The Boquete bubble, will it burst?

Boquete, Panama, is unquestionably Panama's number one retirement destination. Prices have risen ten fold in the past few years and the questions arise as to how high prices will go and is there any sign that the "bubble" could burst?

When I first visited Boquete back in 1998 a modest house, in town, could be bought for under $40,000. Today that same house (with some upgrading and renovations) could cost from $180,000 to $350,000.

As little as two years ago rural land near town could be bought for 50 cents a square metre - today you would be lucky to get that same land for under $50.

A local realtor tells me that there are about 17 projects currently being developed. Will all these new houses and golf courses cause an oversupply and thereby a drop in prices? Some of these projects may well falter due to bad locations and under-funding - that is to be expected, but the overall trend seems to indicate even higher prices.

One developer I spoke to her, who didn't wish to be identified, said the initial lots they had for sale were priced at $50 a square metre. People obviously told them, "no one will pay that price." Well, people did pay that price and paid it very quickly - so much so that the developers stopped selling the remaining lots while they reevaluated their pricing.

Boquete's infrastructure is beginning to groan under this increasing expansion - power outages are now becoming frequent and the government plans to widen the road from David to four lanes to deal with increasing traffic.

The social infrastructure is doing very nicely thank you. My wife and I dined at the new MACHU PICHU restaurant. It was Thursday night and trade was brisk with table after table of ex-pats dropping by for a meal. My filet mignon steak was wonderful and the price of just $7.95 made me realize why the Machu Pichu is so busy.

We were staying with our friend Penny Ripple and she showed us her social calendar for that week. If you wanted to, there would be something to do in Boquete every single day. The next morning Penny took us to a great breakfast place, known locally as "Olga's." after an omelet and the best cup of coffee I have had in month's I realized why we, in the sister town of Volcan are always sniping at Boquete - it's a simple case of jealousy.

Another new, and wonderful place is the Zanzibar, jazz bar.This is a perfect place to round off an evening with an after dinner drink.I loved the fact that the Zanzibar served Guinness, arguablly one of the few "real" beers left in the world.

Sadly Boquete will soon be an enclave for the very wealthy. I hope its small town charm doesn't get lost behind the walls of its high-priced gated communities. These "cemeteries with golf courses" are not the place I would like to live, but that's me. hundreds of other people love it, so be prepared to see the Boquete bubble swell even further - possibly to twice its existing size.

David Dell

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