Best Places to Own Property in Belize

Best Places to Own Property in Belize

Belize has many beautiful areas and destinations. Each with its own uniqueness. With a diverse landscape of islands, beaches, and jungles, there are a lot of great places to own property in Belize. The best place to own depends on what a person is looking for. That said, you have options to choose from when considering buying property in Belize.

Belize has stunning white sand beaches, lush rainforests, and Mayan ruins, with the largest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere, Belize has recently emerged as one of the top emerging tourist destinations. Belize allows full foreign ownership, which makes it a popular offshore investment destination and a great place for buying property.

The growth in tourism has been accompanied by a dramatic rise in interest in Belize real estate. Belize has become one of the hottest places to invest, and retire in the region.

Some of the best places to buy property in Belize include:

 

 

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye is a popular destination for tourists and expats, with beautiful beaches and a vibrant community. Ambergris Caye (and San Pedro Town) are the top tourist destinations in Belize. With that, it is the most popular location to own and invest in property. Ambergris Caye real estate is by far the most desirable property option.

Ambergris Caye is an island on the northeastern coast of Belize. Ambergris Caye is the largest island in the country and is the most popular tourist destination. Ambergris Caye is loved for its long sandy beaches, laidback island Caribbean lifestyle, and its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef. A lot of Ambergris Caye has been set aside as a nature preserve, marine reserve, and national park, which adds to its appeal as the most popular destination for international buyers and people looking to own property in Belize.

San Pedro Town is the municipality on Ambergris Caye. San Pedro Town and the popularity of Ambergris Caye has it among the most in-demand and developed real estate investment destination in Belize.

Ambergris Caye is one of the most sought-after locations in Belize. Not only for tourism but also for property ownership. It is the undisputed top location. As the largest island in Belize, it has been ranked as one of the top destinations for retirement and investment by Forbes, International Living, MSNBC, and more. Ambergris Caye is famous for its proximity to the Belize Reef which attracts avid divers and fishers. The reef extends the East Coast of the island, and the West Coast boasts calm waters and beautiful beaches (like the popular Secret Beach).

Ambergris Caye also offers abundant options for different kinds of water-based activities, including scuba diving the Belize Barrier Reef, deep sea fishing, snorkeling, reef fishing, jet skis, paddle boarding, kayaking, and more. Ambergris Caye also has great restaurants offering fine dining options as well as an amazing expat community.

Ambergris Caye is commonly referred to as the “Isla Bonita” (which is “the Beautiful Island”). With all it has to offer, there are few who disagree that Ambergris Caye is one of the top choices for expats who were looking to relocate to Belize or investors looking to invest in an emerging island destination.

 

San Pedro Belize Travel Guide (on Ambergris Caye)

 

 

Placencia

Placencia is a town at the very tip of a peninsula located in the southern part of Belize in the Stan Creek District. Placencia is a small, peaceful village on the southern coast of Belize with stunning beaches and a relaxed atmosphere.

Placencia has grown over the years along the peninsula to include; Seine Bight, Cocoplum, Maya Beach, and Plantation. Placencia is an ideal location for buyers looking to enjoy a tranquil lifestyle by the beach.

Placencia is a picturesque village located in the Stann Creek District of Belize, situated on a narrow peninsula along the Caribbean coast. Known for its beautiful beaches, laid-back atmosphere, and vibrant local culture, Placencia is a popular destination for travelers seeking a tropical paradise. It is often ranked in the top 3 destinations in Belize (behind Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker).

The Placencia Peninsula (which is made up of multiple municipalities) stretches for approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) and offers stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The village itself is charming, with colorful wooden houses, local shops, restaurants, and beachfront bars.

In addition to water activities, Placencia offers various land-based adventures as well as lush jungles and hiking trails in the area. You can explore the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to the world’s first jaguar reserve and offers hiking trails, birdwatching, and the chance to spot other wildlife. Nearby Monkey River also provides opportunities for wildlife viewing, including howler monkeys, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species.

To reach Placencia, you can fly into the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City and then take a domestic flight to the Placencia Airport. Alternatively, you can take a scenic drive from Belize City, which takes around three to four hours.

 

Placencia Belize Trip

 

 

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker is the smaller island that is just south of Ambergris Caye. Caye Caulker also sees a significant volume of tourists. Though the tourism to Caye Caulker is more backpackers with a number of local hostels. While there are many water sports, and activities similar to Ambergris Caye, Caye Caulker is becoming better known for its nightlife. This makes it a popular location for the younger crowd.

Caye Caulker is also located near the Belize Barrier Reef, which makes it popular for diving and fishing enthusiasts. The southern half of the island is mostly developed and the northern portion is separated from the town by “The Split” which is a narrow waterway that runs through the middle of the island.

Caye Caulker is a smaller island than Ambergris Caye which is known for its laid-back and relaxed atmosphere, Caye Caulker attracts tourists seeking a tranquil tropical getaway. The island is approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and has a narrow width of about 1.6 kilometers (1 mile). It is characterized by sandy streets, colorful wooden houses, and a car-free environment. The main mode of transportation on the island is bicycles and golf carts.

Caye Caulker offers beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters, making it a popular destination for snorkeling, diving, fishing, and other water activities. The Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second-largest coral reef system in the world, is easily accessible from the island, offering incredible opportunities for underwater exploration.

The island has a small but lively village area with restaurants, bars, and shops. The local cuisine often features freshly caught seafood, including lobster, conch, and fish. Caye Caulker is also known for its vibrant nightlife, with various bars offering live music and entertainment.

 

Caye Caulker Island Belize

 

 

Cayo District

Cayo is near the Belize & Guatemala border (on the westward side of Belize’s mainland). Cayo is home to many Mayan ruins as well as lush jungles. Cayo is a rural area with a growing expat community, offering beautiful scenery and a laid-back lifestyle. Cayo’s most popular municipality is San Ignacio but the district is also the location of the Belizean capital of Belmopan.

The Cayo District is located in western Belize near the border with Guatemala. Cayo is a district and is the largest district in the country. Cayo is known for its natural beauty, ancient Maya ruins, and outdoor adventure opportunities. The Cayo District is home to the town of San Ignacio, which serves as a gateway to the various attractions in the area. San Ignacio offers a range of property options around Cayo. There are real estate opportunities in the jungle, farmland, remote resorts, and more.

One of the main attractions of the Cayo District is its proximity to the Maya archaeological sites. The most famous and impressive among them is Xunantunich. Other notable Maya sites in the region include Cahal Pech, Caracol, and Tikal.

Cayo also has numerous rivers and waterways throughout the district. There are also countless waterfalls including; Big Rock Falls, Thousand-Foot Falls, and Butterfly Falls to explore and enjoy.

The Cayo District is also home to several nature reserves and national parks. The Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve showcases stunning waterfalls, natural pools, and the unique pine forests of Belize. The Belize Botanic Gardens and the Belize Zoo are also worth a visit for nature lovers.

 

Exploring Cayo

 

 

 

Hopkins

Hopkins is a small fishing village on the coast of Belize with a close-knit community and beautiful natural surroundings. Hopkins is just north of Placencia near the town of Dangriga. Hopkins is popular for its small-town vibe.

Hopkins is primarily a fishing village with a laid-back and friendly atmosphere. It is very much a “small town”. The village is known for its strong Garifuna heritage, and visitors have the opportunity to experience the rich traditions and music of the Garifuna people.

The beach in Hopkins stretches for several miles, offering pristine white sand and clear turquoise waters. It is an ideal destination for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The warm Caribbean Sea is also a great spot for water activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing.

One of the nearby attractions is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the Jaguar Preserve. It is a vast protected area encompassing lush rainforests, waterfalls, and hiking trails. The sanctuary is home to a variety of wildlife, including jaguars, howler monkeys, toucans, and many other species.

 

 

Belize City

Belize City is the largest city in Belize and the economic hub of the country, with a range of property options available. Belize City is a coastal city and the location of the Belize International Airport (Philip Goldson International) which is the only international airport in Belize.

Belize City serves as the commercial hub and principal gateway for international travelers arriving in Belize. As the economic and cultural center of Belize, Belize City offers a mix of colonial history, bustling streets, and a vibrant local atmosphere. The city has a rich and varied heritage, with influences from the Maya civilization, European colonization, and the African, Creole, and Garifuna cultures.

Although Belize City is not typically considered a major tourist destination, it does have some points of interest worth exploring.

 

 

Corozal

Corozal is the border town between Belize and Mexico and the northeastern shore of Belize.

Corozal is a town located in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico (close to Quintana Roo & the Yucatan Peninsula). It is a coastal town/region with Chethumal across the border on the Mexico side. Corozal Town is the capital of the Corozal District and is situated on the Bay of Corozal, which connects to the Caribbean Sea. Across the bay/lagoon sea is the island of Ambergris Caye.

Most people who looking at buying property in Corozal are very underwhelmed and often pursue something elsewhere. In Corozal, there are not as many opportunities for foreign investment. Corozal is on the bayside and is more of a border town between Mexico and Belize than anything. With this, you have a lot of logistics and supply chain traffic going through. Think of it as a tropical truck stop rather than an “off-the-beaten-path real estate investment”.

The town of Corozal has a rich history, with influences from both the Maya civilization and later European colonization. It was originally inhabited by the Maya people, and several archaeological sites, such as Santa Rita, can be found in Corozal. The town of Corozal was settled by Mestizo refugees from the Yucatan Peninsula in the 19th century, and today it has a mix of cultural influences from Maya, Mestizo, and other ethnic groups.

Corozal offers a more relaxed and tranquil atmosphere compared to the busier tourist destinations in Belize. It has a small-town charm and a welcoming community. The town has a central park, known as Corozal Town Central Park, where locals gather and socialize. You can find restaurants, shops, and other amenities in the town center.

One of the main attractions in Corozal is the proximity to the beaches. The Bay of Corozal provides access to the Caribbean Sea, and there are several beach areas where you can swim, sunbathe, or enjoy water sports. Some popular nearby beaches include Consejo Shores, Sarteneja, and Corozal Bay.

Corozal is also known for its proximity to Cerros, an ancient Maya site situated on a coastal ridge. If you’re interested in exploring the natural beauty of the region, you can visit the Shipstern Nature Reserve. It is a protected area with diverse ecosystems, including mangroves, wetlands, and wildlife.

To reach Corozal, you can fly into the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Belize City and then take a domestic flight or a bus to Corozal. The town is also accessible by road from Mexico, as it is located near the Mexican border.

 

 

Best Place to Own Belize Property

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 scarcity of land. 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 on the mainland with nearly endless developable land rarely see the same level of equity appreciation. One of the difficulties of investing in a property that has nearly endless room for growth (the mainland) 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 Belize have less demand and nearly unlimited supply. On Ambergris Caye, you have far more amenities (with the reef 400 yards off the coast), as well as beaches on the East & West Coast.

 

In Belize, there are some cheaper and less expensive property options. That said, not all Belize real estate is created equal. One of the most famous quotes from Warren Buffett is, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

It is important to conduct thorough research on the area and property you are considering and to consult with a qualified real estate agent to ensure that you are making a sound investment that meets your needs and aligns with your goals. If you are looking to buy property in Belize, contact RE/MAX Belize!

 

 

Top 5 Places to Visit in Belize

Different Ways to Own Property in Belize

Belize Property Ownership

Belize is one of the most popular destinations for foreign investment in the region of the Caribbean & Central America. One of the main reasons Belize has become so popular is the fact that as a British Common Law country, there is full foreign ownership and foreigners (non-nationals) have the same ownership rights as locals. In Belize, you can own land outright (even as a foreigner) but it is still important to note that there are a few different ways to own property in Belize, and each form of Belize real estate ownership has its advantages. There are several ways to own property in Belize, including:
Types of Property Ownership in Belize

 

Different Ways to Own Property in Belize

  1. Fee Simple Ownership: This is the most straightforward way to own property in Belize. Fee simple ownership means that you own the property outright, and you have the right to use, sell, or lease the property as you see fit.
  2. Strata Title Ownership: When you buy into a Strata Scheme you own your unit (shadow footprint over the land), plus a share in common property as described in your certificate of title.
  3. Leasehold Ownership: This type of ownership grants the right to use the property for a specified period of time, typically 99 years. Leasehold ownership can be an attractive option for those who do not plan to live in Belize full-time or for long periods.
  4. Co-Ownership: Co-ownership involves two or more people sharing ownership of a property. This can be a useful arrangement for those who wish to split the costs of ownership and maintenance.
  5. Trust Ownership: A trust can be set up to own property in Belize. This can provide additional asset protection and privacy, as the property is owned by the trust rather than an individual.

 

It is important to consult with a qualified Belize real estate professional when considering any of these ownership options to ensure that you are in compliance with Belizean laws and regulations. Additionally, it is important to conduct due diligence on the property and its title to ensure that there are no liens, encumbrances, or other issues that could affect your ownership or use of the property

Owning Property in Belize as a Foreigner

One of the primary advantages to investing and owning in Belize is that foreigners can own a property outright with a fee-simple title. Belize is one of the only countries in Central America that allows foreigners to truly own property.

Belize recognizes the rights of non-nationals and the property ownership rights of foreigners. When you buy property in Belize (regardless of citizenship or residency status) you can own the property outright and your ownership rights are exactly the same as local Belizean citizens. Unlike other Central American countries and tropical tourism destinations, in Belize foreigners, who are not local to Belize, can buy a property outright with a fee-simple title (the strongest form of property ownership) rather than have to settle for leasehold ownership. With Belize’s British ties, Belize practices British Common Law and the ownership rights are very similar to that in the UK, USA, & Canada.

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

There are different types of titles and ownership structures in Belize but are still good and all legal. When you buy property in Belize, you have a few options when it comes to the ownership structure.

 

Belize Real Estate & Property Ownership Options

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

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

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

 

1. Fee Simple Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Strata Title Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

3. Leashold Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

4. Co-Ownership Shares or Housing Cooperative

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5. Trust Ownership

In Belize, you can own property in a Trust. Which is commonly done through an IBC (International Business Company). Belize uses IBC laws as a form of asset protection. Trust ownership in Belize is commonly used in conjunction with an IBC (International Business Company). By using a trust to hold shares in the IBC, an additional layer of legal protection is provided for the owner of the property.

Trusts have become one of the dominant instruments to facilitate international finance and hold property internationally. The reason for setting up a Trust is that every individual or company has the desire to protect, preserve and enhance their wealth, and Belize has become one of the top destinations for international financial services looking to diversify a Trust investment. Belize real estate is a great means for realizing the goals of wealth growth, protection, and preservation. Belize allows the creation of a trust, except for a unit trust (for a co-op share ownership condo) and the trust ownership must be in writing.

The main advantages of Trust Ownership are as follows:

  • Saving on Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax: Even though Belize does not have any estate tax or inheritance tax, a country outside Belize may have enforceable taxes. Through a Trust or IBC, on death, the inheritance tax, normally assessed on the value of the shares, would generally be eradicated.
  • Asset Protection: Assets (like real estate) within a trust usually cannot be reached by creditors who might arise as a result of financial difficulties, litigation, divorce proceedings, etc.
  • Avoiding Probate: Through trust ownership, assets can be smoothly passed on to the next generation without disruption, substantial costs, delays, loss of confidentiality, etc.
  • Lifetime Tax Savings: During a lifetime, substantial income and capital gains tax advantages may result from setting up the trust.

Trust Ownership uses a Trust to own the property. A Trust is a specific legal relationship, that is used in British Common Law. By means of a Trust, the owner of certain assets (“Settlor”) transfers these assets to an independent other party (“Trustee”). The Trustee, in turn, is legally bound to maintain and manage these assets for the benefit of another person or group of persons (“Beneficiaries”).

The core principle of the Trust lies in the separation of the legal title (ownership) of the asset from the benefits derived from that asset. The control over the asset (right to dispose of) is also separated from the benefits derived from that asset.

 

IBC Property Ownership

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

When you buy a property in an IBC there is no stamp or transfer tax when a property is held in an IBC (International Business Company). When you buy a property, you own it outright. We have a lands department, which manages the titles of each property. I always suggest buying a property in an IBC or having a property put in an IBC (especially as a foreigner). There is no stamp or transfer tax when a property is in an IBC. If a property is not held in an IBC, there is an 8% stamp/transfer tax when you buy or sell the property as a foreigner or non-resident and a 5% if you are a resident or Belizean (or Belizean corporate entity). When the property is in an IBC, you don’t pay the stamp or transfer tax, you have an added layer of asset protection (if someone sues you in the US, they can’t touch your Belize asset), and you have improved liquidity when you sell the property and remove liability.
You own the IBC, and the IBC owns the property with fee simple title. The advantages are;
  1. Tax optimization as you don’t have to pay stamp or transfer tax.
  2. Asset protection.
  3. Improved liquidity.
  4. Faster transfer of ownership.
  5. Ownership ambiguity.

 

If you are looking to get the most out of your Belize investment and have the best value when it comes to Belize real estate, we suggest buying land and owning a property with a fee-simple title. We also suggest using an IBC (whether buying a property in an IBC or having it put in an IBC). The most desirable thing about Belize real estate is the fact that Belize has full foreign ownership and foreigners (Americans & Canadians) can own a property outright with a fee-simple title. When you purchase a condo (especially something with co-op share ownership) you erode the largest value of buying and investing in Belize.

 

Belize Real Estate & Exodus of Expats

The Exodus of Americans Moving to Belize

Every year, more-and-more people are looking at investing and relocating off-shore. Whether it is for lifestyle or retirement, Americans & Canadians are rethinking their lives and where in the world would provide the best future. This is shown by the recent migration stats.

Americans & Canadians are leaving their home countries and seeking foreign visas in record numbers, according to immigration lawyers and expatriate organizations. Belize saw an unprecedented number of Americans not only inquiring about Belize real estate but also following through on their pledge and taking the steps to leave over the last 3-years (2020, 2021 & 2022). This is seen by the growth in the expat population on Ambergris Caye over recent years.

The number of Americans who were recorded as having given up their citizenship or U.S. residency soared to 5,816 in the first six months of 2020, compared with 2,072 in all of 2019, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service.

Dan Prescher, the senior editor of Internationalliving.com, said traffic related to “how to move out of the U.S.” surged 1,676 percent in 2020 and has been a continued trend since.

“Quieter, more stable countries start to look appealing,” he said.

The exodus has been led by not only baby boomer expats, but also young professionals looking for an opportunity and parents looking for countries with open and safe schools that provide futures for their children. No matter the age, the group largely consists of Americans with financial means and the ability to work virtually, or are in a position to relocate.

 

Why are people leaving?

The U.S. State Department reported in April that there are a record 8.7 million Americans live abroad. This number alone speaks for itself – never before has such a large group of U.S.-born citizens lived abroad. They’ve decided that it’s time for a change, to move to a new location where they are able to not just survive but thrive.

People’s motives for leaving or seeking relocation differ. But overall, the objective is a better life and a more promising future. The IMMI Group analyzed the top 10 motives for leaving the US, the list includes;

  1. Money
  2. Cost of healthcare
  3. Taxes
  4. Government regulations
  5. Freedom

 

Why People Are Looking at Belize & Ambergris Caye

Belize Real Estate & most of all Ambergris Caye Real Estate have seen a boom over recent years. Most of the buyers are people looking at living and/or investing overseas. This is seen by the growth in Belize real estate transactions over recent years;

While there is no nationwide MLS for Belize to track the total sales data and the number of real estate transactions, RE/MAX Belize is the largest real estate company in Belize with over 100 agents in 13 offices and shows a good indication of where the market is at and how it has grown. 

Total sales volume increased 8.7% from 2019 to 2020, followed by a staggering 167.7% from 2020 to 2021.  Based on current year-end projections, sales volume and real estate transactions in Belize are expected to grow by 301.5% year-over-year from 2021 through 2022.

From the beginning of 2020, at the start of the COVID pandemic, through to 2021, total Belize real estate sales volume has increased by 190.94%.

For RE/MAX Belize, the market has seen the number of sales exceed 2019 total sales volumes by 300% (299.6%).

Potential buyers are increasingly younger with more-and-more buyers being in their 40’s and 50’s (compared to retirees of earlier years).  Most of the people purchasing Belize real estate are from the US and Canada. Among the top reasons for considering Belize for second homeownership:

  • Allows diversification outside the USA or Canada
  • Provides a safe secure alternative during societal unrest
  • The only English-speaking country in Central America
  • Close geographic proximity to the USA
  • No capital gains tax, very low property taxes 
  • Tropical Caribbean climate
  • World-class fishing, diving, snorkeling, and watersports 

Second home ownership in Belize is like “going abroad with training wheels”.  It’s a very safe and easy experience, and the number one comment from those who have done it is that they wish they had done so sooner. 

 

Ambergris Caye Relocation

The top reasons people choose Belize and Ambergris Caye real estate include;

  • Safety
  • Tax protection
  • Accepting of new residence
  • Stable political climate
  • Affordability
  • English speaking
  • Schools & Education
  • Racial and cultural diversity and acceptance
  • Currency pegged 2:1 with USD
  • Climate
  • Opportunities and room to grow
  • Freedom!

Many countries have restricted accessibility to residency, which makes travel and relocation more difficult. Not Belize. Right now Belize is open and accepting tourists, expats seeking offshore residency, and citizens. Belize is a small country that is very pro-foreign investment with a small population. The country’s agricultural independence and desirable climate make it one of the top destinations for Americans & Canadians seeking relocation.

There are many other thriving places to make a life. This has led to many people seeking a brighter tomorrow, a life that provides freedom, safety, security, and support.

 

Buying Real Estate in Belize Process

Belize Real Estate

Buying Belize Real Estate is very easy and the process is much like in North America (USA & Canada). Belize is one of the few countries in Central America & the Caribbean where foreigners enjoy the same property ownership right as nationals in land ownership and tenure. When a foreigner buys property in Belize, they own it outright with a fee-simple land title. The preferred practice of owning Belize real estate is through a fee-simple title which is clear title freehold ownership.

Foreigners can own property in Belize as an individual or through a Belize Chapter 250 (Limited Liability Company) or with an International Business Company (IBC). A property (like Belize land) will have a title that would be issued by the lands department. Condominiums in Belize are purchased through a “Strata” title or co-op share ownership. There are a few types of property ownership in Belize and it is important to learn the differences.

 

Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

The property purchasing process in Belize is similar to Canada or the US (countries with fee-simple titles). Before you purchase property in Belize or buy Belize real estate it is important to know and understand the process.

 

Belize Property Search

Before buying in Belize, make sure you know the area that is best suited for you, your lifestyle, and your investment goals. Check out the different areas and districts in Belize; Ambergris Caye, San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Cayo, Placencia, etc. Belize has a robust landscape from the island beaches of Ambergris Caye to the jungle mountains of San Ignacio. When searching for Belize property, decide what is most important to you; the beach, mountains, inland, river, etc.

Ambergris Caye real estate is popular due to the fact that the island and San Pedro Town is the country’s most popular destination with the highest level of growth. Let the Remax Belize team help you with your Belize property & Belize real estate search. We can help go over the different options and opportunities available in Belize.

There are a lot of opportunities in Belize and a diverse real estate market. In Belize, we do not have a formal MLS, so a real estate agent’s job is a little different. If you are looking at buying or investing in Belize, a Remax Belize real estate agent can help with the search.

 

Offer to Purchase Belize Property

After the Belize real estate search, and once you find the property you want to purchase, the next step is to put in an offer or draft up an agreement of sale. The real estate agent will require your full name and address to be able to draft up the agreement/offer.

Most real estate transactions in Belize are cash sales. That said, there are opportunities with financing available. Most real estate opportunities in Belize with financing available are through seller or vendor financing. Belize does not have the standard bank financing or mortgages people are used to in the US or Canada. If you are wanting to purchase Belize real estate with financing, talk to your agent and find opportunities with financing. Or include the financing terms in the offer/agreement.

When writing an offer or agreement, make sure you add any contingencies, clauses, or addendums you require. Or include details required for the closing and include any additional services needed for the property transaction to go through.

In Belize, we do not have traditional home Inspectors or property appraisals. If required, you can an hire engineer or trusted home builders to inspect the property of interest and write up a report. If you are purchasing raw land, you can request a copy of the land title and/or a property survey.

You are also able to purchase Belize real estate through a Self-Directed IRA or 401K. Be sure to let your RE/MAX Belize real estate agent know if you want to use a Self-Directed IRA or 401K when you are purchasing the property. After the agreement is signed by the purchaser and the seller, a color copy of your passport will be needed as well as a utility bill matching the address on the offer to purchase.

 

Escrow Down Payment or Deposit

If you are purchasing a property with financing, you will have to send the down payment to an escrow account or escrow agent. Even cash sale transactions it is suggested to use an escrow account and closing company.

After all the documentation is signed, everything will go to a Closing Company for the due diligence and transfer of property. When buying any property in Belize you want to ensure the process is done correctly. That includes initiating a title search and ensuring there are no liens or encumbrances on the property. When buying Belize real estate 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. 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.

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 account.

Real estate transactions in Belize are in US dollars and use a US escrow agent or account (a US account or US intermediary is needed for any transaction in USD). The closing costs are paid by the buyer. The seller is responsible for the real estate fee and commission. All money is sent to a US escrow and a closing company releases funds upon closing.

When an offer or sales agreement is submitted a down payment for escrow is required. If it’s a cash sale, it will be the entire balance on the property which will go to escrow during the closing process. If it is a financing agreement, the down payment (20% to 25%) will be sent to escrow during the closing process.

The closing costs are between 1% – 1.5% of the sales price. Due diligence consists of a title search and a company search if the property is in a company name. This is all handled by the Closing Company.

 

Property Closing & Transfer

Once all the legal processes and closing have been completed along with a title search and closing documents. The legal documents are signed by all parties and original copies are sent to the purchaser. With a financing agreement, the seller will carry the note on the property (similar to a bank in the US). If it is a cash sale agreement, all original documents will be sent to the purchaser (the new owner of the property).

If the property is not in an IBC there is a one-time Stamp Duty Fee of 8% paid to the Government of Belize (GOB). Stamp/Transfer Tax is a tax of 8% on the total sale price and the Government of Belize gives you the first $10,000.00 USD exemption. GOB reserves the right to reassess the Stamp Tax and if they feel you paid too little for the Belize property, if this is the case the purchaser will require you to pay the difference.

If a property is held in a corporate entity like an IBC all the shares will be transferred to the purchaser. IBC property ownership means there is no stamp/transfer tax and the transfer of ownership is much faster.

To learn more about the closing process for land and properties held in an IBC vs not in an IBC contact us at RE/MAX Belize. In Belize, you own a property outright with a fee-simple title. Foreigners have the same ownership rights as locals.

 

If you are interested in Belize property and/or buying Belize real estate, contact us at RE/MAX Belize! We are here to help with your Belize real estate search. We can help find your dream home in paradise or investment property in Belize!

Belize Land Titles & Land Title System

Belize Land & Land Titles

Foreigners and Non-Belizeans are able to purchase land, real estate, and property in Belize. The full title of the land and property is granted to non-Belizeans just the same as it is given to Belizean nationals. Belize is one of the only countries in the region with fee-simple land title ownership and full-foreign ownership. Even though Belize has full foreign ownership and foreigners are able to own Belize land with a fee-simple title, there are a few types of Belize property ownership that buyers and investors should be aware of and not all types of property ownership in Belize are equal.

In Belize, when you buy land that has a title, the original or certified copies of Belize land documents registered with the Lands Department are issued as proof of ownership. The land title will have either the owner’s name or a corporate entity (like Chapter 250 or IBC). In Belize, for a land transaction to take place proof of ownership is required.

When buying Belize Real Estate, it is advised to work with a Belize Real Estate agent and Closing Company. When buying land or property in Belize the real estate agent will draft a formal offer of purchase or agreement of sale and present it to the land owner. The Belize real estate agent will require the full name and address of both the “Purchaser” and the “Seller” with the legal name of the property (Lot Number & Parcel Number). The property will have an identification number which is given by the Department of Lands and Survey Office. Standard land and real estate agreements include a property title search. 

The Closing Company and Real Estate agent will request records for the land with the Department of Land and Survey. This office provides information on who the land title is registered to (the owners), whether it is held in a corporation or individual name, and checks if there are any restrictions on the use of the land. They will also ensure there are any liens or encumbrances on the property.

 

Belize Land Laws

Belize is a British Common Law Country and with that comes strong real estate ownership laws. The land and real estate ownership laws in Belize are derived from the Common Law and English Statutes of the 19th century. The Law of Property Act, Chapter 190 in Belize is based on the Real Property Act 1925 of England. Other relevant statutes and laws in Belize include the Registered Land Act, Chapter 194 (1977) which is a statute that governs all land transactions in Belize.

There are mainly two categories under which land in Belize can be classified. These categories include;

  1. Declared Land
  2. Undeclared Land

Declared Land transactions in Belize are much easier as the property itself already has a title issued. Transactions done on Undeclared Land have to be recorded at the Titles Registry and require a much longer process. If the land is “Declared Land” the title is registered at the Land registry. Most real estate transactions and property purchases are in “declared land” with a real and absolute title.

Belize allows for full foreign ownership and freehold property ownership. Property purchasers can take title to freehold property in Belize in three different ways. They are:

  1. Deed of Conveyance
  2. Transfer of Certificate
  3. Land Certificate

 

Fee Simple Land Ownership

Owning land or Belize real estate with a fee-simple title is the strongest form of property ownership. A Fee-Simple Title and Freehold Ownership is the highest possible form of property and land ownership. It means that you own the property outright.

If you’ve bought land or a house in Belize, it’s likely you own the property outright with a fee-simple title. If you own a property with a fee-simple title you will have a physical copy of the land title from the Belize Department of Lands. A fee-simple title is the strongest form of property ownership and means that you own the “real property”. Belize is one of the few countries in the Caribbean & Central American region that allows for full foreign ownership with a fee-simple title.

In Belize, not all properties and real estate have “fee-simple titles.” A lot of condos will use Strata Title or Co-Op Share ownership which is a less desirable form of property and real estate ownership in Belize.

 

Belize Property Taxes

When buying land or property in Belize, you will be shocked to learn how inexpensive and cheap the property taxes are. 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 far less than the actual resale value. For example, property taxes for land around Belize Secret Beach start at $75 per year. Property taxes in Mahogany Bay are $108 per year.

Property taxes in Belize are paid annually in April and are to be paid each year. Property taxes in Belize for land and real estate are assessed and determined by the Department of Natural Resources. Belize is a low-tax jurisdiction and the property taxes in Belize are some of the lowest of any of the Commonwealth countries. Property taxes in Belize are almost unbelievably low for most off-shore owners and investors.

 

Stamp & Transfer Tax

When buying a property in Belize Belizeans pay 5% of the purchase price in Stamp Duty or Transfer Tax to the Government of Belize. Foreigners and non-nationals pay an 8% Stamp Duty or Transfer Tax to the Government of Belize when buying real estate or property in Belize. This is why so many foreign owners and investors purchase Belize real estate in an IBC. When you buy real estate in Belize that is in an IBC there is no stamp or transfer tax. Learn more about owning Belize property in an IBC.

 

For more information on Belize Real Estate, Owning Belize Land, & Land Titling in Belize contact our team at RE/MAX Belize! We look forward to helping you with your Belize Real Estate Search!

 

Complete Guide to Belize Secret Beach Real Estate Investment

Belize Secret Beach Real Estate Investment

Belize Secret Beach on Ambergris Caye is one of the top emerging destinations in Central America & The Caribbean for tourism and investment.

 

WHY HAS SECRET BEACH AND AMBERGRIS CAYE’S WEST COAST BECOME THE TOP GROWTH AREAS WITHIN BELIZE?

 

Ambergris Caye Belize

Thirty years ago, the main industry on Ambergris Caye was the same as it had always been. A sleepy fishing village built along the island’s eastern coast only a few hundred yards from the world’s second-largest barrier reef, the fishermen would rise with the sun and set out in their boats before the dawn had even reached the island’s barely populated western side.

In the time since then, the island of Ambergris Caye has changed dramatically, with its primary industry switching from fishing to tourism as more and more people discovered Belize and word got out. San Pedro Town (the island’s central hub entirely contained on the east coast and interior lagoon of the island) has grown to become a fully developed municipality, with a bustling downtown and booming tourist economy. Unlike those fishermen who lived along the eastern shore, the tourism market values sunsets over sunrises, and this tendency has shifted the path of progress toward the west coast of Ambergris Caye.

 

Originally a Sleepy Fishing Village, Ambergris Caye, and San Pedro Town had no plans to become the tourist hotspot it is today. In the beginning, there was no master plan for future development. San Pedro & Ambergris Caye grew organically as awareness increased.

With the Tourism Growth, available land in San Pedro Town is now fully developed, and the East Coast is parceled off. Where will the growth continue?

This led to the evolution of the west coast and Secret Beach. With land in San Pedro developed and the East coast becoming overly expensive, the next logical point of development was along the western coastline where road infrastructure was put in place in 2014.

 

Belize Secret Beach

The logical area for future development and investment had become the West Coast. With just a single road connecting the island’s eastern shore to its westernmost point, that western area (known as Secret Beach) has become the focus and epicenter of west coast development. Because of this, it is the area of Belize with some of the greatest investment opportunities and upside.

Only a few years ago, the beach really was a total secret; the only person you could count on seeing there was your own reflection in the water. Today we see that dozens of bars and restaurants have popped up alongside other new tourist-focused commercial development. Residential investment, development, and infrastructure are also booming in the area.

When assessing an area from an investment standpoint these are all key indicators that show us that Secret Beach is on the path of progress.

 

Secret Beach Timeline

2010: Lots subdivided and available for sale.

2012: East to West Road Connection Established.

2014: Awareness increases first signs of development.

2016: Government paves northern portions of the road.

2017: The term “Secret Beach” is coined.

2018: Major Spike in commercial & residential development.

2019: Development spikes in inland areas off-beach.

2021: New road infrastructure going south from Secret Beach behind the West Coast.

As the building boom continues along the West Coast of Ambergris Caye, infrastructure development to support that boom continues as well. Roads are being built to connect Secret Beach with the southern tip of the west coast, in addition to the creation of a route running right along the western shore. To put this into perspective, the biggest shift in lot values over the past decade occurred when the infrastructure was put in place to connect the West and East coast. A major new road project is underway again for the first time since 2014, and there’s no reason to believe the effect on property values will be any different.

 

Real Estate Investment at Secret Beach

So why is this big boom? It all started with the area’s natural beauty. Looking over the caye’s western coast there are some important distinctions from the east, the most notable difference being those shallow and glimmering turquoise waters that cross the twelve miles to the mainland. Inlets consisting of beautiful pearl-white sands live up to and often exceed the beauty people envision when they think of the Caribbean.

As if that beauty wasn’t reason enough, there’s also the lack of room for further eastern development which has caused this westward push. As the economy and popularity of Ambergris Caye continue to grow, more and more people have chosen to invest, making the land an increasingly scarce commodity on the island. There’s only so much to go around. While the success of the East has left little space available, the west is just beginning to take off, and investment opportunities still abound there. As the Great One, Wayne Gretsky said, “skate where the puck is going.”

Violet and coral-painted sunsets falling over pristine beaches of ivory sand; restaurants and bars serving food and drinks ranging from the simple to the complex and all crafted with the freshest island-grown produce; a finite amount of available land; and the fast-increasing popularity of the destination have all come together to create an earthly paradise where stress cannot survive. The investment opportunity is here, and it is clear.

 

Land Appreciation at Belize Secret Beach

 

To learn more about the real estate opportunity at Belize Secret Beach contact us at RE/MAX Belize. We are here to help with your Belize Real Estate & Ambergris Caye Real Estate search.

 

Guide to Buying Belize Real Estate in 2023

Belize Real Estate in 2023

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;

BTB Belize Tourism Board Data

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 infrastructure you 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.

 

Affordable Prices

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.

 

Government

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 4 pillars a person should look for regarding real estate investment;
  1. 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.
  2. Capital Growth: The appreciation of an asset. Belize is growing, and with growth comes increased demand. Belize is an appreciating market.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

If you are interested in Belize Real Estate and learning more about the Belize market in 2023 contact us!

 

Questions to Ask When Buying Land in Belize

Thinking of Buying Land in Belize?  

The news on Belize is out. The Caribbean & Central American country of Belize has entered the 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.

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

 

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

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

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities

Ambergris Caye Utilities

We are often asked about Ambergris Caye utilities and how much they cost. Electricity, telephone, internet, water, and sewer utilities are all available and relatively reliable in San Pedro Town and on Ambergris Caye. On Ambergris Caye, the municipality of San Pedro (and the surrounding areas including developments that are located in and near town) have full access to utilities. For developments situated north and south of town, septic tanks or contained wastewater systems along with cisterns are typically used.
Cisterns often are often used as a secondary source of water, and there is a reverse osmosis water treatment system in San Pedro Town that provides water to town residents and the developments/communities close to the municipality. The more remote resorts and developments generate their own electricity if they are not connected to the municipal electricity provided through BEL (Belize Electricity Limited)electrical lines.
Most people are surprised to learn that most of Ambergris Caye (especially in San Pedro Town) is on municipal utilities, including; electricity, water, sewer, and high-speed internet. That said, not all areas and communities have the same utilities available as others do. Areas like Secret Beach are “off-grid” with homes currently running on solar and generators for power. Most of the homes and developments north of the bridge have their own cisterns for water and septic systems (not on municipal sewer).
If you are on municipal utilities, your water likely comes from BWS (Belize Water Services) and your electricity comes from BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Internet providers are Digi & Smart both providers are very reliable and provide high-speed internet to Ambergris Caye. You will be happy to know that almost every corner of Ambergris Caye has cell service and a reliable connection.
Mahogany Bay is one of the few developments that provide new build options that run entirely on municipal utilities. The lots are all individually metered and set up with sewer, water, and electrical. In Mahogany Bay, there is also high-speed internet available with some of the fastest internet speeds in Belize and the Caribbean region.
It is important to note that all projects north of the bridge and south of Mahogany Bay require off-grid water and sewer, in Mahogany Bay, you invest in a property knowing that you are fully on municipal utilities and have the services hooked up to your home with each home metered individually. You receive an electrical and water bill monthly, very similar to the US & Canada.

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities Availability

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

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

If a property on Ambergris Caye does not have municipal electricity, they often use solar panels and generators. If they do not have municipal water, they often use a cistern that is on-site. If a property is on the municipal water system (which uses desalinization and reverse osmosis) you can drink the tap water (unlike other destinations in the region). If a home, development, or area does not have sewer in place, they will likely use their own on-site septic system.
Ultimately, there are areas and communities on Ambergris Caye that has all the amenities of the first world. There are other areas that require upgrades and installations.

Ambergris Caye Electricity

If a home or business on Ambergris Caye is on municipal electricity it is likely provided through BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Electricity on Ambergris Caye comes from undersea lines from Mexico. Unlike Caye Caulker which gets power from diesel generators.
Since all the power and electricity on Ambergris Caye comes from subterranean lines from Mexico, it is cheaper than other Caribbean Islands and other areas of Belize. Generally speaking power and electricity on Ambergris Caye is around half the cost per kWh than other Caribbean islands.
San Pedro Town & the East Coast has on-grid electricity. Secret Beach and the West Coast have off-grid electricity. The off-grid electricity at areas like Secret Beach commonly comes from Solar and Generators. The cost of off-grid utilities (solar/generator) will depend on how much power you want to generate.
Electricity and power prices right now are comparable to domestic markets.

Electricity on the island 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.

 

Solar Power

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

Things to consider:

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

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

Ambergris Caye Water & Sewer

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

BWS recently doubled its production. The reverse osmosis system through BWS is now capable of holding 2.5 million gallons of water and daily production of 1.3 million gallons.
Every property in Mahogany Bay is individually metered and the water is provided through reverse osmosis from BWS. One of the other advantages to Mahogany Bay is the fact that just to the south of the community is the facility that produces the water through reverse osmosis, meaning that Mahogany Bay is one of the first communities with access to municipal water. This is important to factor in since the distance the water travels from purification to your home is much shorter than that of a property located further North in San Pedro Town.
The water treatment facility produces 1.3 million gallons of water per day and in 2018 stored 2.5 million gallons of water at any given time. The facility underwent upgrades to increase the water production capacity and storage, that project was back in October 2019. The sewage system put in place on the island cost $90 million and is state of the art.
Mahogany Bay is one of the only communities that can verify the cleanliness of the water, other projects like Grand Caribe, Salt Life, or La Sirene all have to produce their own water and have their own sewer system. In Mahogany Bay, being fully on municipal utilities, you have confidence in knowing that your water is clean and your waste is properly disposed of (without crossover or risk of contamination).
Regarding the quality of the water and being drinkable, yes you can drink the water in Mahogany Bay and the properties that are on the municipal reverse osmosis/desalinization system. As mentioned above, Ambergris Caye has a desalination plant and the city water is as safe to drink as any of the top places in the States or Canada.
Bottled water is available for sale for those still worried. People often purchase 5-gallon jugs and use that for drinking water. The tap water is drinkable and many people do drink it (tourists and locals). In Mahogany Bay, you are assured of safe and clean water. For any property that is not on municipal water, you should be skeptical as I could not verify the cleanliness of the water.
In regards to the water and septic bill, that can fluctuate depending on the home and occupancy. Like anywhere in the world, there are fluctuations depending on how much water is used. The price for water is done in consumption blocks which you can see below;

0 to 1,000 gallons: $12.80
1,001 to 2,000 gallons $15.11
2,001 to 3,000 gallons $16.27
3,001 to 4,000 gallons $17.44
4,001 to 5,000 gallons $18.60
5,001 to 6,000 gallons $22.08
6,001 to 7,000 gallons $26.15
7,001 to 8,000 gallons $29.05
8,001 + $31.96
*note that all prices are in USD
It is important to note that most of the island of Ambergris Caye does not run on municipal water or sewage. Most of the southern part (South of Mahogany Bay) and almost everything North of the bridge (past Mara Laguna) does not run on municipal water or sewage and have to have their own systems installed.
The water provided through reverse osmosis and on municipal utilities is drinkable. Though most people get drinking water from 5-gallon jugs.
Off-grid septic uses a combination of leach fields, septic tanks, multi-chamber systems, and compostable toilets. Off-grid water frequently uses rain catchment systems. Additional water can be delivered by BWS if required.

Sewer vs Septic

The words “sewer & septic” are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact very different. The difference between septic and sewer is quite simple, and often unknown to people not familiar with off-grid systems or home construction. Septic treats your wastewater on-site and is usually contained in an individual house that is not connected to municipal utilities. With a septic system, the owner is responsible for the cost to install and maintain the waste and water system.
A sewer or sewage system, on the other hand, is a system that runs on municipal waste management. A sewage system or home with sewer directs your wastewater to a centralized treatment plant operated by the local government and funded by fees and taxes.
A septic system is installed by a homeowner or a contractor and is an individual waste management system for a particular home or development. Septic needs to be maintained and cleaned at the owner’s expense (which can be messy). Sewer on the other hand is managed by a local government and all waste goes to a centralized place. It is less work and less hassle. With sewer, an owner does not have to worry about waste and water disposal.
Ambergris Caye, around San Pedro Town, has a full state-of-the-art sewer system. This sewage system does not extend the full island. As you pass Mara Lagoona (just north of the downtown San Pedro bridge) everything runs on its own septic system. This is also true in South Ambergris Caye. Mahogany Bay is one of the few communities that has municipal sewer.

Off-Grid Water Storage

If you are north of the bridge, at Secret Beach, or in an area that is not on BWS/municipal water you need to have a water storage system or cistern. When designing a water storage system you need to look at how many people will be staying at the house on average since the more people the more water you need.
You should make sure your water tank storage can hold enough water to last 2-3 weeks without rain. It is common for homes to integrate rain catchment systems. On average one person uses 90 gallons of water per day so if you have two people living in a house you need to have 180 gallons of water to last one day to have enough water storage for 2 weeks you will need 2,520 gallons of water storage for two people.

Off-Grid Septic

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

Internet on Ambergris Caye

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

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

Most of Belize has WIFI with an LTE signal. However, there are places that boast stronger, more consistent internet like Ambergris Caye. With the high volume of tourism and the influx of expats that have moved to the country, and Ambergris Caye in particular, the service has improved to meet demand.

There are 2 primary providers of the internet in Ambergris Caye, Belize; SMART & Digi. Digi offers Fiber Optic internet with the fastest speeds. SMART offers reliable internet and is a popular alternative for areas that do not have fiber optic internet. You can see the rates and internet speeds below;

SMART Internet


Prices are in Belize Dollars

Digi Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

Ambergris Caye Utilities in Belize

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

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

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

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

 

Shares vs Strata Title vs Fee Simple

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

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

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

 

Housing Cooperative (Shares)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Strata Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple vs. Leasehold Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Belize Real Estate Appreciation

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

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

 

Property Liquidity

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

 

Belize Property & Belize Real Estate

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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