My real job: banish fear

When I launched late in September 2004, I had no clear idea of what I would do with it. I simply knew that something was needed to help those contemplating the same type of move I made a year earlier.

Now, several requests every month make the direction clear. My real job is to banish fear. A move to another country, perhaps with a language different from that of our native land, is fraught with fear, even if only a few months of each year are to be spent in the new land.

Whom can you trust? Where do you find the best advice? Will you get the service you expect? Yes, you know it's a different culture, but what are the new rules? Who can tell you? And who can tell you what to avoid? And if you're just coming for a quick exploratory visit, how can you avoid wasting time by going along the wrong paths?

Contemplating a move of such magnitude is exciting, but fraught with dangers you recognize, and ones you don't, but you know they must be there. So fear is a natural and sensible response.

My self-appointed job, as I told one correspondent, is to be a hub: to find trustworthy professionals who will do the job you expect, at a reasonable price, while providing excellent service. Wherever possible, I will negotiate lower prices. After all, I will potentially bring a significant number of new clients to these professionals.

Well, the initial part of the task is done, and here's what I have for those who are interested.

I had expected... talk a little this month about the area in which I now live: Volcan. But life had other things in mind. I have taken some pictures and done some research, but I ran out of time for writing. Next month?

Until then, happy reading.


New this month

Panamanian property tax:
the truth

Panamanian property tax creates much confusion among potential ex-pat property buyers. The reason: the English translation of Panamanian Laws #6 of June 1987, #18 of August 7 1989, and #15 of July 13 1992, available widely on the Internet and elsewhere.

The translation of Article 1.16 states: "A freeze on real estate taxes, as long as the home is in your name and is the only property you own." That, in a list of discounts available, sounds to most people as if there is no Panamanian property tax for pensionados.

Not true at all. Go here to get the real lowdown on property taxes in Panama. You could save a bundle if you hurry.

Real estate: Check owner's price before buying

It is not illegal in Panama for a real estate agent to pad the asking price of a property.

Selection of a real estate agent in Panama is not a task to be taken lightly. Some, according to one website, have been known to double the price the owner is asking, pocketing the extra amount plus their commission. I have heard many tales of this sort.

Ask to talk to the owner to make sure your real estate agent in Panama is on the level. Most are honest, hard-working business people, but there are bad apples in many barrels.

The owner has no reason to hide his or her asking price, but a few agents do. Click here to read the full story.

Panama Canal: connecting oceans at different levels

By shortening the route and reducing the cost of transportation between the two oceans, the Panama Canal allows for lower-cost imported goods and commodities in many part of the world. (It saves almost 8,000 miles on a trip from New York to San Francisco.) By eliminating for the majority of shipping the treacherous route around the tip of Argentina, it has no doubt saved countless lives and millions of dollars in lost vessels. However, it is estimated to have cost some 30,000 lives in the two attempts – French and American – to build it between 1880 and 1914.

Reducing the distance between the two oceans provides Panama with a major share of its gross domestic product. Some 13,500 ships transit the canal each year, almost 40 a day.

Not commonly known is the fact that the two oceans have different sea levels, and different levels of high tide. At the entrance to the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean can rise as much as 20 feet, but 45 miles away, the difference between high tide and low in the Atlantic is just three feet. Find more Canal facts here.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Your Panama Nuggets. Watch for the next issue on the first Saturday in June at 10 a.m. EST.