Thinking of Buying Land in Belize?
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.
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.
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 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-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.