Buying Property in Bocas del ToroAugust 2, 2020
Even though, Panamá has extended their borders to be closed until the end of July this still has not deterred people from around the world from sending us email asking about relocating and buying property here in Bocas del Toro. The world is changing around us and people are looking for simply a better life than the current situation they are currently in. Despite that people cannot come to Panamá at this time, many are willing to buy sight on seen for many reasons. When they get a deal of a lifetime, they take this deal before it is lost and the second reason is to have secured a permanent place to live, so that once the quarantine is lifted people have a place waiting for them here in Bocas del Toro.
For these inquiries we turned to three well known and trusted real estate companies, Sina Pfau at Red Frog Resort, JB Seligman at Buena Vista Realty, and Wolf Brueggemann at Island Realty International, all located here in Bocas del Toro. We asked these respected members of our community four different question and these are their responses.
How is your company coping or what is company doing during the COVID 19 restrictions?
Red Frog: Our primary objectives during Covid-19 are threefold: 1) Secure, maintain, and improve owner and resort assets ensuring they are ready for re-opening. 2) Take advantage of the down time to optimize internal systems and policies preparing for re-start. 3) Stay connected to employees, owners, guests, and partners using social media with resort and government regulation updates. We see this as an opportunity to improve internally to ensure that we bring our employees back to a better, cleaner, safer, and more productive work environment.
Buena Vista Realty: We are working from home, responding to new and listing clients, giving them updated news on COVID 19 in Panamá and explaining the strict but controlled government restrictions. We feel that we are safer here in Bocas than anywhere else. Our listing clients are not panicking and dropping prices on their properties for sale. Some old prospective buying customers are actually saying now is the time and they are coming to Bocas to buy and move when the country is back open.
Island Realty: All of our associates are working from home responding to emails of new and current buyers and sellers. When the heavy home quarantine restrictions were lifted, we were able to take several clients (living on the islands) out to show properties. Obviously, we are not as busy in showing properties as before, however, our email traffic has increased
Is your company providing or helping other communities that are in need?
Red Frog: We continue to provide several benefits to the neighboring indigenous community including free utility installations and discounted potable water and energy, transportation, access to community market, employment, and housing. We have allowed deferrals of payments to several local vendors in need and will continue to work with others to the extent possible.
Buena Vista Realty: We are proud to say that we have helped in organizing and collecting funds for the indigenous people in Bluff. Bluff Beach has collected over $1500 from residents and past clients to help supplement food. We buy the food and deliver to the people in need. We have also been able to help neighboring areas and make contacts to get food brought by other groups to remote areas that were overlooked.
We have also been helping other groups with actively soliciting for the collection of items for old hospital COVID19 ward (sheets blankets towels fans, monies needed for food and cleaning supplies.) We helped secure the 15 fans for the patient rooms and are remaking large sheets and blankets for individual hospital beds. Bocas is a great community of both locals and expats that are working together to help those in need.
Island Realty: Since we own our own boat, we are able to travel anywhere we are needed. For this reason, we have been able to take food, medicine, fuel and other provision to the furthermost communities. We are lucky that majority of our associates are bilingual which is a great benefit as well as one of our associates is a local and knowns of communities that many are not aware of. Added to this, some of our associates have identified and helped individual families in high risk and are able to get the need that these families need until government support steps up and helps.
Any appeal or discounts for future tourists to come to Bocas?
Red Frog: We have been carefully listening to the market and pivoting our value proposition to meet its every changing dynamic. We are testing a short-term plan of offering longer-term rentals for families that can work remotely or early retirees that see Red Frog as an escape from urban density, COVID uncertainty, and political stress. Long term, there are 3 components that impact re-opening timing: 1) Government regulations 2) Transport – international & domestic. 3) Tourist “fear-factor” – when will they WANT to get back on a plane to travel international with their families to a remote, but exotic location?
Buena Vista Realty: The appeal is “Eco tourism”, small hotels and B&B’s are the upcoming travel destination due to less people and lack of crowds. Places for families and small groups to keep safe. We might even see more family groups due to not needing or wanting to share rides with strangers in buses, cars and boats. Nature will be re-discovered and will attract more surfers, divers. backpackers, bird watchers and naturalist.
Island Realty: The biggest appeal we are seeing is people wanting to leave their country for something that is more stable, secure, and back to simplicity. The emails we are receiving from people is that they like that they have connected to their family because of the quarantine and they do not want to return to their old way of life of not spending quality family time with each other. For this reason, that they are seeking a new lifestyle change so they can still have that family connection with their spouse and children, where material good is no longer their focus.
What do you see the future of the market after COVID?
Red Frog: We believe it will be a long, gradual process to get back to levels of tourism we experienced pre-COVID. There will be a “new normal” in terms of how we service owners and guests with forensic level cleaning plans and protocols. We expect longer lengths of stays for those that may see international travel as a risk. Our typical “boomer” guest profile will change dramatically to more millennials who are willing to take more risks and more domestic visitors who don’t want to travel out of Panama to vacation. Green development will be even more important as the world just got a painful lesson in its importance. We will continue to build off our unmatched green principals using our continued Green Globe accreditation to hold us accountable. Lower demand will push pricing lower offering deals for tourists but economic pressure on resorts such as ours. Eventually through it all, Bocas will prevail and experience a resurgence as an exotic eco-tourist destination for everyone.
Buena Vista Realty: We see a slow comeback for the real estate market as well as tourism. Probably fewer young travelers due to set back in school and jobs. We have already seen the decline in over 65 years old due to the lack of medical facilities on the islands.
We feel the 30 -60-year-old (that have the financial security) will be a next group that continues to come to Bocas. Also, they may have a new outlook to get to Bocas, either Do it now or Can’t do it because of new reality of family importance after the threatening COVID came so close.
The trend may be that 30 to 60-year-old want to change their life by having a “lifestyle business”. They may be making the change to enjoy their life here while making less money than they did in their home country, as making “home” money is no longer as important as it was back home. It is certainly less expensive to live here!
Island Realty: We are the oldest and longest running real estate office here in Bocas and we have seen several booms and busts. We know that it will be a slow start up but we are confident in seeing a new boom. Prior to this pandemic we were seeing our older expat community moving either back to their home country to be closer to family or moving to larger cities in Panamá to be closer to necessary amenities. For this reason, the market was changing into a buyers’ market. Now more of our older community if leaving and we are having great deals being listed for a short period of time and being bought sight-on-seen. We are not big advocates for this but when there is such a great deal it just cannot be missed. We always recommend connecting real estate offices directly to find if any of these special fire sales are available or one soon to be coming.
If you would like more information about real estate in Bocas del Toro or about the living in Bocas del Toro, we recommend that you contact each of these offices directly for more information.
Red Frog Resort https://www.redfrogproperty.com/
Buena Vista Realty http://bestbocasrealestate.com/
Island Realty International http://bocasdeltoro.net/