What to Watch Out for When Renting a Panama City Apartment

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Panama Real Estate Rentals Tips

One of the most frustrating things which happens to foreigners when moving to another country are the cultural nuances.  This means getting used to Central American culture.

Before we describe Panamanian culture the first thing a foreigner looking to rent an apartment in Panama City must do some homework regarding the different neighborhoods, the types of rental properties typically available, and cost based on size and location.  Simply researching Google with “Panama City apartment to rent” brings up a large list of real estate companies and websites offering apartments for rent in Panama City and not anything which is very helpful.

It is better to incorporate the name of the neighborhood and apartment size (square meters or m2) within the search parameters when surfing these websites.
Other important features to consider are unfurnished or furnished (most Panama City apartments are unfurnished) and kitchen appliances (called “linea blanca” in Panama) which will affect the rental price.

Before looking at apartments in Panama City there are some important things to avoid like noise (from the street traffic, construction, and neighbors) which change from day to night.  There are over 200 tall condominium buildings being erected in Panama City in 2012 along with a new metropolitan subway system and new blacktop being applied in streets throughout the city.  Visit the potential apartment during the day to listen for construction noises and again during rush hour (5:10 to 6:30 pm) for traffic noises.  Living near a public park or a large public square, or an access to a public beach requires considering traffic and noise during public events.

The biggest streets in Panama City which will generate the worst traffic jams and vehicle noise are: Avenida Balboa, Via Argentina, Transistmica, Calle 50, Via Porras, and Tumba Muerto.  These streets have nice apartments for rent so you may want to find an apartment not facing the street.  Better yet, rent an apartment in a parallel street to these busy ones.

A loud neighbor is another problem.  Common courtesy is not a virtue in Panama.  Apartment buildings often have one or two terraces playing loud music with an even louder group laughing and talking noisily late at night even on week days.  Have your real estate agent talk to some neighbors to see if this is a recurrent problem in the building.  Knowing whether your future neighbors are retirees or rock stars will make a big difference on deciding to rent in a specific building.

Panama City buildings range from very old to brand new.  Some buildings are better built than others.  Using a Panama City real estate agent who can investigate leaking water issues, parking space problems, social area restrictions (like the pool unavailable after 6 pm); future maintenance and repair construction projects or other important potential problems can be very helpful.

If the building lobby is only three years old but is deteriorating extra attention must be given to the apartment’s workmanship like under the sink, windows, electricity, and plumbing.  Hiring an expert to inspect the fixtures and structure of an apartment before deciding to rent is worthwhile.

Knowing the apartment owner is important.  Owners who live far away will not be available to fix things.  Make sure the owner has a Panama City based property manager who can perform routine maintenance and emergency repairs.  Otherwise, you will have to do the repairs yourself or hire local experts to fix things requiring you to pay for the repairs and then seek reimbursement from the absent landlord who may dispute the costs when you deduct them from your next month’s rent.

You need to know who to call when an emergency occurs.  Think twice if that is only the owner’s e-mail address or a long distance phone number.

Other issues to consider:

  • Loft style apartments having large windows means large electricity
    bills for the air conditioner.
  • Penthouse apartments are more exposed to the elements because the
    ceiling is directly below the roof where most leaks start.
  • Western facing apartments in Panama City are exposed to more sun
    making the apartment much hotter which increases the electricity bill.
  • Make sure your air conditioner is serviced every six months or your
    electricity bills will be higher.
  • Look for buildings offering free internet and cable TV which will
    save money.
  • Inspect the water heater because if it is gas it will be free.  An electric water heater will increase your electricity bill.

Panama City real estate agents favor monthly rentals above $1,000 USD because their commission is the first month’s rent.  On the other hand, real estate
rentals
classified ads in Panama’s largest newspaper, La Prensa, and others
like Craigslist are usually owner advertisements so beware of what you are
getting into.

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