How does one find a good builder, contractor or a handyman in Boquete, Panama?

Blog by Manzar Lari.

Short answer – It is not easy! Long answer, do your online research before coming here. In addition, talk to acquaintances and friends who have been here a lot longer than you. As I usually say to our guests at the B&B who are contemplating a move to Boquete, “talk to at least 12 different people locally about a topic of interest to you, synthesize and then distill the answers and then come up with your own truth”. Each person speaks from the standpoint of their own experiences and points-of-view. As a good “researcher” one has to initially gather as much information as one can until one starts hearing the same kinds of answers and collecting more data is not going to help inform the conclusion(s).

I do a “Boquete Overview Tour” for people who are considering moving to Boquete and we touch on many topics that may be relevant to a future Boquete resident. I have noticed that the visitors generally have tons of questions and they are “hungry” for answers. Frequently, people are looking to buy land and build their dream home here. I inform them that you will never hear people publicly say that someone is an awful builder or that the contractor didn’t do what they were paid to do. You can only find those things out when you talk verbally and in person with someone. We have different slander and libel laws here as compared to the U.S. and people are very cautious about divulging their true (negative) experiences to strangers.

Just recently our friends Joyce and Scott had this to say:

Friends here in Panama wanted me to discuss the issues with contracting. This is a tough and complicated subject that I (Joyce) have been thinking about for a while.

The problem is that contracting is never fun, wherever you are. There are always problems from delays in construction, parts not being available, costs being more than you expect, etc. This happens in the US as much as in Panama.

I’ve been trying to figure out the difference in these situations and I think it’s mostly that in the US there are more ways to find out about a contractor before you try to work with him. In the US, there seems to be more controls through state licensing and disciplinary procedures on incompetent contractors, YELP reviews and so on. It’s a bit more based on word of mouth references here.

Word of mouth references are always good, of course, wherever you live. Some of our best experiences in both the US and Panama have been in working with friends or people recommended by friends.

The problems that we have experienced in Panama seem to be that it is harder to find out if a contractor isn’t what he is cracked up to be. We have heard stories from friends of contracting with an electrician, who blows up everything in the house through bad wiring mistakes and then later says, “But I’m really not an electrician, so it’s not my fault if things don’t work out.” Other bad experiences include contractors getting the money for parts and using that money for someone else’s job or just never showing up at all (or, as in our case, abandoning the job after taking money and just disappearing from existence). It’s just difficult to find out if a contractor really knows what he is doing and whether he will complete the job.

I suspect that word of mouth worked better in the past when Boquete was a very small town, and everyone knew what was going on everywhere in town. With the growth in population in the past few years, the competition for the best contractors and the escalation in costs that come with population growth, the historical practice of working only with contractors who have a good reputation through word of mouth has some problems.

Let’s just say that while there are always horror stories about contracting experiences wherever you live, the stories, experiences and lessons learned are a bit more expensive, worrisome and common here in Boquete!

We have been in Boquete for almost four years and our experiences were not so different than the newbies Joyce and Scott when we first arrived in August 2013. Hopefully we have become a little wiser in those four years! Bad experiences have a way of teaching us some life lessons. We are fortunate that we have been able to find some reliable and trustworthy individuals who show up (mostly!) when they are supposed to, finish the job, give us a warranty, and not charge us exorbitant amounts of money.

If you are contemplating a move to Boquete, why not book a room with us  and schedule a Boquete Overview Tour? Terry and I (Manzar) love to assist our guests in any way we can to make your transition to Boquete a smooth one. See you soon!

 

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