How to Rent or Buy a property in Panama?
Like any country, Panama has its own processes to buy or rent a property. Knowing the procedures and the steps to follow allows us to expedite the process and avoid scams, particularly for foreigners who buy or rent for the first time in the country.
1. Real estate rental process
The process of renting in Panama is easy and without complications. It is important to mention that a foreign person can perfectly rent a property in Panama without complying with special conditions of nationality or residence.
To rent, you first have to find the right property that meets your criteria and budget. In Panama there are numerous real estate agencies that can guide you through the multitude of offers. There are also platforms on the web with goods directly offered by owners, such as Encuentra24.com and Compreoalquile.com, which are the most visited.
Once you have chosen the property, and if it was through the intermediation of an agency, the next step will ask for personal documents depending on what the owner of the property requires: personal identity document, bank reference letter, account statement to check resources, etc.
After this step, the real estate agency or property owner will provide you with a lease. This contract is usually private, so the will of the parties prevails. However, it should contain at least the following:
- Generals of the parties
- Legal description of the property (registry identification)
- Lease Fee Amount and Security Deposit
- Lease term and possibility of renewal
- Termination of the contract
- Utilities included in the rental fee
- Damage and repair provisions
- Right to inspect the property
- Conflict resolution method
- Sublease right
It should be noted that in general the property’s owner will require the equivalent of one month’s rent in advanced to sign the lease as a guarantee deposit. It will only be returned at the end of the contract if there was no damage to the property, except for those caused by the normal use and wear of the property.
It is also important to mention that the lessor is obliged to formalize the lease before the Ministerio de Vivienda (Ministry of Housing) and at the Administración de Tierras (Land Management) and also to enter the security deposit as established by Law 93 of 1974. However, the statistics reveal that in practice, the number of rentals registered with said institution is 20 times less than the rentals that are actually perfected. Unregistered contracts are considered private contracts and any conflict must be resolved in civil courts or through arbitration, as agreed by the parties to the contract.
2. Real estate purchase process
The process of buying a property in Panama is open to anyone, without conditions of nationality or residence. In Panama the right to private property is respected, which is guaranteed by the National Constitution.
a. The steps to follow
Due to the formality of the procedures, it is necessary to hire the services of a lawyer who will guide you through the process:
The lawyer can be the one chosen by the seller or the buyer, or each one can have their own, it all depends on the will of the parties.
Attorney fees are usually a percentage of the purchase value and are either borne by the seller or the buyer or is a shared expense, depending on the agreement between the parties.
Notary and Public Registry expenses are the responsibility of the buyer. The seller must pay the taxes that are generated by the transfer of the property and everything related to the peace and rights of the property being sold.
For clarity, below you can find an outline of the entire process that the lawyer or lawyers in charge must follow. This buying and selling process usually takes around 3 months.
b. Payment methods
In step 2, the buyer must pay the credit, generally corresponding to 10% of the sale value. The payment is generally made by certified or cashier’s check directly to the seller’s name if the buyer has a bank account in Panama. If the buyer has an offshore account, the payment will be made by international transfer to the seller’s account.
In step 6, the buyer must pay the balance and can do it in different ways. The most usual and safest are the following:
Use the custody service of a Notary Public who will carry out the intermediation, releasing the funds and delivering them to the seller once the property is registered in the name of the buyer in the Public Registry.
The buyer can send the funds to a bank account type “escrow account”, managed by a Trustee, an entity regulated by the Superintendency of Banks of Panama (SBP) who will release the funds and deliver them to the seller once the property is registered in the name of the buyer in the Public Registry.
The buyer may hold the funds in a bank account at a local bank and ask the bank to issue a promise to pay letter to be sent to the seller. The letter assures the seller that once the bank receives proof that the property is registered in the name of the buyer in the Public Registry, the seller will deliver the funds.
If the buyer requires financing, it will be the same procedure as in point 3: the bank that provides the financing will issue a promise letter in the name of the seller and will deliver the funds once the property is registered in the name of the buyer in the Public Registry.
As you can see, the process to rent and buy in Panama is quite organized and safe. Additionally, Panama is a very attractive place to live and invest in housing. In fact, the country has been in the Top 10 countries in the world to live and retire due to its multiple advantages in terms of cost of housing, climate, security, health system and the ease of obtaining the permanent residence status in Panama.