This is a common scenario in our day-to-day experience as a real estate office in Boquete: A client walks into our office exclaiming they just arrived from XYZ country. They’ve read all about Boquete, and are possibly interested in buying property. But first, they would like to rent a home for a few months to a year, before “pulling the trigger.”
Renting a home before buying is not a bad idea. Many clients represented by Inside Panama Real Estate start out renting, and then decide to invest at a later date. It gives them a chance to really feel what it is like to live in a small town with very different weather compared to coastal areas. It also allows them to experience what it is like to deal with the daily nuances of life in Panama prior to making a big commitment.
There is a very common issue the Boquete office encounters with potential rental clients. Many first-time visitors to Boquete have an erroneous set of expectations in terms of rental values. So, I will try to give a clear account of what to expect while looking for a rental in Boquete.
First, Boquete is an increasingly sought-after place to live, and that trend will continue as the Province of Chiriqui delegates more money toward infrastructure and tourism. Boquete is certainly not one of these places in Central America where one can “live off of $1,000 per month comfortably,” as stated by several marketing vehicles self-described as “expert, ex-pat publications.” The current rental market in Boquete has very little supply, and demand is high, so that means prices are up. The most common request is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, so I will use that in my example.
Nearby Volcan Baru
Now, here is my attempt to set rental expectations: There are no three-bedroom, furnished, single-family homes, with great views, total privacy, fruit trees, and walking distance to town for anything under a monthly rate of around $1,400…unless it is tiny, dirty, lacking basic utilities like hot water, or located next to a rooster farm. If a client is willing to negotiate on some of their requirements, for example, looking at rentals located a ten-minute drive from the center of Boquete, the other features listed above may be obtainable for less than $1,400/month.
But wait, there is something else to consider…the rental home will most likely be on the market FOR SALE during the rental period, unless it is a one or two bedroom apartment designed to be a rental. This means the renter will need to be reachable by the property manager or owner, and willing to have the property “ready” for showings by real estate agents within a maximum of 24 hours of notice. And, if the owner accepts an offer, the renter is essentially out of luck and will need to find a new place to live. There are exceptions for sure, but this is the circumstance over 90% of the time.
Five years ago, the Boquete rental market was very different. Rentals were numerous and the resale market was sluggish at best, so renters could get everything they wanted for less money, and not have to worry so much about the home being sold. Times have changed. The lack of available rentals is indicative of a higher percentage of owner-occupied homes, and an increase in the number of people renting in Boquete already to “try it out” with the intention of possibly buying in the near future. This has spurred increased activity by developers to buy land and build more rental units. As the single-family home inventory in certain price ranges approaches zero, more people will be forced to build, and/or to rent something first that might not necessarily be their “dream” rental.
With those expectations in place, our Boquete office is well-educated on the rental market and the circumstances of individual properties. Our team is happy to advise and assist renters to find a rental that fits their requirements and budget. If you are an owner and looking to lease your property, please contact our team for details on how we can help you find a renter.