My wife and I always dreamed of building a house on the beach for our retirement. In 2006, we decided on the Republic of Panama and purchased some land on the beach. We now live in Panama full time in the house we had built. Throughout the entire process, we focused on a few key elements to ensure we created our dream home.
1. Find the ideal location. We lived in California and knew we couldn't afford local beachfront property. We researched Europe, Hawaii, and Latin America. It took a lot of time and research to discover Panama. It was perfect for us: ocean, mountains, affordable cost of living, and beautiful people.
2. Hire the right architect and contractor. Once we decided on where to build we had to find a contractor. My father was a building contractor, so this gave me some knowledge base, but ultimately it came down to finding someone that my wife and I felt comfortable with. Price was also a factor. The price had to be competitive and fall within our budget.
First, we were assisted by friends from Panama who gave us recommendations. We narrowed the search to a contractor who we believed could build well and on a timely basis.
Second, we toured every house the husband and wife team had built. While my wife was impressed with the spaciousness of the designs, I examined the structure and tested their expertise.
3. Save up money. We didn't want to be too frugal, as we were building the house of our dreams. My wife and I saved toward this project for several years. We knew we would sell our house in Pasadena, and began organizing our funds, calculating our pension payments, having conversations with our financial planner, and searching for the right land deal.
When ready, we purchased our property in Panama and we were able to keep the price of construction within our budget. We didn't want any debt so we purchased the land outright for $65,000 and built a 3,000-square-foot beachfront home for about $54 per square foot. We did not vary and kept to our original designs, minimizing additional costs.
Each stage of the completion was supervised by us and once we were totally satisfied we made payments according to our contract.
4. Design our own home. After downloading a few floor plans off the Internet we found a reliable Panamanian contractor and started our building plans. We realized the only way to be completely content with our house was to design it ourselves right down to every detail. My wife and I both had our own must-haves for our dream home.
My wife wanted a central kitchen. In our Pasadena home, the kitchen was in the back of the house away from guests in the living room. We built our Panama house around the kitchen where my wife can cook while enjoying a panoramic view of the ocean and interacting with any conversation taking place in the living room.
My must-have room was the library. I wanted extensive wooden shelving to house my 5,000-plus collection of books, comic books, and magazines. The library is where I spend most of time when I'm not walking along the beach.
We both wanted our bedroom positioned such that we could watch the morning sunrise and evening sunsets.