As Director of Property Management for Punta Pacifica Realty (PPR), Eddie Montes oversees the largest and most-diversified property services organization in Panama City. During his tenure, PPR has established new standards for customer service, security, and asset maintenance in Panama City.
In recent months, as the market emerged from the pandemic, Eddie has been growing PPR’s services, adding staff and new VIP service. In a recent interview, he discusses the growth of PPR Property Management, the market during COVID, and beyond.
What’s going on with the market? What are you seeing?
We’re definitely seeing our inventories coming down as far as vacancies. We’re also seeing a bump in pricing, which is very positive news for property owners. That’s probably the biggest thing that’s going on right now. Our rental inventories are quickly getting lower and actually approaching historical record levels of years past.
A year ago, we were probably running at about an 80 percent occupancy rate in some buildings, which is not so good. Now we’re probably in the 94 percent to 96 percent occupancy rate, indicating a stronger rental market.
What about prices?
A year ago, a one-bedroom was rented for $1,400 to $1,500. In some cases, less.
Now we’ve been able to bump the prices to about $1,700 and in some cases even $1,800. And then we’re seeing prices move even north from there.
Do you see any particular type of place in particular demand these days? What are they looking for?
The smaller units have been more in demand. One bedroom and studios more so than the bigger units. And I think that is attributed to the multinational executives that are relocating. They’re doing it a little slower than they used to do it before because of the pandemic. They’re not traveling with their families, so they’re looking for a smaller place to start.
Before the pandemic, when the market was more mature, they would just jump ship and come down here all together and we would rent them the bigger apartment right away.
What else should people know about the market now compared to before the pandemic?
Actually, we’re probably right around where we were before the pandemic. The pandemic produced crazy prices because of vacancies and everything else. And at this point, I think we’re back in business and we’re back to normal again, in most ways. Don’t expect any bargains or bottom basement prices anymore. They basically don’t exist. Prices are going up. If you are looking to come and rent, do so more quickly than not because prices are going to continue to rise.
What is happening with the Ocean Club?
They have a new administration and it’s being handled by Colliers International, which is good news. It’s a big multinational real estate management company that’s in charge of the building. They have global experience and offices all over Latin America, the U.S., and Europe. We have seen many positive changes taking place already.
How is Panama different in terms of keeping a good tenant?
It’s based on our services basically. One of the things that we provide that I know other people don’t provide is we provide a welcome kit, for example, when you first move into your apartment. A lot of people come unprepared. They don’t have their toothbrush, their toothpaste. We provide a nice welcome packet to everybody, not only with a few essentials for them to at least get started but a booklet with information of where they can find everything locally around here. And I don’t think any other property management companies are doing anything like that. We also provide all of our apartments turnkey service, just like if you came into a hotel. It’s all about service and making people feel at home.
What should landlords be asking about their property management company?
They need to do their due diligence. The most common mistake is working with individual brokers, for example, as opposed to an established property management firm that maintains offices and open communication. There’s a lot of freelance work that goes on here in Panama in that field which is property management. You have a lot of brokers who will say that they will manage your property and it’s just a guy working out of his car with four keys in a cigar box. Do they have a website with owner services? Do they have a property management division or are they just a general real estate broker? There’s a big difference.