When we came to Las Tablas, Panama, we had sold all our household goods. Because the real estate market was still terrible, we opted to rent out our Florida house.
A year later, the market had picked up and it seemed like a good time to sell. So we put the house on the market and within 10 days we had multiple offers. We accepted the one that looked the best.
Fast forward through the normal sales process. . . lots of papers to sign, inspections, appraisals, etc.
Of course, the buyers are in Florida, USA and we’re in a small town in Panama, 4-1/2 hours away from Panama City.
Fortunately, we were able to sign all the initial paperwork electronically through a system our real estate agent is a member of.
Good news! Our agent calls to tell us the appraisal came in right where it needed to be.
Oops! Bad news. . . the inspection showed some problems.
Now, I don’t want to get into all the gory details here, but that inspector was an ass. There’s no nicer way to put it. For example, he checked off that the bathroom fans were a problem because they vented into the attic. Hello. . . it’s an old house and there are no bathroom fans.
He also got the buyers so freaked out about a meaningless issue that the whole deal ended up falling apart.
So it was back to the drawing boards for round two. . .
The agent activated the house in the MLS and started showing it again.
A couple weeks later, we got another flurry of offers. Once again we accepted the one that looked the best.
This time the appraisal came in almost $10,000 too low. There was no way we could absorb that much, and we were afraid the second deal would go down the tubes as well. After some back and forth negotiating, we cobbled together a new agreement.
But wait — the buyer wanted to have an extra month to close. What’s up with that? Well, we worked that one out.
Signing the Closing Paperwork
While it was great that we could sign documents electronically up to this point, that doesn’t work with the closing documents. They need real signatures, and some of those signatures need to be notarized as well.
Fortunately, when I was in Orlando in July I was able to sign one set. That left my husband needing to sign.
About 10 days before the scheduled closing, the title company (in Florida, closings are conducted by the title company) emailed us a copy of all the closing documents to be signed and notarized.
Now the real fun started!
Notarizing the Documents
You see, if you want a US document notarized in Panama, you have to go to the US Embassy. They charge for the “service,” to the tune of $50 per signature.
But first, you have to go online and make an appointment! They only schedule appointments in the morning. And we’re 4-1/2 hours away.
We were able to get an appointment two days later. My husband left the house at ten minutes to four in the morning, and arrived at the Embassy around 9:30. He paid his fee (for five signatures, or $250), and left with signed, notarized closing documents.
He raced home, and I quickly scanned and emailed them to the closing agent. She looked them over, and emailed me back that they were fine.
Sending the Documents
Now, here’s the Catch 22. The title company was willing to hold the closing with the scanned documents, but they won’t release our funds until they have the actual, physical paper in their hands. So my husband drove up to Chitre to the Mailboxes, Etc. store.
They put everything into a USPS Priority Mail envelope and sent it off.
Normally it goes from Chitre to the central Mailboxes, Etc.facility in Panama City, and from there gets flown to Miami to the facility there. That takes two days.
The Miami facility takes it to the post office, and the USPS gets it to Orlando, usually the next day.
We’ve used the Priority service in the past, and it’s taken three or four days total for delivery to Orlando. This time, because it’s documents that are irreplaceable and very important, it’s already been over a week with no sign of them. We’ve been unable to track them, either.
So here we are — we no longer own property anywhere, but we’ve got nothing to show for the sale.
Like I said, adventures in international real estate closings.