Shopping for real estate in Belize is not as easy as you might initially expect!
First, brokers as we know them do not exist! Real estate agents that do exist are likely unlicensed, unregulated, and certainly not trained or insured.
Second, the majority (and I mean the majority) of the property for sale is not advertised!
But as real estate prices remain affordable, the quality of available real estate is attractive, the climate is beautiful, the people hospitable, the quality of life incredible and opportunities abound in Belize, more and more people need to know HOW to make their dream come true. home in Belize.
This article should cover the tips, tricks, and important points to consider, and somehow help you find and buy your ideal piece of real estate in Belize!
Part one: house hunting.
As mentioned earlier, many properties for sale often go completely unannounced.
Sure, there are the occasional classifieds in the San Pedro Sun or in the Belize City newspapers and there are real estate agents who keep up-to-date listings – either available on request or through their internet sites – but seriously, the majority of properties those for sale are not advertised – and I’m talking about at least three-quarters.
The only way to find out what’s really available is to travel to Belize and spend time there among the locals and the expats.
You see, properties for sale are generally offered by their owners and they often choose to skip the middleman – the real estate agent. Therefore, with no brokers and no signs, the only way you’ll find out what’s on the market is by getting to know the locals and expats in the specific areas you’re interested in, and through word of mouth you will you can begin to hear what is really available.
Once word gets out that you’re in the market, chances are you’ll be swamped and have more properties and deals to choose from for you to deal with! Be prepared and don’t agree to the very first opportunity presented to you!
Part Two: Real Estate Agents.
Since anyone in Belize can be a real estate agent, the quality you will find will vary greatly!
So please be careful – becoming a real estate agent requires no license, no insurance, no experience or training required: that’s why you will generally find expats, hoteliers, shopkeepers and taxi drivers on the side as brokers.
Yes, there ARE some professional agents who are honest, knowledgeable and whose agency companies are legit, but there are also those out to make a quick kill by selling anything and everything to unsuspecting tourists.
Listen to the experiences of others and if someone is recommended to you by a trusted advisor, all the better.
If you buy through a broker, commissions in Belize are typically 7% on residential properties and around 10% on land transactions – borne by the seller: and in some cases, you as a buyer may be charged a fee to view property as it is remote and requires travel expenses. Make sure you are aware of such charges for which you may be held liable from the outset.
Part three: Real estate prices.
Despite a steady rise in real estate prices in Belize over 20 years, real estate remains attractively priced – especially when comparing prices for comparable properties for sale in the Americas or Western Europe.
There are still plenty of bargains in this beautiful Central American country. But it’s not so much what you know as who you know when it comes to getting the best deal for your money.
There is a general feeling among the expat community in Belize – something along the lines of “the second home you buy or rent is twice the size of the first and costs half as much” – so don’t hand over any money until you are there completely sure you know what you are doing!
Be prepared to spend time in Belize and be prepared to invest time in getting to know and befriending the locals, influential lawyers and business people and also the local expat community. Through these people you will find the best real estate at the best prices.
Another point worth considering is that Belize is a country with two prices: the local price and the price for foreigners. Yes, from an expat point of view, this is unfair. But from the point of view of the locals, the “wealthy” foreigner who is paid much more for his work in his country than a Belizean in Belize for the same work can simply pay the higher price.
One way around this is to ask a Belizean friend to ask the price and negotiate for you! Easy!
And yes, bargaining is essential – real estate prices vary wildly from region to region and city to city and seller to seller. There is not really a fixed valuation structure on which someone can base the price of a house or piece of land.
This means that it is difficult to say exactly how much property is worth and how much property prices have actually risen in recent years. It’s even harder to say what a real estate investor in Belize might expect to see year over year in terms of a property’s valuation. So much so that the saying “you almost always make your money when you buy, not when you sell” goes double in Belize.
As a very general guideline for real estate prices, they are highest in Belize City, on Ambergris Caye, and in Placencia, and lowest in the most remote rural areas.
House prices range from USD 15,000 for a simple traditional house in a small undeveloped village to USD 500,000 and more for luxury beach villas in San Pedro, for example.
Any agent or salesperson you speak to will likely talk about the potential return on an investment in real estate or land in Belize – this is only natural! But what you need to keep in mind is that:-
a) the economy of this country is linked to the US economy and
b) the time it takes to sell a property in Belize can be very long and lengthy (I’m talking years, not weeks or months) – something to consider when considering buying a property that you may want/need to resell someday
This shouldn’t necessarily put you off — after all, you can still buy a lot more for your dollar, pound, or euro in Belize than you can in the US, UK, Mediterranean, or Western Europe — but it’s important to have a . Have a realistic overview of the real estate market in each country you are considering investing in or moving to. That way you enter with your eyes wide open…it’s always better to be a smart buyer!
Part Four: Foreign Ownership.
Belize authorities are open to and even welcome foreign investment, which means they have very few restrictions when it comes to foreign ownership of property in their country.
In Belize, it is even possible for non-nationals to freely purchase prime beachfront real estate. There used to be a permit requirement for a foreigner to purchase land over 10 acres or half an acre in a major town or city, but this requirement has been repealed.
The only rules and restrictions are:-
Foreign purchase of an island must have government approval through the Department of Natural Resources.
In certain coastal and caye protected areas, the purchase of land and property by non-residents must be approved by the local village council.
Part Five: Legal and Financial Considerations.
I always recommend that people seek qualified legal advice when dealing with such a large and far-reaching undertaking as buying property!
Belize is no exception!
In fact, in Belize, lawyers are usually considered reliable, well-connected pillars of the community with real power! And their fees are usually close to 2% of the purchase price… this should cover title searches and transfer paperwork.
When it comes to realizing your real estate dream: the burden of proof is on you! It is extremely difficult for non-residents to obtain mortgages from banks in Belize, which is why most buyers are able to pay cash for their purchase or have financing from a non-Belizean financial source.
However, some new developments are popping up with developer confirmed mortgages – property developers are usually the first to know about a potentially untapped market.
Basically the terms currently available to purchasers of such properties are:-
The developer retains title to the property until the buyer has paid for the property in full.
The buyer makes a 10% down payment and the remainder is repaid over 10 years at 10% simple interest per annum.
The terms, of course, range from this to 50% upfront and the remainder payable over three to five years at 12-15% interest.
However, keep in mind that the best prices are for cash deals.
You should allow for an additional 12 – 15% on top of the purchase price for fees and charges.
You have the land rights transfer fee, also known as “stamp tax”. This is 5% mandatory for any buyer, regardless of nationality, with an additional 5% payable by non-Belizean citizens – 10% in total.
This will apparently be increased to 12% in the near future.
If you became a resident of Belize through the Retired Persons Incentive Program, you are exempt from the 5% second stamp tax for non-citizens.
Then you must have your attorney’s fees, which will amount to approximately 2% of the purchase price.
Finally, you have property taxes that actually vary from area to area based on the type of land or property purchased. In general, you should expect to pay around 1% per annum of the value of the vacant land…but please check with your lawyer for more exact figures pertaining to the property or land you wish to purchase.