(International Living) In Panama’s Veraguas Province, Santa Fe looks exactly as a Central American village should. After the modern skyline of Panama City—a shock if you were expecting to encounter the Third World—Santa Fe is a relief. The “real” Panama. Ah, yes, here it is.
And here, it exists in its most exemplary form. The prettiest mountain views and the most welcoming people. The “best-of-both-worlds” climate…tropical, but cooled by spring-like breezes year-round. And the best-value real estate you’ll find in any mountain community in Panama.
One large house is for sale about 10 minutes from the village center (as the village consists of one main strip, most everything is outside the center). It’s a large house but in need of renovation…a diamond in the rough. The construction is almost complete, with four bedrooms, living room, and kitchen laid out… but needs finishing. At an asking price of just $45,000, an additional $10,000 or $20,000 to make the changes you want still makes for a great deal. The lot is over 11,000 square feet and enjoys spectacular mountain views.
Santa Fe used to be the kind of place where building or undertaking major renovations were the only options for expat homeowners. Panamanian-style homes here typically consist of tiny bedrooms (room for a twin bed and little else), a single bathroom, and closed kitchens.
Many of them are A-frames that could almost be made of gingerbread. Little matchbox cabins completely obscured by fuchsia bougainvillea. Some sport sections made of what I thought was bamboo, but turns out to be a type of white cane. There may be chinks in the cane sections…with the humidity and natural setting, a bit of extra air flow is considered desirable here.
Over the past 10 years, Santa Fe has grown just enough that the real estate landscape has started to change. Now, a handful of resale homes are available for sale and most are move-in ready.
A fully-remodeled house on a nearly 1.5-acre lot in the El Alto neighborhood is one example. This area is mostly locals and well-to-do Panamanians who live in “the city” (Santiago, about 90 minutes away). The 1,200-square-foot home is very private and has 360-degree views of the mountains. It has two bedrooms, two baths, and a large terrace. Price: $95,000.
At a tiny development, just on the Santa María River, I saw a nearly completed home. Its “backyard” is the river and its banks…one of the most soothing wooded settings one could possibly have. The two bedrooms and two bathrooms are spacious (the whole house is about 1,400 square feet). The lot is about 2,600 square feet. Asking price: $175,000.