Buying real estate in Casco Antiguo is a research intensive task. It is about information (of course) but also about gut feeling. A mix between what you want and what you can afford plus what is out there that could make a good match. Very different from buying anywhere else in Panama City. This is not a mall with thousands of equally looking, lined up products; but a boutique shop with trully special items made to last a lifetime.
So, what to look for? Where is the best, less risk investment? Am I looking for a home, for a retirement or vacation apartment, or for a project? So many things to consider.
Questions can pour like rain, but focus is your best ally. And always, always, go back to basics. So here it is, your own guide to get organized and analyze each opportunity:
1. Home vs Investment?: This is a very important question. Home owners look at things differently, more detailed. Investors may be focused only on appreciation and cashflow. So many times it is a combination, where you are looking for a vacation home that you can rent now and live in later. Having these scenarios sorted is extremely useful.
2. What is your Wish List? : This will give you a starting point. Take a piece of paper and write it down, all the things you would like. As you research, you’ll start cutting things out, it is normal. Especially when it comes to the financial part of the analysis!
3. Pre Construction or Existing Unit? : it all depends on your personal needs. An existing unit is great because you can already see it, walk it, rent it (if it isn’t rented already) and you might get some locations that might be very difficult otherwise.
However, keep in mind most early projects (mainly before 2001) in Casco Antiguo had a different quality than current ones. The market back then was not as international as it is now, so unless the owner re selling the unit lived in it and made some important changes most likely you’ll have a closed kitchen, plain finishes and in some cases your ventilation won’t be as good.
Modern pre construction designs offer better finishes, beautiful layouts and since they will be delivered within 2 years, they’ll be worth far more than when you signed them. Depending on the project you may even have central air conditioning or central gas, a choice for parking and some might even offer storage space. Also, developer prices reflect the current market. Owners of existing units tend to price using a different criteria.
4. One or Two Bedrooms, View or no View?= Budget: Now we are getting to an economic issue. Two bedrooms offer you more flexibility and views definatly add value to your unit forever. But as these type of apartments come in a truly “Limited Edition” they tend to be more expensive.
Meditate about where is your “top case scenario”. There is always a ceiling for a purchase. Of course it will highly depend on the unit and your gut feeling, but this is the most defining factor on your capacity to acquire a unit that has all the items in your wish list. Think about what is absolutely important for you. Sometimes you can get the view, but it will be a smaller apartment or maybe more expensive than what you want to spend. Sometimes you’ll get the space and the parking for the price you want, but not with plaza or water views. What is really important for you?
Also, remember financing is always available if your credit is good. Banks in Panama tend to require a lot of paperwork, but they do provide credit to foreigners!
5. Location? Ten years ago, when Casco started to develop most buyers wouldn’t look past First and Second Street. Today, the strongest area is actually 10th street. One street per year!…. well… almost! So don’t worry about being on the “right address”. There is no right address, it is all Casco Antiguo. It is all protected and will all appreciate. Think more on terms of how you feel when you walk this or that area. Research about what is going on around it in terms of projects, future hotels, etc. Open yourself to new corners, take a fresh look at those streets that right now look like the movie “Black Hawk Down” but where there are several projects going on.
6. Final Advice: follow your gut feeling. Walk around. Imagine. Do you like how you feel about the area right now, before it changes? Then you are ready to make a decision in Casco Antiguo.