Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Double-edged Rainbow

Casas, casas, casas. Looking at them and thinking about them is mostly what we've been doing lately. We have been surprised and very happy with the combination of planning, coincidence and good timing that has broadened our network of connections here in Cerro Azul. Through the Internet (how, can anybody out there remind me, did we ever live without it??), we were fairly well-prepared to launch ourselves into the house-hunting project. We joined several yahoo group forums and combed through the archives and current posts for recommendations of real estate agents, lawyers, prices and warnings and such.

We already had a few friends here, mainly Carlos Bethancourt and Jose Soto (of Canopy Tower fame.) Once we were here in C.A., we (mostly Les) started talking to anyone and everyone we met. But I made a few contacts too, and remembered some people from our December trip when we just happened to see them up here. Panama is a small country, and everyone knows everyone, we keep hearing. It's turning out to be true. Word got around in the ex-pat community that we were hunting; from them we received tips on a few un-listed houses, and also leads on reliable contractors. We met gardeners, who connected us up with several houses for sale that were listed nowhere - not even a "se vende" sign on the fence. It really is who you know, not what you know.

Our real estate agent Yolanda, of Las Olas Properties, has been fantastically wonderful. She is a Woman of Action! On each trip up to C.A. to show us houses, she has brought along her husband Sergio. They are a great team - he offers pertinent observations and advice as we walk through the houses and around the lots. On Saturday, August 15th, Yolanda brought Sergio and her two children, Fernando and Sophia, all pictured here.

So today (August 16), after the early-morning fog lifted, and after he had fed the birds their breakfast bananas, Les pointed out a rainbow. He said it was a good omen, since we were to look at a couple more houses with Yolanda this afternoon.

We already had 3 favorites amongst the houses we had been inside, but felt we should view a few more before deciding on one. Today we looked at one more - the habitat was beyond wonderful - nary a pine tree on the lot. It was the only lot we have looked at that had nothing but native trees. We saw our lifer Scarlet-thighed Dacnis there a couple weeks ago, and Yolanda had contacted the owner, who sent his gardener over to open the place up for us. Every time Les and I went there (about 5 times since the Scarlet-thighed discovery), great birds were around - Violaceous Trogon, Masked Tityra, Streaked Flycatchers, Buff-throated Saltators, hordes of tanagers and honeycreepers. The house has a nice paint job on the outside, but heavy drapes over all the windows, so we had no idea about the inside. Today we gained access, and it was awful. Dank and dark upstairs - three rooms full of who-knows-what, since there were blankets and comforters covering the head-high stacks of whatever. On the main level was a tiny and sad-looking little kitchenette and living space, dark and in poor condition. We also heard through friends that residents in this area (the Frente district of C.A.) had not been able to obtain phone service, despite months of attempts. That's a deal-breaker for us - we must have our Internet.

Then we went back to what we have been calling Casa Roca (the Rock House.) We really like it. Rock walls, mucho character and personality, a lot of potential. But it would need a lot of work. No hot water in the bathrooms except the on-demand hot water in the showers, unknown if there is hot water in the kitchen, probably would need electrical re-habbing, bathroom on the main level needs to be completely redone. Could we endure the construction and rehab? We're not sure.

As we were leaving Casa Roca, Arturo, the gardener for Casa Roca, came along and told us that he had yet another house to show us, but not until Monday the 17th. From the outside, it looked clean and well-maintained, in great condition, and other than the bright orange paint job (popular up here in C.A.) we liked the looks of it. We will report on it later. He also showed us another FSBO (for sale by owner) home, which was in the most perfect condition we have yet observed. No mold, no peeling paint, no bugs anywhere inside, completely finished ceilings, tasteful wall colors and tiles, beautiful inside and out, perfect move-in condition. But it was surrounded too closely by large, somewhat ostentatious homes, some with indoor dogs that barked a lot, and we felt closed in when we were outside. The lot was kind of small, so there was no buffer zone. We want to have windows and doors open so we can enjoy our yard and the birds and the sounds - this perfect house was probably not for us.

A couple days ago we thought our top three choices were #1- Casa Roca; #2- a little orange house (Casa Naranja #1) on a mostly pines lot in move-in condition but nothing exciting; and #3- one we call Casa Termita (saw a few termite trails on the outside of the walls - but the habitat on the lot was great and the house was cute.) Now we had to think about #4- the Perfect House that we'd all but rejected, but it was within our price range and so perfect, and #5- the potentially great Casa Naranja #2 that we had not been inside. Decisions usually come easy for us - the right choice is so obvious. But now we have almost too many choices - any one of them could be the right one.


1 comment:

  1. Cindy and Marco,

    No matter what, I enjoyed your company and love to know people that loves nature as you are.

    What a coincidence, totally surrealistic, to see you back in Panama City sitting in the same restaurant, it was a nice surprise and gave me a chance to say good bye.

    Hope to see you on your next trip back to Panama.Lots of kisses and big hugs from Sergio, Fernando and Sofia.

    See you soon,