It might be a country you haven’t heard of for awhile, but Panama is back on the scene in a big way. A booming downtown Panama City, expanding transportation infrastructure and new, master-planned community are all signs of a strong economy and proof that it’s time to take note of this thriving tropical nation again.
NAR President’s Liaison to Panama, Carla Rayman, took note of the growth on a recent visit to the country. “The economy in Panama is doing very well due to the expansion of the canal, the expansion of the airport, and the new rail system being built,” she said. “The canal expansion has brought many corporations into the country to open a Latin America division or to relocate their corporate headquarters.”
On the visit, Rayman was treated to a tour of the Panama Canal and Panama Pacifico, a truly innovative community development project located close to the canal (on the site of the former U.S. Howard Air Force Base). The enterprise zone includes a mix of commercial, warehouse, office, and residential spaces, which will ultimately represent $405 million in total real estate development. As of last year, over 130 companies (eight of which are Fortune 500 companies) have moved in, employing over 4,800 people.
The scope of this project is truly breathtaking. In addition to the commercial and residential developments, Panama Pacifico also incorporates everything from schools, colleges and universities to championship golf, resort-style amenities, and a sophisticated Transportation Demand System.
So what does this mean for real estate?
As with most development projects of this magnitude, the development of Panama Pacifico offers a tremendous opportunity for REALTORS®. Combined with the expansion of the canal and airport, Panama is a boomtown for agents with clients looking for investment opportunities.
For those familiar with doing business in the United States, you will find that Panama has similar licensing laws. There is one real estate association, the Panamanian Association of Real Estate Brokers and Developers (ACOBIR), which NAR has maintained a bilateral agreement with since the mid-2000s. ACOBIR is a vibrant association and their leadership, along with government officials, actively promotes the country all over the world.
Unlike most countries, Panama has an MLS (established in January 2013), and the real estate market is doing well with resales, new construction, rentals, and property management.
How can this help your business?
According to Rayman, there are a few reasons that Panama is a hot investment area. First, the expansion of the canal has created a need for more rentals and commercial space. For retirees, there are great incentives through the pensianada program, allowing those receiving more than $1,000 a month in social security to receive discounts on transportation, restaurants, and entertainment. English is prevalent in the city and surrounding areas and the currency is the U.S. dollar, which makes the transition for Americans (and those familiar with it) much simpler.
“Going to any country on a consistent basis is the best way to build relationships and expand your network,” explains Rayman. “Panama has been an important partner to NAR for years and taking new and old leadership to the country is important. Until you visit a country and meet its people, get a feel for its culture; it is difficult to understand the market and its potential. We definitely achieved this on our trip and look forward to future inbound and outbound missions as well as some collaborative education.”
The Panama Pacifico web site offers opportunities to get involved with the new community as a “recognized Panama Pacifico broker.”
The developments in Panama are impressive; this country will certainly be one to watch in the coming months and years.
NAR delegation at ACOBIR Inagural