Liz Larroquette
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What To Do With All That “Stuff”?

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People collect “stuff”. Lots of stuff, so when it comes to relocating either for retirement or a job transfer, most ask me for advice as to whether they should move furniture or sell it all and start over.

Of course my answer is always “it depends” and it does, based on multiple factors. For Baby Boomers, I find they often have an odd attachment to their stuff. They believe their children will one day wake up and want all the furniture, rugs and cooking pans they grew up with. Most of them won’t.

“I had this beautiful cherry three-cornered cabinet” a woman lamented to me the other day. “It was my grandmother’s and it’s really very beautiful. I had dreamed of giving it to my son and his wife, but they said they didn’t have room for it,” she continued. “I don’t think that actually is the truth, but I didn’t want to question my daughter-in-law!”

But, I Love This Piece

You might want to think twice before shipping your grandmother’s French sofa to Panama, but that silver ice bucket you acquired in Paris might be stunning overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Things such as a family heirloom are the items most difficult to resolve concerning next steps for the possessions. Of course you need to decide what is really a true family heirloom and what isn’t. If you have a real connection with something, you might want to consider saving it, but you also want to think long and hard about moving it to Panama.

There are lots of companies who will ship a container of furniture to Panama but it will cost around $15,000 if you shop carefully.

That’s a lot of money for used furniture that might not fit into your new Panamanian lifestyle!!

Because everything coming into the country has to be verified, you can’t do the packing yourself. Approved companies have to sign off on what they actually put into the boxes and ultimately the container. The Panamanian Government allows for up to $10,000 worth of personal goods to be brought into the country without taxation, but you have to have gone through the pensionado visa process prior to accepting the goods. Expect to spend about $2,000 on lawyer fees to get your pensionado status and you still might have to pay some taxes depending on who is manning the dock when your container arrives.

Small Things Are Ideal

Usually I encourage people to select a few things that really mean something to them and see if those items can be packed into suitcases. A small dish picked up when traveling in Cambodia might be the perfect container for your Panamanian keys; a framed picture of the family in Machu Picchu will complete a room. The rest of the stuff can be donated to various charitable agencies and given to people who really will use your things and you can take a big tax deduction. Sell some of the bigger items and pocket the money for purchases to be made once you arrive in Panama.

Sell, Give, Donate

The residences at Casa Bonita are beautifully designed but you might find your decorations don't match as well as some of the local products.

I had one family tell me they realized their grown children didn’t really want their stuff and after a few frank discussions, they decided to sell some things, then have an open house where family and friends could come in and take whatever they liked and everything else was donated. “We had a great time doing it and now I get notes from friends saying how much they are enjoying that rug or the ladder back chair I thought I couldn’t live without.”

Another thing I have noticed is that during the time it takes for furniture and other goods to arrive in Panama, many people have already decided they didn’t need that sofa or the spices from Dean and Deluca. “We waited two months for things to arrive and then everything seemed a little sad when it was unpacked. It was just out of place,” said one gentleman who moved from Canada. “We should have sold it! We were already settled with things we had found in Panama.

“Do you have Target?”

Albrook Mall

Albrook Mall is the biggest mall in Panama, with at least 5 department stores including a Conway and specialty furniture and homeware stores.

But, it’s one thing to sell everything and start over and another to actually purchase everything here and have things completed timely and arranged cost effectively . “Do you have a Target?” is the question I most often hear. We don’t have a Target but we do have Conway which is actually Target South America. They even use the red circles in their logo and they have many of the same items as you would find in North America, but with some variation, including a much larger selection of furniture.

But shopping in Panama is so much more than replicating your Target experience in the States. There are wonderful stores spread all over Panama that sell furniture and other items you’ll need once you relocate. One store near Coronado imports unique pieces from all over the world, with a specialty for all things Bali. They’ll negotiate on price, but you’ll need to know what you are doing to get the absolute best deal.

Knowing The Location Of That Perfect Sofa

Couch setting

Not sure where to find that perfect couch? A professional can help you with that!

If it seems overwhelming for you to search out that perfect sofa at the perfect price, in a new city and in a language not your own, you might want to consider individuals who do that work for a living. They will do as much or as little as you want in terms of preparing your new home for occupancy. 

It’s a lot less expensive than you might imagine and it’s always cost effective. These are individuals who speak Spanish, have relationships with all types of stores and usually get a great price discount.

In addition, they do the leg work for you on things which, frankly, are impossible for you to do yourself. I had a couple who came in with a real gung-ho attitude and they attacked everything from opening a bank account to buying furniture and getting cable and Apple-TV in their new condominium. 

Do you really want to take on Cable Onda by yourself if you don’t need to?

“We thought we did a really good job getting cable and then found out we were paying more than twice what the locals were paying for the same service,” they later explained. “We know we stick out as a couple of pale faced ex-pats, but we ended up giving a friend, who is Panamanian, $50 and she immediately saved us that much in one month. It’s just the way it is and there is little incentive in offering what is viewed as wealthy privilege any type of deal!”

If you are buying a place to rent out, it makes turning that into reality much easier if you can just tell someone to go and purchase everything that is needed, from the beds to the tableware. You’ll probably save money just on the discounts arranged by the professional.

Someone that I refer to my clients is Amanda Gleeson.  She can provide anything from a full 'turn-key' furnishing service to a fun shopping day to fit out your new home. After being here a few years, she can tell you not just where to find a couch, but nearly anything else here in Panama!

Working It Into The Package

Furniture delivery truck

A professional furnishing service will wait around for the deliveries so you don't have to!

I urge all of my executives who are relocating to work the services of a furnishing solutions consultant into their relocation package. If a company needs to you move, the least they can do is make it as easy as possible.  These professionals know where the good stuff is located and what is the rock bottom price. 

Using a furnishing service also means that someone else can wait around for the deliveries and place it in just the right spot while you are out enjoying yourself!

Don’t Go It Alone

There simply is no reason to go it alone. And, little reason to consider dragging everything from home to your new life in Panama.  It is all about making it possible for my clients to make the best decisions and to settle into Panamanian life with the fewest headaches!

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About the Author Liz Larroquette

Whether you are looking to retire in Panama, relocate your family, or buy property as an investment Liz is a wealth of knowledge you can and should tap into.

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