it comes over to Columbia. So Costa Rica is our neighbor and Columbia is our neighbor, and we are an isthmus between North and South America. And people think well Costa Rica is North of Panama then and Columbia is South. And that’s kind of true. But if you really look at a map, you’ll see that things flatten out around Panama. So with that being said, the Caribbean is to the North, the Pacific is to the South. When you’re in Panama, Costa Rica is to the West and Columbia is to the East. That’s how Panama sets up. So within that context, Panama city is sort of in the middle of the country on the Pacific side. And then Pedasi is about a four-hour drive West. In other words, towards Costa Rica, from Panama City.

Kent Davis:
Okay, got it. So the logistics, let’s say I’m coming in from a place like Florida or Europe, you know I think Florida is going to be about a four-hour flight. Four from Texas and then Europe, depending on where you’re coming in from, let’s call it 10, there are hundreds of daily nonstop flights. So you land into Panama city, Tedd. And if I recall, you’ve got a couple of options, right? You can either drive there, and the drive is about how long?

Tedd Tennis:
From Panama City, once you cross the canal, once you get out of the city and you’re on your way, which can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 hours, depending on what time you do that. Once you get across the bridge, you’re looking at a four-hour drive.

Kent Davis:
Okay, got it. And is it, you know, on a highway, do you have to make a lot of turns? Is it tricky or is it, you know, what is it scenic? What’s paint the picture for us?

Tedd Tennis:
Yeah, good question. So it is all on highways. It’s all paved. It’s all four-lane until you get to Las Tablas, which is our provincial Capital here in the province of Los Santos where Pedasi is. So what you do is you basically head West almost on the pan American highway. This is the highway that links Panama to Alaska, right? I mean you can literally take this road system right up through all the central American countries up into the United States.

So you’re on that for about two and a half hours. And then you cut South into the Azuero peninsula. And from there the road gets even better because that’s brand new. So it’s a four-lane brand new highway that was just improved, all the way down to the Las Tablas. And then the last half an hour is on two-lane, but also brand new, really good highway down to Pedasi.

Kent Davis:
Cool. Yeah, no, that’s a great description, Tedd. Thank you. I tell you what, one of my favorite things about Pedasi is the drive there. It’s so beautiful. You’re driving along the Pacific ocean, and you can see in the slide we have here, you’re crossing over a mountain chain leading up to Coronado. And then where you’re turning off the main highway you go into those secondary roads, it’s just beautiful. You’re going through rolling hills, farmland, small towns, and it’s cool.

Kent Davis:
So let’s talk about Panama City. You kind of have two people in this world. Those that love the city and those, that love to get out of the city as quickly as possible. And that’s any city. So how often do you find yourself or would one find themselves going to Panama city? Why would you be going there in the first place?

Tedd Tennis:
I mean, ultimately when you’re exiting or entering the country right now, 99% of the time, most people are going to come in and out of Panama City. There are more flights you can fly which take you into David but for the most part people are still coming into Tocumen International Airport. So when you’re coming and going from Panama, most likely you’re going to the city. I mean the reality is you don’t have to go to the City for many other reasons. That’s where the US and Canadian and other embassies are. So if you have any kind of embassy paperwork you’re doing then you’ll head to the City for that.

Kent Davis:
So you’re living in a small town and there are some things that you don’t have. However, it sounds like you don’t have to drive four hours to get those things. So the closest sort of medium-sized town is going to be what Tedd? Is that going to be Las Tablas or do you have to go all the way up to Chitre?

Tedd Tennis:
A little of both. It depends, right. So to set the scene for folks that haven’t been here, Pedasi is a town of about 3 or 4,000 people. So it’s pretty small. We do have several supermarkets which they call them mini supers here. Not like the huge big box stores of course but 95% of your daily, whatever you need, whether it be the hardware store, whether it be the grocery store you can get here.

Tedd Tennis:
Then there’s Last Tablas, which as I said earlier, is about a half an hour North back towards Panama City and Las Tablas is about 10,000 people, but it’s, it’s the provincial Capital. That’s where the notary is, the public registry office. A lot of what we do real estate wise in terms of getting deals done, the final closing happens in Las Tablas because that’s where the appropriate government entities are. You know, Pedasi has two banks.

Kent Davis:
I mean you have your basics and in fact, you’ve also got a lot of sort of specialty products for ex-pats. Whether that’s services or products, but it sounds like you’re definitely not isolated. So adding a little color to the answer, I would say for people that maybe they’re going to a big concert, the opera, theater ballet or the circus for the kids. Stuff like that you might come into Panama city. But 99% of the stuff you can get outside of the city.

Kent Davis:
So talk to us about the people that live in Pedasi? Both the locals and the ex-pats. You’re at a grocery store or at a restaurant on the street. Who are you going to see?

Tedd Tennis:
Right. So a good question. Demographically Pedasi breaks down to about 3 to 4,000 people depending upon how wide of an area you measure. We’ve got a couple of hundred ex-pats that live here year-round, probably another hundred or 200 that snowbird (come in and out). But primarily it’s going to be Panamanians.

The Panamanians that are here are involved in the primary industry here which is agriculture. So there’s a lot of ranching, people growing corn and rice, and fishermen but it’s mostly ranching for cattle. So demographically you’ve got, I would say 90% local Panamanians. One of the big plus’s, maybe the biggest in my mind for Pedasi is you’ve got the integration between people like me who didn’t grow up here and the people that did grow up here, and there’s not this sort of us and them mentality like I’ve seen in other places.

To check out our amazing Pedasi properties and land, click the link here.

Tedd Tennis:
You know, Kent, you and I both have long family and personal ties to Hawaii. Hawaii is different, man. You know it’s different. You get a vibe of sort of, if you’re not from here, don’t come here kind of vibe. You don’t get that in Pedasi.

I noticed it right from the beginning, from my first trip down here probably 20 years ago and that hasn’t changed. And it’s wonderful. So that’s one thing that I would say that sets Pedasi apart. For example, not to bag on any other parts of the country, but you go to Coronado you don’t have this feeling of community. The people that are there tend to either sort of group amongst themselves if they’re not from there originally or what also happens there because it’s closer to Panama City, it’s a weekend destination for people with some money who come out of the city for the weekend.

Whereas in Pedasi even people that come in for the first time, they get it right away. And on that note, one of the big things people ask me, and maybe this is going to come up, but let me just put it here. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the last few years to living here has been social media, WhatsApp and Facebook. Because when I first got here, there was really very little communication other than meeting people on the street or going to a bar or restaurant. Or you know, sort of organic personal face to face meeting.

There wasn’t really a good way to get information to get help when you needed, it to ask questions. Whereas now with the Peadsi Whatsapp community groups and Facebook information is a click away and people are super generous with their time and their knowledge and it’s great. And it’s made living here for me so much more comfortable and easier than it was before that access to technology.

Kent Davis:
Very thorough. As always. Appreciate it. You know, let’s, let’s stop and do some of these questions. So Bill asks if there is quality internet? Well, this depends on how remote you go. I mean, if you’re deep in the mountains you might not have as much coverage. But for the area that we handle, which is, let’s call it a 50-kilometer radius in Pedasi, mostly to the South and slightly to the North, there is great internet. So Pedasi has got quite a few people in the community that work from home.

Kent Davis:
Medical dentist and vision. Yes, you have medical, you’ve got some good hospitals. They’re both in town and out of town. The ones in town are new and they’re getting more equipped every day.

Kent Davis:
So, what do folks do for fun? You know, I mean, we get some people out there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it. Folks come out, they say, Oh, I’m going to retire. And then they end up starting a business. But let’s say you don’t start a business. Do you know what do folks do for fun?

Tedd Tennis:
The beach of course! This could mean you just like walking on it or it could mean you like fishing or diving or surfing or all these other water activities. So most people that come down here on one level or another, they’re into the ocean. They want to be on the ocean and near the ocean. That’s part of the draw. And it’s a big part of our daily lives here. I wish it was a bigger part of mine, but I’m working too hard. But someday!

People also like to socialize here, right? So there are lots of cool, cool bars and restaurants. There’s an amazing variety. And maybe not the time to get into it too much, but there’s a really surprising variety of restaurants and food and entertainment options like that. As far as going and seeing live music, going and hanging out with your buddies, there’s a lot of that.

Tedd Tennis:
A lot of my friends down here, you know, they do what people do everywhere. They get together and they’ll have a, there’s a woman’s group that’s pretty awesome. They go around and do pub crawls, you know, once a month or so. And there are music bingo nights and there are just all these different activities that people set up. There’s a gym in Pedasi, a really nice gym actually now that a friend of mine from Austria opened up last year, which is fantastic. I can’t wait to start going back again. And so, so you know, you work out, you go to the beach. It’s an active outdoor lifestyle.

Kent Davis:
So talk to us a little bit about the cost of living. You know, I’m a dad with two kids for about six in my house, but it’s cause my boys are hungry. And so what’s, what’s, how do groceries compare? Is it more expensive, less expensive for let’s talk about food? Let’s talk about going out to eat. What are you going to pay at a restaurant? Talk to us about that.

Tedd Tennis:
So, you know, as far as buying food in stores, like in grocery stores and things, I would say it’s fairly comparable. We have the same brands down here, the same chains I should say, in our area as you do in Panama City. We have a Riba Smith for example. But overall, I would say going shopping for food is not significantly cheaper here than it is in some places. If you compare it to Michigan where I’m from originally I would say Panama’s right about the same as far as that goes

Kent Davis:
For groceries. Got it. You know, I want to have an irregular meal out, get a bottle of wine. I split an appetizer, two entrees, maybe split a dessert but not super fine dining. What’s that going to run me?

Tedd Tennis:
Well, you know, that varies also, but it probably 25 bucks a head. If you’re splitting a bottle of wine, for example, the entrees might run you anywhere from 10 to 18, let’s call it for an entree. And then it depends upon what wine you get of course. But I would say eating out compared to Panama City, I’m always shocked when I go to Panama city a how expensive some of the restaurants are. And here in Pedasi it’s going out to eat, going out to drink, you know, is, is really economical in my opinion. Compared to the States also.

Kent Davis:
Property market. You know, without going into too much detail I can come down and I can get either a single-family home that’s built or in construction, I can get a piece of land that I can either farm or build on or both. I think we’ve got some condo options available in Venao which is about what, 40 minutes South of Pedasi, Tedd?. What have I missed in terms of property options, you know, and can you give us a general sense?

Kent Davis:
All right, I want to get a two-bedroom, two-bath home, maybe starting on the modest side. And then obviously we know a French compound on two acres with, you know, six bedrooms in a gated community is going to cost me 800,000. We’ve got and sold some beautiful properties. I mean, Tedd sold estates, and there are really interesting folks living in Pedasi that come from time to time. But Tedd, just briefly because we can talk about this in a whole other presentation, but briefly let’s talk about the Pedasi property market.

Tedd Tennis:
I’ll give you the sort of, you know, high altitude sketch of what’s going on down here. So when you look at a map of the area, you’ll see that Pedasi is on the Southeast corner of the Azuero Peninsula and the town centers in a couple of kilometers off the beach area. So you just mentioned also Playa Venao which if you look at the inset, everybody on that map, you’ll see but that little Bay, that’s sort of in the middle of the inset there that’s about as Kent mentioned, a 30, 40-minute drive Southwest of Pedasi.

Playa Venao is a growing beach area. It’s not really a town per se, it’s more of just a resort area. And there’s a development down there called BLUE that we promote that is really been popular for folks looking for a turn-key solution. These are typically folks, that are not going to live here full time. They might come down a month or two a year. A lot of surfers because, Playa Venao is a really good surfing destination, year-round good waves. And it’s sort of one of these turnkey all in one location where you can have onsite property management and rental, as opposed to a single-family home. So when all the infrastructure and maintained by other people, you don’t have to worry about it. I know we have clients that are doing really well as far as renting down there, making really good returns.

As an investment property, it ticks a lot of boxes. The barrier to entry is about a quarter-million dollars. You know, you’re looking at getting a two-bedroom, two-bath, a ground floor condo for about 250k right now. That’s unfurnished. Brand new, by the way. I mean, they’re just building it. They’ve got 40 or so single-family homes, pretty much all sold out at this point. We do have some resales but the developer has pretty much sold out of those.

And then they’re selling these condos and the condo units are in towers that are only four stories high. So you’ve got seven units per building, two, two, two and a penthouse on top. The penthouses, I believe now are all sold out. Those went for around a half a million dollars and the condo units that are all two-bedroom, two-bath, we’re talking about roughly a thousand square feet, let’s call them.

Kent Davis:
Let me just put things in context here. So, so we get a lot of clients that come down and they fall in love with Pedasi. Well, first you got to get to know Panama and then you know, Pedasi and then you follow them up. But those are the folks that not quite ready to spend full time down there and spend the whole year. So what a lot of people do is they gravitate towards condos because it’s sort of lock it and leave it. Right?

It’s also a nice rental income. So you do have some options in terms of being able to purchase a property, rent it out, put it in a rental pool, make some income, cover your costs, and use it when you want to. And that is sort of the Holy grail of buying overseas real estate. And you can absolutely do that both in Playa Venao with a couple of condo options, we like blue among others. And in fact, in Pedasi in single-family homes, we have some great property management relationships with folks.

Kent Davis:
So, yeah, we’ve already been on here, Tedd for 45 minutes and I want to address questions as they come up as well. What should I be asking about now, but I don’t know enough about it? Okay. So mortgages, what’s the story with mortgages? Can you get mortgages on property?

Kent Davis:
So mortgages, I mean at the end of the day, Tedd, absolutely you can, you can get mortgages here. It’s not easy. You’re going to have to have residency or at least a path, a proven path towards residency. I. E. Hey mr bank, here I am. I’m trying to get my residency. Now here’s my paperwork. You also get some options of owner financing, I. E. sellers who are interested in carrying the mortgage for five years, maybe up to 10 years. And Tedd, I think we’ve even got some developers who might be open to developer financing, right?

Tedd Tennis:
Yeah. So, so let me, let me just piggyback on what you said. That’s correct. Some of the developers are willing to do a short to mid term financing. There’s very few developers out there saying, Hey, I’ll give you a 20 year mortgage. Okay. And I’ll carry it. There are some that are doing two year, three year, five year, ten year. I know of one in particular. But for folks that are coming from outside the country, which a lot of our clients do.

Kent Davis:
One second. Sorry. That’s a nice dovetail though for when a developer is giving you a mortgage for one year, two years, five years, that shows to a bank, you’re creating your credit history now. And that’s one of the biggest barriers to entry in terms of being able to get a mortgage. So it’s, it’s sort of a segway product for you to get more of an institutional level. But go ahead Ted. Sorry.

Tedd Tennis:
No, yeah, that’s exactly right. And, and it’s considered bridge mezzanine kind of bridge financing. It’s to get people, you know, to be able to get into a property, to take ownership and then to go shop banks, go through the process. You know, Panama is still a slow country to do business in. Things don’t happen overnight. And a lot of folks coming in from abroad, what I like to say to my clients is if you can get a fee, if you can get a bank loan in the States, you can probably also get one here. No US bank is going to finance you to buy a foreign property asset. They don’t want that on their books. So you know, with maybe some exceptions, if you have a remarkable history with a particular bank and they’ll do that for you. But I don’t know of anyone that’s done that down here.

Tedd Tennis:
So you’re talking, you’re talking about Panamanian banks and they’re good banks and they’re, you know, they, they, they can get it done, but it’s not gonna happen overnight. Pre-qualifying letters are kind of unheard of down here, really, at least in the Pedasi area, the banks down here. So, you know, you’ve got to go get the property appraised. You’ve got to do it with an appraiser that the bank already has a relationship with. A specific appraiser, you take that to the bank, you give them all your financials, they’ll probably want you to open up a bank account, which is a whole nother can of worms in the bank, which again you can do, but it takes time. So because of the timing really, because you have to go through all these hurdles and it takes sometimes months to get to the point where a bank will offer you financing.

To check out our amazing Pedasi properties and land, click the link here.

Tedd Tennis:
Sellers are aware of this and some private sellers and a lot of the developers are willing to step up and help you with that and to get you over that hump so that you get six months or a year or something in order to work with the banks and to come in with some other type of financing. And another thing I would point out is if you don’t already have credit history here, you do have to establish that. And that takes time also. So most banks, they’re not going to go above 50% loan to value as far as your initial, you know, shot out of the gate. If you’re going to finance a purchase here, whatever the appraised value is, most banks are going to loan you up to 50%.

Kent Davis:
Got it. Chris asked, pandemic aside when is the best time to visit? I mean, is there a bad time to visit? Like, you know, hurricane season? No, we don’t have hurricanes in Panama. Cold weather? No, we’re going to get some rain here in a little bit, but that’s when the Hills start looking like Tuscany, you know, just rolling green hills, it’s beautiful. Is there a better time to visit?What’s the answer to that, Tedd?

Tedd Tennis:
Yeah, I mean, there really isn’t a right answer to that. People, I know people that prefer the rainy season down here and rainy is a misnomer. Wet season is a misnomer. Pedasi is the driest part of the entire country. So, for example, we get about half the rainfall of the Caribbean side and some of the mountain areas. So even if you come down in October or November, which are the wettest months of the year, when you look at historic rainfall patterns, it’s still not that bad. It’s still not raining every day. It doesn’t rain all day. You’re still going to get days with sun. If you’re looking for blue skies and sunny weather come down in the dry season, that’s mid December, roughly through to mid May.

Personally, I don’t love May. If I were to say what’s Ted’s least favorite time of year here, it would be the transition between the dry season and the wet season for a couple of reasons. You get the humidity rolling in and yet everything is still kind of brown and bert looking right. Golden, the realtors, we might call that. And then the bugs come out a little bit, right? You get these first hatchings where they’re waiting for the rain to, and then you get these moth blooms, for example. And again, it only lasts for a week or two. And it’s not like biblical per se. But if I were telling family or friends to come down, I would say, unless you have to maybe try to avoid May.

Kent Davis:
Ok, next question, is it possible to invest in property without having permanent residency? Absolutely. Steve. There is no restrictions. Foreigners have the same rights and privileges and protections as Panamanians when it comes to owning property with very few exceptions. You know, you can’t own property within, I think it’s 10 miles of a national border. But little, little things like that that will not affect anything related to Pedasi or most of the properties that we sell. So yeah, no restrictions whatsoever. Only challenges you might have is if you need financing. And then the banks like to see that you’re on the path to getting your residency, which is pretty easy.

Kent Davis:
Right on. Okay, cool. Well wonderful folks. You guys take care. Stay indoors. Let’s flatten the curve and we will see you on hopefully. See you down here. Come visit. It’s a picture’s worth a thousand words, but a visit is, we’ll leave you speechless. How about that? Take care guys.

Kent Davis:
Thanks everybody. Be safe.

To check out our amazing Pedasi properties and land, click the link here.

 

 

 

 

 

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