I think these words are tattooed on the forehead of the many of the people, that come to Panama these days, looking to invest into the dream of buying a piece of paradise. They have read all the glitz, glamor and hype that can be found on the web about Panama and most likely Boquete in particular.
Armed with this wealth of credible information, they schedule their trip to Panama and some post messages on the Yahoo groups asking for the name of a good Realtor that can help make their trip more productive. I doubt if any of these requests for help go unanswered.
Many come here with the naive belief that the code of ethics that the Realtor’s in the US follow are also also attributes of the Realtors they find selling property Panama. In the US, when you list a house with a Realtor then that Realtor is the sellers agent. When you find a Realtor to help you find property in the US then that Realtor is called a buyers agent and is supposed to be looking out for your interest.
Until Panama changes, my belief is that all “Realtors” here represent themselves and whatever profit they can make. I am not saying that all Realtors are the same in Panama. There are registered and non-registered. It amazes me how many Realtors from the US are now coming to Panama to be a sell property.
When I purchased my hobby cards for Chiriquí Chatter, I started passing them out, when I was out and about in David, to people I heard speaking English. Too my surprise a large number told me that they had recently moved from California, or Florida or Costa Rica and had a real estate agency they were working for. I asked one from Costa Rica why he came to Panama and he smiled and said, “Because I can make more money here”.
You will have a hard time convincing me that they are moving here to sell real estate because they want to protect gringos from the other vultures out there. I think they are here to be a part of the gold rush. Yes the California gold rush days, that filled the history books, have moved to Panama.
However, the mining for gold is not in the mountains of Boquete, but in mining those that want to own a part of paradise. If I sound a little cynical, I guess I need to try hiding my cynicism about those profiteering from people who have “Take my money please” stamped on their forehead.
I am not saying that a Realtor should not make a profit. No one should work for free. However, if a property sells for $200,000 and $20,000 goes to the Realtor (I am making numbers up) then that Realtor just made a year’s wages in one sale. I assume that you know that most professionals in Panama earn $30,000 or less in a year.
You may ask what should I do if I want to become a part of the landscape of Panama. Well, the first thing you should do is remove the tattoo on your forehead. Don’t be in a hurry to buy. You may not even like living here. Try Panama out for a while to see if it fits your needs.
While you are learning to live in Panama start looking for areas you think you would like to live. Learn what a valid price is for the area you are looking in. You should be willing to pay no more than what it would cost if a Panamanian bought it. To pay a reasonable price, you are going to have to invest some time.
Personally, I hope my cynicism infects some of the people coming to Panama. I hope that they are less trusting of those that can profit from their buying here. There are sharks in these waters. If you have “Take my money please” on your forehead, you are shark bait.
I love Panama. I love most of the people I have met here. I have chosen Panama for my home. If you come here, I hope you enjoy it too. But please help it to remain Panama and affordable for Panamanians. Don’t try to change it into little USA.