RE/MAX Beaches & City!

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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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Frequent visitors to Panama have no doubt gotten used to being handed the flyer at the airport announding 30 days of free health insurance in Panama.  As of June 30, 2014, this is no longer the case.  This program has been cancelled by the new "Minister of Tourism".

 

Visitors to Panama will now be wise to invest in health insurance before entering the country.  Even though the cost of a visit to the doctor in Panama is very cheap, anything major could become rather costly.

 

Safe travels!!

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So everyone is telling you not to list exclusively in Panama!!  Why?  They probably don't even know, but I am going to attempt to explain it here, and sell you on the fact that with the right agent it is far more beneficial to list exclusively in Panama in 2014!

 

Yes folks, it's 2014!  Not 1985.  There's a little thing here in Panama called the internet.  Statistically, almost 100% of real estate buyers use it.  It allows almost any agent you choose, to list your property in almost every place every other agent is going to list your property.  It's a great tool, that may not have been available to near as many Panamanians even 5 years ago.  Now, almost every agent you list with is going to go ahead and list in 3 places for sure.  Those places are encuentra24.com, compreoalquile.com, and quite often, their own site, if they have one.

 

That's great right?  But why advertise your property 7 times with 7 different agents on the same websites?  It definitley confuses the heck out of the buyer.  You may remember when you bought your property.  Just how confusing and difficult is was, with listings duplicated all over the place, old listings and sold listings never taken down, and agents not even returning emails and phone calls.  

 

Now, the reason the property is only going to be advertised on these two sites, and a homepage, is that you have listed the property with 2, 3, 7 or whatever number of agents.  Whether the consumer in general wants to admit it or not, a real estate marketing professional provides a very valuable service.  In order to provide this service, an agent has to accumulate many listings, so that he can afford to buy clothes, gasoline, food, pay for advertising your listings, carting around clients etc.  Yes!  It's a business, and for any business to remain in business, it must be smart business.  And you want a smart agent to sell your property fast and effectively.

 

It is BAD business for any company to take a listing and invest any significant time or energy marketing that property when it has no guarantee of being paid on that investment.  As a consumer, and a person that one day will have to retire on what you have spent a lifetime saving, you would never invest your hard earned dollars, or valuable time on an investment that only has a one in 7, or even a 50% chance of paying off.  Come on!  Anyone can see that these 7 agents just cannot take the risk.  All they can afford to do is throw the property on a couple of free, or almost free classifieds sites, and wait for the phone to ring.

 

Now that they have your listing up on their home page for content, they are going to go ahead and concetrate on selling their exclusive listings.  Every client that they get, is going to be shown those exclusives first, and the non-exclusives quickly become an after thought, and only get shown when a client specifically requests a viewing.   I think we can all agree, that a lot of people don't know what they want until they see it, and that with no viewings, you probably won't sell. 

 

List with one competent agent who will spend time and resourses working to sell your property because he knows for certain it is a good business investment to sell that property as quickly as possible.  That agent becomes accountable to you, and knows that as soon as he sells that property, he can pay the month's bills.

 

A competent agent will have a long list of email addresses for agents that he works with for marketing purposes, will utilize all of the social networking tools made available, will maximize SEO to make it easier for potential clients to find him, and will be operating legally within the system.  You see, there really is no need to cause yourself a bunch of headache by listing with more than one company.  Your agent is easy to find, and is spending time and money to sell.  If not, you found the wrong agent, and you can fire him.

 

Another issue in Panama is that everyone is telling you that there is no MLS system like there was back home.  Wrong!  www.mlsacobir.com is a selling tool available only to those of you who choose to list exclusively with an ACOBIR licensed real estate company in Panama.  All buyers can use this tool of course.  This not only allows us as real estate professionals to network with trusted professionals, but gives the seller and buyer a certainty that the transaction will be conducted by professionals, and will limit the number of "Panama-isms" that may occur to hinder the deal from moving smoothly.

 

The bottom line is that if your property has been sitting on the market for too long, you have either overpriced, or have it listed non-exclusively, and no one is accountable.  Who can you blame if you've got 5 agents that cannot sell your property?  How do you know whether it is overpriced, or if all 5 agents are just concentrating on their exclusives and leaving your property to flail in the breeze?

 

The Remax advantage.  A franchised company will usually give the seller an edge as well.  Remax.com gets something like 20,000 hits a day from all over the world.  That's serious!

 

If you're serious about selling, list for the right price, and the best agent, and you WILL sell.

 

Cheers!!

 

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A potential expat will, understandably, spend vast amounts of time scouring the internet for useful facts and tidbits of information that will assist them with this faithful leap into the unknown.  

 

Included in what these potential expats will find when doing their research, are blogs of course, and social pages like Facebook and Yahoo.  Great places to interface with people who are already with feet on the ground here in panama and learning the ropes.  

 

But like pain, there are things that cannot be properly expressed in an article, or potential expat's "guide".  There is no way you can put into words, how much it hurts when you hit your head on the cupboard door you left open, on the way back up from kneeling down to pick up that dropped knife in the kitchen!   Often a good analogy for the trials you will face here in Panama!

 

You will read the posts from some of the grumpy expats living here, that just cannot stop complaining about the small things that are unchangable, at least in the short term.  I'm not sure if these people had "poopy pants" back home, but some are finding it difficult to adjust.

 

Your experience living in Panama will vary greatly on a couple of things.  First, the area you choose to call home will obviously be a very important factor in the "quality" of life you are going to live.  I could write forever on that topic, but not in this blurb.  What I'm talking about here is attitude!

 

Panama.  Beaches, mountains, blue waters, islands, lower cost of living, very north americanized, familiar US currency, advantageous tax laws, ease of immigration, lots of fellow countrymen, drinkable water, beautiful latin people, parties, warm weather, predictable climate, one could go on and on....  and on!  Then why is it that so many people move to Panama from another country and can do nothing but gripe?  That is the question, and to answer it, you have to understand the differences in our cultures.

 

I recently gave the best real estate tour to a couple from North America.  We had spent a wonderful, sun-shiney morning up in El Valle, looking at a few area and houses for sale, and taking in the local market.  We decided to stop in for lunch at one of the quaint restaurants that line the main road through the town.  Now me, having lived here for a couple of years now, settled in.  I ordered a cerveza, and two more for my guests, leaned back and shifted to relax mode.  To make what could be a long story short, the food came out in a typical Panamanian time frame (45 minutes or so), but at the 20 minute mark, my clients were bouncing off the walls!  You are going to wait a lot in Panama, for everything.  

 

There are long lines at the supermarket, at the red lights, at the green lights, at the place where you get your license, at immigration, at the till in the mall, and just about everywhere else.  And nobody moves fast.  I sometimes count the seconds between the beeps at the check-out in the grocery store.  I swear the cashier is actually moving in slow motion.  I'm not joking!!  Her arms swipe each item across the scanner at half speed.  If you're in a hurry, people, it's agonizing!

 

I could go on and on here with "things that make you go hmmmmmmm" experiences, but I digress to the point.  If you are the type of person who cannot relax and needs to live life at a full 100 Km/hr speed limit, Panama is going to either defeat you, or change you fundamentally.

 

I'm telling you now.  You are not going to change ANYTHING here.  No more than a Panamanian is going to get off the bus in Toronto and ask if everyone could just slow the heck down!  This is a cultural machine that demands it's cogs to move in key with all of the rest, and if you cannot slow down, and take things as they come, you may live out your time here in the proverbial poopy pants, and no one likes a poopy pants.

 

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