When it comes to the world of smart phones, the apps just keep on coming.  This makes life easier for not only toursists in Panama, but full and part-time residents as well!  There are a few apps that I owe a lot to, and I know you will love as well.

 

 

1)  WAZE

 

 

My number one most used app is Waze.  Waze is a navigation/social tool that allows you to check traffic, plan routes, navigate, and check for oncoming traffic problems.  In fact, the social aspect of the app not only allows you to communicate with other users, but to warn them of police speed traps, accidents, hazzards, heavy traffic, and bad weather.  It has a great map system, and actually allows users to edit the map should they run into a changed or incorrect route.  For this reason, the map stays very current, even with road closures, and the hectic pace of construction here in the city.

 

Whether you are new to Panama, a tourist, or have been here for years, this app always has a use while you are driving.  Even if you know the route perfectly, Waze can redirect you in the event of a traffic accident, and warn you if you are approaching a radar gun.  For you tourists, make sure you have an unlocked phone, pick up a sim card at the airport when you arrive, and boom, you're in business!

 

 

2)  JIBBAGO:

 

 

Your all too important voice or text translation app for a country where very little english is spoken.  That's right folks, not many people here in Panama speak english, so you can either page through a spanish/english dictionary, or download a translation app.

 

There are a lot to choose from.  iTranslate, google translate, etc. but they all require live data (internet) connections.  Not Jibbago!!  The entire dictionary downloads to you phone, and it does a fantastic job.  No data, no problem!!

 

3)  WHATSAPP

 

 

WhatsApp is a free texting service that not only outreaches borders, but allows you to share any sort of media and even exchange voice memos.  Everyone in Panama uses this app, and I have heard that it is quickly becoming the largest social networking tool out there.

 

WhatsApp is actually very similar to the blackberry messenger system in many ways, where you have a picture, status, and can see when your message has been received and read.

 

One of the greatest features is that as soon as you make a new contact, WhatsApp instantly picks it up, and if your new contact also uses WhatsApp, you instantly become whatsApp contacts.  It's more useful in Panama than it may be in North America because the texting packages sold with your telephone here can be expensive, and WhatsApp remains a free app.  It also allows you to text and send media free to anyone in the world that also has the app.

 

4)  Life360

 

 

Not unlike WhatsApp and Waze, this is a bit of social networking mixed in with a useful application.  The app offers messaging and the uploading of photos, but also introduces global positioning of your contact's telephone, and panic buttons in case of an emergency.

 

Leaving my family two and a half years ago wasn't easy, but the dream of living in the tropics for me was really compelling.  If you are in Panama with me, you can without a doubt relate.  It's hard though.  I've left everything I knew, and so much that I never thought I would miss, I do.  Especially my family.  So any piece of technology that I can find to help me feel closer, and help me more easily communicate with them is welcome.

 

That's not all this app is useful for though.  Younger and younger families are making the move to Panama.  Back home, we feel that we have a close network of neighbors, friends, and family that keeps us all safe.  In Panama, we can sometimes feel a little isolated if we haven't learned the language, and if one of the youngsters go missing,  or doesn't call home, it would surely be a frustrating experience.  I like this app, because I can keep tabs on my offspring, family, and friends, not only in Panama, but in various time zones around the globe. 

 

5)  Duolingo

 

 

Learn the language!!  You owe it to all of the call center workers you have cussed out ;)  

 

Now get out there and explore!!

 

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Having been involved in a few real estate transactions in my time here in Panama, I have seen a bucket full of owners attempting to assist the showing intermediary with the presentation and sale of their property.  This is a mistake 90% of the time.  I'll explain further.

 

In Canada, we are blessed to have a well organized MLS and a licensing system that, for the most part, ensures that someone qualified to sell your home will be showing the home.  For that reason, I think Canadians are "trained" to step aside and allow the agent to show the home.  There is usually a lock box left on the door handle or railing, and the realtor simply lets himself in and does his thing.  That very thing that has made him or her successful and allowed him or her to stand the test of time in the business. You liked this system, so why do you fight it in Panama?

 

In this blog, I am going to list a few of the top issues that realtors face here in Panama when trying to effectively sell your home.  Things that seriously hinder the sale of your property and cost you serious time and money.

 

Make your home easy to show!!

 

The worst thing you can do is make your home difficult to show.  Top real estate agents will show many properties per day in Panama, and spend most evenings scheduling the next day of viewings.  If your unit is rented, or the agent has to stumble around making 5 phone calls and cocrdinating 3 people just to get a key, or someone to let them into the property, that agent is likely to show something else.  A top producing agent simply does not have the time to deal with a hard to show property.  

 

Another reason your hard to show property isn't selling is that often, agents are thinking on the go.  In other words, a client sometimes shares a piece of information that changes the direction in which the agent is headed.  The agent often has to change his or her gameplan mid-show.  So, that means that if your property wasn't on the list of showings at 9:00 am, it could suddenly be at 2:00 pm, and if the agent can't get in, you lose.  There is plenty of real estate for sale here in Panama, with owners that list exclusively and hand a key to the agent so that he or she can show the property quickly and easlily, and on the fly if necessary.  If you haven't sold your home, the first thing you should ask yourself is how easy do you make it for your agent(s) to show.

 

Panama is the land of immigration, foreign executives, vacation home buyers, etc.  It just so happens that many people fly here, grab a hotel, and head out for anywhere from 3 days to a week to find and decide on a home.  You must make your home available to show.  Every missed showing is a missed oportunity, and to sell, you have to show.  Please do not assume that if the porperty is unavailable to show one day, that the client will reschedule.  They almost never do, and again, there is another condo up two floors or house in the next neighborhood that shows easily and will sell.

 

My friends, please stay out of the way.

 

If there is just one thing that a seller should take away from this blog, it is that your realtor is a professional.  He or she should know what they are doing by now.  They are making a career of marketing and selling real estate and they are successful at it.  Showing your home is where we shine.  

 

Taking pride in your home is very important, but just as important is to get out of the way and allow your agent to do what you are paying him or her to do.  Hovering over your agent and his clients pointing out each upgrade, and sharing each memory does NOT sell your home.  People want to envision themselves in each property they look at.  They want to take mental ownership and imagine how their life fits the home.  Having the owners there painting a picture of someone else's life in the home will unsell your home.  In fact, it's even a good idea to remove personal family photos.  Statistics support this.  Homes sell better when the owners are not present.

 

Overpricing won't fool the buyers.


There are few possessions more personal than your home.  And for that matter, few investments made as large.  You've spent countless hours entertaining, renovating, perfecting and just loving your home.  But now it comes time to price it acurately.  Maybe your entire retirement budget relies on the money you can get for the property.

 

It doesn't matter how much you paid for your property, or how much you love it.  Your agent is in the trenches each and every day helping people buy and sell property.  He or she will tell you how to competitively price your home so that it sells quickly and for the most money possible.  Overpricing is VERY common in Panama and the number one reason a home does not sell.  Your overpriced home will sit on the market for months, and years, and gain a reputation as unsellable, or undesirable with buyers and agents.  It may end up selling for far less than your agent's original suggestion.

 

The internet makes this even more of a problem than it once was, as 99% of buyers will scour the internet before and during their purchase to ensure that they are paying the right price.  Information is so readily available to your buyers, so you must be competitive to sell.

 

Don't be so sensitive!


Just as in life, in negotiations you must be sure not to take things too personally.  Don't outright decline a low ball offer.  Again, buyers want to ensure they are getting the best possible price, so if they start a little low, all you need do is correct them with a counter.  This is a business transaction, negotiation will often net you a positive result if you just keep emotion out of it. 

 

So these are a few of the bigger issues that hinder the sale of a property in Panama.  Some others small things include clutter, needed repairs not being made, listing with multiple agents or FSBO, and of course bad photos on the MLS.

 

On a side note, don't forget what you are paying your agent for.  Showing the home is only 10% of it!  A successful agent must build and maintain one or more websites, keep an office with staff, maintain a presence in the community, build and grow a network of clients and other agents, pay to advertise no only your property, but their brand.  The brand brings clients.  You want a realtor with a large network, and attracting clients through marketing and networking costs a lot of money. It's a business with expenses, so don't ever feel like you're not getting your money's worth.

 

Cheers!

 

  

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So here is what you need:

 

1)  Criminal report from all the applicants (from FBI for Americans, and RCMP for Canadians),

2)  Marriage Certificate if you are married,

3)  Eight passport sized photos,

4)  A complete copy of your passport, from cover to cover.  Every page,

5)  A copy of another photo ID, for example, driver's license,

6)  A utility bill for your property here in Panama.  Not important if you are renting, or if you own.  A rental agreement or Hotel reservation will even work for this.

 

Now, the first two documents need to be legalized in your home country.  A public notary can do this for you.  In Canada, an attorney can do it as well, but I'm unsure about the USA.   Once notarized, they need to go to the Panamanian Embassy, or Consulate for their OK.  In Canada, you may need to send these documents to the Department of Foreign Affairs before the consulate as well.  It would be wise to confirm that with the Panamanian Embassy.  Don't do all of this too early, because many of these documents expire after 3 or 6 months.

 

In order to qualify for this visa, you will also have to have a Panamanian bank account.  Normally, your immigration lawyer can assist you with this.  I have attempted to assist a few clients but it can be time consuming, and the lawyers are better suited to it.  This account will have to have a minimum of $5000 USD plus $2000 for every dependant that will be applying.

 

You must prove employment, or the promise of employment.  In order to do this, you will have to set up your own corporation, and hire yourself to run it.  There, you have a job.  (If you really do have a job, then no company required).  The lawyer will take care of this step for you as well.  The cost is normally in the $1000 dollar range.  You will have a further expense of $300 dollars per year to renew your Tasa Unica (keeps your company on the books) and $250 per year for your resident agent, which is usually your lawyer as well.  This is the government's contact if they need to speak to the confidential owner of a corporation.  That $250 dollar fee may vary with what attorney you choose, but I'm not 100% on that.

 

The fees involved with the visa itself look like this.  There is an $800 dollar "repatriation fee" for each applicant, and $250 for the National Treasurer (just a fee I guess) for each applicant.  Legal fees will be additional and could run around from $1200 to $2500 per person.

 

That leaves you at about $3500 for the lawyer, and another $1000 or so in fees.  Probably a pretty average figure of $5000 dollars if you get shopping from firm to firm, but I would definitely advise doing your own price shopping.  You need to be sure to get an all in price, because charges and fees, translations of documents, stamps, temporal cards, permanent cards, and multiple entry visas will just keep coming, it is a long process, and there are many steps involved.

 

Here's a little bit about the process.  To start, once you have all your documents, bank accounts, corporation etc., you will have to physically visit the immigration office here in Panama to register.  Quite the experience, with hundreds, maybe even thousands of people there at every moment of the business day.  You will bring with you, your passport, and 2 passport sized photos.  The lawyers will accompany you normally.  They translate for you, and assist you to find the right windows etc.  An English speaker would be 150% lost in there without a lawyer I think.  In fact, when you think about their fee, and the time they spend in that immigration office, at $450 dollars an hour in Canada, the same process would probably cost tens of thousands of dollars, and it does in many countries.  Another fact is that the lawyer or an assistant is usually there 3 or 4 hours early just to wait in line to get a low number.  Quite the process!

 

Once you are there and registered, and the Immigration Department has all of your documentation, you will receive a temporary residence card.  This will allow you to stay in the country until your permanent residence application is prosessed.  You must not leave once this visa is granted until you have asked your attorney for a multiple entry visa, or you will be fined $2000 dollars upon your return.  A multiple entry visa can be applied for and granted within 3 days.

 

The entire process, depending on many factors, can take from 6 months, up to a year.  And what a bargain!!

 

I hope that helps, if anyone has anything to add, feel free in the comments section below.  Panama has many laws, but quite often they are more suggestions or guidelines, so some people may have slightly varying experiences.

 

Cheers!!!  See you in Panama!

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