When the stunning twin towers of Royal Palm, a residential complex in Nueva Gorgona, officially opens its doors on August 21, Michelle and Dean Faust of Scottsdale, AZ will be the first to take possession of a new Pacific Ocean facing home. “We are ready,” said Michelle who admitted to having everything lined up as soon as the paperwork is completed.
“We sign the paperwork on Tuesday, we have things to do in Panama City and then the appliances will be delivered and installed, the furniture comes in, other things are scheduled and by Saturday we expect to be sleeping in our new home in Royal Palm! I can’t wait to go to sleep listening to the waves of the Pacific Ocean.”
Situated directly on the ocean, the Royal Palm complex consists of two towers connected by a common social area and ascending space connecting the 28-floors of the first tower and 21-floors of the second tower. All residences enjoy ocean views and access to a long list of amenities such as pools, a sports court, sauna, children’s play area, jacuzzi and rooms for large social events.
“Royal Palm was an easy decision for us,” said Michelle as she gave a little laugh. “When we walked in and saw the view, we were pretty much sold on it immediately. It was amazing,” she said.
Michelle, who spent most of her professional years as a pharmaceutical representative and Dean, a retired family practice doctor, were not new to the concept of living abroad. Their decision to purchase in Royal Palm was based on years of experience. “We built a home in Costa Rica in 2005,” explained Michelle, “and we had some great times and definitely great friends, but crime in Costa Rica continued to rise and the cost-of-living also kept going up. It’s exciting and romantic to say you live in a jungle, but the reality is that it’s often times very hard.”
The fact that Royal Palm could offer a lock and leave option, was very appealing to the Faust’s because they plan on living six months in Arizona and the rest of the year in Panama. “During the winter season in the States, the weather is absolutely perfect where we live in Scottsdale,” she explained. “We want to enjoy that and then come to Panama from May through October,” she said, but quickly adding, “that is just the opposite of what many Panamanian property owners and visitors experience.”
Michelle and Dean are in the unique position of taking advantage of the fact they live in an area in the United States where the time frame for perfect weather is also the time frame of high season for individuals wanting to rent in Panama. “Most people want to come to Panama from October to May, but that is not our case because we live in southwest United States. We are planning on making our home available for rent when we are not in Panama,” Michelle said. “Many Canadians and people living in the northern part of the US don’t want to contend with the cold weather so they winter in Panama,” said Michelle.
With that concept in mind, the Faust’s decided having a second unit in Royal Palm was a perfect investment so on the week Royal Palm starts to welcome residents, Michele and Dean will be taking possession of two residential units. “We will primarily rent the second condominium full time, with the exception of when we need an extra bedroom for family and friends,” she explained. “Royal Palm was just too much of a good thing. Not only did we get a really attractive pre-construction price for our larger residence on the fifth floor, we managed to take that even a bit further with the investment unit on the 11th floor.”
The Faust’s haven’t completely retired so the idea of actually managing rental units in Panama wasn’t exactly an option. “My husband is a part-time adjunct professor at Midwestern University’s Glendale AZ campus and I have started a new business doing content and copy writing for marketing clients,” Michelle said. “I can take my work with me anywhere, so I often write from Panama. I’ll be starting a blog, Panama Passage, which will document our experiences here,” she explained.
So when they are not in town, how will the Faust’s find renters and keep their units in top condition for people wanting to visit Panama from around the globe? “There are a number of people who do property management around Coronado and Nueva Gorgona, and while we haven’t decided on exactly who will be helping us with the rentals during our time away, we have a number of excellent choices,” she explained. “I can do some of the management when we are here, but we really want professionals who have the connections.”
While the on-site restaurant and the convenience store located within the Royal Palm complex will not be open for it’s first occupants, things are taking final shape around the property. “It has taken a bit longer than we expected but it worked out well for us,” said Michelle. “When we first started looking at Panama as a more desirable option than Costa Rica, Royal Palm hadn’t broken ground, we hadn’t sold our Costa Rica home and everything was in flux. Along with all that we even sold our home in Arizona and downsized there too! Watching Royal Palm go up from the shores of the Pacific Ocean was exciting, but it also gave us about 18 months to get everything in order,” she explained. “The window of time worked well for us,” she said.
“Now when I walk around the Royal Palm property I can easily visualize everything coming to life. It’s so lovely here, the common areas are beautiful, and the pools are just so inviting with that ever-present sun sparkle. I have such a sense of peace here, so if everything isn’t perfect the minute we move in, I know it will be soon. We’ll forget any frustrations because just listening to the sound of the ocean waves is worth everything.”
When the Faust’s first told people they were moving part-time to Costa Rica, “they thought we were a little crazy,” she laughed. “No one else in our family had ever done anything similar and to this day, I’m not sure any of them would, so our moving to Panama isn’t so strange. This life isn’t for everyone,” she said. “The climate, the food, it’s different. I actually have favorite foods in Panama that I enjoy here and when I get back to the States, I have favorites I can’t find in Panama. It’s a good give and take.”
As a family physician, Dr. Faust is not concerned about medical care in Panama. Michelle noted “with Johns Hopkins building a second internationally affiliated hospital in Panama City, that tells you something important. We haven’t had any problems medically but by all accounts the care is good and the price is very nice. We had our teeth cleaned the other day and the price was great and the care as good as you’d get in the States.”
With five children between them and four grandchildren, the Faust’s look forward to family times together in Panama. “Dean’s youngest son, who is preparing to go to his first year of college in San Diego, is with us now,” said Michelle. “We will get him to the airport the day after we take possession of the larger unit in Royal Palm and then all the kids know they have a place to vacation that is rent free,” she said. Michelle also noted that “the son who is here now, helped a great deal with our decision to choose Panama and Royal Palm. He had been with us all during our time in Costa Rica so it was good to also get his measure of things.”
Michelle says there are many differences between Costa Rica and Panama including the fact it’s a longer flight to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City from Phoenix as opposed to the airport in San Jose in Costa Rica. ‘It takes about seven hours as opposed to five, but just getting to San Jose took us three hours of driving and here we can be at the here airport in 90 minutes. Tocumen is also a hub and we enjoy traveling so we have a lot more direct options for South America and Europe,” she said.
“We are finding it very easy to make friends and we find that people who are expats are already a bit different and adventuresome. We all stick out because we look and act differently,” she said. “but everyone is accepting and we love the fact every day is an adventure.”
Once the Faust’s have the keys to their new units firmly in hand, and some furniture delivered and functional, they are planning on a celebratory dinner. “Probably at Cafe Med in neighboring Coronado,” she said. “It’s right off the highway about a block or so in and the food is primarily Mediterranean. It’s high quality with exceptional service in an open-air setting. It’s laid back, but great food. We really enjoy it, but there are lots of good restaurants right here so we aren’t sure. We are just excited about getting settled in Royal Palm.”