Questions to Ask When Buying Land in Belize

Thinking of Buying Land in Belize?  

The news on Belize is out. The Caribbean & Central American country of Belize has entered the worlds radar and is no longer a “secret.” Since Belize and Ambergris Caye are no longer secrets the Belize real estate market has been attracting a lot of attention from investors and people looking to relocate to a tax-friendly, english speaking, tropical destination.

Belize is full of opportunities; from residential properties that people intend to use for their own personal use (moving or retirement) to developing investment properties. When investing in Belize and buying land in Belize there’s something for everyone.

If you’ve been considering purchasing property and real estate in Belize, it helps to understand and be knowledgeable on what you can and can’t do. When buying Belize Real Estate or Ambergris Caye Real Estate you ultimately want to consult and work with a real estate professional. Our team at RE/MAX Belize are here to help with your Belize real estate search.

If you are considering buying land in Belize, you will likely have a lot of questions, and hopefully the answers to a number these questions will help you get started.

 

Do I Have to be a Citizen or Resident to Purchase Land in Belize?

Unlike other countries in the region (Central America & Caribbean), when buying property or buying land in Belize you do not have to be a citizen or have residency. In Belize, foreigners have the same ownership rights as nationals (citizens). Belize offers full foreign ownership and the strongest property ownership rights (fee-simple title). You do not need to be a citizen or have residency when buying land in Belize.

There are certain requirements and criteria a closing company will request for the property transfer, but it is very easy and straight forward. There are some taxes and fees that do apply. But when you are buying land in Belize, you own the land outright.

The fees and taxes when buying land in Belize often must be paid separately and cannot be bundled into the sale or whatever financing arrangement you’ve made. To reduce the fees and simplify the process, a lot of foreign investors buy Belize property in an IBC.

To get a better idea of how those fees and taxes apply to you, and the property/land you are looking to buy, you should consult with your Belize real estate agent. Different properties (depending on their ownership structure) have different fees and taxes. Working with a Belize real estate professional (with experience) will ensure that you aren’t caught with surprises in the middle of the transaction and end up scrambling for additional money to cover the taxes and closing costs.

 

What Type of Land Can I Buy in Belize?

One of the major draws for foreign investment in Belize is the few restrictions on foreign ownership. Belize does not have limitations on foreign ownership or impose limits on the ability to purchase land that’s zoned for residential or commercial use. Even if you are not a Belizean citizen or resident, you have the ability to purchase land without restrictions or an overly complicated process.

By working with a Remax Belize Real Estate agent, it’s easier to focus the Belize real estate search and find the right property/land in Belize.

When buying land in Belize you want to make sure you know how a given tract of land is zoned and make sure it is surveyed and titled before spending any time trying to acquire it. Some properties may have restrictive covenants in place and zoning limitations (zoned for commercial and residential). People often purchase a property with titling conflicts, because of this we suggest working with a reputable realtor like RE/MAX.

Like anywhere in the world, some properties and pieces of land are set aside for one purpose or the other. Knowing what you can (or can’t) do with a property is important. Some owners/investors want a property or are looking to buy land in Belize without any restrictive covenants. Others are looking for something with some community or development restrictions (like Mahogany Bay) to secure the property value and continuity. Knowing what you want from your property or land in Belize will help narrow down the search.

A “fee simple” is real property held without a limit of time. This means absolute and permanent ownership of property under the governing common law. A Fee-Simple Title and Freehold Ownership is the highest possible form of property ownership. There are also properties that are known as a “fee simple absolute,” which is without limitations on the land’s use.

To learn more about the different types of property ownership in Belize check out our other blog post.

 

Is There Types of Land or Properties That Aren’t For Sale?

There are certain properties and classes of land that are not for sale or cannot be purchased. There are also other properties and types of land that a person can purchase if they meet certain criteria. Some types of land and properties have restrictions. 46% of Belize is national park or marine reserve. If the land is in a protected area, it cannot be sold or bought (these properties won’t have title). In Belize, a foreigner can only purchase land that has title.

In Belize, nature reserves are an example of land that is not for sale. There are some areas and pieces of land in Belize that can be sold, but the purchaser is prohibited from constructing certain types of structures on the property.

Another thing to be aware of, that most foreigners do not realize is the “Queen’s Beach” or “Queen’s Land.” The Queen’s land is another type of land that cannot be sold or purchased (by a citizen or foreigner). The Queen’s land in Belize is also commonly known as Crown Reserves. The first 66 feet from high-tide surrounding any major body of water (ocean or sea) is public property and cannot be owned or developed.

All beaches in Belize are public access and the first 66-feet from high-tide is considered public land and public property even if it’s adjacent to private property. All docks are also public property (even if it is adjacent to private property or built by the owner).

While an owner of beachfront property is free to use the first 66-feet from high tide (Queen’s Lan), the use of the land must be open and nonexclusive. A resort or home can install a seawall, beach chairs, etc, but they cannot claim it as “private property.”

In Belize, there is a law regarding the ownership and usage of beaches or land along the coasts. This type of property, known as Queen’s Land. The Queens Land is 66 feet of land at the shore of any large body of water and cannot be purchased or developed. The first 66-feet from high-tide is considered public land, even in the case where it is adjacent to private property.

If you own beachfront land you are not legally able to construct any type of permanent building or structure. An owner of beachfront property is also not allowed to restrict the access of others to the property.

In Belize, even though a property may not have a physical “road” there is still likely a road reserve. Road reserves refer to the land found on each side of a public road. When are area is zoned and titled, there are often road reserves put in place. There are also setback from the road reserve that must be met. If you own property or land, you cannot build over the setbacks as there is land set aside for potentially widening the road in the future.

If you own land in Belize or considering buying land in Belize you will likely want to develop the property. If you plan on developing the land and building a fence or wall around it, it is important to make sure you know where the road reserve ends, and your property line begins. This is why we always suggest a property owner has their land resurveyed before the start construction.

A resurvey will ensure the structure and construction meets the setbacks. If a property is not resurveyed and you build on the land, the day could come when your fence or structure has to come down.

 

Do I Have to be in Belize to Purchase Land?

If you are buying land or property in Belize you do not have to physically be in the country. The entire property purchasing process can be done remotely and without physically being in Belize. When buying land in Belize it is not necessary to be in Belize when you buy property. Everything from sharing information, signing, and closing can be done remotely.

Much of the work needed to buy land in Belize can be done through your real estate agent and the closing company. At RE/MAX Belize, most of our clients buy property remotely (many site unseen). Our team of Belize real estate agents can coordinate the sale with the seller, the closing company, financing/payment processing company (if needed) and even ensure that everything is in order to pay the property taxes.

Using technology and online resources neither the buyer or the seller of a property need to be in Belize. The closing and transfer of property can all be done remotely.

It is important to note that current laws do require that a person purchasing property in Belize has a valid passport or form of government ID. When buying land in Belize, be prepared to provide the Closing Company with a photo of your passport and a utility bill. They will likely need proof that you do have identification and that it’s up to date.

It is also assumed that you will want to visit your Belize property at some point and a passport is needed for international travel. An ID or passport is needed for closing and transfer of property (even if a property is in an IBC or corporation).

 

Can I Get Financing For Buying Land in Belize?

In Belize, we do not have the same bank financing or mortgages people are used to in the US or Canada. Traditional bank financing is difficult but there are some Belize real estate opportunities with seller/vendor financing available. Most real estate transactions in Belize are cash sales. But real estate opportunities like Mahogany Bay or Secret Beach have seller financing available.

Some local or international banks will provide financing for purchasing land and/or residential and commercial properties in Belize. However, the banks in Belize have less desirable financing terms than what people are used to in the US or Canada. This is why a lot of people looking to buy land in Belize look for opportunities with seller or vendor financing.

When buying land in Belize, you can add provisions that allow you to work out a purchase agreement with a seller with financing. The terms and financing arrangements can vary. Seller financing options are often a non-recourse loan without credit checks. Seller financing is available on some properties, and it depends on the land and your circumstances. The type of property you want to purchase, and the seller of the property will determine the financing.

For the most part, real estate in Belize is paid for in cash. If you are financing a property, there will be a financing agreement. In a typical owner financing arrangement, the purchaser will provide the seller with the agreed on a down payment. After the agreement is signed by both parties, and the down payment is made, the seller will provide monthly payments which will be outlined in the agreement of sale until the debt is discharged in full.

When buying a property with financing there’s also likely to be a requirement to pay all property taxes and fees related to the property.

 

With Owner Financing, When Does the Ownership Transfer?

When you buy a property with owner financing, an agreement of sale is drafted and signed by both parties (the buyer and the seller). The agreement will be an agreement of sale with financing terms. Unlike bank financing (where the bank carries the note) with the owner financing model, the seller acts as the bank and carries the note on the property. The owner financing process is also much easier when a property or Belize land is held in a corporate entity like an IBC.

After agreement of sale with financing is signed by the buyer and the seller and the down payment is made, the owner gets full use and enjoyment of the property and the new purchaser can build and use the property from the closing or completion date.

One major difference between bank financing (like in the US or Canada) and the owner financing with the seller is who holds the physical title to the property during the financing period. With traditional bank financing, the purchaser is the physical owner of record with the bank holding a claim (note) on the property. That claim is released when the mortgage is paid in full to the bank.

With owner or seller financing in Belize, the seller acts as the bank until the final installment payment is made. At that time, the title to the property is transferred to the new purchaser. When a property has owner/seller financing, a mortgage contract is issued with the Central Bank of Belize which protects the buyer and the seller during the financing period.

 

Why Should I Use a Closing Company?

In Belize, a Closing Company handles all the due diligence and transfer of property (including a title search). When buying any property (domestic or off-shore) you want to ensure the process is done correctly. That includes initiating a title search, so you know what you are buying, you also want to ensure that there are no liens or encumbrances on the property. You also want to make sure that the seller is legally able to sell the Belie land.

The property history as well as corporate and IBC registration is also something that the Closing Company will take care of. It is a small fee (often $1,000 or 1% of the purchase price) and something we urge our clients to use. A Closing Company will make sure past transfers of ownership were done properly and that the whole process is done correctly.

You also want the Closing Company to look over the proposed purchase agreement, making sure the information is correct and ensure it’s in full compliance with the local and governing laws of Belize. A Closing Company is particularly important if you are choosing to finance a property with the seller because a payment processing company is often needed.

 

Buying Land in Belize

The most important thing to know when buying land in Belize or purchasing Belize property is that you can own property in Belize outright with a fee simple title. Belize has full foreign ownership. Even with the favorable laws and easy process it is important to do it the right way. That is why our team at RE/MAX Belize is here to help. When you work with RE/MAX Belize you have a team of professionals to ensure nothing is left undone and that you understand what sort of commitment you’re taking on (purchasing with cash or financing). With the right approach and process, everything will be seamless and you will own your own piece of paradise!

Ambergris Caye Utilities

Ambergris Caye Utilities

We are often asked about Ambergris Caye utilities and how much they cost. Electricity, telephone, internet, water, and sewer utilities are all available and relatively reliable in San Pedro Town and on Ambergris Caye. On Ambergris Caye, the municipality of San Pedro (and the surrounding areas including developments that are located in and near town) have full access to utilities. For developments situated north and south of town, septic tanks or contained wastewater systems along with cisterns are typically used.

Cisterns often are often used as a secondary source of water, and there is a reverse osmosis water treatment system in San Pedro Town that provides water to town residents and the developments/communities close to the municipality. The more remote resorts and developments generate their own electricity if they are not connected to the municipal electricity provided through BEL (Belize Electricity Limited) electrical lines.

Most people are surprised to learn that most of Ambergris Caye (especially in San Pedro Town) is on municipal utilities, including; electricity, water, sewer, and high-speed internet. That said, not all areas and communities have the same utilities available as others do. Areas like Secret Beach are “off-grid” with homes currently running on solar and generators for power. Most of the homes and developments north of the bridge have their own cisterns for water and septic systems (not on municipal sewer).

If you are on municipal utilities, your water likely comes from BWS (Belize Water Services) and your electricity comes from BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Internet providers are Digi & Smart both providers are very reliable and provide high-speed internet to Ambergris Caye. You will be happy to know that almost every corner of Ambergris Caye has cell service and a reliable connection.

Mahogany Bay is one of the few developments that provide new build options that run entirely on municipal utilities. The lots are all individually metered and set up with sewer, water, and electrical. In Mahogany Bay, there is also high-speed internet available with some of the fastest internet speeds in Belize and the Caribbean region.

It is important to note that all projects north of the bridge and south of Mahogany Bay require off-grid water and sewer, in Mahogany Bay, you invest in a property knowing that you are fully on municipal utilities and have the services hooked up to your home with each home metered individually. You receive an electrical and water bill monthly, very similar to the US & Canada.  

 

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities Availability

Areas of Ambergris Caye are fully on municipal utilities, these areas include water, sewer, electricity, and fiber optic internet. You can see a breakdown below;

  • Municipal Electricity: San Pedro Town, South Ambergris Caye, Mahogany Bay Village, East Coast, Costa Del Sol.
  • Municipal Water: San Pedro Town, areas south of the bridge (south of Mara Lagoona), Mahogany Bay Village. 
  • Municipal Sewer: San Pedro Town, areas south of the bridge (south of Mara Lagoona), Mahogany Bay Village. 
  • High-Speed Internet: San Pedro Town, Mahogany Bay Village, and Areas of the East Coast have Fibre Optic. Other areas have high-speed LTE service. 

If a property on Ambergris Caye does not have municipal electricity, they often use solar panels and generators. If they do not have municipal water, they often use a cistern that is on-site. If a property is on the municipal water system (which uses desalinization and reverse osmosis) you can drink the tap water (unlike other destinations in the region). If a home, development, or area does not have sewer in place, they will likely use their own on-site septic system.

Ultimately, there are areas and communities on Ambergris Caye that has all the amenities of the first world. There are other areas that require upgrades and installations. 

 

Ambergris Caye Electricity

If a home or business on Ambergris Caye is on municipal electricity it is likely provided through BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Electricity on Ambergris Caye comes from undersea lines from Mexico. Unlike Caye Caulker which gets power from diesel generators.

Since all the power and electricity on Ambergris Caye comes from subterranean lines from Mexico, it is cheaper than other Caribbean Islands and other areas of Belize. Generally speaking power and electricity on Ambergris Caye is around half the cost per kWh than other Caribbean islands.

San Pedro Town & the East Coast has on-grid electricity. Secret Beach and the West Coast have off-grid electricity. The off-grid electricity at areas like Secret Beach commonly comes from Solar and Generators. The cost of off-grid utilities (solar/generator) will depend on how much power you want to generate.

Electricity and power prices right now are comparable to domestic markets. Electricity on the island is around $0.17 to $0.22 per kWh. This is comparable to the US, Canada, or the UK. The electrical provider is BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Billed monthly like US or Canada. 

 

Solar Power

There are areas of Ambergris Caye that do not have access to municipal utilities and electricity. The homes and businesses near Secret Beach and the West Coast use solar as the primary source of electricity. When designing the solar system to fit your house you need to look at how much kWh you will be using on a daily average so you know how many panels and how many batteries are needed.

Things to consider:

  • The number of outlets you want in the home. 
  • The number of lights and type of lighting.
  • The number of fans and ceiling fans.
  • Will you have air conditioning? If so, how many?
  • What size and fridge.
  • The TV.
  • Stereo system.
  • Septic system.
  • Water pump.

There are 3 things that use quite a bit of power when using solar panels; Air Conditioning, Microwaves, and Washers/Dryers. Almost everything on the island in regards to Air Conditioning is mini-splits.

 

Ambergris Caye Water & Sewer

Ambergris Caye has a desalination plant and the water is provided through reverse osmosis. Water provider through BWS (Belize Water Services). They bought the reverse osmosis plant from Consolidated Water and have since invested $35 million into the system and upgrades. 

BWS recently doubled its production. The reverse osmosis system through BWS is now capable of holding 2.5 million gallons of water and daily production of 1.3 million gallons.

Every property in Mahogany Bay is individually metered and the water is provided through reverse osmosis from BWS. One of the other advantages to Mahogany Bay is the fact that just to the south of the community is the facility that produces the water through reverse osmosis, meaning that Mahogany Bay is one of the first communities with access to municipal water. This is important to factor in since the distance the water travels from purification to your home is much shorter than that of a property located further North in San Pedro Town. 

The water treatment facility produces 1.3 million gallons of water per day and in 2018 stored 2.5 million gallons of water at any given time. The facility underwent upgrades to increase the water production capacity and storage, that project was back in October 2019. The sewage system put in place on the island cost $90 million and is state of the art.

Mahogany Bay is one of the only communities that can verify the cleanliness of the water, other projects like Grand Caribe, Salt Life, or La Sirene all have to produce their own water and have their own sewer system. In Mahogany Bay, being fully on municipal utilities, you have confidence in knowing that your water is clean and your waste is properly disposed of (without crossover or risk of contamination). 

Regarding the quality of the water and being drinkable, yes you can drink the water in Mahogany Bay and the properties that are on the municipal reverse osmosis/desalinization system. As mentioned above, Ambergris Caye has a desalination plant and the city water is as safe to drink as any of the top places in the States or Canada.

Bottled water is available for sale for those still worried. People often purchase 5-gallon jugs and use that for drinking water. The tap water is drinkable and many people do drink it (tourists and locals). In Mahogany Bay, you are assured of safe and clean water. For any property that is not on municipal water, you should be skeptical as I could not verify the cleanliness of the water.

In regards to the water and septic bill, that can fluctuate depending on the home and occupancy. Like anywhere in the world, there are fluctuations depending on how much water is used. The price for water is done in consumption blocks which you can see below;

0 to 1,000 gallons: $12.80

1,001 to 2,000 gallons $15.11

2,001 to 3,000 gallons $16.27

3,001 to 4,000 gallons $17.44

4,001 to 5,000 gallons $18.60

5,001 to 6,000 gallons $22.08

6,001 to 7,000 gallons $26.15

7,001 to 8,000 gallons $29.05

8,001 + $31.96

*note that all prices are in USD

 

It is important to note that most of the island of Ambergris Caye does not run on municipal water or sewage. Most of the southern part (South of Mahogany Bay) and almost everything North of the bridge (past Mara Laguna) does not run on municipal water or sewage and have to have their own systems installed. 

The water provided through reverse osmosis and on municipal utilities is drinkable. Though most people get drinking water from 5-gallon jugs. 

Off-grid septic uses a combination of leach fields, septic tanks, multi-chamber systems, and compostable toilets. Off-grid water frequently uses rain catchment systems. Additional water can be delivered by BWS if required.

 

 

Sewer vs Septic

The words “sewer & septic” are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact very different. The difference between septic and sewer is quite simple, and often unknown to people not familiar with off-grid systems or home construction. Septic treats your wastewater on-site and is usually contained in an individual house that is not connected to municipal utilities. With a septic system, the owner is responsible for the cost to install and maintain the waste and water system.

A sewer or sewage system, on the other hand, is a system that runs on municipal waste management. A sewage system or home with sewer directs your wastewater to a centralized treatment plant operated by the local government and funded by fees and taxes.

A septic system is installed by a homeowner or a contractor and is an individual waste management system for a particular home or development. Septic needs to be maintained and cleaned at the owner’s expense (which can be messy). Sewer on the other hand is managed by a local government and all waste goes to a centralized place. It is less work and less hassle. With sewer, an owner does not have to worry about their waste and water disposal. 

Ambergris Caye, around San Pedro Town, has a full state-of-the-art sewer system. This sewage system does not extend the full island. As you pass Mara Lagoona (just north of the downtown San Pedro bridge) everything runs on its own septic system. This is also true in South Ambergris Caye. Mahogany Bay is one of the few communities that has municipal sewer.

 

Off-Grid Water Storage

If you are north of the bridge, at Secret Beach, or in an area that is not on BWS/municipal water you need to have a water storage system or cistern. When designing a water storage system you need to look at how many people will be staying at the house on average since the more people the more water you need.

You should make sure your water tank storage can hold enough water to last 2-3 weeks without rain. It is common for homes to integrate rain catchment systems. On average one person uses 90 gallons of water per day so if you have two people living in a house you need to have 180 gallons of water to last one day to have enough water storage for 2 weeks you will need 2,520 gallons of water storage for two people.

 

Off-Grid Septic

Septic is the most important part of the utilities since you need to make sure you have the right septic system installed to meet Department of the Environment regulations. For Secret Beach there are two systems that are approved to be installed the best system to install is a Hydro action tank the other option is to install a three-tank septic system.

 

 

Internet on Ambergris Caye

Internet and connectivity on the island are top of the line with some of the fastest internet speeds in the region. Back in 2017, San Pedro went through significant upgrades. Now the town of San Pedro has some of the fastest internet speeds in Belize. In 2017, Ambergris Caye had a fiber-optic submarine cable installed with connectivity to San Pedro, enabling super-fast broadband speeds to the island of Ambergris Caye. Since 2017, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye boasts the fastest internet in the country. Super fast Fiber-based Internet up to 130Mbps for home or business. 

The Fiber Optic runs from Maskall to Bomba and from Bomba to the coastline from there there is underground via an SFOC to the island of San Pedro.

 

 
 
Most of Belize has WIFI with an LTE signal. However, there are places that boast stronger, more consistent internet like Ambergris Caye. With the high volume of tourism and the influx of expats that have moved to the country, and Ambergris Caye in particular, the service has improved to meet demand.
 
There are 2 primary providers of the internet in Ambergris Caye, Belize; SMART & Digi. Digi offers Fiber Optic internet with the fastest speeds. SMART offers reliable internet and is a popular alternative for areas that do not have fiber optic internet. You can see the rates and internet speeds below;
 
 

SMART Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Digi Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities in Belize

For more information on utilities, including; cost, availability, and reliability, we at RE/MAX Belize are happy to help answer your questions. Ambergris Caye will exceed expectations when it comes to infrastructure and the infrastructure is always improving. 

If you are looking to buy Belize Real Estate or Invest in Belize, contact us!

 

The Belize Barrier Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef or Belize Reef is a coral reef system that extends the entire coast of Belize. The Belize reef (also known as Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System) is a 300-kilometer or 190 miles long. The Belize Reef is without a doubt the #1 tourist attraction in Belize. The Belize reef is roughly 980 ft (or 300 meters) from the East Coast of Ambergris Caye (in the northernmost area of Belize) and 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the coast of the Southern areas of Belize (Placencia & Punta Gorda). Even though the Belize Reef is mostly in Belize, it is referred to as the Mesoamerican Reef since it is continuous from the Cancun reef system on the northeastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and continues down towards Honduras. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Even though it is the second largest reef in the world, it is the largest living reef.

The Belize Barrier Reef is the top tourist destination and attraction in Belize. It is world-renowned for scuba diving and snorkeling. The Belize reef alone is responsible for attracting almost half of Belize’s tourism. It is also vital to the fishing industry in Belize. It is important to note that as part of reef conservation, Belize has banned all commercial fishing and off-shore oil exploration and drilling.

 

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The coastal area of Belize is picturesque (both above and below the surface of the water). The Belize reef is an outstanding natural ecosystem system consisting of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere and western hemisphere. The Belize reef has numerous offshore atolls, several hundred islands, and lush mangroves. The Belize reef creates a unique habitat that is home to many threatened species, including marine turtles, and manatees.

The Belize Barrier Reef, which became a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, is comprised of seven protected areas, which include; Bacalar Chico National Park (North Ambergris Caye) and Marine Reserve, The Great Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye, South Water Caye, Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, Laughing Bird Caye, and Sapodilla Cayes.

The Belize Reef is also home to the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye just off the southern coast of Ambergris Caye (near San Pedro). Hol Chan Marine Reserve covers approximately 18 km² (7 miles²) and is made up of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests.

The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the Atlantic-Caribbean region it represents the second-largest reef system in the world. The seven protected areas that constitute the Belize Reef comprise 12% of the entire Reef Complex.

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is one system comprised of seven protected areas and marine reserves located along the length of Belize. It is the largest barrier reef in the Northern hemisphere and represents all the main reef and coastal habitats. The network of protected areas within the Belize reef is large enough to maintain the necessary ecological environment. The geographic spread and diversity of the Belize Reef enhance its resilience, which is an essential factor when mitigating the environmental impacts of climate change, global warming, the potential risk of coral bleaching, and rising sea levels. The Belize Reef system also helps with the mitigation of storm damage and hurricane impact in Belize as the reef breaks up any large waves and potential storm surges.

 

Belize Reef & Belize Atolls

An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, island, or series of islets. Including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon. The atoll surrounds a body of water called a lagoon. An atoll is a ring-shaped island formed of coral that surrounds a lagoon. As reef-building corals thrive only in warm waters, atolls are only found in tropical destinations with large reef systems.

An Atoll is formed when an underwater volcano erupts, which creates a seamount under the surface of the water. As the seamount builds, it rises above the water and becomes an island. Over time, reefs and corals grow around the island and the volcanic soil erodes away, leaving behind a circular reef and a large lagoon at the center. An Atoll takes thousands of years to create.

Belize is home to three of the four atolls in the Western Hemisphere. The fourth atoll in the Western Hemisphere is located in Banco Chinchorro in Mexico. The three atolls located off the coast of Belize are Glover’s Reef Atoll, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, and Turneffe Atoll. Lighthouse Atoll near Ambergris Caye is home to the famous Belize Great Blue Hole.

 

Hol Chan Marine Reserve

The Belize Reef is home to the popular Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve is one of the most popular dive and snorkeling spots in Belize and Ambergris Caye. Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye just off the southern coast of San Pedro Town. Hol Chan Marine Reserve covers approximately 18 km² (7 miles²) and is made up of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. In the Mayan language “Hol Chan” translates to “little channel”. Hol Chan is also home to Shark Ray Alley (which became part of the marine reserve in 1999).

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve was established as a marine protected area in 1987 under the Fisheries Act (Statutory Instrument # 57) Laws of Belize. It incorporates the southernmost marine and coastal areas of Ambergris Caye including the barrier reef, seagrass beds, and mangrove islands. Hol Chan is divided into four zones which include no-take areas and zones that regulate and promote sustainable fishing practices. The reserve was originally divided into four areas:

  • Zone A includes the inside and outside of the reef (part of the Belize Barrier Reef).
  • Zone B covers the seagrass beds inside the reef.
  • Zone C covers the mangrove swamps of southern Ambergris Caye.
  • Zone D covers Shark Ray Ally which was added in 1999.

 

 

The Belize Reef system is the largest tourism driver in Belize as it attracts tourists from around the world for fishing, scuba diving & snorkeling. For more information on Belize or to learn about Belize real estate and Belize investment properties contact us at RE/MAX Belize.

 

 

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

One of the primary advantages to investing and owning in Belize is the ownership structure and the fact foreigners can own a property outright with a fee-simple title. Belize is one of the only countries in Central America that allows foreigners to truly own Belize real estate. A lot of condos use strata titles, timeshares, or leases. One reason we suggest investing in Belize and or buying detached homes in Belize is the fact you get full outright ownership with a fee-simple title, owning the land and structure.

 

Shares vs Strata Title vs Fee Simple

In Belize, most land opportunities and detached single-family homes allow for fee-simple titles and have a physical copy of the title from the Belize lands department. Most condos or developments in Belize are owned with co-op shares or strata titles. Strata Title enables one to pass physical title to a ‘slice of air with a building in it’ without owning the land that is below it. An example of Strata Title would be purchasing and taking title to a 3rd-floor unit without owning the shadow footprint of the land below.

Many developers around Belize erroneously refer to their projects as ‘condos’ when they are not located in a new registration zone. It should be noted that true condominiums in Belize only exist in the New Registration zones where the Strata Act is applicable.  If the ‘condos’ are not in the new registration zone then they should be referred to as ‘units’ or ‘residences’ and, in most cases, they will be titled via corporate share certificate(s).

It is also important to note that Belize has a lot of parallels to the US & Canada when it comes to real estate and real estate appreciation. Condos rarely see the same level of appreciation and most of the condo projects in Belize (especially presales) are co-op share ownership. 

 

Housing Cooperative (Shares)

This ownership structure is popular and is known to North Americans as “Co-op’s”. This is the weakest form of ownership in Belize and the buyer does not have any form of title. There are numerous downsides to this form of ownership, mostly being that share certificates cannot be mortgaged by a lending institution, and insurance on the unit is challenging. A housing cooperative or “co-op” shares are a type of residential real estate option that is actually a corporation that owns the real estate.

The ‘owners’ within the development do not own their units outright. Instead of owning the units, each resident is a shareholder in the corporation based in part on the relative size of the unit or equity stake the unit that they live in has. A co-op share ownership in real estate is a way to own a primary residence, through the shares of the corporation. With housing cooperative or co-op share ownership owners own the shares, they however don’t own their units outright or the land itself; instead, each resident is a shareholder in the co-op.

Some co-op share real estate options allow owners to sell their co-op shares (equity in the unit) in the open market, depending on the development. Often they have restrictive clauses that limit resales. This limits the liquidity of the property. 

In Belize, when a condo appears to be cheap or “too good to be true” it is generally because they have co-op share ownership. Co-ops when it comes to real estate in Belize can be less expensive than homes or true strata title condos since they operate on an at-cost basis, collecting money from residents to pay expenses. Often padding additional profits to the developer.

Even though co-op share ownerships appear to be a great deal, they often come with more risk and a low level of ownership control. Before buying shares in a co-op ownership condo, be sure to check out the company’s financial situation and the fees involved.

A lot of presale condos use co-op share ownership. The resale is very difficult since the unit cannot be mortgaged and they are very difficult to insure in Belize

 

Strata Title

It should be noted that true condominiums only exist in the New Registration zones where the Strata Act is applicable. This includes San Pedro Town, Seine Bight, and Belize City are the only locations that have true condos with Strata Titles. Strata Title enables one to pass physical title to a ‘slice of air with a building in it’ without owning the land that is below it. i.e.: one can purchase and take title to a 3rd-floor unit without owning the shadow footprint of the land below.

If a condo has strata title, it provides a higher level of ownership and is a true ‘condo’. In Belize, every property has an individual land title, when you purchase a home or land in Belize you receive a copy of the land title. When you buy a property with a fee-simple title you take possession of it when you purchase a house or a piece of land in Belize.

When you buy a property that is part of a strata title, you own your unit or condo. When you own a strata title property or condo, you have individual ownership over your apartment, unit, condo, or townhouse.

The Strata Titles Registration Act, Chapter 196, of the Laws of Belize governs the issuance of titles to condominiums in Belize. These condo titles are referred to as “Strata Title”. The Strata Titles Act essentially enabled developers to construct condominium developments in Belize and to issue freehold titles to each unit created in those Developments.

Condominium structures in the Caribbean are very rarely high-rise buildings. They are commonly relatively small two to four-story buildings. This is largely due to building restrictions set by the CBA (Central Building Authority). Unlike large metropolis cities, the structures in Belize are rarely above 3 to 5 stories and are primarily used by vacationing foreign residents. Developments that offer Strata Titles are most commonly found in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Hopkins, and Placencia.

When a developer of a condo project applies for Strata Title, the titles of the various units are issued to the Developer and are put in the developer’s name. As each individual unit is sold, the developer transfers the strata titles to the new owners (purchasers).

A property or development in Belize can only apply for strata title when the unit is built or near completion. This makes it challenging to obtain Strata Title since most of the capital for investment is tied up in the development. Because of the laws pertaining to Strata Title, and having to be at or near completion to apply (and application takes time for approval), most condos or units offer co-op share ownership for presale, which can have risk. The tedious Strata Title process is why so many condos go the co-op share ownership route. If you are looking at buying a condo in Belize, we suggest ensuring the property at least has a strata title. 

 

Fee Simple Title

Fee Simple Title is Freehold ownership, which is by definition;

  1. A permanent and absolute tenure in land with the freedom to dispose of it at will, especially (in full fee simple absolute in possession ) a freehold tenure, which is the main type of land ownership. Fee-simple title is an interest in land.  Land owned in fee simple is owned completely, without any limitations or conditions. This type of unlimited real estate is called absolute.  A fee simple is generally created when a deed gives the land with no conditions, usually using the words like “to John Doe” or “to John Doe and his heirs”. (source)
     

In British Common Law, a Fee Simple, Freehold Ownership, or Fee Simple absolute is real estate in land or physical property and is of freehold ownership. A “fee” that is used as the basis for the title is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land and physical property. A “fee simple” is real property held without a limit of time. This means absolute and permanent ownership of property under the governing common law.

A Fee-Simple Title and Freehold Ownership is the highest possible form of property ownership. There are also properties that are known as a “fee simple absolute,” which is without limitations on the land’s use.

If you’ve bought land or a house in Belize, it’s likely you own the property outright with a fee-simple title. This is the strongest form of property ownership and means that you own the “real property”. The fee simple way of owning real estate is the most common type of homeownership in the USA & Canada. Belize is also one of the few countries in the region with fee-simple titles and full foreign ownership. The fact foreigners can own a property outright with a fee-simple title is one of the major draws and advantages of off-shore real estate investment in Belize.

When you buy land or a home in Belize you will receive a “fee simple” title to your property which gives you full and complete ownership, unlike some Central and South American countries where the title is held in trust by a bank or similar institution. Other countries will offer leasehold ownership to foreigners which means you only own the land/property for a set period of time. 

Belize is part of the British Commonwealth and with that, Belize has a legal system that is based on British Common Law. This comes with fee-simple land and property ownership. Property purchasers can take title to freehold property in Belize.

The Land Laws of Belize and property ownership Laws of Belize are derived mainly from the Common Law and English Statutes of the 19th century. The Law of Property Act, Chapter 190 has a lot of similarities to the Real Property Act 1925 of England and are nearly mirror images of each other. Other relevant statutes and laws that Belize has used and implemented include the Registered Land Act, Chp 194 which is a statute that governs all land transactions in Belize.

 

Fee Simple vs. Leasehold Ownership

In Belize, most residential real estate and land are owned on a fee-simple basis (this is similar to the US & Canada). This is not the case in most of Central America & The Caribbean where land and home sales are in leasehold ownership. Belize is one of the only countries in the region that offers full foreign ownership and fee-simple title. 

Under the leasehold model, one party owns a property while the tenant can use the land for a set number of years. This is common in Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, etc. Most countries in the region have restrictions on foreign ownership. This is not the case in Belize, where you truly own real property. Generally, Leases involved in these arrangements are usually long-term, typically lasting 55 years to 99 years or more.

Some owners may grant something called a “life lease” where the tenancy remains until the lessee passes away. This means the property itself can not be passed on or inherited. In that case, the property reverts back to the grantor.

If you enter into a leasehold arrangement, you’ll have to pay a fee to use the land, unlike fee simple ownership which requires no rent payments or renewals. With fee simple, you do not have to renew the lease as you own the property outright. With a fee-simple title, you own any home on the land forever. But with leasehold, when the lease ends, both the land and home will revert to the previous owner – unless you negotiate a new lease or renew the lease before the old one expires.

When you own a property with a leasehold property you only “own” the property or real estate for a fixed period of time. When you agree on a leasehold property, there will be a legal agreement with the landlord (sometimes known as the ‘freeholder’) called a ‘lease’. This tells you how many years you’ll have rights to the property. Ownership of the property returns to the landlord when the lease comes to an end or expires.

There are a lot of restrictions on foreign ownership in countries like; Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, etc. These countries often have leasehold contracts or require a trust to own real estate. That is not the case in Belize. Belize has no restrictions on what foreigners can own. There are some condo developments in Belize that are leasehold or co-op share ownership and usually use this structure if they’re bought through shared ownership or a co-op.

 

Belize Real Estate Appreciation

When investing or buying real estate it is important to consider the Appreciation Potential. Single-family homes tend to appreciate more than condos, partly because people have a hard time envisioning paying a higher sales price for a property where they have to pay condo fees. Many homebuyers would rather put that money into home improvements of their own choosing. The people who generally profit from condos are the developers alone.

Look to the future and the entire condo community when considering the marketability of your unit when you wish to move on. Your unit will never be worth more than an identical unit, plus upgrades. If another owner sells at a cheap price, that might affect your resale value. Condos can often of restrictions on use if you are in a rental pool, or require using their own management. When owning a home or land, there are often no outside restrictions on use. Condo homeowner association rules may restrict how you use the property and may make it difficult—or even prohibit—renting your condo unit to others. Or rent it outside of the rental management. When you own a home, you have much more control over the use of the property.

 

Property Liquidity

Literally speaking, a condo can be a tough sell in a bad housing market. That’s because, for the most part, a condo is a substitute house. They’re the kind of property people buy only in the most robust markets. But detached houses on privately owned lots tend to be more liquid in all kinds of markets. There’s also the individuality factor. Each house is unique, particularly after it’s been customized by its owners. There’s a greater likelihood that it will appeal to specific buyers. Condos, on the other hand, are uniform. They’re so similar that one unit doesn’t necessarily stand out from the rest. If there are a lot of units for sale in a condo neighborhood, it could take a year or more to sell your unit. This is a major reason why condos are often converted to rentals.

 

Belize Property & Belize Real Estate

One thing every person who goes through the purchasing process in Belize knows how easy and straightforward the process can be. Buying real estate in Belize is very easy and our team at RE/MAX Belize is here to help you through the entire Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

Neither the Buyer nor the Seller needs to physically be in Belize for the purchasing or closing and the whole process can be carried out remotely. Belize is one of the easiest countries for foreigners looking to buy real estate and invest off-shore.

Belize recognizes the rights of non-nationals, and the ownership rights for foreigners are exactly the same as local Belizean citizens. Unlike other Central American countries and tropical tourism destinations, in Belize non-nationals can buy a property outright rather than have to settle for a long-term lease (leasehold ownership) with the national government or have layered trusts. With Belize’s British ties, the ownership rights are very similar to that in the UK, USA, & Canada. 

Another advantage of buying property in Belize is that you do not need to physically be in Belize to make an offer on a property, or to complete a closing. Most real estate transactions in Belize are done remotely and the buyer does not have to physically be in Belize to purchase property in Belize. This makes buying real estate in Belize as a foreigner especially easy and appealing. 

There are different types of titles and ownership structures in Belize but are still good and all legal. When you buy property in Belize, you have a few options when it comes to the ownership structure. A lot of real estate transactions in Belize are through corporations and have property ownership in an IBC with fee-simple title. Owning a property in an IBC is still fee-simple full ownership with an added layer of asset protection and tax optimization. 

 

If you are looking to get the most out of your Belize investment and have the best value when it comes to Belize real estate, we at Remax Belize suggest buying land and building or securing a single-family home with a fee-simple title. The most desirable attribute Belize real estate offers is the fact that foreigners can own a property outright with a fee-simple title, and the fact Belize has full foreign ownership. When you purchase a condo (especially something with co-op share ownership) you erode the largest value of buying and investing in Belize. If you are looking for real estate options in Belize with a fee-simple title, contact us at Remax Belize.

As Mark Twain famously said, “invest in land; they are not making any more of it.”

 

 

 

Are Squatters a Concern in Belize?

Are Squatters a Concern in Belize?

No. The shortest possible answer is that Belize does not recognize squatters and squatters are not a concern when it comes to owning property in Belize. The tough anti-squatting laws and the fact Belize is “pro-landlord” make it such a safe investment and desirable place to own real estate. Belize real estate is a safe and secure investment and gives foreign investors peace of mind and a high degree of capital protection. Belize has tough anti-squatting laws and does not recognize squatting rights. Unlike Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and other Central American countries Belize is pro-landlord and has very strict anti-squatting laws. 

In Belize, one can only claim title to a land or easement upon proof to the Supreme Court of Belize that one has had continuous and undisturbed possession of a property for 30 years on National and Conveyed lands and for 12 years on registered lands.

There are no squatter’s rights in Belize. If you show title and there is someone on your land, the police will assure that the trespassers or squatters depart and are removed from the property.

Belize is one of the most pro-landlord countries in the region of Caribbean & Central America. Title to real estate is very secure in Belize, you own it outright and have a fee-simple title (the strongest form of property ownership). When you receive a “fee simple” title, it means you fully own the property. The system Belize has is based on British Common Law.  It is very safe and secure.

As long as you have the title and show ownership, your Belize real estate investment will be safe and secure. The fact Belize has full foreign ownership with a fee-simple title makes it an even safer investment. 
 
Belize does have title insurance, but it is not needed and is virtually useless. The strong property ownership rights and laws protecting real estate make title insurance not necessary. 

When it does come to squatters in Belize, it is important to note that any person who is found in the unlawful occupation of land or property is guilty of an offense under the National Lands Act, Chapter 191 of the Laws of Belize.

While it is the responsibility of private landowners to remove squatters and/or people trespassers on their land/private property, the Ministry and Belize government reiterates that, under the Summary Jurisdiction (Offenses) Act, Chapter 98 of the Laws of Belize, trespassing and squatting on private lands is illegal and subject to removal at the expense of trespassers.

In summary, Belize does not recognize squatters. Belize has strict anti-squatting laws protecting property, unlike most Central American and Caribbean countries. The only way a squatter can claim title to property or easement of a property is upon proving to the Supreme Court of Belize that they have had uninterrupted possession of the Belize property for at least 30 years on National and Conveyed lands or for at least 12 years on Registered lands.

If you are interested in owning Belize property or investing in Belize real estate be sure to contact us at RE/MAX Belize! We are happy to answer any of your Belize real estate questions.

 

 

Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

If you are looking to buy Belize real estate, your first question will likely be “what is the process to buy real estate in Belize?” This post will help answer that question and provide clarity on the subject and how the process of buying Belize real estate.

Belize is British Common Law which means that a foreigner has the exact same ownership rights as a Belizean citizen. Belize is the only country in Central America that allows foreigners freehold property ownership. When you buy a property in Belize, you own the real estate outright with a fee-simple title. The big draw to owning property in Belize is the fact that foreigners can buy property freely and have the reassurance that their property asset is protected, which is why so many Americans & Canadians are buying up property in Belize.

Another draw to owning property in Belize is the low taxation, especially property taxes. For example; properties at Secret Beach have $75 to $90 per year property taxes (paid annually in April). Properties in Mahogany Bay have $108 per year in property taxes (also paid annually in April). 

 

What is the Process to Buy Belize Real Estate?

 

Overall the real estate buying process in Belize is fairly easy and straightforward. The process does vary from property to property and transaction to transaction as different property types have different closing processes. But the general process is as follows;

 

Step 1: The first step is for the buyer to submit an offer to the seller. This can be a basic agreement of sale, once the buyer has signed the agreement is brought to the seller for approval. All signing and documentation can be done remotely. The majority of transactions are done using DocuSign or e-Signature

 

Step 2: Upon acceptance by the seller, a Belize closing company will process the transaction. The closing company will provide all the titles and ensure the transaction is indeed binding and executed. Once satisfactory title research is completed, a recordable Agreement for Sale or original title transfer instrument will then be drawn up based on the particulars of the original purchase offer.

 

Step 3: Either an agreed-upon down payment or the full purchase price will be due for the deposit. This is considered the closing date and will be specified in the purchase offer or Agreement for Sale. As soon as the deposit is paid and received the buyer will have full enjoyment and use of the property. 

 

Step 4: Once the balance of the property is paid in full, the transfer documents will then be executed and delivered to the purchaser for review. 

 

Step 5: If the buyer wants to keep the property ownership in an IBC the share capital will then be transferred in full to the purchaser. If the buyer wants to have the property title in their own name, the executed documents will subsequently be processed at the Lands Registry (which can take up to 3 months) and an original title or certified copy of an Agreement for Sale will then be presented to the new owner in due course.

 

If you are looking at buying Belize real estate or want more information on the property purchasing process, contact us at Remax Belize!

 

Owning Belize Property in an IBC

IBC Owning Belize Real Estate

If you are looking at owning or investing in Belize Real Estate you likely already know the benefits of investing in off-shore markets like Belize. What you may not already know or be aware of is that setting up an International Business Company (IBC) to own your property or buying a property that is already owned in an IBC Belize provides an array of benefits and is advisable when purchasing or owning a property in Belize. One of the many functions of an IBC is the ability to own and maintain real estate in Belize is one of them. 

Belize is one of the best low-tax jurisdictions in the region. Belize is also one of the best countries in Central America & The Caribbean and a preferred jurisdiction for setting up an offshore company. The most common type of offshore corporation when buying real estate in Belize is an IBC.

An IBC is an “International Business Company” and functions much like an LLC in the US but operates in an off-shore market or foreign country. The International Business Companies Act 1990 of Belize created a special category of a company known as an International Business Company (IBC). When you buy a Belize property that is in an IBC there is no stamp or transfer tax. Having IBCs is one of the tax optimization laws Belize has in place for off-shore investment. You own the IBC and the IBC owns the property with fee simple title. 

If a property is not held in an IBC, there is an 8% stamp/transfer tax when you buy or sell the property as a foreigner or non-resident and a 5% if you are a resident or Belizean (or Belizean corporate entity). When the property is in an IBC, you don’t pay the stamp or transfer tax, you have an added layer of asset protection (if someone sues you in the US, they can’t touch your Belize asset), and you have improved liquidity when you sell the property and remove liability. 

It is very common for people to purchase an off-shore investment property or real estate using an IBC (International Business Company). Most clients we work with at RE/MAX Belize want to own the property through a corporate entity. There are various reasons and benefits for owning a property in a corporate entity like an IBC, but one primary factor is having no stamp or transfer tax when buying Belize property. When a property is purchased without an IBC from a foreigner there is an 8% stamp transfer tax. When you buy a Belize property with an IBC there is no stamp or transfer tax.

 

Advantages of Owning Belize Property in an IBC

Owning property in an IBC offers more than just tax optimization. There are a number of reasons and benefits associated with owning a property in Belize through an IBC. Some of the advantages of owning a property in an IBC and why we at RE/MAX Belize suggest buying property in an IBC include;
  1. Tax optimization as you don’t have to pay stamp or transfer tax.
  2. Asset protection as it protects your Belize asset.
  3. Improved liquidity when buying or selling a property. 
  4. Faster transfer of ownership.
  5. Keep the owner’s ambiguity and privacy.

When a property is owned through an IBC, you still own it outright with full foreign ownership. You own the IBC and the IBC owns the property with a simple title. Today Belize is one of the largest leading centers for international banking in the world. 

The IBC laws were created and enacted to permit asset protection and tax minimization planning at competitive rates. Some of the attributes of an IBC are:

  • IBCs have an exemption from all forms of local taxation including Stamp Duty.
  • Speedy and simple registration. Also faster transfer of property.
  • Only one shareholder and one director are required.
    • Limited filing requirements (certificate of incorporation, memorandum, and articles of association).
    • No exchange control.
    • Low registration fee for new corporations.
    • Low continuation fee.

There are a number of reasons why we suggest clients buy a property in an IBC or form an IBC upon closing. It is one of the many great tools and advantages of buying Belize real estate. It is also an incentive for foreign real estate investment. 

 

Countries That Have IBCs

The list of off-shore countries and jurisdictions that use and practice IBCs is pretty long. They are a common corporate entity in any low-tax jurisdiction. The countries that have IBC laws and you could see owning a Belize property include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Anguilla
  • Barbados
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Brunei
  • British Virgin Islands (BVI)
  • Cook Islands
  • Comoros
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Gambia
  • Mauritius
  • Marshall Islands
  • Montserrat
  • Nauru
  • Saint Lucia
  • Samoa
  • St. Kitts and Nevis
  • St. Vincent
  • The Grenadines
  • Seychelles
  • Vanuatu.

An IBC is an offshore company that is usually formed as a tax-neutral entity meaning that it is not taxable in the country where it was established or the jurisdiction of incorporation. 

 

The Differences Between an LLC and IBC

An LLC & IBC in many regards performs the same function. This leads many people to ask “why wouldn’t I just use an LLC?”

So, what is the difference between a Limited Liability Company (LLC) and an International Business Company (IBC) in Belize? Well, both an LLC & IBC are quite similar to each other, they however have differences when it comes to ownership and management regulations.

The main difference between the two is that an IBC in Belize can be owned by a board of directors and have shareholder ownership. By contrast, an LLC in Belize, much like a combination between an LLC (limited liability company) and a partnership, does not include shareholders but members, and managers are in charge of the company control. An LLC will still have tax obligations if the owner of the LLC is a resident in their jurisdiction. This makes an IBC far more desirable than an LLC for owning property in Belize. 

 

An International Business Company (IBC) is essentially a private company (similar to an LLC) that is established in compliance with the laws of jurisdictions and used as an off-shore corporate entity for doing business overseas and in an off-shore market. An IBC can be used for a multitude of reasons, one of which is purchasing and owning real estate.

An IBC in Belize is established under the Belize International Business Companies Act. That being said, it is very common for a Belize property to be held in an IBC that is not in Belize. Belize is widely renowned for its growing financial offshore system and among the most advanced and user-friendly IBC laws in the world.

An IBC allows a foreign or offshore investor to engage in a diversity of activities with regard to asset protection, opening bank accounts, purchasing real estate, and many other international commercial transactions.

 

An IBC or owning Belize property in an IBC is a great tool if you are wanting a way to amass wealth in the short term and the long term. Owning property and utilizing an IBC also prepares for the future and sets up a way to preserve wealth and prepare for retirement abroad. If you have questions about IBCs and owning property in an IBC contact us at RE/MAX Belize. We can help answer your questions and ensure you have everything set up for your off-shore investment. 

 

Belize Tourism Rebounds in 2022

The latest statistics for Belize tourism from the BTB (Belize Tourism Board) provide a clear indication that Belize tourism is moving fast on its path to recovery after the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic. According to their latest number and figures, tourism in 2022 shows that Belize is nearly at pre-COVID numbers and overnight tourist arrivals to Belize totaled almost 300,000 (January to August), the largest number of overnight visitors recorded since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2022.

Overall, Belize’s tourism in 2022 is at 81% of peak tourism in 2018 & 2019. Which is up 281% (nearly 3x) from 2020 and up 185% (nearly double) than 2021 tourism. This shows that Belize’s tourism is at pre-COVID numbers.

 

The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) states that it remains committed to improving Belize tourism stating that – “Together, we will aggressively and effectively promote Belize as the leading tourism destination and achieve full recovery of the industry for the benefit of both Belizeans and visitors.”

With the steady growth in tourism through the first 8-months of the year, the outlook remains positive as Belize’s tourism industry rebounds strongly. Coming into high season, Belize is seeing almost all international flights returning and flight routes have been reestablished.

Belize was one of the best-kept secrets in the Caribbean & Central America. Now the word is out, and Belize has emerged as a ‘must-see’ destination. Belize has something for everyone and is undoubtedly a unique and unforgettable getaway. From the lush jungles and rainforests on the mainland to the tropical Caribbean beaches on the Cayes (islands). Belize is the perfect place to explore or relax near the beach. With the resurgence of tourism, Belize also offers the perfect opportunity for people looking for a cash-flow vacation rental property. People come to Belize for the beaches but often stay for the people and culture.

Though Belize is a small country, it felt a huge impact in the wake of the global pandemic. With so much of the economy dependent on tourism, we are excited to see that Belize tourism has rebounded in 2022 and continues to grow into the next year (2023). Belize’s borders are open, and we are thrilled to welcome travelers back. As COVID restrictions have gone away, Belize tourism is trending upward, and there is no better time than now to start planning your Belize vacation. With tourism coming back the opportunities for Belize real estate investments are abundant. For more information on Belize travel and Belize real estate opportunities contact RE/MAX Belize!

 

 

How to Get to Belize Secret Beach

Belize Secret Beach

As soon as you arrive in Belize and set foot in San Pedro Town or the island of Ambergris Caye, you are going to immediately hear about “Secret Beach” and how you must check out the once-hidden gem of Ambergris Caye. Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize and the #1 tourist destination. When you arrive at the tropical island paradise you will likely be told by everyone (hotel staff, bartenders, taxi drivers, locals, and tourists) that Belize Secret Beach is a “must-visit” and you will soon wonder what everyone is talking about…

You might first ask yourself, “can it be a secret if everyone is talking about it?” Or, “how do I get to Secret Beach?” in this post we highlight what makes Secret Beach so popular and how you get to the popular Belize beach.

 

Many who visit Ambergris Caye have Secret Beach near the top of their list of places to visit and experience when in Belize. Who can blame them? Secret Beach is one of the most stunning and picturesque areas in all of Belize. The sand beaches, turquoise blue water, calm Caribbean sea, and the fact there is no seagrass or sargassum draw thousands of tourists to the West Coast of Ambergris Caye and Secret Beach every year.

The west side of Ambergris Caye does not have the reef (which is on the East Coast of the island) but there are crystal clear waters with stunning sandy beaches on the West Coast with calm shallow waters. While on the West Coats and at Secret Beach you can walk a fair distance before the water depth even hits your waist. Once you experience Secret Beach you will see how truly stunning and remarkable it really is and why it was so hard to keep a ‘secret’. It is also important to note that the sunsets on Ambergris Caye are breathtaking and nowhere has more beautiful sunsets than Secret Beach and the West Coats.

 

Secret Beach is often called the “worst-kept secret” in Belize. This is obvious the moment you arrive and as you drive up and over to the West Coat. Secret Beach is a beach that is located on Ambergris Caye. Although Secret Beach is no longer a true secret, it is still a beach that is far enough from San Pedro and the hustle of downtown that you will be able to escape and enjoy the laidback beach atmosphere and relax by the ocean. Secret Beach is located just north of downtown San Pedro Town and then over to the West Coast of Ambergris Caye. The beach’s remote location combined with the calm Caribbean sea makes it one of the best beaches in Belize.

Up until recently, Secret Beach was more challenging to get to as visitors would require a boat. When the road infrastructure to the West Coats was put in in 2014, the popular beach destination became more accessible and the area really took off. The road to Secret Beach is roughly 2 or 3 miles long when you turn West after Grand Caribe, the road to Secret Beach stretches from the East side of Ambergris Caye over to the West Coast. When the road was put in back in 2014 it allowed, for the first time, access to the west coast (or the leeward side) of Ambergris Caye for the first time.

 

How to Get to Belize Secret Beach

Secret Beach is on the west side of Ambergris Caye. The vast majority of development (hotels, resorts, bars, restaurants, businesses, etc.) is on the reef side (East side) of the island. Secret Beach is however on the West Side. Luckily, Ambergris Caye is a long and narrow island and the widest point of Ambergris Caye is 3 miles.

To get to Secret Beach from San Pedro, you will probably want to rent a golf cart and start driving north. At approximately 4.5 miles north of downtown San Pedro (past Truck Stop, Grande Caribe & Coco Beach) there will be a fork in the road with a big left turn. It is hard to miss as you will see all the signs for the bars, restaurants, and beach clubs that are at Secret Beach. When you reach this junction, you will take a left (if you pass Matachica you have gone too far). When you take the left turn to Secret Beach, you will follow the road for 2 or 3 miles, passing small businesses and tourists along the way. You will then be greeted by the famous Secret Beach letters at Pirates Bar and finally, see the West Coats and know what everyone is talking about. And why the beauty of Secret Beach was so hard to keep ‘secret’.

 

You can see a map pointing out Secret Beach below;

Belize Secret Beach Location

 

Google Maps Drive to Secret Beach

 

Secret Beach is not only a popular tourist destination, but it is also one of the best areas for investment. The lots of land near Secret Beach start at $35,000 and you are able to finance land near Secret Beach with 20% down. If you are looking to buy, own or invest in real estate near Secret Beach, contact us at RE/MAX Belize.

 

Is it Easy for a Foreigner to Own Property in Belize?

Owning Property in Belize as a Foreigner

Belize used to be the best-kept secret in the Caribbean & Central America. Over recent years, Belize has become increasingly popular as a tropical paradise and the ideal destination for tourism, diving, fishing, retirement, and investment. Buying a property in Belize might mean a smart investment, a dream vacation property, or the opportunity to start over as an ex-pat (retirement or transition). The big draw to owning property in Belize is the fact that foreigners can buy property freely in Belize. Every year, more and more Americans and Canadians are buying property in Belize. Foreigners are buying property in Belize for numerous benefits. This is why investors and ex-pats are starting to look at Belize real estate and doing research on owning property in Belize. With the tax incentives and desirable climate, people are asking how they can have a home or investment in paradise.

The Belize government does an amazing job of incentivizing tourism as well as foreign investment. Real estate and property ownership are major investment drivers in Belize. One of the major draws to Belize is the fact Belize has full foreign ownership and foreigners have the exact same property ownership rights as locals. When you buy a property (land) in Belize, you own it outright with a fee-simple title. Property ownership in Belize is very similar to the US or Canada, this is largely due to Belize practicing British Common Law. When buying property in Belize as a foreigner it is exceedingly and almost unbelievably easy to buy property in Belize. Especially when compared to other markets like; Mexico, Costa Rica, St Thomas, Panama, Honduras, etc. Belize is one of the most pro-foreign direct investment countries in the Caribbean & Central America region. One of the largest investment drivers is in Belize Real Estate & Property in Belize.

Belize offers a range of investment incentives that promote the foreign ownership of property. In Belize, when buying property as a foreigner, you have the same rights as a Belizean citizen to property ownership.  If you are doing research on buying property in Belize and/or other Caribbean destinations you might find reference to an “alien landholding license” or the Alien Landholding Act, it is important to note that the Alien Landholding Act was abolished in 2001. Since its abolishment in 2001, foreigners buying property in Belize have equal property ownership rights as residents or citizens of Belize. This makes it very easy for foreigners to own property in Belize. If you’ve done research on other countries and jurisdictions in the region, and compared the destinations, you know that full foreign ownership is quite rare in much of the Caribbean & Central America, and rarer still in emerging markets like Belize.

Belize is one of the easiest and most amenable countries for foreigners looking to buy real estate. Belize recognizes the rights of non-nationals, and the ownership rights for foreigners (non-nationals) are exactly the same as locals (nationals). Unlike in many other countries in Central America, in Belize non-nationals can buy a property outright rather than have to settle for a long-term lease with the national government or have layered trusts. With Belize’s British ties, the ownership rights are very similar to that in the UK, USA, & Canada. 

Another advantage of buying property in Belize is that you do not need to physically be in Belize to make an offer on a property, or to complete a closing. Most real estate transactions in Belize are done remotely and the buyer does not have to physically be in Belize to purchase property in Belize. This makes buying real estate in Belize as a foreigner especially easy and appealing. Knowing that you can do the entire transaction process from the comfort of your own home. 

At RE/MAX Belize, we work with people from all over the world that are looking to buy and invest off-shore. Buying and owning property in Belize is very easy. If you are looking at buying or investing in Belize, contact the team at RE/MAX Belize. We are very familiar with ownership structures and how to own property in Belize as a foreigner.