Market timing both at home and abroad is bringing Canadians down to Panama to take advantage of the soft Panama beach market which has dipped to below pre-boom levels. In some cases, markets like Coronado and Vista Mar are seeing properties on sale in popular expat communities priced below replacement cost.
The combination of the Canadian Dollar making gains against the USD along with a softening Canadian real estate market are two more factors bringing Canadian buyers back to a market that is presenting some compelling values.
John, a real estate investor visiting from Ottawa, sums it up: “With supply up in spots like Coronado and Buenaventura, it’s time to start paying attention and waiting for the right deal.”
Tourism Starts to Make a Comeback
As exchange rates against the USD improve and tourism advertising kicks in, Canadian buyers are starting to explore opportunities in the secondary market and looking at pre-construction again.
And now companies like Sunwing offering all-inclusive packages to Panama’s beaches for ~$800/person are seeing full flights in anticipation of this year’s tourist season.
The reality is that Canadians have been coming to Panama for years, and some have even decided to make it their full time home. “We love it down here,” says Mark from Toronto, who has been living in Panama with his young family for nearly four years. “The schools are fantastic, we usually leave the city every weekend to head to the beaches or the mountains, and we’re there in a lot less time that it used to take us to go up to the cottage. And this year we’ve decided to start looking at scooping up a place on the beach.”
The country’s jubilado discounts — offering serious perks to retirees from 30-50% off on everyday expenses like entertainment, eating out, healthcare, utility bills, and even international airfare to and from Panama — are a big draw as well. The benefits also extend to home ownership: retirees save half off closing costs for home loans and 1% off mortgage loans if the property is used solely as a personal residence.
Most Canadians come to Panama during the winter months, which coincide with Panama’s dry season (January – May), making it easy to rent out properties when they’re away.
And according to Carlos Camano, Panama Equity’s real estate agent based in Coronado, “Canadians either end up in a gated community with other expats or go the more adventurous route and pick out something right on the water. These days we seem to be getting people who are into golfing, fishing, hiking, and really immersing themselves with the local community (both expat and Panamanian). They like that we don’t have hurricanes and they don’t take long to get used to the idea of not having to shovel their driveways.”
The Dragon in the Room
Canadian investors, well aware of what Chinese immigration can do to a property market, are also taking note of the growing Chinese presence in Panama.
Jim, an oil trader from Calgary, says to “watch the Chinese. They take a long time to get moving, but when they do, they move markets”.
And while the Chinese buyers have yet to impact pricing in Panama, hopes are high for property owners looking to sell in the future.
The Panama Appeal
Foreigners in Panama ultimately have the same rights and protections as Panamanians when it comes to property ownership. That, combined with affordable prices, a tropical year round climate, and what appears to be dip in property prices may end up being the tipping point to get more Canadians down to Panama. Time will tell, eh!