When we moved to Panama 12 years ago …
If you wanted a North American style home, you built it.
You drove from David to Boquete on a narrow, two-lane highway taking your life in your hands every time you passed a truck loaded with cinder block, cement or steel headed up the mountain.
David was a sleepy, hot, somewhat ugly Panama town with confusing streets and traffic patterns.
If you wanted something you could usually find it in Panama City but not in David.
The road from “La Entrada to Palmira was nothing but potholes, described driving home as a “Zen experience.”
The nearest mall of any sorts was the almost empty Chiriqui Mall in David.
When you landed at Tocumen airport in Panama city you knew you had landed in a “Bannana Republic.”
There were places to tie your horse up in front of some of the stores in Boquete.
I realize change is everywhere, but the changes in Panama in twelve years have been phenomenal.
Now expats come and go in Boquete and you can buy beautiful homes for less than what they would cost to build today.
We have a beautiful four-lane highway between David and Boquete, so nice they even have to post billboards reminding us it is not an “Autopista”or autobahn.
David is still a hot and ugly town with confusing streets and traffic patters, but it is growing like crazy and is now the second largest city in Panama.
You can find whatever you need in Boquete and anything you want in David. The days of buying dishwasher soap when you were in Panama City and bringing it back as carry on luggage are long gone. If you build it … and wait long enough … they will come. Not only is Chiriqui Mall pretty much full but it is being greatly expanded including a high-rise building. The new 400-store mall and transportation center just 30 minutes from my house is being developed by the same folks who created the giant Albrook Mall in Panama City.
Tocumen airport rivals any big international airport and is just as busy as the “Hub of The Americas.” Even David airport, although still living with the long-running rumor that direct flights to the US from David are coming, is nice, efficient, and on and off really does have occasional flights next door to Costa Rica giving it an “international” airport designation.
We used to call the nicely paved rural roads “Presidential roads” so-named because former Presidents of the Republic had homes on those roads. Now most of the rural roads around Boquete are paved, even the road to Palmira. Even the road in front of my farm, which I thought would never be paved, is paved.
The hitching posts for horses in Boquete are long-gone. All the Panamanians drive new SUVs and the gringos drive old Nissan X-trails all with fenders knocked in at the same places, and it’s tough to find a place to park in “downtown” Boquete.
And now this …
Tender documents are being prepared for the construction of a 4,000 square meter [43.056 square foot] convention center with a capacity of 2,000 people in Boquete. According to the manager of the Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), Gustavo Him, this convention center will have a short – term impact on the province and its structure will be different because it will have green areas, wastewater management and also will use an energy-saving system.“It will be a unique structure in the region to promote events, congresses and green tourism which will attract visitors from Europe and the US,” he said.
What does all this mean?
Panama has a growing, booming economy, which makes Panama a great place to invest. The country and its people have a positive, optimistic outlook and enthusiasm. And increasingly they have money to spend.
When we came here it was a challenge to find any pet supplies … now every store has at least one, and sometimes two aisles of pet supplies.
Fitness is in. Go to David to catch an early flight and on the way in you will see scores of people jogging early in the morning before the heat of the day and the park by the airport is loaded with people running in the morning. And we have fitness clubs … 24 Hour Fitness I told you! Cyclists when we came were guys with beat up old bikes. Now the road between David and Boquete is loaded with cyclists on their $8,000 bikes wearing $1,000 worth of Spandex.
In our little town if people painted their houses, they painted only the front … now they paint the entire house … and are adding on addition rooms, front porches, yada yada.
So, if you are relocating to Panama, why would you rent when you can buy and invest in this dynamic country?
Sure, rent for a few months to see if you like it, but then, why pay rent to someone else so they can make money?
If you are an “economic refugee” who saw the equity you thought you had in your home disappear, or your retirement fund evaporated, maybe you’ve got to rent long-term, but if you have money to invest …
Look carefully at what you can make with a CD, bonds, T bills, and the market … keeping in mind that when Brexit was approved markets lost 1.7 trillion dollars overnight … and compare all that to investing in real property in a growing, dynamic country leading the region in GDP. So why rent if you don’t have to?