[Continued from previous post]
In Panama, real estate transactions are handled by attorneys, not realtors. After numerous trips to the office of the attorney who was handling the sale of the condo we were buying, and much paperwork, we finally closed the deal. We moved into our new condo on Aug 9th. It was the shortest move we've ever made, since our rental condo was in the building next door. Of course, both condos were upstairs, so we felt like we were on the StairMaster all day. We were very excited to own our own little piece of Panama. The picture above shows the outside of the condo building.
About this same time, our house in Maui went on the market.
Although our new condo was completely furnished, Tina envisioned a complete makeover. This started just about as soon as the last box was moved in. We started selling off furniture and other household items, which turned out to be fortunate, from a timing aspect.
August is during the rainy season in Panama. This means beautiful, sunny mornings and, typically, moderate to heavy rain in the afternoons. About 2 weeks after we moved in, we came back into our condo in the afternoon to find water streaming out of one of the ceiling fans in the living room. Obviously, there was a pretty serious roof leak. You can see the irony here, since we operated a water damage restoration business for 6+ years in Maui. Long story short, it took about 2-3 weeks to get the problem identified and fixed - after several attempts at repair (and several more major leaks). As I mentioned, it was fortunate timing that we had sold off the furniture in the living room, so there was no damage to any of our contents. About the only new furniture we had purchased was a TV, since the previous owners didn't have one.
Although the leak had been fixed, there was still the damage to the ceiling to be repaired. Because the water damage had been so extensive, the entire living room ceiling had to come out, along with part of the master bedroom (the bedroom door is at the back, on the right, in the picture above). This was a huge mess and the "3 day job" took about 2 weeks. Drywall dust was everywhere in the condo, despite the contractor putting up plastic containment. Yep, no fun being on the receiving side of water damage restoration.
Everything finally got put back together, cleaned up, painted, etc. The contractor did a good job and it all looked good as new - maybe better than before the damage. It was late September before the condo was ready to move ahead with Tina's makeover.
During the same time we were working on buying the Panama condo, selling the Maui house, moving, and dealing with the water damage situation, we were also working on getting our Panama residency. This is an incredibly complicated process which, apparently, only Panamanian lawyers understand - and not all of them understand it the same. We hired an attorney used by many other Gringos (that's not used as a derogatory term here) to take us through the process. She knows her stuff and was easy to work with. She's also quite a character. If you are picturing a female attorney in your head, I guarantee she's not anything like your picture. We started the residency process in June.
There are many advantages to having residency - probably the biggest being that you don't have to do a "border run" every 90 days. A border run is where you leave the country and return, so your tourist visa gets renewed. Once you have residency, you can stay as long as you want.
After jumping through hoops for about 3 months, Tina and I got our "temporary-permanent" residency cards on Sept 11th. We were so excited! They look similar to a drivers license. This temporary card is good for one year and allows you to stay in the country while the Immigration Dept processes our paperwork for a permanent residency visa.
Once we had our residency card, we wanted (and needed) to get our Panama drivers license. Once you have residency, the authorities expect you to have a Panama DL as well. A foreign drivers license is only good for 90 days. On the day we got our residency cards, we immediately went to the Panama equivalent of the DMV (just a couple of doors down) and acquired our licenses in just a couple of hours. Easy peasy! Now we started to feel very "official". No longer touristas!
The residency process was far from over but this was an exciting milestone.
The other exciting news we got in September (the 22nd, to be exact) was an offer on our Maui house. It came in low but we were able to negotiate up to a deal we felt was reasonable. We opened escrow and began THAT process, eager to get our last major US responsibility off our plate.