Q&A Buying a Property in Panama
We often receive inquiries from foreigners regarding the process of purchasing and owning a real estate property in Panama. This document addresses several of the most frequently asked queries on making a piece of Bocas's Paradise a reality. Most of these questions are asked by buyers at one time or another, so we decided to post them to help you to initiate your buying experience in Panama with fuller knowledge.
1. Can a foreigner buy Panama real estate?
Absolutely. You can buy and own a Property in Panama just with your passport… no bank account is needed. Panama law 54 grants foreign investors the same rights and freedoms as Panama natives. They are also granted the right to dispose of their investment profits and repatriate their interest, dividends, and gains. The property may be your dream home for retirement, an investment property, or a business. You will get a property tax exoneration on the initial US$120,000.00 of the registered value if the property is considered “Family Patrimony” (law 66).
2. How is property ownership registered in Panama?
Not all properties in Panama hold a property title. Panama allows people to possess government-owned land to make improvements upon it. It is called “Rights of Possession” (ROP). ROP can be sold to third parties, including foreigners. These properties are not recorded at the Public Registry as titled land deeds are. They are recorded at the local Mayor’s office and local justices of the peace (Corregidor) of the area. Panama has enabled ROP owners to convert the ROP into a titled property with a deed which can then be recorded with the Public Registry.
All titled properties in Panama are registered in a computer system with a number called “Finca Number,” which is the property title number. The property title will show property such as ownership, boundaries, location, existing mortgages, or liens. The National Registry can be accessed online to obtain certifications of a property, corporation, copies of powers of attorney (POA), and a copy of property survey map.
3. How do I hire a real estate attorney?
A real estate attorney will provide you with legal advice and make sure that the buying process follows the real estate laws of Panama. It will also make your real estate transaction smoother as there are transactions that require the services of a Notary Public. Lic Carlos G. Suncin Sarmiento, is the broker of Caribbean Property for Sale by Owner, an attorney specializing in real estate transactions.
The real estate attorney of your choice must have a state-approved escrow account to manage the safety of the money held in escrow.
4. Why should I select Caribbean Property for Sale by Owner as my real estate agent?
We have more than 22 years of real estate experience. In early 2000, we started a private family-owned real estate business in Costa Rica and extended our activity in Panama a few years later. We are proud to be a local company that is knowledgeable in all aspects of handling your Real Estate transaction in Panama.
We have agents fluent in English, Spanish, and French to serve many prospective buyers. See what our customers have to say about us, nothing better than a first-hand experience as a recommendation.
5. How do I make an offer on a property in Panama?
The offer on a chosen property should be an official, written document stating all terms and conditions that apply to your offer on the property. Once there is an agreement between Buyer and Seller on the offer, the attorney of the real estate office will write up a purchase sale agreement. This is the legal agreement between the buyer and Seller. When it is signed, the buyer will make a deposit on the property that goes into the attorney’s escrow account.
If you are traveling to Panama and intend to make an offer on a property while in Panama, it is essential to meet with your local banker before leaving home to make sure that you have all in place to initiate an international wire transfer. This is important because a purchase sale agreement is invalid until your deposit arrives in the attorney’s escrow account in Panama.
6. How is a closing handled in Panama?
The buyer(s), your real estate agent, your attorney, and the Seller will meet to execute the required closing documents. If you do not plan to be in Panama for the closing, you will need to authorize a special power of attorney dedicated to a trusted person to execute the closing on your behalf.
7. What are the real estate title/ROP transfer costs?
The legal fees for purchase sale agreement and title transfer is normally 5% for a titled property and 3% for an ROP transaction based on the sales price, which is usually shared between Buyer and Seller unless differently stated in the purchase sale agreement. On titled properties only, the sale taxes of 5% based on the selling price indicated on the title transfer are paid by the Seller.
8. Will I need to pay annual taxes on my property? If yes, how much?
“Rights of Possession” (ROP) properties do not pay annual taxes as titled properties do.
Property taxes on a titled property is 2%/year based on the purchase price indicated on the “Deeds Transfer Contract” that will be registered in the national registry. Property taxes will be generated after the “Deeds Transfer Contract” is registered in the national registry. It might take six months to one year before tax payment is due.
If the property purchase price indicated is less than $30,000us, the property will not generate property taxes. If you file your property as “Family Patrimony,” you will get a property tax exoneration on the initial $120,000us of the registered value.
- Purchase price $200,000us less $30,000us = $170,000us amount that will generate property taxes.
- If “Family Patrimony” filed: $200,000us less $120,000us = $80,000us amount that will generate property taxes. Our attorney will help you with this "filing" process.
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Our real estate agents and real estate attorney will walk you through the buying/selling/relocating process. Please contact us to work with our professional agents in your search for a property in this tropical paradise known as Bocas del Toro, Panama.