Investing in and around Panama City has tended to be a game of the masses. Not unlike any developing market, one industry, in this case real estate, took the lead around 2005 and captured the attention of locals and foreigners alike, overtimes overshadowing other niche markets. But as trends like investing in Punta Pacifica condos waxes and waned, so too did their value and ultimate ROI. Wake up and smell the alternatives people! Instead of looking to “the crowd” for investment advice, take the lead from several insider investment groups we canvassed for this report. These less-known areas within distance of Panama City have major promise.
1. Arraijan: We’re trying to stay away from traditional real estate projects here, but here’s a right-in-front-of-your-nose investment opportunity that most people ignore, but one which insiders have been banking off for years. It ain’t glamorous. It ain’t sexy. It’s low-income housing developments. We started advocating these projects around four years ago and since then, the market has grown at a super-healthy rate according to insiders. In addition to land in Panama’s suburban regions like Arraijan being inexpensive, insider developers love the fact that the government offers up 0%, 30-year loans to its nationals. When luxury developments aimed at gringos seem to be floundering, low-income projects in Panama City’s suburbs are motoring right along.
2. Tocumen: No matter what direction you believe Panama should take in terms of tourism and development, one thing is clear: its location has (and always will be) it’s biggest asset. Tocumen International Airport is the nucleus, both literally and figuratively, of the Panama power hub. Investing in Tocumen plays perfectly into the hands of large several demographics: shipping, transportation, logistics, multi-national corporations, the large Panamanian middle class currently living there, call centers…etc. The newly minted Metro Mall (estimated $100M) completed by Grupo Roble, a savvy division of Grupo Poma from El Salvador, is a perfect example of getting in ahead of the curve. If Panama continues to promote itself as a shopping hub, the Tocumen region makes for the obvious stop-over-and-shop for international travelers passing through.
3. Darien: Investing in the Darien is, to most people, not unlike trying to navigate its jungled terrain: everyone’s pretty much in the dark. But what’s inarguably Panama’s most mysterious and anonymous region is also one of its biggest potential winners. It doesn’t really count as Panama City, but it also probably wouldn’t fit in any other category we could come up with. Oil and other (valuable) natural resources in the Darien are pending exploitation by the government and there’s the consistent buzz of a road to be cut in the direction of Colombia. While its naïve to invest in rumors, developing this one swatch of terrain connecting two continents is ultimately inevitable. Various large law Panamanian firms have been spotted bidding on land in the Darien region. This is not an immediate investment return however: development in the region is at least several years from commencement.
4. El Chorillo: It’s never been a secret that the El Chorrillo region – the famed ghetto of gunfights, gang-houses, Carcel Modelo and Noriega’s Commandancia – is the last real remaining waterfront neighborhood in Panama City. With new government plans to plug up the cornered bay of Chorillo with landfill that’d make way for a marina/convention center, the land in and around El Chorillo emerges extremely valuable. Of course, it’s plagued with the challenges of poverty, crime, and ultimate relocation of housing tenants. But that’s not stopping big money right now: if shiny Toyota Prado caravans with men in suits stopped on the corners of El Chorillo aren’t enough to convince you, check out the secret development video leaked about a month ago (http://youtu.be/wLRxC_iptkU). If anyone’s looking to cash in on insider investment secrets, this one’s about as palpable as they get.