Buy Land in Panama and Build a Home

Frequently Asked Questions 

We have attempted to accurately answer  the most frequently asked questions, however, things do change often without notice, so it is advisable to verify with independent sources any and all information contained on this FAQ page.

Am I able to own land in Panama? (hold title)

Yes, in Panama there are two types of property. Right-of-possession (ROP) land is not titled, but is granted to a person or family that has possessed it and used it for several years. This is more common in rural Panamanian farm areas. Titled property may also be available, but is generally more expensive than ROP, and also safer for non-Panamanians to own. The process to have ROP property titled to you can take some time, and requires you, as the buyer, to submit detailed information to authorities for their approval. Finca Cazador is already titled and held in a Panamanian corporation, therefore transfer of title to you the buyer is quick and easily accomplished.

How difficult is the process to become a resident or to obtain Panamanian citizenship?

Residency and citizenship in Panama is a multi-step process that is best accomplished with the help of a qualified immigration attorney. Finca Cazador buyers have access to our attorney.

Is it safe in Panama? What is the crime rate like? What kinds of crimes are found in this area, and in Panama in general?

Panamanians are some of the happiest people on earth, according to recent studies. Some violent crime takes place in the poorest sections of the larger cities, but is rare in the rural areas. 

Most petty crimes involve theft of personal property and are usually crimes of opportunity. As would be the case in any city in the U.S. or Europe, staying alert while carrying valuables and, if you live in a city, locking your vehicle and home will reduce the likelihood of being targeted for criminal activity.

There is a substantial, but not overly obvious, police presence in town, so security is very good here, with very few incidents. There have been reports of attacks against Americans in Boquete (a town 2 hours away with a large expat population), but so far no such incidents have occurred in this area.

The founding visionary behind Finca Cazador has been living on this farm for 12 years, and has developed great relationships with the local residents, even some of the police officers. He is well liked and respected by them, and because of the quality of those relationships, security is likely to be less of an issue for land owners at Finca Cazador. 

During a worldwide catastrophic event, we feel this area in general, and our property location specifically would be an outstanding location to minimize the affects:

1) We are located quite far from any major metropolitan area, so fleeing city-dwellers would have to drive pretty far to get here and might likely run out of fuel, as their culture is not known for planning ahead.

2) This is a rural farming community. There are very few westerners here, so this area is not a target for criminal behavior like the well known areas populated by "rich" Americans.

3) There are several escape routes, as opposed to places like Boquete, where there is only one way in and one way out of the area. This feature also comes in handy during the rainy season, when road closures are common.

4) The property is strategically located within walking distance to a rural part of Costa Rica.   

5) Most of the local residents here live very simple lives, often with zero dependence on even the most basic conveniences like electricity and running water. They would hardly feel the effects of an extended power outage. Food unavailability would not be an issue here, as most everyone here has a garden or access to fresh produce, for free.
Can I work in Panama?

Yes, work permits are available provided you meet certain qualifications. If you own a business in Panama you can work in your business. If you are a resident you can work in Panama.

Can I open a bank account in Panama?

Yes, at the moment some banks are still accepting foreign national customers, however, recent U.S. disclosure requirements have forced some financial institutions to decline many U.S. nationals. Buyers of farms at Finca Cazador have the added benefit of a bank account and corporate SA entity when they purchase Panama farmland here, as well as access to tax specialists and attorneys to assist you with tax questions, residency and citizenship goals.

Am I taxed in the U.S. on Panamanian income? How does Panama tax work?

Yes, however, U.S. citizens have an annual $100,800 exemption for 2016, at the time of this writing. The US tax authorities require U.S. citizens living abroad to submit a form declaring foreign derived income above $100,800, regardless of the source. Restrictions apply. Visit IRS.gov and look for foreign earned income exclusion information for details. 
Panama, on the other hand, taxes only Panamanian derived income, not income earned outside of Panama. If your income in Panama is derived from an agricultural pursuit, the first $150,000 is Panama tax free.

How stable is the Panamanian government?

Panama is a constitutional democracy. Since removing Manuel Noriega from office in the 80’s, Panama has been a close ally and partner with the U.S. and trades freely with many other countries. The Panama Canal, which was recently expanded to accommodate larger vessels, provides capital to the Panamanian government for infrastructure and social improvements. 

In addition to using the U.S. dollar as its primary currency, the Balboa is also used, which may add another level of reliability for transactions in the event of dollar currency inflation or breakdown. Panama has a growing and relatively stable GDP average, and a very low unemployment rate.

Does Panama recognize all religions and can I practice my religion freely in Panama?

Yes, the constitution of Panama provides a non-discriminatory atmosphere for religious expression. The religious demographics estimate 85% Roman Catholic and 15% Protestant Christian.

How strong is Panama’s economy?

As of 2014, according to the CIA Fact book, Panama’s GDP was 6.6%, 73% of which was export derived, and the unemployment rate stood at 4.5%. The public debt stands at just above 37% of GDP. There is no central bank.

Does Panama have a military force?

On 10 February 1990, the government of then President ENDARA abolished Panama's military and reformed the security apparatus by creating the Panamanian Public Forces; in October 1994, Panama's Legislative Assembly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the creation of a standing military force but allowing the temporary establishment of special police units to counter acts of "external aggression".

What is the weather like in Rio Sereno?

The rainy season is from May to November. During September and October you can expect rain almost every day. The terrain, however, is able to absorb that moisture quickly. Temperatures tend to hover in the mid to high 70's, depending on elevation. At approximately 3200 feet, we are blessed with a climate much like summer in the Colorado mountains.

Can I bring pets to Panama?

Yes, many airlines offer pet transport services. You will be required to show your pet’s vaccination record, a report from a vet of the actual vaccinations performed, and showing the animal in good health. A call to the Panamanian Consulate’s office should provide current requirements.

Can I legally own a gun in Panama? May I bring my own gun into the country or must I purchase it there? Is a license or permit required?

It is possible for Panamanians and foreigners with a permanent residency status to own a gun in Panama. There are two types of gun permits.

Tenencia which is the right to own a gun. 
These permits are valid for 10 years and can apply for up to 10 weapons

Porte which is the right to carry a gun. (A concealed weapon permit.)
These permits are valid for a period of 4 years and can apply to 10 weapons; however only up to 2 weapons can be carried at any given time. 
In order to obtain either of the gun permits you must fulfill the following requirements:
  • notarized copy of your cedula
  • satisfactory psychological exam
  • satisfactory drug testing (anti doping)
  • certificate from shooting/gun safety course from an authorized provider
  • DNA sample which will be kept on record by Forensic Medicine of the Public Ministry.
  • all registered guns must have ballistic tests conducted by the DIJ (police) which are kept on file. 

How much does it cost to fly to the US from Panama?

That depends on your point of departure from the US. 

Listed here are several cities from which many of the major airlines fly direct Panama City (PTY) routes and their approximate cost (round-trip):

a.      Los Angeles (LAX) $600 - $1000
b.      Las Vegas (LAS) $450 - $600
c.      Denver (DEN) $675 - $725
d.      Houston (IAH) $550 - $675
e.      Miami (MIA) $450 - $525
f.       Atlanta (ATL) $600 - $800
g.      Newark (EWR) $525 - $650

How long does it take to fly to Panama from the United States?
Anywhere from two to six hours, depending on your city of departure.

Are there schools nearby that would accept US born children?
Yes, US born children are able to be matriculated into the public school system in Rio Sereno which goes from the US equivalent of kinder garden through 12th grade. 

Are there mosquitoes everywhere? How about other creepy crawlers?  

There can be mosquitoes at certain times of the year. They are very small and make almost no sound. Their bite is slight so they are really not very bothersome—even the most sensitive will find them only a minor irritation.

What is within walking distance of the property?

There are several stores, restaurants and banking services nearby as well as several hand car washes, a park, a lake and specialty stores and churches.

If I cannot use chemical fertilizers, how can I grow things?

There are many, many resources on line and some locally for organic gardening. Compost, natural supplements and amendments to the soil as well as planting practices allow for healthy crops without using chemicals. The ground here has been revitalized over the last 12 years, and is rich with nutrients and microbes, so plants grow with little or no effort on your part.

If I cannot use chemical insecticides how do I control fungus, mold and critters?  

Insects, mold and fungus all feed on weak plants. Healthy plants have natural defenses that make them less of a target for these maladies. Planting practices (ample distance between plants, for example) also provides the conditions under which these invaders cannot thrive. We have planted over 1,000 trees here, as well as many varieties of ground cover, in order to boost the nutrient content of the earth and provide shade, another component of healthy naturally productive soil.

Am I required to get a Panamanian driver's license to drive in Panama?

You are able to legally drive in Panama using your valid US drivers license and your valid passport within the first 90 days after your arrival in Panama. If you plan to stay—and drive—for longer than 90 days from the date of the entry stamp in your passport, then you must obtain a Panamanian drivers license.

What is the quality of cell phone service in this rural area?
This area generally enjoys very good cell phone service, however, as with other mountainous areas everywhere, that quality can vary depending on your location and proximity to mountains and cell towers. Wireless service here is very cheap. The service we use at the Estate house is $15 a month and it would be comparable to high speed service in the States.

Is there a hospital nearby in case of medical emergency?

There is a new, modern medical clinic, walk in clinic and urgent care/emergency room facility in town. The nearest in-patient facility is in David.

How much does it cost to buy food? Gasoline? Other items?

Prices vary greatly, depending on where you are. In general Panama is cheaper than the U.S., however, locations in and near Panama City can be close to or higher than in the states. An example would be the cost of a typical restaurant lunch:

$8-$15 in the U.S. would be $6-$7 in Panama City, $5 in the town of David, $6-$7 in Costa Rico near the border, $9-$10 in San Jose Costa Rica, and $3 here.
Diesel fuel is .45 to .75 cents less, per gallon, than gasoline (as it should be). 
Gasoline is slightly less than in the States.
Propane is only $1.30 per gallon, much less than gasoline or diesel.
Electricity is much less than in the states. 
The whole farm runs on about $45 per month. 
Water and trash collection (yes, that is available here) is much less. 
Trash collection is $3 per month.

How far is the closest major town or city?

Volcan is the closest major town and is 45 minutes away. 

David has an international airport and is 1 ½ hours away. Panama City by bus is 7 hours and costs $15, by air is $95 and takes 45 minutes.

San Jose Costa Rica is 8 hours away, by car.

What are some of the benefits of living in Panama?

The benefits of Panama over the U.S. are many. The low cost of living, healthy food, low energy footprint, clean air and water are some of the reasons you may want to relocate here. 

At Finca Cazador you have cool mountain breezes, but the Pacific coast is only 1 ½ hours away, and the Caribbean coast is only 2 ½ hours away. Retirees get an extra bonus by enrolling in Panama's Pensionado program, whereby resident retirees can get up to 50% off on things like airline tickets, movies and restaurants.

Do I need a visa to visit? To live there long term?

You do not need a visa to visit for 90 days, and you get free emergency medical during that time, if needed. You can continue to live in Panama after the 90 days, but must leave and come back. There are many options to become a permanent resident or to obtain citizenship in Panama. As of March 2017, this appears to be changing.

How are the schools different from the US public school system?

Public schools in Panama generally expect less from their students than public schools in the U.S., and there are many excellent very affordable private schools in Panama.

Can I bring my stuff with me, or are there limits to how much I can bring down? Can I bring my vehicle down? Am I able to get it licensed and insured?

Yes, and the costs (taxes) depend on your residency status. If you are considering moving to Panama, it would be easiest and probably less costly to just sell your stuff (except sentimental or unattainable items) in your current country, and purchase new stuff here. Much of what you might typically need to bring with you can be brought down in suitcases.

Used vehicles are very used, and expensive here, but more so in Costa Rica. If you have a make of a vehicle that is sold in Panama, and selling it in the states would incur a sizable loss, then it may make sense to ship it here. Insurance is cheap in Panama for vehicles.

If I grow vegetables or fruit on my land, can I sell them or do I need a license?

On a small scale, selling your fruit and vegetables is probably not practical, however they can be used for barter.  If you become a landowner in Finca Cazador, the current owner will buy your organic coffee, plantains and cocoa.

How hard is it to open and run a business in Panama?

Technically, you need a work permit or be a resident to work, however you can run a business and work in your business, whether you are a resident or not. 

There are many things lacking in Panama, so there is a lot of opportunity here to start and run a business. Paperwork is a pain, but doable. In general Panamanians do not have a strong work ethic, but there are many exceptions.

Can I hire Panamanians? Can I fire Panamanians?

The labor laws favor employees. Labor is cheap, around $1.50 per hour. Insurance is cheaper, and taxes are lower than in the U.S. 

How costly is domestic help?  

Domestic help is very affordable, around $10-$15 a day.

How does Panama treat older US citizens?

Older people are treated well, and with respect. There are many benefits as a retiree.