Choosing a House or a Condo in Panama

By Karyn Saunders

I cannot even begin to count the number of expats that get in the car as we begin to tour the beach community who are adamant about buying a house — and they leave as owners of an ocean front condo.  The question is not whether one is better than the other, the question is which will better suit your needs and wants.  I live in a gated community approximately seven minutes from Coronado.  We have a 2600-square-foot house on 1/3 of an acre.  Allan and I live in Panama full time and have come to realize that owning a house in Panama is quite different from home ownership in Canada.  Here are some things to consider when deciding if you want to purchase a house or a condo.

panama usa europe real estate house

Houses, like this one at Lucero Golf and Country Club, offer more space, a sense of community with your neighbors, and a yard or garden

Maintenance

How long will you be residing in Panama?  If you are snow birds or part-timers then you need to ensure you have consistent and reliable hired help to tend to your garden and yard.  Nothing ever sleeps in Panama.  Your garden continues to grow, there is no frost or snow cover that gives you a reprieve from your yard duty.  In the rainy season your grass needs to be cut at least once a week as it grows fast.  You also need to have someone open up and clean your house which includes turning on the air conditioning units at least twice a month.  The rainy season does create mold and if your home is locked up for months on end you will come back to a moldy home.  If you are to be residing in your home full time then this all simply becomes part of your daily and weekly routine.
panama usa europe real estate house

Condos, like this two-bedroom at Bahia Resort, are easier to take care of and often come with amenities like a pool or gym

Investment Property

A condo at the beach with an ocean view will rent to vacationers a lot more easily than a house a few blocks from the ocean.  However, a house will attract more of the long-term renters, and if you have a house with a pool your chances of renting it to a family who have moved permanently to the area are high. Expats with kids are always looking for a house rental, and on a long-term basis a house will prove to be a smart investment.

Budget

Unfortunately, the days of owning an ocean front house for under $250, 000 are long gone.  Homes with an ocean view not necessarily on the water are starting at $350,000.  This is now true for most of Panama.  You can still find less expensive land in the Azuero Peninsula if you are looking at building a home, which of course is another topic altogether.  At present, there are a few super-nice communities — some gated, some not — that are within 10 minutes of the beach that are as low as $120,000.  An ocean front condominium with a view that, in my opinion, is second to none can still be found as low as $135,000 for a two-bedroom, with the average price being approx $275,000 -$300,000.

Community

The nice part about living in a single family home community is just that: the sense of community.  You can chat with your neighbors while they are in the yard or as you are taking your dog on a walk. Condo projects in the area are predominantly second homes for city dwellers who come on the weekend.  You will see your neighbors in the elevator and on occasion in the social areas, which suits some people just fine.

Security

If you are worried about security, I would recommend a condo property.  If you are the part-timer who comes down for three to six months a year, leaving your house unattended will naturally make it more vulnerable to a break-in.  However, I will say that in the five years we have lived in our single family home, we have not experienced anything that would have us second guess our safety and security.  We do have a dog which is our four-legged alarm and the V.P of security in our home.  A dog is highly recommended if you are thinking of living in a house, as a barking dog will deter the thieves who may then choose another home without a growling canine to greet them.

Amenities and Utilities

All of the condominium developments come with maintenance fees.  Now, if you use the gym and the pool and the other amenities that most of them offer, your HOA dues are justified.  If you are not one to utilize the amenities than you may find the maintenance fee more of a burden.  The nice thing about the home owner fees is that they 90% of the time cover water and gas to your unit.  Therefore all you are left to pay is your electric and cable/internet bill each month.

Personal Preference

If you are that individual who enjoys gardening and looking out your front door to see a car in the driveway and being able to wave to your neighbor as they walk or drive by, then definitely consider a house.  Although there is more work in maintaining a house, you will automatically find you have more space and more storage and you can turn your house and property into your own oasis.  A condo will be your turn key paradise.  You will most definitely have a view and in many cases you will be steps or a few short minutes from the ocean.

I love showing clients both options as we have some fabulous listings for houses and condos.  When you do get down here, I will warn you that once you are in my car I will be asking you a few yes-or-no questions that help determine if you are a house or a condo person — which you might not even know about yourself until you get here!

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