How To Find Your Dream Home In Belize
Shopping for character in Belize is not as simple an undertaking as you might initially expect!
Firstly, estate agents as we know them are non existent! Real estate brokers that do exist are likely to be unlicensed, unregulated and certainly not trained or insured.
Secondly, the majority (and I average the majority) of character for sale is not advertised!
But with character prices remaining affordable, the quality of character obtainable attractive, the climate beautiful, the people welcoming, the quality of life incredible and the opportunities in Belize abundant, more and more people need to know HOW they can go about procuring themselves their dream home in Belize.
This article should cover the tips, tricks and important points for your consideration, and go some way to helping you locate and buy your ideal piece of Belizean real estate!
Part One: House Hunting.
As mentioned, many similarities that are for sale often go totally unadvertised.
Sure, there are the occasional adverts in the San Pedro Sun or in the Belize City newspapers and some estate agents exist who keep up to date listings – either obtainable upon request of via their internet sites – but seriously, the majority of similarities that are for sale are not advertised – and I’m talking at the minimum three quarters.
The only way to find out what’s really obtainable is to travel to Belize and use time there among the local people and the expats.
You see, similarities that are for sale are generally put up by their owners and they often choose to skip the middle man – the real estate broker. consequently, with no brokers and no signs, the only way you’ll learn about what’s on the market is to get to know the local people and expats in the particular areas that you’re interested in, and via information of mouth you’ll begin to hear about what’s really obtainable.
As soon as information gets out that you’re in the market, chances are you’ll be overwhelmed and have more similarities and deals to choose from that you can cope with! Be prepared and don’t agree to the very first opportunity presented to you!
Part Two: Real Estate Brokers.
Because anyone in Belize can be a real estate broker the quality you come across will vary immensely!
So please be careful – to become an estate agent there is no license needed, no insurance necessary, no experience or training required: consequently what you will find on the whole are expats, hoteliers, shop owners and taxi drivers as estate agents on the side.
Yes there ARE some specialized agents who are honest and knowledgeable and whose agency businesses are authentic, but there are also those out to make a quick killing selling anything and everything to unsuspecting tourists.
Listen to the experiences of others and if someone is recommended to you by a trusted adviser then all the better.
If you do buy via an agent, commissions in Belize are typically 7% on residential character, and about 10% on land deals – chargeable to the vendor: and in some situations you as the purchaser may be charged for viewing character if it is far away and requires travel expense outlay. Make sure you’re aware of any such charges that you may be liable for from the outset.
Part Three: character Prices.
Despite a steady 20 year appreciation in real estate prices in Belize, character remains attractively priced – especially when comparing prices for similar real estate on sale in America or Western Europe.
There are nevertheless bargains plentifully obtainable in this beautiful Central American country. But it isn’t so much what you know as who you know when it comes to getting the best deal for your money.
There is a commonly held sentiment among the expat community in Belize – something along the lines of “the second house you buy or rent is twice as large as the first and costs half as much” – so don’t part with any money until you are totally sure you know what you’re doing!
Be prepared to use time in Belize and be prepared to invest time in getting to know and making friends with the local people, any influential lawyers and business people and also the local expat community. It is by these people that you will find the best real estate at the best prices.
Another point worth considering is that Belize is a country where there are two prices – the local price and the foreigner price. Yes, from an expat’s point of view this is unfair. But from a local’s point of view the ‘high’ foreigner who gets paid far more for his work in his country than a Belizean in Belize for the same work can simply provide to pay the higher price.
A way around this is to ask a Belizean friend to ask the price and do negotiating for you! Simple!
And yes, negotiation is meaningful – character prices vary massively from vicinity to vicinity and city to city and vendor to vendor. There isn’t really a set valuation structure on which someone can base the price of a character or piece of land.
This method that it is hard to say exactly how much real estate is worth and how much character prices have truly risen over the last few years. It is harder nevertheless to say what a character investor in Belize could expect year on year in terms of the appreciation of any real estate asset. So much so that the saying “you almost always make your money when you buy, not when you sell” goes doubly in Belize.
As a very general guide to character prices they are highest in Belize City, on Ambergris Caye and in Placencia, and lowest in the remotest most rural areas.
House prices go from USD 15,000 for a basic traditional home in a small undeveloped village to USD 500,000 and upwards for luxury beach front villas in San Pedro say.
Any agent or vendor you speak to is likely to talk up the possible returns on an investment in character or land in Belize – this is only natural! But what you need to consider is that: –
a) the economy of this country is connected to the US economy and
b) the time it takes to sell a character in Belize can be very long and drawn out (I’m talking years not weeks or months) – which is something you must bear in mind when considering purchasing a character you may one day want/need to re-sell
This shouldn’t necessarily put you off – after all you can nevertheless buy far more for your dollar, pound or euro in Belize than you can in the US, UK, Mediterranean vicinity or Western Europe – but it is important to have a realistic overview of the character market in any country you are considering investing in or relocating to. That way you go into with your eyes wide open…it’s always better to be a savvy buyer!
Part Four: Foreign Ownership.
The Belize authorities are open to foreign investment and truly welcome it which method they impose very few restrictions when it comes to foreign ownership of immovable character in their country.
In Belize it is already possible for non-nationals to freely buy chief beachfront character. There used to be a license requirement for a foreigner to buy land over 10 acres or 1/2 an acre in a major town or city but this requirement has been revoked.
The only rules and restrictions are: –
Foreign buy of any island has to have Government approval via the Ministry of Natural Resources.
In certain protected coastal and caye areas buy of land and character by non-locals has to be approved by the local village council.
Part Five: Legal and Financial Considerations.
I always suggest people seek qualified legal advice when it comes to such a large and far reaching undertaking as purchasing real estate!
Belize is no exception!
In fact, in Belize lawyers are usually considered to be trusted, well-connected, pillars of the community with real strength! And their fees are usually in the vicinity of 2% of the buy price…this should cover title searches and the drawing up of move documents.
In terms of affording your real estate dream – the onus is going to be on you! It is extremely difficult for non-residents to get mortgages from edges in Belize consequently most purchasers are in the position to pay in cash for their buy or they have finance from a non-Belizean financial source.
However, some new developments are springing up with mortgages attached by the developer – character developers are usually the first to be aware of a potentially untapped market.
Basically terms currently are obtainable to purchasers of such similarities are: –
The developer retains the title to the character until the purchaser has paid in complete for the character.
The purchaser makes a 10% down payment with the remainder being paid back over 10 years at 10% simple interest per annum.
Terms will of course vary from this to say 50% down up front and the remainder payable over three to five years at 12 -15% interest.
Be aware however that the best prices will be for cash deals.
You’ll need to factor in an additional 12 – 15% on top of the buy price for fees and costs.
You have the land title move fee which is also known as “stamp tax.” This is 5% compulsory for every purchaser in spite of of nationality, with an additional 5% payable by non Belizean nationals – making 10% in total.
This is seemingly being increased to 12% in the near future.
If you have become a Belizean resident via the Retired Persons motive Program you are exempt from the second 5% stamp tax for non-citizens.
Then you should have your lawyer’s fee which will be around 2% of the buy price.
Finally you’ll have character taxes which truly vary from area to area based on the kind of land or character purchased. Generally expect to have to pay around 1% yearly of the value of the undeveloped land…but speak to your lawyer for more exact figures pertinent to the character or land you are interested in purchasing.