Foreign Buyers Are Finally Cooling On America’s Overheated Housing Market. That’s Great News For Panamá

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The Covid subsequently upended where and how people wanted to live and work, which became a story in itself (and still is).

But day to day, no one’s really paying attention to U.S. housing market fundamentals the way they are to dips in the Dow or spikes in the S&P.

Despite being 17% of U.S. gross domestic product few people pay attention to how the needle moves on

–was making the rounds all over the news. It also lit up angsty chats on LinkedIn, Reddit, and social media about the uncertain future of America’s housing market.On face value, the facts in the NAR report are unremarkable.For example, foreign buyers residing in the U.S. purchased $23.4 billion of existing homes from April 2022 through March 2023, a 31.4% decrease from the prior year–a trend NAR economists attribute to stiff prices, higher borrowing costs, a strong dollar, and historically low inventory. The This But it’s the lowest percentage since NAR began tracking foreign real estate purchases back in 2009, representing a 14.2% decrease from 2022.

South Florida was the most desirable location for foreign investors to purchase U.S. real estate in

2022-2023gettyOther data in NAR’s report were dryly demographic.Chinese nationals, for instance, remained U.S. real estate’s most active buyers– averaging $1.23 million per closed deal and accounting for over 25% of all sales by dollar volume ($13.6 billion). Canada scored second in this category at $6.6 billion, followed by Mexico ($4.2 billion), India ($3.4 billion) and Colombia ($900 million).Geographically, Florida attracted the most foreign real estate investment at 23%, followed by California and Texas (12% each), and North Carolina, Arizona, and Illinois (4% each). No surprise here either.Warm weather, mountains and beaches, and a world-class gastronomy, nightclub, and culture scene has

traditionally made California and Los Angeles specifically a favorite location for foreign real estate investors

Second, if foreigners

really are

starting to fall out of love with the American real estate dream, there inevitably will be consequences for U.S. housing.

Hamptons in Long Island outside of New York City as well as Miami and Los Angeles

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Nestled within the NAR report was also a third inferred conclusion which is arguably the most significant.

America has long taken its global real estate preeminence for granted. With a carefully governed banking system, a deep history of private property rights, great beaches and mountains, political stability, rich traditions, an entrepreneurial culture, and a central, easily accessible location in the world, what’s not to like?Ultimately, however, people invest in visions and places and things that they have confidence in. If What If But could it actually be plausible that real estate’s global centers of gravity are shifting slightly more permanently away from the U.S. to other countries, climates, and economic epicenters?If foreign buyers retreat from American real estate long-term there will be inevitable consequences

for the U.S. housing market (Historic brownstone townhomes in the landmark Beacon Hill district of Boston Massachusetts)

Philip J. Spiegelman has sold more than $20 billion of international real estate over 40 years in

business

Courtesy of Matthew Spiegelman

So, when it comes to international buyers, Spiegelman has seen almost everything there is to see. He’s also one of the few people in the real estate business best equipped to prognosticate on the NAR report.

foreign buyers are cooling on U.S. real estate, says Spiegelman, is

where

all of that money will be reallocated to instead.

about as a place to live, start a business, or invest

like Miami and Los Angeles, especially when it comes to the quality of lifestyle that it offers. Panama The The It And you’d be just as likely to bump into a global CEO or billionaire at a low-key BBQ joint in Casco Antiguo or Costa del Este as you would be at Nobu in Beverly Hills or Midtown Manhattan.Unlike Miami and Los Angeles, however, Panama as a country doesn’t get ravaged by wildfires or droughts or take direct hits from Category 5 hurricanes since its lies south of the Caribbean storm belt.Panama City’s skyline rivals the world’s most architectural significant and prosperous cities like Miami, Singapore, or Dubai

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Panama City’s skyline and architecture looks a lot like Miami and Los Angeles as well, precipitating a centrifugal design force that is only beginning to be recognized by the global real estate investment community.

“While Panama City’s skyline is impressive, it’s been comfortable for a long time with the economic cushion that the Panama Canal and the international banking industry provide,” says Annamaria Zampogna, Principal Designer at the Panamanian architecture firm, Forza Creativa, and a graduate of the University of Miami School of Architecture. Along with her partner Eduardo Quintero who trained under the legendary Cesar Pelli, Zampogna has designed some of the most notable and iconic projects both in Panama and Latin America, including winning the highest prize awarded for architecture by the SPIA (Architecture and Engineering Society of Panama) in 2022 for their building “Allegra”.

On a causeway less than a mile from downtown, for example, sprawls the Biomuseo, a curving, multi-colored, platelet-like Frank Gehry design that houses Panama’s science museum celebrating the country’s world-renowned biodiversity, ecology, and sustainability efforts. The It’s the kind of skyline-defining architecture that you can’t unsee once you do.

Then there are Panama City’s recently developed luxury residential towers, many of which have been conceived in collaboration with some of the world’s leading style icons, like famed French designer Phillipe Starck who was the creative director and driving force behind the Arts Tower on Balboa Boulevard downtown.The Sky Lounge at Wanders & Yoo by world-renowned Dutch design icon Marcel Wanders connects the

development’s two towers and features unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean and Panama City’s skyline and rivals any amenity in Miami or Los Angeles

University of Miami and along with her partner Eduardo Quintero was awarded the highest prize in Panama for works of architecture called the ‘Premio Magno’ by the SPIA (Architecture and Engineering Society of Panama) in 2022 for their building “Allegra”

Courtesy of Franco Assenza/Forza Creativa

“Our dedication to fashion, fine art, and design excellence is really what allows us to compete in the global real estate market,” Attie explains of Panama’s real estate aspirations. The But the main reason foreign buyers invest here is that they discover Yoo by Starck or Wanders & Yoo together with all of the benefits of Panama and realize that it’s a perfect location to live and work and run a business in Latin America with access to the global stage.”

The interior design, finishes, furnishings, and artwork in Panama City rival anything in Miami, Los

Better penthouse view. One quarter the price

Courtesy of Tirone Garcia/Forza Creativa

Panama’s present and future is predicated on a well-thought out mix of balancing old with new

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All of which makes Panama an exception among nations.

Panama’s real estate market is also stable and appreciating, making it an attractive place to invest when other hotspots start to cool.

“Florida for years has been the main object of desire for offshore prospects,” says IGR Panama’s Spiegelman. The weather and low taxes were the main draws. At the time, entry costs were low. The pandemic changed the demographics of the United States and caused higher prices. You can combine these factors with higher prices for construction materials and hurricane insurance to create a perfect storm that will cool down the American market. Consider the alternatives. Countries like Panama can meet most, if not all, of these requirements. The country has just done a poor job of marketing itself, though that’s quickly changing at all levels and in both the public and private sectors.”

on the same day

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Denise Guillen, Panama’s new Minister of Tourism who could arguably be biased, doesn’t disagree. From a marketing standpoint, countries are really no different than technology companies or a food truck start-up; it’s only the scale that changes.

“Most visitors who come to Panama for the first time are especially surprised by the incredibly rich biodiversity that we have to offer; yet, still with excellent connectivity and proximity to metropolitan centers,” Guillen tells me. We are lucky to be surrounded by rainforests, beautiful coastlines and national parks that offer a wide range of activities to visitors. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has been in Panama for more than 100 years. A visitor can have an adventure–hiking trails, observing wildlife, taking beautiful photos all day at the Soberania National Park for example–and then get back to a marvelously restored 5-star hotel in Panama City to freshen-up in time for an amazing gourmet dinner surrounded by architectural masterpieces.”

Attention all scuba divers: Yes Panama has thriving sea life underwater including schools of

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This level of culture and biodiversity so close to a sophisticated urban area is not a minor natural asset–especially when it comes competing with other countries like Costa Rica, Portugal, and Thailand for the coming wave of Babyboomers retiring south and bringing their money with them.“Historically, we have attracted expats, retirees and investors alike, and Panama has welcomed them as our very own,” continues Guillen, “But not with the same intent and focus as we’re doing now. This is a great thing because people who come to Panama to live love it so much they want to continue helping to develop tourism and their communities. They eventually become Panamanos and enjoy all that Panama has to provide. Panama’s reputation will continue to grow globally, which will better position us as a retirement and real estate investment destination. As Panama’s reputation continues to grow globally, that will better position us as a retirement and real estate investment destination.”Panama is the “land bridge” that connects North and South America between Costa Rica to the north

Another reason U.S. real estate’s temporary loss could be Panama’s gain is location, location, location. Panama has one of the most central locations in the world. Panama City’s Tocumen Airport is accessible via dozens of two-step flights that originate in Asia and Africa, through Los Angeles, Mexico City, Frankfurt, Germany, Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From Asia and Africa, dozens of two-step flights arrive into Panama City’s Tocumen Airport through Los Angeles, Mexico City, Frankfurt, Germany, and Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Not surprisingly, Panama is frequently referred to as the “Switzerland” of Latin America in the same way Dubai is to the Middle East, and currently supports global operations for more than 189 multinational corporations including Procter & Gamble, Heineken, Caterpillar, BMW, and steel giant ArcelorMittal.

For U.S. real estate it’s hard to say. There’s good reason to believe that foreign buyers won’t buy in the U.S. until the housing market stabilizes and borrowing costs drop. Panama has not done much to raise its international profile and promote itself. This is why the country is still a secret. This is changing as more and more information becomes available. People are considering all options and alternatives in a world that is undergoing turmoil. Panama is now the right time to invest in Panama because of its climate, culture and banking and finance.