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Purchasing Property

Buying Property in Panama? Here are a few precautions to consider:

Hire a reputable lawyer and perform due diligence before you buy. While most American citizens buy and sell property in Panama without incident, the Embassy frequently hears claims of fraud and corruption in connection with property purchased by U.S. citizens. Complaints include broken contracts, demand for extra payments, fraud, corruption and occasional threats. Americans should exercise greater due diligence in purchasing Panamanian real estate than they would in purchasing real estate in the United States. Engaging a reputable attorney and licensed real estate broker, both with credible references, is strongly recommended, as is including the option for mediation in any contract.

U.S. Citizens considering purchasing property in Panama may wish to contact the Real Estate Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Panama City at realestate@panamcham.com or visit the website at http://panamcham.com/es/committees/real-estate-committee for further guidance.

Is the land titled or untitled?
Approximately 90 percent of the land outside Panama City is untitled, as is nearly all property in coastal areas and on islands. Rights of possession and concessions on untitled land increase the risk of ownership disputes even after the property is purchased.   Because different laws apply to different types of properties, it is recommended that buyers understand the type of property they are buying. Additional information on land titles is available through Panama’s Registro Publico (Public Registry). 

Know the Panamanian System
The laws and procedures in Panama governing the purchase of property and acquiring a mortgage are different from the United States.  It is recommended that prospective buyers understand how the process works before purchasing property.

Judicial Recourse
The judicial system’s capacity to resolve contractual and property disputes is weak and open to corruption.  The World Economic Forum ranks Panama’s level of judicial independence to be 133 out of 142 countries in the world. The World Bank’s Doing Business in 2012 notes Panama is 120 out of 183 on the Registering Property measure, and 119 on the Enforcing Contracts measure.

For more information, please read the Department of State’s Investment Climate Statement.

Disclaimer: The U.S. Embassy does not provide legal advice. Consulting a reputable attorney and a licensed real estate broker prior to purchasing property is strongly recommended.