Belize is an amazing place to live and there are tons of opportunities for people not only looking to retire but also invest and/or start a business. Moving to Belize is much easier than in other countries with a lot of incentive programs in place. But there are a few things everyone should know before moving to Belize (to avoid any surprises). The lifestyle in Belize & Ambergris Caye is amazing and it is easy to see why so many people are making the move every year.
Here are the 5 biggest misconceptions about moving to Belize! If you’re considering moving to Belize from the US or Canada be sure to give this video a watch before doing so. We break down some of the key things you should know before making a move to Belize and 5 misconceptions people have before making the transition
Misconception 1: Belize is All the Same
Belize has a very diverse landscape ranging from the Caribbean Islands of Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker to the lush Rainforests in Cayo & San Ignacio. If you have visited Belize, you know how different each area of the country is. If you are looking to be near the beach and reef, you will likely want San Pedro or Ambergris Caye Real Estate. If you are looking to live near Guatemala and enjoy the rainforest, you may prefer Punta Gorda or Cayo. Belize has a lot to offer, and it is important to know that not all of Belize is the same.
Misconception 2: How Quickly Things Can Move
Things sometimes move a little slower in Belize and the different departments handle different areas of permitting. Belize does have a slower and less stressful pace, which is one of the reasons so many people love Belize. That said, the slower lifestyle sometimes requires a little more patience and a different process. You are able to get things done in Belize, but be prepared to go through the due process.
Misconception 3: Everything in Belize is Cheap
A lot of things in Belize are less expensive. Anything made locally is a fraction of the cost of what you are used to in the US or Canada. That said, there are things that are more expensive. If something is imported, you will notice that you are paying more. Also, if you are on an island, there are additional logistics that are needed.
Misconception 4: You Need Residency or Citizenship to Move to Belize
You do not need to be a resident or citizen to move to Belize or to buy property in Belize. There are also no restrictions or time constraints on how long you are able to stay in Belize as an American or Canadian. You can stay in Belize as long as you want, as long as you renew your Tourist Visa every month.
Misconception 5: Finding Property in Belize is Easy
Belize does not have an MLS or standard listing platform. There are a lot of opportunities in Belize and a diverse real estate market. We do not have a formal MLS in Belize, so a real estate agent’s job is a little different. This makes it important to work with a real estate professional who knows and understands the market. We also do not have the same licensing for realtors or a standard real estate association. Make sure you are working with a realtor who has licensing and/or is a member of the different Belize Real Estate associations like AREBB (Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize) or BNAR (Belize National Association of Realtors) or have a brand like RE/MAX which holds its brokers and agents to the highest standard.
There are a number of mistakes people can make when investing offshore or purchasing a vacation home in a market outside the US or Canada. Belize Real Estate has become increasingly popular for investors and people looking to relocate to a warm tropical climate. There are far more than 5 mistakes people make when investing offshore, but we are going to touch on 5 of the most common. Here are the 5 Mistakes people make when investing offshore & how to avoid making them yourself.
5 Mistakes People Make When Investing Offshore
Buying Real Estate Without Using an IBC.
Buying or Selling Property Without Taking Advantage of “Owner-Carry Financing”
Buying for Personal Use & Investment without a Strategy.
Buying Property in an Overly Saturated Market.
Buying Without a Reliable Ownership Structure
1. Buying Without Using an IBC (International Business Corporation)
Owning property in an IBC (an entity structure separate from yourself) will protect your personal assets and give you numerous advantages. Setting up an IBC takes less than 96 hours.
Advantages of using an IBC
Protection from Lawsuits
Save Thousands of Dollars
Higher Return on Investment
Simplicity of Ownership
TIP: Look for properties already in an IBC!
2. Not Planning an Exit Strategy
Selling Your Offshore Investment
Many offshore markets have expensive bank financing, giving you the opportunity to maximize your profitable return by offering your buyers owner carrier financing, at terms you set.
For example, you purchase a lot for $200,000 & now it’s worth $300,000.
You add a traditional cash sale:
$300,000 (sale price) – $200,000 (cost of property) = $100,000 ROI (Return on Investment).
You offer the buyer financing with 20% down, 10% interest, and a 5-year term
= $100,000 profit
+ $82,000 in interest.
= $182,000 ROI (Return on Investment)
As you can see, this structure adds significant percentage points to your ROI. When you offer to owner finance a property you not only improve your ROI, but you also improve the liquidity as you greatly increase your prospective buyer pool. The larger the buyer pool, the easier and faster you sell a property. It is difficult for foreigners to obtain financing in most offshore markets. If you offer seller financing on your property you maximize your return. It is also important to consider your “exit strategy” on any investment property.
3. Buying for Personal Use & Investment
What to look for in a personal use property
Close to Downtown
Who are the neighbors
Is the area quiet
Is the land fully developed
What to look for in an investment property
Is it the path of progress
Is there a potential upside
Where are the value adds
What can be improved
What is the ROI
How long do I want to hold
What financing terms can I obtain
Look deeper and identify what type of property is going to meet your needs.
4. Buying Real Estate in a Saturated Market
Infancy Markets Competitive Advantages
Buying within an infancy market isn’t always a great investment opportunity. With that said, properties within an infancy market have the most potential upside in the future. The key: finding something within an infancy market that lies in the path of progress. Examples would be Ambergris Caye Real Estate & Belize Real Estate.
We’ve all heard the age-old saying, buy low sell high. The vast majority of properties within a saturated market are already overpriced and thus in these conditions, it is much harder to find good, let alone great investment opportunities.
5. Buying in a Market with Poor Ownership Structure
When you are buying real estate offshore you want to make sure that you are buying in a country/market that offers full foreign ownership and fee simple title, You also want to buy and invest in a market where the government is in favor of foreign investment. An example of this would be, Belize.
Belize is a member of the British Common Wealth and practices British Common Law, as such its systems are nearly the same as Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. The fee simple title owner has the right to possess, use the land and dispose of the land as the owner wishes-sell it. In Belize, you own your property outright and can give it away, trade it for other things, lease it to others, sell it, or pass it to others upon death.
In countries like Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras, owning property as a foreigner is far more difficult and there are restrictions in place. Mexico does not directly allow for foreign property ownership and forces investors to jump through hoops to “own” their property. You must incorporate through a Mexican corporation with a Mexican Director and sift through the confusion and grey areas to do so. When buying or investing in Mexico, it is hard to tell if you ever truly own anything.
It is also important to note that most offshore markets have squatting rights. This is not the case in Belize. Belize does not recognize squatters and squatting rights are not a concern.
Advice: Before you invest in an offshore market, invest in your education.
When making an offshore investment take the time to attend webinars, read investment guides, talk to the right people, and research everything you need to know before pulling the trigger.
Investing in Belize Real Estate
Belize is like foreign investing on trainingwheels; everything is in English, we have full foreign ownership, practice British Common law, fee-simple land title, etc.
Belize Real Estate is becoming more and more of a hot topic for Americans, Canadians & Europeans as more learn about the tremendous benefits of owning real estate in Belize. Whether it be for investment or lifestyle purposes, Belize stands out amongst other countries in the Caribbean & Central America region for several reasons. These are the cornerstones of relocation to the county and are as follows:
When you consider that 90% of the U.S. only speaks English, this is a huge benefit of Belize. People love the fact that when they go to their doctor in Belize they can communicate in their native tongue or when they go to fill out legal documents they can read them in English.
British Common Law
Belize is the only English-speaking country in the region, this is a direct result of British influence over the years. The British also left something else extremely beneficial behind, their legal system. Other countries in the region (Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, etc.) adopted the Spanish legal system, Napoleonic Civil Law. When it comes to Belize real estate there is a key difference between the two. That is, with British common law there is full foreign ownership. When Americans, Canadians, or any foreigners for that matter invest in property they receive a fee simple land title along with their property and truly own it.
When you invest in property somewhere with Napoleonic Civil Law there are two-tier ownership rights where residents can own, but foreigners must do so through a corporation with local directors or other grey area strategies. This is not the case in Belize, where foreigners have full ownership under British Common Law.
Proximity to the U.S.
Belize is 750 miles from the nearest point in the U.S. and has direct flights from L.A., Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Newark, Toronto, Chicago, & more locations being added. The flight from Miami is roughly an hour and a half making it very easy for Americans and Canadians to get down in a very short period.
Fun Fact: Belize is within five hours of 82% of the U.S.!
Below you can see the direct flights to Belize;
46% of Belize is National Park & Marine Reserve
One of the things about Belize that most don’t know is that the official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on 21st September 1981. Given that Belize as a nation is relatively young, it has had the opportunity to model policies and characteristics from other countries that it feels are beneficial to the country.
One of the biggest things Belize has done in this regard is dedicated 46% of its land to a national park and marine reserve, one of the largest portions of a country in the world to be a national park. Not only is this beneficial from an ecosystem perceptive, but it’s also highly valuable from a real estate investment perspective. When you put a 46% restraint on development, you increase scarcity, which as we all know leads to appreciation.
In Belize, there are no capital gains taxes and property taxes are extremely low compared to what many are used to in the U.S. and Canada. For example, property taxes on a 60’ by 75’ piece of land would be roughly $75 per year paid annually in April.
Tourism & Rental Market
Belize is going through a state of high nightly rental demand with increasing tourism (44% over the past 5 years) without an equitable increase in the supply of nightly and monthly rentals leading to increasing rental rates and higher returns for investors. 2019 was the all-time high in tourism that Belize had ever seen, and the trend is showing absolutely no sign of slowing as Belize’s tourism in 2022 rebounded strongly after the pandemic.
The Belize Real Estate Market and Tourism are also looking promising in 2023. In fact, with the airlines adding as many flights as they have in recent years, Belize is expecting the growth to not only continue, but increase. With 70-75% of all tourists who visit Belize going to Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) during their stay, Ambergris Caye is the standout location for relocation and investment.
Ambergris Caye Real Estate
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize measuring 27 miles long. Ambergris Caye is located at the northern point of Belize’s coastline with the Belize barrier reef just off the east Coast. Ambergris Caye is the top tourist destination in Belize and sees hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year. Here are some quick facts about Ambergris Caye;
The largest of all Cayes and Islands in Belize, Ambergris Caye is widely known as the “Jewel of Belize”.
Belize’s largest island is 24 miles long and 3 miles wide
70% of overnight tourism comes to Ambergris Caye
12 miles from the mainland
#1 tourism destination in Belize
One of the best-kept secrets in tourism-driven markets is the distinct correlation between the change in tourism numbers and real estate appreciation. As tourism increases, we tend to see a proportionate increase and appreciation in property values.
Baby Boomers & Belize Real Estate
As many of you may know (or maybe going through the process) more baby boomers are looking to relocate from the U.S. every day. About four million people will retire every year, as of 2014. From 2014 to 2034, about 80 million people are expected to retire. This equated to roughly 10,000 people retiring per day for 20 years. Obviously not all these people will choose to relocate however, according to an AARP life survey, roughly 28,121,000 people will be relocating outside of the U.S., and the area with the largest expected growth is the Central America & Caribbean Region.
When you factor in our list of retirement benefits (English speaking, Proximity, Legal System, Etc.) it is more than safe to say that Belize will receive its fair share of baby boomers. This is only leading to more scarcity in the rental market, as when baby boomers move down, they generally take inventory out of the rental pool as they will live in it year-round as opposed to previous owners who would rent the majority of the year. When you factor these aforementioned thoughts together, you have the “perfect storm” for rental rates to increase and investor returns to increase.
There are many other benefits when it comes to Belize real estate. For the most part, Belize is still underdeveloped and sparsely populated so there is still plenty of room for growth, and property values haven’t come near adjusting to where they should be given the growth in tourism we discussed in the previous section of this post.
Another benefit of Belize is its economic and political stability. The economy here in Belize isn’t a one-legged stool, there are many facets to the GDP including agriculture, energy, transport & tourism. The government has shown it is a pro-foreign investment country by facilitating the process for foreigners and even bringing in the QRP program to reduce the costs and expenses of relocation to Belize.
If you have any further questions on Belize and looking to buy Belize Real Estate we are happy to chat via email or phone, feel free to reach out to RE/MAX Belize to chat and discuss your Belize real estate goals in further detail and get all your questions answered.
In regards to investment, Belize is unique as it is both Central America & the Caribbean, the mainland including San Ignacio & Placencia has more similarities to the Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, etc), while Ambergris Caye Real Estate is more comparable to the Cayman Islands, The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Etc. The fact Ambergris Caye is an island, there is far more scarcity of property than being on the mainland in destinations like Placencia. As a real estate investor, scarcity works to your advantage for both rental income and property appreciation. The fact that Ambergris Caye is one of the few opportunities with high tourism growth and land available, makes it a unique opportunity in today’s market.
Why Ambergris Caye Belize?
Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize measuring 27 miles long. Ambergris Caye is located at the northern point of Belize’s coastline with the Belize barrier reef just off the east Coast. Ambergris Caye is the top tourist destination in Belize and sees hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year. There are a number of reasons Ambergris Caye and San Pedro Town are so popular, but the leading reason is the fact that less than a mile off Ambergris Caye’s eastern shore, you’ll find the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the second largest reef in the world and the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The natural beauty of Ambergris Caye and the fact that the island has seen drastic increases in tourism every year make it the no-brainer choice when investing in Belize.
Ambergris Caye luckily has something we like to call “Island Economics”. When investing in an island there is only so much land available. The limitations on available land create scarcity, not only scarcity of property but also a scarcity of land and completed resale homes. There is only so much land on an island. Island economics means that you see greater property appreciation on an island due to scarcity of property and limitations on how much can be built.
Areas and destinations along the Yucatan Peninsula or other areas with nearly endless developable land eventually have an over-supply that is caused by the fact there is nearly unlimited room for development. Investors rarely see the same equity appreciation they see when they invest on an island. One of the difficulties of investing in a property that has nearly endless room for growth is the fact that developers continue to build, so real estate investors don’t see the same level of appreciation that they see on an island, where the availability of land is limited.
This is basic economics, Ambergris Caye has higher demand and less supply. Mainland destinations in Central America have less demand and nearly unlimited supply. On Ambergris Caye, you have far more amenities (with the reef 400 yards off the coast), with beaches on the East & West Coast.
The reason so many investors choose Ambergris Caye over mainland Belize destinations is largely due to the growth and investment potential. Ambergris Caye is the #1 tourist destination in Belize by a large margin. It also delivers the highest Average Daily Room Rate for an income property. It is also important to note that as an investor, you will have much higher margins, as resale properties on the island sell have more demand and higher returns on investment.
Ambergris Caye Real Estate Supply & Demand
To give you an idea of the growth and opportunity with Ambergris Caye Real Estate you have to look at the population and tourism growth statistics. Ambergris Caye (as of 2015) had an estimated population of approximately 16,444 people. Since then the population has grown with an even higher volume of foreigners moving to Ambergris Caye. Over the last 5 years, Ambergris Caye has seen a population growth rate of around 8% per year, and in the previous 10 years, prior Ambergris Caye experienced an annual population growth rate of roughly 17%.
It is also estimated that up to 25% more people reside on Ambergris Caye on a part-time basis (vacation or winter homes). Ambergris Caye as a destination for tourism has experienced incredible growth over the last 5 to 15 years. From 2017 to 2022 (the same 5 years) Ambergris Caye has seen tourism grow at a rate of 14.6% per year (over double-digit annual growth).
When you factor in the population growth and the influx of new residents with the growth in tourism, you really start to see the opportunity. As it stands right now, there is not enough vacation or long-term rental inventory to support the growth in tourism and the growing population.
Top Reasons to Invest in Ambergris Caye Real Estate
High Demand & Limited Supply
As we touched on above, Ambergris Caye is an island with limited supply. Even though the supply is limited, the demand has skyrocketed over recent years with more-and-more tourists visiting Belie. In 2019, Belize saw over 500,000 overnight tourists, most of which visited Ambergris Caye. These overnight tourism arrivals grew by 60% from 2015 to 2020. With 70-75% of overnight tourists who visit Belize heading straight to San Pedro and Ambergris Caye.
The number of hotel rooms and lodging inventory for rentals has not seen the same growth and is not meeting the tourism demand. What is being developed on Ambergris Caye in the next five years will not be able to sustain the increasing tourism demand. Therefore, many industry experts predict Ambergris Caye real estate prices and nightly rental rates will continue to increase. This will lead to greater equity appreciation and a higher cash-flow yield.
Just to illustrate the popularity of Belize real estate, you can see the transaction volumes for RE/MAX Belize (all offices & agents in Belize) below (most of which have been on Ambergris Caye);
Ambergris Caye has become a top destination and as the tourism sector continues to boom and popularity increases there is a need for additional lodging and/or rental inventory. Even though demand is on the rise, the supply has remained stagnant. With increased awareness comes increased demand but the lodging and vacation rental inventory supply does not meet the demand growth. You can see the tourism growth in Belize from 2014 to 2019 below;
Even though tourism is growing and we have seen Belize tourism rebound in 2022 to pre-COVID numbers, the total rooms for rentals have stayed stagnant with almost no new inventory and often even a decline in inventory. Tourism pre-COVID grew by over 60% in 5 years (over double-digit annual growth of 14.6%) but lodging and inventory stayed the same. Even now, rental inventory saw a -2% decrease from Q2 to Q3 of 2022. Below you can see the lodging and rental inventory on Ambergris Caye over the last 3 years;
As you can see, the 3-year trend has been consistent with many quarters seeing a dip in rental inventory (even with an increase in demand). This creates a unique opportunity for investors. With the shortage in supply and increase in demand, there is a need for more lodging and rentals.
Belize is English-Speaking
The official language in Belize is English. Belize is one of the very few English-speaking countries in the region. Not only does the population speak and use English, but English is also used for all real estate transactions, legal matters, and business contracts. Being an English-speaking country with British Common Law makes Belize an easy place for Americans & Canadians to invest and do business.
Belize is a Low-Tax Jurisdiction
When you buy Belize property or invest in Belize Real Estate you will first notice how low the property taxes are in Belize. If you are investing in Ambergris Caye Real Estate you will have a property that appreciates in value. In Belize, there is no Capital Gains Tax or Estate Tax, so when you sell the property in the future for a profit, the Belize government does not tax your earnings. Belize also enjoys low corporate taxation which makes doing business in Belize even more desirable.
When looking at the income tax rate in Belize on passive real estate rental income the taxation rate is at the corporate tax rate of only 1.75%. The property taxes are also below 1% of the property value. Most property taxes are around 1% of their assessed value. What is even more appealing is that property or land assessments are usually way less than the appraised value or resale value of the property. For example, property taxes for land around Belize Secret Beach start at $75 per year. Property taxes in Mahogany Bay are $108 per year.
It is also important to remember that Belize is governed by British Common Law, which for real estate investors and people investing offshore that as a foreigner you have full property ownership with land title, just as in the US and Canada. In other destinations in the region like Mexico, Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica foreign citizens cannot own property as easily and have more restrictions on investment.
Ambergris Caye is a Vacation Rental Market
Since Ambergris Caye is such a popular tourist spot and vacation destination, the market demand is for nightly rentals, as opposed to long-term or monthly rentals. With nightly vacation rentals, owners and investors see a much higher yield on their investment and multiply the income potential of many investment properties. vacation rentals also give an owner or investor more flexibility and control, allowing them to occupy a residence for their own personal use. Ambergris Caye (due to the high demand and limited supply) sees a much higher nightly rental rate than other destinations, it is not uncommon to see $400+ per night rental rates on properties that would otherwise rent for under $2,000 per month on a long-term lease.
Being in a short-term and vacation rental market, you are able to control the rates and adjust more quickly making it a perfect real estate investment during periods of high inflation.
Why Ambergris Caye Real Estate?
Belize is at a tipping point and at RE/MAX Belize we like to make a hockey reference. As Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Over the last few years, Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, Margaritaville, Four Seasons, and Six Senses have all started on projects here on Ambergris Caye. There is a reason these brands choose the locations they do and why they are betting on Ambergris Caye over any other destination in Belize. The due diligence team of these large resort brands is much more thorough than an individual investor.
To put it more simply, “success leaves clues.” These brands essentially do the heavy lifting, building a brand around an area, which leads to more development and allows owners to reap the reward. These brands and resorts funnel millions of dollars into marketing and building awareness, which will continue the upward trajectory of Belize most of all Ambergris Caye. As JFK famously said, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
As San Pedro Town and the island of Ambergris Caye continue to grow and expand (both in population and tourism), there is an increased need for more services. One of the newly proposed services includes an easier and more affordable way to get around the island. This is the newly proposed public transportation system. A private entity, Taly Corporation, has been actively working on a public transportation system and route for San Pedro & Ambergris Caye going from Mahogany Bay through San Pedro Town, continuing north and heading west to Secret Beach. The Taly Corporation is looking to invest in and set up the Ambergris Caye public transportation system to make it easier and more affordable for people to get around the island (both locals and tourists). The proposed plan will have a portion of the public transportation profits go to a non-profit organization and charities on Ambergris Caye until the initial capital investment is met.
The proposed public transportation project would be under the San Pedro Public Transport Company Ltd. The proposal for the public transportation system is yet to be approved. The plan is to offer island residents and tourists public transportation options besides only taxis or golf cart rentals. Below you can see the current types of transportation used in San Pedro with the % of total use;
San Pedro Ambergris Caye
San Pedro Town on Ambergris Caye, Belize, as of 2015 had an estimated population of approximately 16,444 people. Since then the population has grown with an even higher volume of expats and tourists. Ambergris Caye as a destination (for tourism and residency) has experienced incredible growth over the last 5 to 15 years. From 2017 to 2022 (5 years) Ambergris Caye has seen tourism grow at a rate of 14.6% per year (over double-digit annual growth). Over the same 5 years, Ambergris Caye has seen a population growth rate of over 8% per year, and in the previous 10 years, prior Ambergris Caye and San Pedro experienced an annual population growth rate of 17%. It is estimated that up to 25% more people reside on Ambergris Caye on a part-time basis. The growth in population and tourism has led to the proposed public transportation system.
The public transportation proposal will not require any public funding from the Belizean or the municipality of San Pedro Town. All profits will be donated to local charities and non-profit organizations.
The public transportation system proposed by Taly Corporation will include multiple pricing options, with reduced fares for students, seniors, and people with disabilities. There will also be monthly public transportation passes available as well as single-ride fares.
The vehicles proposed for the public transportation project are 14–16-seater shuttle buses. The plan is to have the shuttles operating 24/7.
The Public Transportation Routes
The proposed public transportation route will include 20 designated bus stops. The stops will go from Mahogany Bay Village in the south and up to the North at the turnoff to Secret Beach and over to the West Coast. The proposed route will go to and from Mahogany Bay to Secret Beach with 20 total stops. You can see the proposed stops and route below;
The fleet size, the number of vehicles, and the frequency of trips will increase over time as the demand grows. For more information on Belize and Ambergris Caye infrastructure or to learn more about Belize Real Estatecontact us at RE/MAX Belize!
As 2022 comes to an end and we look towards 2023, Belize real estate continues to boom as Belize is now very much on the world’s radar. When looking at the Belize market (considering we do not have an MLS), we have seen Belize real estate demand and prices trend upwards over the past 10 years. Going into 2023, demand is still on the rise. Properties on the islands that are popular tourist destinations like Ambergris Caye continue to be an excellent investment, for both appreciation and passive rental income. The tourism sector is booming and we saw 2022 Belize tourism rebound, nearly reaching pre-COVID numbers.
Belize is a great place to live and invest. The lifestyle on Ambergris Caye has a very laid-back Caribbean vibe. If you are looking at Belize from an investment standpoint, rental income-producing properties are in high demand for both vacation and long-term monthly rentals. Belize properties and vacation rentals on Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) rent out quickly and for a high nightly rental rate. Whether you are planning for a long-term investment to buy and hold or a short-term source of passive income, you can’t go wrong with Belize and owning Ambergris Caye real estate.
Just to illustrate the popularity of Belize real estate, you can see the transaction volumes for RE/MAX Belize (all offices & agents in Belize) below;
What Makes Belize Real Estate So Attractive?
Compared to a lot of places Belize offers an outstanding quality of life. The quality of life exceeds the warm tropical climate (which is very consistent year-round). Ambergris Caye is a perfect location for a young family looking for a better lifestyle, or an investor/business owner who wants to get in on Belize’s growing tourism industry or diversify their investment portfolio. Belize is also the perfect destination for individuals looking to retire in a warm, affordable place to call home. Whether you are looking for personal use or investment, Belize real estate has a lot to offer.
If you are on Ambergris Caye, the weather is warm year-round, and you can enjoy sunny skies and a tropical Caribbean climate almost every day of the year. If you enjoy outdoor activities and being active you will be mesmerized by the water-based recreation, and endless hiking trails. Belize has all of the charms of the Caribbean.
People in Belize and Ambergris Caye (locals and expats) live a relaxed, stress-free life. One of the most charming things about Belize is the fact there are no chain restaurants, skyscrapers, or fast-food restaurants. This also shows the opportunity in Belize and where the country is at in the scheme of time. When living or visiting Belize you will quickly notice are no traffic jams and no blizzards. Ambergris Caye is also incredibly safe, for both visiting and investing.
Why is Belize Real Estate so Popular?
Living and investing in Belize allows you to stay close to home and quickly get to your investment property. Belize is a short flight from the US or Canada with direct flights from most major airports. Belize is also English-speaking (one of the only English Speaking countries in the region). Along with being English-speaking, Belize also practices British Common Law and allows for full-foreign ownership and some of the strongest property ownership rights in the world.
Belize has also grown in tourism popularity without new lodging inventory. With increased awareness comes increased demand but the lodging and vacation rental inventory supply is behind the tourism and vacation rental demand.
You can see the tourism growth in Belize from 2014 to 2019 below;
Even though tourism has grown (and continues to grow post-pandemic) the total rooms for lodging have stayed stagnant. Tourism pre-COVID grew by over 60% in 5 years (over double-digit annual growth of 14.6%) but lodging and inventory stayed the same. Even now, rental inventory saw a -2% decrease from Q2 to Q3 of 2022. Below you can see the lodging and rental inventory on Ambergris Caye over the last 3 years;
As you can see, the 3-year trend has been consistent with many quarters seeing a dip in rental inventory (even with an increase in demand). The opportunity for a better lifestyle and a high-yield cash flow property is the driving factors on why Belize real estate has been so popular and continues to be in demand for years to come.
Where To Look for Property in Belize
Like anywhere, there are certain areas of Belize that attract more tourists, expatriates, and retirees. There is a reason why the popular areas are popular. Every year, Ambergris Caye and San Pedro are the top tourist and investment destinations. Ambergris Caye provides the best lifestyle and investment upside. As an island, there is a scarcity of property which improves the rate of property appreciation. Ambergris Caye also sees the highest volume of tourists, which increases investment potential and improves infrastructure.
Ambergris Caye Real Estate
Ambergris Caye is an island on the western coast of Belize and on the northern Caribbean side. Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourist destination in Belize. San Pedro is the main municipality on Ambergris Caye and is a well-developed town with all the amenities and infrastructureyou could need. San Pedro boasts high-end, luxurious resorts and real estate opportunities for personal use or investment. With its scenic surroundings (with the reef just off the East Coast and sandy West Coast beaches) and lively nightlife, it is easy to see why Ambergris Caye is so popular for tourists and expats and why it is the #1 destination in Belize.
Belize Real Estate for Foreign Investment
When it comes to owning off-shore, Belize is one of the only countries in the region with full foreign ownership where foreigners have the same ownership rights as locals (nationals). Belize is one of the few countries in the world that has full foreign ownership and foreigners have the same real estate and land ownership rights as citizens. Other tropical destinations like Costa Rica or Mexico do not allow for full foreign ownership and when purchasing property a foreigner has to take extra steps.
Even with the extra steps, when investing in another off-shore market (like Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, or Honduras) a foreign investor does not physically own the property. If you are investing in a market outside Belize, you can own property, but additional work is required. Other countries in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America make it even more difficult to buy property as a foreigner. This is not the case in Belize where foreigners have the same ownership rights as locals and when a foreigner buys a property they own it outright with a fee-simple title.
In Belize, you can buy property as easily as you buy property in the US or Canada. This is due to Belize sharing the British Common Law system. When you buy Belize real estate you can purchase a residence to live in, a home to rent out, commercial/business properties, industrial buildings, and raw land all as a foreigner.
Belize also offers a lot of investment incentives for foreigners looking to buy and/or invest in Belize. These are further reasons to invest in Belize.
Tax Incentives for investing in Belize
There are a lot of benefits when it comes to owning and investing in Belize. Belize is a low-tax jurisdiction. One amazing benefit of buying Belize real estate is the fact that there are no capital gains taxes or estate taxes. If you purchase land, develop it, and then sell it for a profit, or even flip a property for more money you are not obligated to pay any capital gains tax in Belize. You keep all the money. Also, if someone inherits your property or Belize asset, they are not subject to estate tax or inheritance tax.
One of the other major draws of Belize is the fact that property taxes are very low (almost shockingly low). Belize property taxes are affordable and the cost of land/property taxes is next to nothing. The low taxation and cost of ownership are one of the driving reasons so many investors and owners are investing in Belize.
Most property taxes are 1% to 1.5% of their assessed value. What is even more appealing is that property or land assessments are usually 10-30% of the property’s actual resale value really is. For example, property taxes for land around Belize Secret Beach start at $75 per year. Property taxes in Mahogany Bay are $108 per year.
When you compare property taxes in Belize with other countries you will see why so many people are buying and investing in Belize real estate and Belize land.
Language & Laws
Belize is English-Speaking and one of the only English-speaking countries in the region. The fact you do not have to learn a new language to live or do business in Belize is very appealing. When owning or investing in Belize you will find that it is very easy for a foreigner to do business in Belize. Having the official language English helps with more than day-to-day communication, it also means that all legal documents are in English as well. This is from Belize’s former history as a British colony, and practice of British Common Law. Having the language and legal system in place makes dealing with contracts and other legal matters much easier.
It is also important to note that the property and real estate contracts in Belize are similar to the real estate contracts in the US, UK, and Canada. There are some cases with corporate tax optimization programs like IBCs. But for the most part, a transfer of ownership and land title certificate is very similar to the US & Canada. When buying real estate in Belize you won’t have trouble understanding the process or the documentation.
Compared to other Caribbean & Central American real estate markets, Belize is still very affordable. Even though our real estate prices are on the rise, they are still a fraction of what you will find in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, & Panama. The affordability of property and the affordability of lifestyle are major reasons people keep flocking and investing in Belize.
It is important to note that the real estate market in Belize has not stayed stagnant, prices have gone up over the years, but it is still affordable compared to the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, or Mexico. For retirement and vacation homes, Belize is a fraction of the cost of the coastal areas of Florida and California. Belize also does not have the red tape and restrictions on rent controls other markets have in place. When buying land or real estate in Belize it is an amazing deal when compared to other destinations.
The cost of living in Belize is also less expensive than you are likely used to in your domestic market.
Belize has a stable government. The Belizean political system is a British Parliamentary Democracy. The democratic system in place makes Belize one of the more stable emerging countries with a democratic government. Belize also has the growing tourism industry which is strongly supported by the local government, which can be seen through the amenities and stronger safety measures. When compared to a lot of the world Belize has a low crime rate and is not subject to riots or terrorism. The crime in Belize is concentrated to a small area of Belize City. The island of Ambergris Caye (the #1 destination in Belize) is very safe.
The government in Belize supports economic growth, foreign investment, and the popular tourism sector. The currency controls in place also prevent corruption on a federal level as we have a pegged currency (2:1 with USD) that is not subject to localized inflation rates.
Ways To Own Belize Real Estate
There are a variety of ways to own property and real estate in Belize. Belize has a lot of incentive programs in place to make purchasing real estate easier and remove some of the tax obligations. When buying real estate in Belize you can property in your personal name, a corporation (like and IBC), or a Belize trust. Belize is an excellent choice if you want asset protection.
When you are looking at investing in an offshore market like Belize, there are 4pillars a person should look for regarding real estate investment;
Capital Protection: How safe is the investment? In Belize, there is full outright ownership. Belize is also pro-landlord and does not recognize squatting rights.
Capital Growth: The appreciation of an asset. Belize is growing, and with growth comes increased demand. Belize is an appreciating market.
Yield (Cash Flow): Can you produce passive income from the property? In Belize, you can rent out a home or condo with ease. You have passive real estate income from vacation rentals.
Favorable Taxation: Belize is a tax haven with no capital gains or estate tax. Property taxes are also low and corporate taxes are 1.75% for international companies and 3% for domestic companies.
Luckily, when you invest in Belize, you are in a position to check all 4 boxes. You also have the added benefit of limited supply and scarcity in a market with growing demand when investing on an island like Ambergris Caye.
Buying Belize Real Estate
Hiring a reputable Belize real estate agent can help you navigate the process and find a property that is inline with your needs and/or investment goals. Our team at RE/MAX Belize are here to help answer your questions and aid in your property search. It is important when making a purchase and investment off-shore that you work with a professional real estate office. Also having someone who understands the Belize market that can steer you to the right areas and the best properties.
When buying real estate in Belize it is important to rely on your realtor for your property search. We do not have a standard MLS in Belize, which makes a real estate agents job even more important. Your RE/MAX Belize Real Estate Agent can explain the process to you and expedite the purchase process.
Belize has a lot of advantages and offers owners and investors affordable prices, high rental income, and low taxes. The ease of purchasing real estate in Belize is very similar to the US & Canada but without as much bureaucracy and red tape. Belize is a very easy country to invest in and do business. In Belize the real estate contracts are quite easy and we use English as an official language make Belize an attractive real estate option.
The official currency used in Belize is the Belize Dollar (BZD; symbol BZ$). The Belize Dollar has a fixed exchange rate of 2:1 with USD ($2 Belize = $1 US Dollar). The Belize currency at an exchange rate of $2 BZD to $1 USD can be exchanged at most banks and hotels in Belize. There are not as many ATMs in Belize as people are used to at home. The ATMs in Belize generally accept most foreign cards (Canada & US). It is also important to note that when you are in Belize that the majority of businesses accept Credit Cards (MasterCard, Visa, and some AMEX). US dollars are also universally accepted in Belize at a rate of $1 US to $2 BZ, MasterCard. Tourism is the number one industry in Belize and most of our tourists are from America. Because of this, almost every business accepts USD, and having a pegged currency makes it easy. If you are traveling to Belize, you are able to use your US cash everywhere and there are ATM machines available that dispense in Belize Dollars.
The first notes issued under its name were dated 1ST JULY 1983.
Just like the US dollar, the Belize dollar is divided into 100 cents. Currency Bills & Bank Notes in Belize come in $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations. Belizean coins are one cent, five cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, and a $1 coin. Belize currency and Bank notes are the latest-generation currency with distinctive security features including watermarks this makes it very difficult to counterfeit Belize currency.
One thing that is important to note is that it can be very difficult to exchange Belizean dollars for other currencies once you leave Belize.
Symbols: BZ$ or BZD
Exchange Rate of 2:1 with USD
Bills: $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
Coins: 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and $1
History of Belize Currency
Belize was originally British Honduras and until its independence, the Spanish Dollar was in circulation.
In 1894, the government (of British Honduras) issued banknotes in denominations of 100, 50, 10, 5, 2, and 1 Dollar.
In 1973, British Honduras has renamed Belize.
The first 100 Dollar banknote was introduced in 1974.
In 1976, the printing of banknotes was taken over by the Monetary Authority of Belize.
In 1981, Belize became an independent country.
The Central Bank of Belize was established in 1982. It produced banknotes in 1983.
What Currency is Used for Belize Real Estate?
When you look up Belize real estate and property online, the prices are almost always in US Dollars. This is because the majority of real estate transactions and property purchases in Belize are done in USD. Most of the Belize vacation homes, Belize property, and Belize real estate are made using U.S. dollars. The Belizean local currency is used for local transactions while USD is used more frequently for real estate transactions.
Since almost all real estate transactions in Belize are done in USD, a US intermediary bank is needed. This is why almost every Escrow Agent or Escrow account for closings uses a US bank account (even for Belize real estate transactions). All payments (down payment and payment processing on financing) are generally made in the US.
Since Belize real estate is largely done in USD and people are paying in USD the bank and payment processing have to go through an American intermediary. From anywhere in the world, to use US dollars you need a corresponding bank in the US. The escrow accounts we use at RE/MAX Belize are typically in the US. This is also helpful for the purchaser as it is often a domestic wire, since the majority of buyers/clients are Americans or Canadians, and it is safer and cheaper for both the sending and receiving parties using US dollars and a US bank. Doesn’t matter where you are conducting business in the world, a US-based intermediary bank would be required if a transfer is done in US dollars.
The Escrow Agent is a US bank account. Since almost all of the real estate transactions, we do at RE/MAX Belize are in US dollars and either a US bank or US intermediary bank is needed when doing any transaction in USD. This makes it easier for the transaction but also protects the purchaser as well with a domestic bank transfer.
Because payments are being sent and received in the US and in USD the escrow agent and account are in the US. This is for the safety and security of the purchaser and the seller.
Belize has currency controls in place (which is why we have a pegged 2:1 currency) this prevents corruption from the government and rapid inflation in an emerging country. Because of the currency controls, real estate transactions are done in US dollars, which as mentioned above requires a US account or US intermediary bank.
The news on Belize is out. The Caribbean & Central American country of Belize has entered the world’s 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 about 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 is 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 of 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 straightforward. 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.
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.
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 titles). In Belize, a foreigner can only purchase land that has a 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 the 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 is 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 the 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 setbacks 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 of 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, to 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 of the people we work with buy property or land 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 nor the seller of a property needs 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 Bayor 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-upon 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 (International Business Company).
After the 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 when you have 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 ensuring 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.
At ReMax Belize, we use Capital Corporate Services as our closing company for our clients. It is also common in Belize for a closing company to use an Escrow Agent and/or Escrow Account. This helps to protect the buyer and the seller during the real estate transaction. Since most real estate transactions in Belize are done in USD it is common for the Escrow Account to be in the US and with a US Bank.
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 land 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!
For more information on Belize Land and buying land in Belize, contact us.
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 at this time 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.
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.
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 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.
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;
Prices are in Belize Dollars
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.
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 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 Cayeis home to the famous Belize Great Blue Hole.
What is an Atoll?
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.