Take My Money Please

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.

7 thoughts on “Take My Money Please

  1. i am not coming to buy a house from Panama, but I would like to send greetings to Sofia and you too, of course!
    Sofia is a happy child, I can see.
    I hope, this comment will get through, because my earlier comment was stuck somewhere between Finland and Panama 🙂
    Have a good week!

  2. Don Ray you left out one very important detail. Any time you are interested in buying property and deal with an agent, ask to see his or her license. If the person you are talking to can’t show you a genuine Panama Real Estate license, with his or her name on it, run, don’t walk, away. Most, but not all, gringos selling real estate are doing so illegally. In order to get a license, you must be either a citizen or have lived in Panama as a resident for five years.


  3. Hi henry. Thanks for leaving the comment. What you are saying is very true. No one should be doing business with any person acting as an agent that can’t produce a valid Panamanian license.

  4. Don,
    I would not be worried about the real estate sales people making a commission (even a large one) but of the real estate – developer buys some land cheap and then flips it for 500% – 1000% or more mark up to unsuspecting gringos. They are ones causing the real problems.

  5. I agree with you on the developers. I also agree that a Realtor making a reasonable commission is ok.

    However, this is Panama and any commission that creates overall property price inflation is not a good thing. I have heard of Realtors making enormous commissions.

  6. Hi Don Ray,
    I had the priviledge to see Boquete and Panama in the early ’70s and it was beautiful. The main industry was of course coffee, and most of the economy of the area revolved around that. Further west on the other side of the volcano were the truck farms growing veggies.

    Much of what has happened to that whole area is the same thing that has ruined Mexico, then Belize, then Costa Rica. Land in the area was never sold and on the rare times that it did, it went for a dollar or two per square meter at most. Now I see the same dirt going for 16 or even double that. Still, it’s a bargain for the average retired foreigner and when the low cost of living is factored in the attraction is just too great for anyone. And when the chum is in the water, the sharks will surface.

    It saddens me even more because I still have family by marriage living there and their cost of living is rising simply because foreigners don’t have a clue about fair market value in Panama.

    The next big question: once Panama joins the ranks of all the other places that have been ruined, where next??

    One of the things that Nena and I admire about you is your willingness to adopt the culture and even the language where you are. If Panama had lots more like you, it would have a chance.

    Sorry for the negativity, it’s just a bummer to see another paradise lost.
    jim and nena

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