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Pondering Life in Panama

Posted by charla on September 9, 2015
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By Suzanne Mahadeo

 August 8th, 2015



WHEN WANDERLUST LICKS YOUR SOUL again, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions. Most expats in Panama (or “extranjeros” as we’re called here) left behind a single-family house in their home country, at first bringing the lifestyle and mindset that came with it. After releasing some of the early expectations of replicating their life “back home” onto the tropical landscape of Panama, an interesting thing happened. People started to realize that their original wants and needs may have shifted. They no longer wanted to have the same type of life they once had. They no longer wanted to feel the same things they once felt. Instead, they considered new possibilities of how to have the most enjoyable life with a sense of ease.

In order to get to that place, it helps to ask yourself a few questions about the kind of life you want to create for yourself or your family if considering a move to Panama.

By the very nature of coming to a country that is still developing, life in Panama will be very different if you are coming from a country that is considered “first world.” Services that may no longer (or were never) affordable at home, are considered more practical throughout Panama. It is not uncommon for many extranjeros to be able to afford a live-in helper to cook, clean, garden, watch the kids, or maintain your pool. These services back home would be unreasonably high when compared to

Panama, where you can still provide a fair wage to your local staff. (Protip: just be nice and don’t take them for granted!)

Knowing that you can free up some of your time by having helpers means you will need to be prepared for how to fill that “extra” time that is so rare in the go-go-go, now-now-now culture you may be from. Some retirees know all too well the struggle and unintended consequence of dreaming of the future but never taking time to learn about what you actually like to do, so that you can do it once you actually have time. With that said, here are some questions to consider before delving into a life of open possibilities in Panama.



About 80% of people who come to Panama Source Real Estate lived in a single-family dwelling back in their home country. What’s interesting is that even though about half of those folks believed they would continue to live in a stand-alone house in Panama, a large percentage of them (about 80%) ended up moving into a condo! Whether it was starting fresh with a new reality or seeing a brand-new condo development that inspired them to make the switch, having an open mind helped them choose the best option to support their desired lifestyle.

Now, consider for a second a blank slate in your mind. If you could start fresh in a new country, how would you answer these questions for yourself?

  • What is your overall goal of purchasing in Panama? (Examples include: flexibility to travel; less hassle than “back home”; to live near a good hospital or school; to invest in rental property; to be on the beach; or to have access to more nature, etc.)
  • Ideally, what would you like your life to look like here? (Morning walks on the beach? Sunset walks in the country? Access to lively neighbors, or solitude away from it all?)
  •  Will you be arriving in Panama alone or with someone else or perhaps a family? How do you envision spending your time with others and on your own? Do you need a fenced yard for the kids or pups to play?
  • Do you want a house with a private yard where you can compost in peace without a property manager telling you that you’re inviting too many neighborhood dogs? Or are you cool with thinking about the ease that comes with living in a condo and having maintenance and repairs generally covered by said property manager? While some may believe that a house would have a bigger “backyard” for kids, there are condos available in Panama that also come with a yard for kids or pets to run around freely. Another consideration is that new condo developments in Panama have large social areas for residents, in the form of massive pools, a new gym or health club with a yoga studio, tennis courts, and even golf courses.
  • If you are retiring or downsizing and selling all of your “stuff,” are you ready to commit to a clutter-free life in Panama? In your mind, does that vision look like standing in a brand-new condo with an open kitchen plan and living room, overlooking the ocean from your balcony? Or does it perhaps look like having a house separated from your neighbors where you can spend time in the garden growing your own food sources? It’s crucial to work on this vision as it will help you determine your own ideal living situation. (Remember, you’re also gonna have to practice giving up impulse-buying “stuff” if you really want to declutter your life, but I’ll save that for another post!)
  • Again, on the topic of maintenance, if you’ve had a house before, you are well aware of home ownership costs. It is no different in Panama: if you own a home, it’s your responsibility to yourself and your investment to make sure it’s taken care of. Knowing Spanish will go a long way in terms of hiring help to fix plumbing, electrical, or building issues. But if you don’t want to deal with those kinds of problems on your own, perhaps a condo would offer you an easier life- style of simply asking your property manager to deal with any problems that come up. Also, if you plan on leaving the country for six months out of the year, you’ll need to decide how you would prefer to have your house or condo maintained. Would you have someone look after it while you’re gone? Might you sublet it? What kind of environment would be more conducive to help you meeting those goals? 


We can help you talk through these questions and more. Here are some listings!

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REALITY CAN LOOK QUITE DIFFERENT FROM OUR FANTASIES, especially when our fantasies were built on the preconceived notions sold to us by advertisers on what retirement “should” look like. But taking the time to really be honest and think about what we want out of life will save us time and trouble down the line. There are no guarantees in life but that life is what we make of it.

If you have any questions or want to learn about the properties in Panama (or how much it costs for weekly or monthly maid services!), we’ll be happy to talk your ear off about how much we love Panama.


Charla Armstrong

Panama Source Real Estate

Panama Cell: 011 (+507) 6781-0333

Author bio: Suzanne Mahadeo is a Panama based writer/editor from Queens, NY.

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