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If you’ve made the decision to emigrate, congratulations! You are right at the beginning of an incredible adventure. All that stands between you and a truly life changing experience is some careful planning and consideration.

Investing in real estate is a big challenge wherever you do it. If you choose to do it in Latin America, it’s even more so! There will be a lot of financial issues for you to overcome, a lot of paperwork hurdles to jump through, and a lot of difficult decisions to make. But here’s one thing we know: try to avoid these 8 common expat mistakes and it will all be worth it in the end.

Before you can start seriously looking at property, you need to determine where you’re going to look and what you’re hoping to find. This decision is important, as it will enable you to do two things;

  1. Narrow down your search radius
  2. Research the buying process in your chosen area

The second point is particularly important, as processes do differ from area to area and country to country. The best way for you to buy expat real estate in Santa Fe, Panama might be completely different than the best way for you to buy it in Antigua, Guatemala.

At this point it would be very wise to consider not just where you’re going to live, but also how.

Broadly speaking, there are three different ways to live as an expat. Which of these three lifestyles you choose will affect what kind of real estate you have the means to invest in. This can be a big, tricky decision. Making it early on will help to make your emigration process smoother.

What Choices Do Expats Need To Make?

People dream about moving to a Latin American country like Panama for many different reasons. You might dream about the exotic lifestyle of Santa Fe or Panama City. You might yearn for the quiet, rural peace of Boquete. You might fantasize about spending your retirement in the luxury community of Coronado.

Many would-be expats imagine that the cost of living in a country like Panama will be significantly less than at home. Though this is true to an extent, there are still many costs to consider. Latin Americans don’t live on air, and you need to bear in mind that if you are hoping to work here, your earning potential is likely to be very different than it would be elsewhere.

In it’s most basic terms, the choice you need to make as an expat is where you are going to spend your money. Expats tend to travel a lot more than other people: both around their new home and visiting family and friends in their old one. It’s important to remember that the more of your resources you spend on real estate, the less flexibility you’ll have when it comes to having the money to travel.

As an expat, you’re going to need to decide which aspect of your lifestyle is most important.

Expat Type One - The Luxury Home Owner

Expat Type 1

If you view your home as your castle, you might want your new Latin American real estate to reflect this. After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your new place, and you might want it to be of similar or better quality than the home you’re leaving behind. If this is the case, it’s likely that you’ll want to set a bigger chunk of money aside to make your dream a reality.

When your home base is the most important thing, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve done a lot of research to find the location and real estate type that’s right for you. Perhaps a beauty spot on the coast, or a townhouse within walking distance of city facilities. Take your time hunting for your dream home: if this is where you decide to spend your money you’re likely to be limited in the amount of time you can spend traveling away from it!

Expat Type Two - The Traveler

Expat type 2

If you’ve decided to move to Latin America in order to expand your horizons and see more of the world, where you’re based might not be as important to you. In these cases, it can be a wise move to spend as little as possible on your new home. Real estate can be picked up very cheaply in this part of the world, as long as you’re open minded about it!

You may end up buying a piece of real estate that’s much smaller and more basic that what you’re used to, but there is a plus side. You’ll have a new and exciting country right on your doorstep, and if you’re ‘the traveler’ expat, that’s going to be far more important to you.

When you’ve got less money tied up in real estate, you’ll have more resources to spend time and money traveling through Panama and the surrounding countries like Costa Rica, Colombia and Venezuela. More money in the budget for traveling also means that you’ll be able to take regular trips to visit family and friends. Many expats consider this a necessity.

Expat Type Three - The All Rounder

Expat Type 3

Of course, you may be lucky enough to not need to worry about prioritizing travel over real estate or vice versa . Perhaps you’re retiring from a high profile career, or are going to be able to work remotely from your new base. Either way, if you’re going to be an ‘all rounder’ type of expat, you’re going to need to have a strong funding source!

The ‘all rounder’ expat lifestyle means that you’re planning to invest in high quality real estate and still have money left over to travel frequently, both around your new adopted country and back home to visit friends and family. This is a dream situation, but most expats will need to make at least a few compromises along the way.

Things Expats need to Remember

The expat lifestyle might sound like a dream: but there are still many real life decisions and compromises to consider. Wherever you are in the world, it’s important to juggle the parts of your lifestyle that are most important to you against those that aren’t.

Sadly, a new life in Latin America doesn’t mean that you can drop budget considerations altogether, but with a few choice decisions you can give yourself the freedom to prioritize the lifestyle that is most important to you.

If you’re finding the process difficult, there is help on hand! There are professionals based in Latin America who are able to support you through the emigration process. These companies work to help you find your ideal property and assist you to streamline the visa process, arrange importation and make sure all the legal angles are covered.