Over this past weekend, I looked at two very different pieces of Panama beachfront property.
The first belongs to an expat couple we met. They’re not selling it, and I can see why.
It’s absolutely beautiful! Directly on the beach near Chitre, it was built as a collection of small buildings all opening up to a central, covered, open-air courtyard. They have trees, grass, bougainvillea, and lots of other plants in this courtyard.
Lovely ocean breezes waft through, and they can open their back gate and step directly out onto the sand of the beach.
The other piece of property was completely different.
We’re not in the market for property here in Panama — at least, not yet. But I love real estate, so I’m always interested in what’s available.
I had noticed an ad in a little local newspaper. It’s for a new development here called Villas Coco del Mar. Supposedly 15 minutes from Las Tablas, Panama, on a beach I’d never heard of, Playa Olivito. I was skeptical to say the least.
I took a look at their website. Obviously they put some money into web development, with a nice little slideshow on the home page, a video, a map showing how to get there. . .
So my husband and I jumped into the car and headed out.
We had a rough idea where it was located. After we’d been driving about seven or eight minutes, the road split. The asphalt headed left, and my husband unerringly turned right onto the dirt road. About 50 feet down was a sign, saying “Villas Coco del Mar 5 km.”
We bumped along for one, two, three, four kilometers and still no sign of the development or the ocean. Five kilometers. . . finally at the six kilometer mark we came to a fence with a big sign on it.
We’d been on that dirt road for almost 20 minutes. It’s extremely rocky, so we had to take it very slowly. We didn’t want to get a flat tire or break a spring out in the middle of nowhere!!
Here’s what the property entrance looks like on their website.
We drove along the dirt road alongside the property fenceline. We could see where a road would run the length of the property, and we could see poles and flags outlining some of the lots. There wasn’t much else to see.
The site is very attractive, in the midst of rolling hills. It doesn’t open out directly onto the beach, though. The beach is quite a bit lower than the property which ends in a sort of bluff.
We drove the car as far down the dirt road as we could, then pulled over and walked the rest of the way down to the water.
Here’s a view from the side road onto the property.
Here’s a little video as well.
We were about 100 yards down from the Coco del Mar property, and the tide was very high so we couldn’t walk over to it. From where we stood, though, we could see an elaborate set of stairs leading from the beach up to the property. You’ll see it at the very end of the video.
If you have mobility problems, you won’t be going to that beach any time soon.
Their advertised plans include a security gate and perimeter fence, an oceanfront clubhouse, and a mix of about 200 single-family houses and condos. No prices listed.
If they follow through, and if they bring the road up to standard, it will be a very nice place indeed.
Unfortunately, those are both pretty big “ifs.”
Buy What You See
When it comes to real estate, experts always advise that you buy what you see. If the developer promises a clubhouse but it’s not built yet, you shouldn’t pay for that amenity — you might not ever get it.
Any time you’re tempted to purchase real estate — especially when it’s not yet built — you need to do a lot of research first.
- Who’s the developer? What’s his reputation? Has he built similar projects? Has he built in this area before?
- Does he actually own title to the property, and will you receive title if you purchase?
- Does he have the necessary planning permission and permits? I heard a story recently of a developer who built dozens of houses in a subdivision without a single permit. It cost the unwary buyers thousands of dollars and a couple years of time and aggravation to untangle the mess he created.
These may seem like no brainers, but it’s amazing the number of expats who are seduced by the soft sea breezes into making bad property decisions. . .
I’ll be keeping an eye on this project.
In the meantime, if you’re looking to buy property in a foreign country, there’s a new book that will help you. By Kathleen Peddicord, who’s been writing about the expat life for almost 30 years now, it’s called How to Buy Real Estate Overseas. Kathleen’s advice is always practical, and she doesn’t suffer from rose-colored-glasses syndrome.