Belize Real Estate Financing
Belize is a beautiful country with a lot to offer, including; tropical beaches, tax incentives, a favorable economy, and financial benefits like low-cost properties and tax-free buying for qualified retirees. When considering property in Belize, understanding your financing options may seem confusing and complicated. Thankfully, a few property financing options exist, even for non-residents.
In Belize, we do not have standard mortgages or bank financing that many investors and owners use in Canada or the US. Most real estate transactions in Belize are cash sales, but some opportunities with vendor financing are available. Even though Belize is primarily a cash sale market, there are several advantages when investing in an off-shore market that is not overly leveraged.
It is also important to note that Belize is a predominantly cash market; because of this, we don’t have overlending and real estate bubbles (which create more significant drops and volatility).
Advantages of Buying in a Cash Market
As mentioned, Belize is primarily a cash-sale transaction market. Even though investors do not have the same opportunities to leverage their investment, there are a number of advantages to investing in a cash sale market. There are many upsides when making a cash market real estate investment (like Belize). Some of the most notable include:
- Investing in an off-shore market, investors have wider access to innovative projects and more unique opportunities than traditionally in the public or domestic marketplace. Investors are able to look at stable cash flow from a vacation market with growing popularity. For example, a private real estate investor will see that the dynamics of buying and selling in a cash market significantly lower an asset’s volatility potential. Cash sale real estate markets are less susceptible to volatility as they do not have the bank foreclosures of more traditional economies.
- Markets are known to be volatile (especially markets that are over-leveraged); it’s just the nature of an economy reliant on “borrowing money.” While cash market investments aren’t completely immune to recessions and economic fluctuations, the cash sale real estate sectors have less volatility and experience a faster recovery/smoothing out. When the global market is challenging, cash sale market investments minimize the volatility of an investment portfolio. Low-volatility, cash sale markets see less drastic declines in value when economies adjust.
Higher Return Potentials
- In the investment industry, private markets outperform public ones due in part to the illiquidity risk premium, which is the return an investor requires for investing in something that can’t be quickly sold or exchanged for cash. This remains true in cash sale markets (like Belize). Property liquidity is more accessible as there will be less competition amongst a smaller buyer pool of qualified purchasers. In Belize, a property owned outright (cash) can be leveraged and offer seller/vendor financing, creating passive income and a higher ROI over time.
- In Belize, investors have access to various opportunities, from rental income-producing properties to appreciating locations, Caribbean beaches to lush jungles. Belize real estate (as it is at the early stages of development) opens the door to the lifecycle of an investment – from its inception through its growth. Investors also have access to rental management options and greater visibility and ability to forecast investment growth. Being a cash off-shore opportunity leads to greater influence and control over the investment/market.
- Public markets and real estate in the US or Canada have recently been focused on the short term. The short-term draw lead to low-interest rates, quick returns, etc. Belize as a cash investment is a long to mid-term investment strategy. The public market and real estate in the US tend to be more reactive, sometimes very dramatically, during an economic downtown. As an investor, say in Belize real estate, you have your eye on the future horizon and aren’t worried about these short-term fluctuations. One of the most important Warren Buffett quotes on investing that you can take in is, “If you aren’t willing to own a stock for 10 years, don’t even think about owning it for 10 minutes.”
- There is a certain amount of risk associated with an investment. People often view investing off-shore as high risk when there are far fewer risks in certain markets. Belize is a perfect example. In a cash market, you have less external risk. With any investment, there will be a risk; even though there is a risk, you can also mitigate the exposure. The cash market of Belize, with the string ownership rights and foreign investment incentives, has less risk, and investment is more protected. When economies turn, people no longer look for Return on Investment; they look for Return of Investment.
- Compared to more traditional real estate markets or domestic real estate (that has very high costs of ownership), Belize is very low. Property taxes in Belize are very little. You own land outright without the costs of upkeep and carrying costs. Even rental properties have lower operational costs in Belize.
Diversification from Interest & Inflation
American and Canadian real estate markets are known to be volatile – it’s just the nature of an economy reliant on “borrowing money.” Interest and inflation are prominent, uncontrollable dictators of property value in these markets – often leaving property owners vulnerable to unmanageable debt and property values decreasing. This makes these markets REACTIVE, which comes with risk.
Meanwhile, in unleveraged, cash markets like Belize – property values are much more simple, driven by supply and demand. There are rarely foreclosures or defaults since most property is owned outright, in cash. Investing in areas with limited land (scarcity), like islands, means that generally, as time passes and land becomes more limited, property values rise in correlation. This makes Belize much more of a PROACTIVE market – favoring savvy investors to secure their land early; at the current price.
No market is entirely immune to risks of recessions and economic fluctuations, but these days, interest and inflation are extremely high in the USA and Canada.
However, cash sale real estate markets have less volatility and experience a faster recovery/smoothing out.
This is why owning land in a stable, less volatile market like Belize is a great way to diversify with more secure, less volatile, and cash-owned property.
Stable & Less Volatile Appreciation
Every property that is sold equals one less lot you can buy. The most strategic investors look to own land in areas with high tourism demand and low supply – like Ambergris Caye Real Estate. This way, the growth next door and in your area steadily increases your property value while you hold your land or cash flow.
This is why most investors seek to own multiple properties – giving them the freedom to build on some and increase the equity value of their others, which they can flip in the future, tax strategically.
Mutually, private real estate investors will see that the dynamics of buying and selling in a cash market significantly lower an asset’s volatility potential. Cash sale real estate markets are less susceptible to volatility as they do not have the bank foreclosures of more traditional economies. This favors a long-term investment mentality – buy, hold, grow, cash-flow, flip.
Investing in an off-shore market like Belize allows investors to look at unique short-term cash flow from a booming emerging vacation market with growing popularity – while their property appreciates.
Financing Property in Belize
Belize has become a popular location and destination for retiring expats. Belize is a low tax jurisdiction with a warm Caribbean climate, English Speaking, and retirement incentive programs like QRP. For retirees, Belize makes immigration and relocation easy. English is the primary language, and Belize’s legal system is based on British Common Law. As a result, Belize has a stable, democratic government and a stable and dynamic economy with a strong tourism sector.
Belize also has a lot of draws and appeal to property owners and real estate investors. In Belize, foreigners purchasing Belize land or property in Belize are afforded the foreign owners/investors have the same property ownership rights as Belize citizens. Belize is also a low-tax jurisdiction; there are no capital gains or inheritance/estate taxes in Belize.
There are a lot of appeals to Belize real estate – for residency and investment. Even though financing is not as readily accessible in Belize as in other countries, there are financing options owners, and investors have.
Financing real estate for residency/lifestyle or investment in Belize can be challenging through local conventional bank financing (if you are not a Belizean citizen or resident). However, for non-residents, there are creative ways to get financing. Below you can see some creative options to finance real estate in Belize:
- Offshore Financing.
- Owner Financing.
Advantages of Buying Property in Belize
Buying property in Belize can offer several advantages:
- Affordable Real Estate: Compared to many other Caribbean or Central American destinations, property prices in Belize can be relatively affordable. This makes it an attractive option for individuals looking to invest in a second home, retirement property, or vacation rental.
- Tax Benefits: Belize offers favorable tax benefits for property owners. There is no capital gains tax, inheritance tax, or property tax on undeveloped land. Property taxes on developed land are generally low, making it cost-effective to maintain ownership.
- English-Speaking Environment: English is the official language in Belize, which eliminates language barriers for those considering purchasing a property. This factor makes it easier to navigate legal processes, communicate with locals, and participate in the local economy.
- Political Stability: Belize has a long history of political stability and a democratic government. The country has a legal system based on English common law, providing a familiar framework for property ownership and the protection of individual rights.
- Natural Beauty and Ecotourism: Belize is renowned for its natural beauty, including pristine beaches, coral reefs, tropical rainforests, and ancient Mayan ruins. Owning property in Belize allows you to immerse yourself in these stunning landscapes and capitalize on the country’s growing ecotourism industry.
- Retirement and Second Home Destination: Belize is a popular retirement and second home destination due to its warm climate, relaxed lifestyle, and affordable cost of living. Owning property in Belize allows you to enjoy a laid-back Caribbean lifestyle, escape harsh winters, or spend quality time during vacations.
- Growing Tourism Industry: Belize’s tourism industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, attracting visitors from around the world. This trend can make owning property in popular tourist areas a potentially lucrative investment, especially if you intend to rent your property to vacationers.
- Diverse Culture and Expat Community: Belize is known for its cultural diversity and welcoming atmosphere. Its vibrant expatriate community allows you to connect with like-minded individuals from various backgrounds and enjoy a rich cultural experience.
- Ease of Property Acquisition: Belize has relatively straightforward property acquisition processes, with a clear legal framework for foreign ownership. Non-citizens can purchase and own property outright, including beachfront and island properties, without the need for local partnerships or complicated legal structures.
It’s important to note that while there are advantages to buying property in Belize, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research, seek professional advice, and understand local regulations before making any purchasing decisions.
Options for Belize Real Estate Financing
As mentioned above, financing in Belize is more complex than in domestic markets. We do not have the same standard mortgages and bank financing people are used to in the USA or Canada. Most real estate transactions in Belize are cash sales.
You can get a mortgage or loan in Belize from the banks. The bank will charge a high-interest rate and require a larger down payment. Because of the conservative nature and banking policies in Belize, the banks are still at a stage where the interest rates are higher than off-shore purchasers are used to. Most banks in the US will not loan to an out-of-country real estate purchase. There are, however, real estate opportunities in Belize with seller or vendor financing. Due to the Belize real estate market conditions, most owners and investors go the route of owner/vendor financing.
Seller/vendor financing (if available) is straightforward. It is a non-recourse loan with the seller/vendor carrying the note on the property (similar to how a bank carries the note on a home mortgage in the US). You take complete control of the property when all parties sign the agreement and the down payment is made.
There are three ways for purchasers to receive financing for Belize real estate:
- Local Belize Financing: Local banks in Belize do offer to finance land and/or property, though it is not easy (especially for foreigners). It is also important to note that the interest rates with Belize banks and terms for financing are usually higher than what people are used to at home. Local banks in Belize usually have much higher interest rates in the range of 10-18% interest with fixed terms of only 12 months. When you get financing from a local bank in Belize, the loan is closed every year and renewed at the new rate. When borrowing or lending from a local Belizean bank, it will be in Belize dollars, and most real estate transactions in Belize are in US dollars. Because most of the Belize real estate transactions take place with U.S. dollars, local financing is challenging. Local banks in Belize will also often only lend money to Belize residents or citizens.
- Offshore or Domestic Financing: If you are not a resident or citizen of Belize and are looking for financing, you can borrow U.S. dollars through an offshore bank. In Belize, Caye International Bank is one of the only off-shore banks in the country. Interest rates with international banks in Belize are still much higher than people are used to in their domestic markets and are around 12% to 18%, and most offshore banks, when lending to people who are not Belize residents or citizens, require a high degree of collateralization with a high down payment (often 50%). Some people do acquire domestic financing in their home country through a line of credit or refinancing their home/mortgage.
- Owner, Seller, or Vendor Financing: This is the most common way foreigners acquire financing for land in Belize. It is also far more common for someone to find land with financing than it is with a home or condo. Belize property owners and/or developers usually agree to property financing at better rates than the local banks. It is also very easy to qualify, as it is a non-recourse loan. The rates through seller or vendor financing are often less than what is available at local banks and financial institutions. Around Secret Beach, you are able to secure property with 20% down. Within Mahogany Bay, you can secure canal-front land with 25% down.
For more information on financing in Belize and Belize real estate opportunities with financing available, contact us at RE/MAX Belize.
Using a Self-Directed IRA or 401K
One way to manage costs, minimize the out-of-pocket investment, and ease the burden of taxation is to purchase real estate under a Self-Directed IRA or 401K. These structures are very easy to do in Belize and allow Americans to purchase an off-shore investment property using investment funds. The benefits of ownership under these legal entities include; access to capital for investment, and less taxation on capital gains, thus earning greater profits from the Belize real estate investment.
Real estate investors (from the US) can hold investment real estate in an IRA or 401K to gain access to capital (without paying high taxation) and reduce the tax exposure (as long as the investment capital has not been distributed to the IRA owner).
Under the IRS’s self-directed IRA rules, contributions to Self-Directed IRA accounts can be used to purchase real estate (commercial, residential, or raw land) inside and outside the United States. This allows investors to use Self-Directed IRA funds or a 401K to invest in Belize real estate.
However, contributions to offshore real estate IRAs are subject to additional rules. For example, while the property in your IRA can be rented to others, you can’t rent it out to your family. The property can also not be used for your own personal use (it has to remain strictly an investment).
Another advantage is that the rental income from an offshore Belize real estate investment through IRA is deferred and can be made tax-free if purchased using a ROTH IRA. Under this setup, you could, in theory, collect decades’ worth of rental income and not pay US tax. You only need to worry about taxes when you distribute the income from the property to yourself in the future.
Bank Financing in Belize
Bank financing options in Belize can vary depending on the specific bank and the type of property you wish to purchase. Here are some key points regarding bank financing in Belize:
- Local and International Banks: Belize has both local and international banks operating within the country. Local banks include Belize Bank, Atlantic Bank, and Heritage Bank, while international banks like Caye International Bank also have a presence in Belize. These banks offer various financial services, including mortgage loans.
- Mortgage Loans: Banks in Belize provide mortgage loans for purchasing residential or commercial properties. The terms and conditions, interest rates, and loan-to-value ratios may vary between banks. It’s important to research and compare multiple banks to find the best mortgage options that suit your needs. It is important to note that Belize Bank mortgages are typically in Belize Dollars, while most real estate transactions are in USD.
- Eligibility Criteria: To qualify for a mortgage loan, banks in Belize typically require applicants to meet certain criteria. Often a borrower needs to have Belizean citizenship or residency status. International Banks can lend to foreigners, often requiring a minimum of 50% down. The requirements can include proof of income, employment history, creditworthiness, and down payment. The specific requirements may vary between banks, so it’s essential to check with the individual institution for their specific eligibility criteria.
- Down Payment: Banks in Belize usually require a down payment for mortgage loans. The percentage required can vary, but it is typically around 50% of the property’s purchase price. It’s important to have the necessary funds available for the down payment when applying for a mortgage.
- Interest Rates and Terms: Interest rates with banks in Belize are often higher than what investors are used to in their domestic markets. The interest rates and loan terms for mortgage loans in Belize can vary depending on the bank, the type of property, and the borrower’s financial profile.
- Property Appraisal and Legal Process: Before approving a mortgage loan, banks in Belize often require a property appraisal to assess its value. Additionally, they may require a title search and legal, due diligence to ensure there are no liens or encumbrances on the property. These processes help protect both the borrower and the bank.
- Currency: The currency used for bank financing in Belize is typically the Belizean dollar (BZD). However, some International Banks may also offer loans in U.S. dollars (USD), particularly for properties that cater to international buyers. It is important to note that most real estate transactions in Belize are in USD. Learn more about Belize currency.
It’s crucial to consult with a Belize real estate professional or financial expert who specializes in Belizean real estate or off-shore investing.
Advantages of Not Financing a Property in Belize
There are several advantages to not financing a property:
- Avoiding Debt: By purchasing a property outright without financing, you can avoid taking on debt. This can provide peace of mind and financial security, as you won’t have monthly mortgage payments or interest to worry about. Being debt-free can improve your overall financial well-being and provide more flexibility in managing your finances.
- Savings on Interest Payments: Financing a property involves paying interest over the loan term, which can significantly increase the total cost of the property. By paying in full upfront, you save on interest expenses, potentially saving you a substantial amount of money in the long run.
- Ownership and Equity: Buying a property outright means you immediately become the sole owner with 100% equity. You won’t have a lender with a claim on your property or any restrictions on what you can do with it. You can make improvements, rent it out, or sell it without any restrictions imposed by a mortgage lender.
- Simplified Purchase Process: Financing a property involves a complex process, including loan applications, credit checks, property appraisals, and legal documentation. By not financing, you simplify the purchase process. You can negotiate directly with the seller, avoid waiting for loan approvals, and potentially complete the transaction more quickly.
- Lower Closing Costs: When financing a property, there are various closing costs involved, including loan origination fees, appraisal fees, and mortgage insurance. By purchasing a property outright, you can eliminate or significantly reduce these closing costs, saving you money during the transaction.
- Increased Cash Flow: Without monthly mortgage payments, you have more cash flow available for other purposes. You can use the money for investments, savings, travel, or other personal goals. This increased cash flow can provide financial flexibility and the ability to pursue other opportunities.
- Reduced Financial Risk: By not taking on a mortgage, you eliminate the risk of defaulting on loan payments or facing foreclosure. You have full control over your property without the potential stress and consequences associated with loan repayment.
It’s important to note that buying a property outright requires a significant upfront investment and may not be feasible for everyone. Consider your financial situation, long-term goals, and consult with a financial advisor to determine if purchasing a property outright is the right decision for you.