Jean-Francois Leroy is another veteran of Miami real estate who has turned his attention to Panama. As prices skidded in Miami, he helped buy more than 100 properties for companies he worked for in France and Switzerland. Most were foreclosures that were fixed up, rented and will be held until they can be sold for a nice profit.
But by September 2011, he concluded that “most of the good deals were gone’’ in Miami, and began prospecting for new opportunities.
Panama, he said, was attractive because “the economy is booming, the banks are lending, and the canal expansion is generating a lot of interest.’’
Now he and a French partner are working on the development of two oceanfront gated communities about 40 minutes from David in Panama’s Chiriquí province. Both in Playa Bejuco, the first features 40 lots where two- to four-bedroom homes (1,000 to 2,000 square feet) will be built and the second is an “eco lodge’’ concept that will feature elevated “tree houses’’ nestled among large trees where monkeys swing.
O.R.E. Consulting Group plans to begin marketing the Playa Bejuco communities early next year after models are completed —and the target markets are the United States, Canada and Europe. D.R.E.A.M. LLC is the South Florida marketer for the projects.
Leroy said the Playa Bejuco development will be affordable. “In 2007, Americans were buying $300,000 lots and putting $400,000 second homes on them,’’ he said. “That doesn’t reflect today’s market at all. We’ve kept human dimensions, reflecting current economic conditions.’’
He said prices for lots that are a three-to-five minute walk to the sandy beach will begin at $45,000. Leroy is still working on pricing but said he expects a lot built with one of the smaller home models will cost about $145,000.
Amenities will include horseback riding and trails for biking.
Among the selling points, he said, is that Panamanian banks will offer mortgages to foreigners with a 30 percent down payment at rates of about 6.5 percent.
There was no shortage of glossy brochures for beach communities at the CAPAC: Habitat Expo, held at Panama City’s Atlapa Convention Center in September. They touted everything from 18-hole golf courses to lifestyle communities to direct beach access to a $5,000 credit on a dune buggy with a purchase in Coronado.
But projects aimed at the local market were getting the most traffic. “There isa lot of demand for medium-class properties and it is mostly locals who are buying,’’ said Sanclemente.
And by 2014, she expects the luxury market will be stable as well, and “prices will be going up in a normal way.’’