It’s no secret that Panama is a great spot to invest in real estate. That doesn’t mean, though, that buying is right for everyone.
If you’re new to Panama or might only be here for a short time period, the chances you want to put money into a long-term investment are slim.
Luckily, there are tons of great options when it comes to renting in Panama as well. Particularly because so many people purchase properties to serve as rentals, a little bit of savvy searching can land you the perfect apartment rental for your lifestyle.
Not sure where to start? Read on for a step-by-step guide to everything you need to know about renting a property in Panama.
Find a Broker (A Good One)
The first step in any property search in Panama, whether you want to rent or buy, is to find a broker. You’ve likely heard the story before, but it goes without saying that not all brokers are created equal.
Read reviews online, ask for references from friends or colleagues, and do your due diligence before you choose a broker you want to work with.
A good broker can be the difference between a smooth rental process and a total nightmare, so it’s worth putting time into finding someone you trust.
Once you’ve found a good broker, he or she is going to want to get as much information from you as possible about what it is you’re looking for in a rental property.
It’s important to let your broker know everything you can about what you have in mind. The more specific you can be, the more your broker will be able to narrow down options and find the perfect place for you.
Whether it’s natural light, a parking spot, or a gym in the building, be ready with a list of non-negotiables for what you absolutely must have. From there, you should have a secondary list of things that you’d like to have but could live without if everything else is perfect.
Additionally, you’ll be able to streamline your search process immensely by having some neighborhoods in mind of where you’d like to live.
If you’re new to Panama and know nothing about the different neighborhoods, definitely check out our neighborhood guides to help zero in on the parts of the city that appeal most to you.
While drafting up a description of your dream property is fun, it can be easy to get carried away. It’s also important to consider your budget during this process.
Most renters have an idea of what they can feasibly spend on rent in order to cover their other expenses. Typically, this amount is around one-third of your total income, but this can vary from person to person depending on a number of factors.
Be ready to tell your broker what your ideal budget is, and also what the absolute maximum you would be willing to pay for the perfect property.
The final factor your broker will want to take into account is logistics. Knowing when you would like to move in and how long you plan on renting for will help your broker narrow down some options.
Panama City offers a number of short and long-term rentals, some with flexible leases and some with more fixed ones.
The lease that is right for you will depend on how long you’re looking to stay in one place, whether or not you want a furnished apartment, and how much flexibility you require in terms of logistics.
View Properties When Renting Property In Panama
When it comes time to actually visit the properties your broker has found, there are some important tips to follow. Apart from your initial impressions and what you see in a property, also think about what you don’t see in that moment.
If you’re sensitive to noise, it’s worth paying attention to what’s going on around the building. If you’re looking at properties on a Saturday afternoon and there is a construction site next door, there’s a good chance that come Monday morning you’ll hear loud construction noises.
Or, the popular restaurant across the way may be closed at the moment, but do they open in the evenings and have live music or stay open late with a lot of people? These are important things to consider, even if they aren’t readily apparent during your visit.
It’s also a good idea to get a sense of the building itself. Are there a lot of owners or is it mostly renters? Having owners living in a building is good as they are more likely to pay attention to the condition of the building because they live there and care about their investment.
Securing a Property and Negotiation
Once you’ve found the perfect rental for you, it comes time to make it official. If you find out everything you can about the property, you’ll be better able to negotiate and make sure you get the best possible price for the rental.
Find out how long the property has been on the market, what your broker knows about the owner, and whether or not your broker has recently rented out anything else in the building.
By gathering as much information as possible you’ll be able to determine if it’s wise to attempt to negotiate the price. As a rule of thumb, rent is almost always negotiable in Panama.
If you’ve done your research and your broker is good, you can nearly always secure your property below the initial price that is advertised. And if your broker is REALLY good, you can get some other perks including grace periods, pre-negotiated extensions and a few other cost savings that can go a long way to bringing your net price down.
Unless you don’t care about paying more, you always want to offer below what an owner says is the bottom line price and begin negotiations from there.
Rental Application When Renting Property In Panama
Panama does not have a standardized rental application that is consistently used. That said, you may be required to provide proof of having a bank account or proof of having a job.
Some owners may ask for references or confirmation of your income, but this happens only on a case-by-case basis. Your rental broker will know if anything an owner asks for seems unusual or goes beyond what is typical.
Rental Agreement When Renting Property In Panama
Once you’ve secured your new apartment, you’ll need to sign a rental agreement. These documents can be long and overwhelming, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
The landlord is not obligated to provide you this document in English, so it’s important to have someone you trust who is bilingual look over the contract for you. This could be your broker or a trusted friend.
There are a few things in particular that you’ll want to confirm and address with the owner if you don’t see them mentioned in the rental agreement. For one, try to make sure that the water is included in your rent. Typically water is charged as part of the cost of the building, so most owners pay for this.
Additionally, take a look at any appliances that are in the unit. If they are all electrical appliances, then you don’t have the benefit of using gas to cook food, do laundry, etc. This means that at the end of each month, you’ll need to pay an electricity bill that can be anywhere from $30 – $50.
Finally, pay close attention to the building’s social area rules. For example, you might enjoy an evening swim, but perhaps they close the pool before you even get home from work.
If they have a gym, does it open early enough for you to go before work if you like to wake up early and workout. Sometimes these hours are included as a formality but are not actually enforced, so it’s important to find out what time these areas are actually available.
The Deposit and Paying Rent
Once you’ve signed your rental agreement, you’ll need to put down a deposit, usually with the property owner or manager.
Sometimes a deposit is placed with the Ministry of Living, but that is less common. It isn’t typical to provide a receipt for a deposit in Panama, but you’re more than welcome to ask for one if it makes you more comfortable.
Additionally, make sure you’ve confirmed with your landlord when your rent is due each month and how you should pay it as well as if there are any fees or penalties associated with paying late.
Renting is definitely a less complicated and stressful process than purchasing a property, but that doesn’t mean it’s fool-proof.
As long as you have a qualified broker on your side, a clear idea of what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend, you should have a fairly straightforward and pain-free rental process.
As always, this artcle is great. Although I’ve been privy to most of the info, it’s great to have it in one concise article. I plan to rent in the city within the next 12 months and look forward to working with Panama Equity.
Thank you Clyde! We’ll be ready when you are.
Good afternoon Kent, first of all I truly want to thank you for everything that you share with us weekly, we all learn so much from you and I enjoy reading everything you put here.
I have a question getting a Broker to help you find a rental place, does the Broker charges a fee or commission? and if so, who pays that? the renter or the owner.
Hi Carlos, thanks for taking the time to drop by our website! Typically, the owner of the property will pay the commission to the agent if the agent brings a tenant. So no need for you as a tenant to pay any commission. Hope that helps!
So, as a rule of thumb by how much should you hope to reduce a landlord from their initial offer? 20%? 30%? More? Clearly there are numerous variables but what would be a good number for which to aim?
Hi Andrew, you are right, it depends on a number of factors. I would want to get a sense of how long the property has been on the market, what if any offers the landlord might might have rejected in the past, how many other available units there are in the building, etc. Also, how you are perceived in his eyes is equally important: if you will be a quality tenant, when you are looking to move in by, etc. There are also components you can play with such as pre-paying the rent, move in date (tomorrow vs in 3 weeks), what you expect to be included (furniture, water, etc). There’s no hard and fast rule, really. Because if you go in too low, you run the risk of alienating the owner and may not get as low of a price as possible. And if you dont negotiate hard enough…you are overpaying 😉
Mr. Davis, I always find your articles/information VERY interesting and educational. PTY is my country but I have lived in USA for over 30 years; however, reading your articles keep me up to date.
I was wondering since the change of government what the effect of the new President and his cabinet will be on Real Estate. Voila, you provided us with a link. Thank You
How nice of you! Keep reading and tell a friend 🙂 Are you on the Panamanians in the Extranjero facebook group?
I will be moving to Panama very soon. Any info I can get will be appreciated. Thanks Rick!
Hey Rick, thanks for your inquiry. All set! I’ve got Ruben from our leasing department reaching out to you. Apologies for the delay, look forward to meeting you soon and helping you find that perfect rental property in Panama!
Hi mr Davis, I’m really considering moving to Panama however I think I want to be around other Americans not right in the middle of them .where do you think the best city to live in would be.
Hi Shirley, I think Pedasi or Coronado could be great places to look in to! If you want to be in Panama City, El Cangrejo or Bella Vista are great areas. And as far as “being in the middle of too many Americans,” you dont have anything to worry about. Unless you find yourself in the US Embassy 😉
Great info. Who normally pays for repairs and fixing things like leaky roof, AC not working, tenant or landlord? Looking to rent small cottage around Pedasi.
Hey Rob, generally it will be the landlord in the cases you described.