Retirement from Canada to Panama Part 2

We contacted the real estate agent that gave us the tour the first time we were in Panama and told him we were coming back to buy. We set up an appointment to have dinner our first night in town and he made an appointment with a local lawyer for us. Unfortunately we missed our connecting flight into Panama because our plane was delayed. It was a mad rush when we landed the next day to get our rental car and get on the road. We had appointments to keep the following day and we were still in the city five hours away. We decided not to try to drive all the way but stopped in Coronado about an hour outside the city.

The next day we traveled the remaining distance and met with the real estate agent. Keep in mind that Panama has no MLS system and real estate agents do not need licenses. There are very few exclusive listing agreements for the sale of homes. The same home can be listed by multiple agents for different prices. The home owner also may decide to sell their own home despite having an agreement one or more agents. The agent we used had come with several word of mouth recommendations
from people we met the first time we visited.

A few of the homes that we visited originally were still listed for sale. We went back and revisited three of them. My husband had taken several pictures the first time we were in the homes, something that we highly recommend even when buying a house in your own country. We were fortunate that the renters in two of the houses were home. We asked their opinion on several of the deficiencies that we saw in our pictures and we received honest answers. The fourth home we saw was still under construction but close to completion. Immediately we decided that it was the one for us. We’d have a new home without the hassle of building and the finishes could be completed within our schedule. Our agent told us to think about it overnight and the next day with our minds still unchanged we made an offer and started the paperwork.

We had to pay a 10% down payment on the house and agreed to a further two payments of the balance remaining on the agreed to dates in the contract. As soon as we agreed that we were going to buy the house we were asked if we wanted the keys, something that we weren’t used to so we were quite surprised. We decided to leave all the keys in Panama with the builder.

The Residency Process

Anyone applying for residency must by law use a Panamanian immigration lawyer to shepherd you through the immigration process. We used the same lawyer in our new community for our real estate transaction and our immigration. Our lawyer in town took all our documents and forwarded them to her associate in the city who assisted us through the process. Our local abogada was quite pleased at the thoroughness of the documents that we presented. Here is where spending the money to have an expert help us paid off. We returned to the city to begin our residency process.

The abogada in the city was very efficient in shepherding us through the immigration process and everything went very smoothly. We were required to have pictures taken offsite from the immigration office for our file and fill out a multitude of forms and get a doctors certificate. She spent time with us in the immigration office waiting with us for our number to be called. I can only equate the immigration office to something like a walk in medical clinic in Canada. So many people crammed into one spot all waiting for hours on end.

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  1. Karen…
    What a great blog!
    You and your husband are a few years ahead of my wife and I who are looking at Panama and a few other location in Europe in about 5-6 years from now.

    I think my question may be more directed at your husband than at you as it is pension based and our careers have similar pension plans.

    I will be ending my career with the RCMP in about 5 years which will give me 32 + and am interested in taxation on our pension plans for non residents.

    Are your pension payments direct deposited into an account at destination and if so, in what currency and how significant is the exchange on the bottom line.

    The current global financial environment is a little difficult to navigate… if the pension is exchanged at the US exchange rate, 5% is manageable…I don’t expect to see things go back to what they were in the 70’s and 80’s at 25% … but who knows.
    We are also looking at Spain and Portugal but the Euro exchange is currently in the 30% ballpark … not great.

    I know its all relative if the cost of living is such that the exchange rate can be absorbed… but I am looking for input from someone who is living it!

    I hope I’m not asking to much.
    Thanks in advance

  2. Hi there I’m 33 years old and work for peel. I have two small kids and a husband.

    Were really tired of the winter weather here in Canada and always dreamed of living a different lifestyle than we are now. We have just started looking into panama and are very interested. My questions are work wise and kids. Since I work for peel police, do I have any benefit regards to finding a job with police? And is it a safe a good place for kids? Are there a lot of Canadians living there and is the process for moving to panama difficult??

    Thank you
    Silva and David.

  3. I too am looking at Panama for when i retire in 6 years…I’ll have a 35 year gov’t pension. I am more curious as to the actual cost of living, for a foreigner, in Panama. I realize it can vary depending on situations and life styles but was more looking for a ball park of monthly expenses and how you handle health care…thank you.

  4. Suzanne Dodge

    May 22, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks soo much for sharing this info. We’re making the plunge next time is ticking very fast. Bet you’re glad you followed your heart now? I’m so excited can hardly wait…

    Thanks again…

  5. Thank you all for your comments.

    I’ve added some new information on my blog regarding “how to’s” and documentation for the Pensionado Visa.

  6. Hi Karen,

    Love your blog. We’re heading to Panama Aug.29 to do the exact same thing. We have plans to check out all the same areas as you did along with the David area and Boca Chica. We’re there for 2wks so will probably only spend a day in Panama City. I want to see the Canal.

    I know everyone says to rent first but I doubt we’ll do that as I don’t want to use funds for rent. Will just have to make sure of the area and the climate.

    So where did you finally end up and are you still happy with your choice?
    Thanks for all the info. It’s been great hearing your story.

    We’re also from Vancouver.

  7. Any info at all about processes involved to move to panama from Canada thank you

  8. I’m aCanadian but a permanent alien resident in US am retired and would like to know could one live on 4000.00 a mo.?how much approx would the move take in money?

  9. Dear ann.chalmers:

    My spouse and I live quite comfortably on less and I know others who live on even less than we do. But of course it all depends on what kind of lifestyle you choose to live and/or maintain.

  10. Is 3300 per month enough ?

  11. What is the final total, fees, etc. To get your residents papers for living
    in Panama. Also on average, what would all the living costs be, rent (we do not want to buy) groceries, entertainment, etc.
    Thanks so much for your time and response
    Michelle Loyer
    Wellington Ontario Canada

  12. Hi Karen,
    Appreciate very much your website. Thanks for sharing your information.
    I will move as a ‘pensionado’ to Panama soon. I will get my ‘carné’ 8th january 2015 then I will decide when and where to move, but:
    “…The rules and laws change so often in Panama and I don’t want to mislead anyone. One thing we did find out was that we were not permitted to bring a vehicle into the country duty-free anymore. Some of the information that we had was out of date…”
    Karen, who gave you this information?
    If I have to pay 18% duty on my 30’000$ car I will change my mind and sell it here in Europe.Could you tell me the office or person who decides this? Kind regards

  13. Great story. i am looking to do the same. I have friends from my airforce years in chile that live in Panama. wouldL;ike to be able to chat with you guys on skype if posible.
    email me if posible

  14. Daniel Larocque

    July 16, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Hi, my wife and I are seriously planning on retiring in Panama. We are looking to rent instead of buying. Could anyone give me some prices on renting a condo unit. Also the Canadian dollar is low compare to the Panama currency.

  15. Hello Daniel:

    Your question is a little too broad, prices will vary depending on where you want to live. I suggest you begin with this Facebook page. You can peruse costs around the country and ask your question from people who will be only too happy to assist you.

  16. Charmane Brunelle

    August 26, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Hey Karen,

    Great to see you and Eric are doing well. Marc and I are planning a trip to Panama next year. Our five year plan is to move to South America with the two youngest, Panama being our first choice. We will let you know when we plan our trip so we can meet up if you guys are available. Say hi to Eric for us.

  17. Hi, very interesting and info worthy blog, thank you.
    I am a single pensioner, living in Ontario, who is wishing to move to the Panama soon.
    Do you have any suggestions of places to live?
    And any other advice…

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