Questions to Ask When Buying Land in Belize

Thinking of Buying Land in Belize?  

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Type of Land Can I Buy in Belize?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do I Have to be in Belize to Purchase Land?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can I Get Financing For Buying Land in Belize?

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Owner Financing, When Does the Ownership Transfer?

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

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

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

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

 

Why Should I Use a Closing Company?

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

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

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

 

Buying Land in Belize

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

Ambergris Caye Utilities

Ambergris Caye Utilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities Availability

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

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

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

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

 

Ambergris Caye Electricity

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

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

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

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

 

Solar Power

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

Things to consider:

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

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

 

Ambergris Caye Water & Sewer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0 to 1,000 gallons: $12.80

1,001 to 2,000 gallons $15.11

2,001 to 3,000 gallons $16.27

3,001 to 4,000 gallons $17.44

4,001 to 5,000 gallons $18.60

5,001 to 6,000 gallons $22.08

6,001 to 7,000 gallons $26.15

7,001 to 8,000 gallons $29.05

8,001 + $31.96

*note that all prices are in USD

 

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

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

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

 

 

Sewer vs Septic

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

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

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

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

 

Off-Grid Water Storage

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

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

 

Off-Grid Septic

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

 

 

Internet on Ambergris Caye

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

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

 

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

SMART Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Digi Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities in Belize

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

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

 

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

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

 

Shares vs Strata Title vs Fee Simple

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

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

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

 

Housing Cooperative (Shares)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Strata Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple vs. Leasehold Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Belize Real Estate Appreciation

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

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

 

Property Liquidity

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

 

Belize Property & Belize Real Estate

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Are Squatters a Concern in Belize?

Are Squatters a Concern in Belize?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

Belize Real Estate Purchasing Process

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

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

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

 

What is the Process to Buy Belize Real Estate?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Owning Belize Property in an IBC

IBC Owning Belize Real Estate

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advantages of Owning Belize Property in an IBC

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

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

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

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

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

 

Countries That Have IBCs

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

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

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

 

The Differences Between an LLC and IBC

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Things to Know When Buying Land in Belize

Buying Land in Belize

Belize is known for its amazing landscapes; from lush jungles to pristine beaches and vibrant reefs. Belize is home to some of the best diving, snorkeling, and fishing in the world. Belize is picturesque and diverse, the country of Belize has lots of beautiful characteristics that draw in tourists from around the world. Beyond the beauty, Belize is also a popular investment destination, especially for foreign investors looking to secure land in the emerging destination.

One of the major draws to owning land in Belize is the incredibly low property tax rates. The taxation and ownership structure makes owning land in Belize very inexpensive with little to no costs of ownership or carrying costs. Belize has a lot to love (for investment, beauty, and lifestyle), and even though the country is growing and emerging as a top destination in the region, there are still opportunities to purchase land (to develop or land bank).

The affordability and low cost of ownership draw many investors, expats, and retirees to purchase land in Belize. Whether you are looking in Belize for an investment property or to develop a personal home (for vacation or full-time residence) there is an abundance of opportunities and benefits when buying land in Belize. Nevertheless, before indulging in purchasing land here, you should educate yourself a little more about Belize and learn about the important details of buying land in Belize. 

First, you may ask yourself, do I need to be a citizen to be able to purchase land in Belize? The answer to that is no. You do not need to be a citizen to be able to own land in Belize with it having full foreign ownership (foreigners have the same ownership as locals) and when you buy land in Belize, you own it outright with a fee simple land title. Other countries in Central America & the Caribbean require permanent residency or citizenship to purchase land and especially for investment purposes. This is not the case in Belize.

In Belize, a foreigner has the exact same ownership rights as a local. A person does not require citizenship or residency to own property in Belize. The ownership rights and structure are the major draws of owning land in Belize. As long as you have the capital or funds for the property, you are able to purchase land in Belize. You also have full control of the property and unless there are restrictive covenants in place, you are able to build what you want when you want. then you can go right ahead and purchase land and build on it.

Not only does Belize have strong property ownership rights that allow for full foreign ownership, but the country also does not recognize squatting rights and is also one of the only pro-landlord countries in the region. These factors further protect your off-shore investment. 

 

Is it Easy for a Foreigner to Buy Land in Belize?

Yes. It is exceedingly and almost unbelievably easy to buy land in Belize. Especially when compared to other markets like; Mexico, Costa Rica, St Thomas, Panama, Honduras, etc. Belize is one of the most pro-foreign direct investment countries. Belize also incentivizes investment and foreign ownership of land. In Belize, when buying land a foreigner has the same rights as a Belizean citizen to property ownership.  

If you are doing research on buying land in Belize and/or other Caribbean destinations you might find reference to an “alien landholding license” or the Alien Landholding Act, please note that the Act was abolished in 2001. Since then, when buying land in Belize foreigners have equal property ownership rights.  If you’ve done research on other jurisdictions, and comparable destinations in the region, you know that full foreign ownership is quite rare in much of the Caribbean & Central America, and rarer still in emerging markets like Belize.

 

How Do I Buy Land in Belize?

It is very easy to buy land in Belize! The first step, when buying land in Belize, is to submit an offer to the seller. To write an offer or agreement to purchase land, your Belize real estate agent your full name and address. The offer form is legally binding to both parties (the buyer & the seller) and includes a due diligence period for the buyer.

Once the offer and/or agreement are accepted by the seller and the buyer, the agreement will go to a Closing Company which will do all the due diligence, title search, and transfer of property. It is common for land transactions and land purchases to be done through a corporation (IBC or Chapter 250) for tax advantages. 

Once a satisfactory title search is completed (i.e., the seller actually owns the Belize property in question), and all due diligence is performed, the property is transferred to the purchaser. if the property is in an IBC (International Business Company) the purchaser will receive the shares of the corporation that owns the property (which makes for a much faster closing), if the property is not in a corporation, a Transfer will be requested and the property transaction will go through the Belize Lands Department.

Be careful when a realtor or seller says they can do their own closings. It is always recommended to use a Closing Company. At RE/MAX Belize, we use Capital Corporate Services

When buying land in Belize, the payment amount (either down payment or full purchase price) will be received by an Escrow Agent at the time specified (Closing Date) on the Agreement of Sale. The Belize property transfer documents (for the land) are then executed and delivered to the buyer.

The Closing Company will finalize the documents and funds are released from escrow to the seller. If the property is not held in a corporation (IBC or Chapter 250) the executed documents will be processed at the Belize Lands Registry and an original title or certified copy of the Agreement of Sale will be presented to the purchaser. Overall, real estate and land transactions in Belize are far less complicated than in other countries. It also helps to have all documentation in English with full ownership (fee-simple title). 

 

Can Land in Belize be Owned by a Corporation or Company?

Yes. It is actually very common and advisable. Many of the Belize land purchases that RE/MAX Belize has done have been with a company or corporation. It is very common for people purchasing an off-shore investment to want to own the property in an IBC (International Business Company) or a Chapter 250 company.

Most clients we work with want to own the property through a corporate entity. There are various reasons and a number of benefits for owning a property and/or land in a corporate entity (off-shore or domestic), but one primary factor is having little to no stamp or transfer tax when buying the land. 

 

What is an IBC and Why Should I Use One When Buying Property in Belize?

An IBC is an “International Business Company” and functions much like an LLC in the US but operates in a foreign country. There is no stamp or transfer tax when a property is in an IBC. It is one of the tax optimization laws Belize has in place for off-shore investment.
 
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. 
 
Some of the advantages of owning a property in an IBC 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. Keep owner’s privacy and ambiguity

You own the IBC and the IBC owns the property with a simple title. The International Business Companies Act 1990 of Belize created a special category of a company known as an International Business Company (IBC). Today Belize is one of the largest leading centers for international banking in the world. 

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

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

The list of off-shore countries and jurisdictions that use and practice IBCs is pretty long: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Brunei, British Virgin Islands or BVI, Cook Islands, Comoros, Dominica, Grenada, Gambia, Mauritius, Marshall Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Saint Lucia, Samoa, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Seychelles, and Vanuatu. An IBC is an offshore company that is usually formed as a tax-neutral company meaning that it is not taxable in the country of incorporation.

We suggest to all of our clients that they purchase land in an IBC or have the property put in an IBC. If you would like more information on IBCs, have any questions about IBCs in Belize, and the benefits of owning property in an IBC please contact us at RE/MAX Belize. 

 

Do I Need to Be in Belize to Buy Land?

No, you do not have to physically be in Belize to buy land in Belize. Most of the real estate and land transactions we do at RE/MAX Belize are done remotely using drone footage (video and pictures), title searches, etc. We also use DocuSign so buyers can sign the agreements from the comfort of their homes. 

Many Belize real estate transactions (land and homes) are completed when one or both of the parties (the purchaser or the seller) are outside of Belize. The real estate transaction documents are sent to the absent party or parties via DocuSign and email. The original documents (land and corporate) are sent via FedEx. Purchase offers can be submitted through DocuSign or other e-signature platforms, which is legally binding in Belize. 

The majority of the clients we work with at RE/MAX Belize are in the US or Canada. We are very familiar with the transaction process and everything can be done remotely without physically being in Belize. 

 

Do I Require Title Insurance When Buying Land in Belize?

The short answer is, No. Purchasers do not require Title Insurance when buying land or property in Belize. If you have a reputable Belize real estate professional, that is using a Closing Company or Real Estate Attorney for the land transaction then title insurance is not necessary. That said, title insurance is available in Belize, from reputable sources. In fact, Belize is the only Central American country that has ‘A+’ American title companies offering to insure to guarantee the title. This is due to the ownership rights in Belize. Belize Land Certificates or clear Deeds of Conveyance are guaranteed by the Government of Belize and are as secure titles as any Commonwealth, European, or North American country (including the US & Canada).

If a title search is done properly before or after the agreement of sale is done, title insurance in Belize is not needed.

 

Land & Property Taxes in Belize

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 are looking at Belize and securing land in Belize. Most properties are taxed at 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 or market 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. 

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. If you are looking at buying Belize land and/or buying Belize property be sure to contact us at RE/MAX Belize. We are the Belize real estate & Ambergris Caye real estate experts. 

 

Can I Finance Land in Belize?

Financing in Belize is more difficult than in domestic markets. We do not have the same standard mortgages and bank financing people are used to in the USA or Canada. Most real estate transactions in Belize are cash sales. There are however real estate opportunities in Belize with seller or vendor financing. It is also important to note that it is far more common to find land opportunities with financing than it is to find a home or condo with financing.

There are three ways for purchasers to receive financing for Belize real estate:

  1. Local Belize Financing: Local banks in Belize do offer to finance land and/or property, though it is not easy (especially for foreigners). It is also important to note that the interest rates with Belize banks and terms for financing are usually higher than what people are used to at home. Local banks in Belize usually have much higher interest rates in the range of 10-18% interest with fixed terms of only 12 months. When you get financing from a local bank in Belize, the loan is closed every year and renewed at the new rate. When borrowing or lending from a local Belizean bank, it will be in Belize dollars, and most real estate transactions in Belize are in US dollars. Because most of the Belize real estate transactions take place with U.S. dollars, local financing is challenging. Local banks in Belize will also often only lend money to Belize residents or citizens. 
  2. Offshore or Domestic Financing: If you are not a resident or citizen of Belize and are looking for financing, you can borrow U.S. dollars through an offshore bank. In Belize, Caye International Bank is one of the only off-shore banks in the country. Interest rates with international banks in Belize are still much higher than people are used to in their domestic markets and are around 12% to 18% and most offshore banks when lending to people who are not Belize residents or citizens require a high degree of collateralization with a high down payment (often 50%). Some people do acquire domestic financing in their home country through a line of credit or refinancing their home/mortgage.
  3. Owner, Seller, or Vendor Financing: This is the most common way foreigners acquire financing for land in Belize. It is also far more common for someone to find land with financing than it is with a home or condo. Belize property owners and/or developers usually agree to property financing at better rates than the local banks. It is also very easy to qualify, as it is a non-recourse loan. The rates through seller or vendor financing are often less than what is available at local banks and financial institutions. Around Secret Beach, you are able to secure property with 20% down. Within Mahogany Bay, you can secure canal-front land with 25% down. 

For more information on financing in Belize and Belize real estate opportunities with financing available, contact us at RE/MAX Belize

 

Things to Consider

When purchasing land in Belize, there are some prerequisites that you must follow, for example, a closing company will likely as for a picture of your passport bio page and a past utility bill (that matches the name and address on the Agreement of Sale). When buying land in Belize, there are some minor fees or taxes but nothing too overwhelming. Closing costs are generally $1,000 to $1,500 or 1% of the property/land purchase price. The fees and processes can be discussed with one of our agents here at RE/MAX Belize.

Another question many people tend to ask is, do I need to be in the country of Belize to buy land? With technology nowadays, there is only one simple answer to that and that would be “no”. Most of the purchasers we work with are not physically in Belize. The whole land purchasing process can be done remotely without physically being in Belize. You do not need to physically be in Belize to buy land or close on a property, our team can share all the details and property options over the phone, via Facetime, Zoom meeting, text, and/or email. Once we narrow down a few areas and land options, we will prepare a video showing the property and surrounding areas. Land purchases are much easier than larger homes, condos, and villas. Everything can be signed through DocuSign or e-Signature.

Here at RE/MAX Belize, we have worked with numerous clients and have done the entire property and land purchase process remotely. Once everything is signed and submitted to the Closing Company a copy of your passport and a utility bill (matching the names and addresses on the agreement) will be required. Again, this can all be submitted remotely. With a little bit of paperwork and some digital signing then you are ready to go.

Some people may also wonder if all land here in Belize is for sale, and the answer to that is most land can be bought but some cannot be bought in Belize. A large portion of the country is protected national park and marine reserve.

There is also Queen’s land-land within 66 ft of high tide that can not be purchased. The first 66 feet from the high tide is public property which anyone can use at any time. It is important to note that all beaches in Belize are public access and the first 66 feet from the water at high tide is public property. This is one of the many draws to Belize as a destination and investment. It is also something many owners are unaware of and can be a detractor from paying the high prices of beachfront property. 

Belize is an emerging market with plenty of room for development. When you buy land in Belize, you own the property outright with a fee-simple title and full foreign ownership. You also have the added benefit of low property taxes and low cost of ownership. Whether you are looking at buying land in Belize for personal use or investment, the country has nearly endless possibilities. 

Contact the team at RE/MAX Belize for more information on buying land in Belize and Belize real estate opportunities.

 

Reason To Invest In Belize

Reason To Invest In Belize

Belize is one of the top emerging destinations in the Caribbean & Central America.  The country has a mix of the mainland (Central America) and islands (Caribbean). Belize has a growing tourism sector which creates a great cash-flow investment, while also being in an appreciating market. Belize is like foreign investing on training wheels; everything is in English, we have full foreign ownership, practice British Common law, etc. Belize is also a tax haven with low corporate taxes and property taxes. There is also no capital gains tax or estate tax. Belize real estate is one of the main focuses when it comes to investment in the country. Below are some of the top reasons to invest in Belize;

You have 2 avenues when it comes to a real estate investment; property appreciation & yield/cash flow. That said, 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.

Belize Investment Opportunities

Since achieving its full independence in 1981, Belize has aimed to provide an enabling environment for investment and business growth (both domestic & foreign investment). Belize has had a lot of laws, programs, and incentives in place to promote private enterprises and attract investments in Belize from both local and foreign investors. Over the years, there have been a series of legislations that started in the early 1990s to allow for a range of incentives for those looking to invest in Belize. The conditions to qualify for the different investment incentives vary, as do the investment incentives themselves. Popular incentive programs and initiatives include; a tax holiday, import duty exemptions, the Qualified Retired Persons Program (QRP), investment residency, etc. Investors are also not limited to any singular incentive, they can use any of the investment programs in place or a combination of multiple.

The benefits of government programs do vary and are dependent upon the type of incentive awarded to the potential investor. Export-oriented activities, which lead to increased employment, and the development of local, technological infrastructure, are particularly favorable. Belize is a very pro-business country and is open to foreign direct investment. The government of Belize supports joint venture and partnership investments with local individuals and businesses, however, Belize also allows 100% foreign ownership of a property, business, or enterprise.

Belize is not closed off to those looking at investing or looking for employment in Belize. Importation of highly skilled personnel to complement the Belizean labor force is facilitated providing that appropriate training programs for nationals are established. Generally, the Belize government hopes to see one local Belizean employed and assigned to every skilled foreigner employed by the company.

 

Investment Incentives In Belize

Tourism is the largest economic driver and one of the best industries for investment. That said, there are a number of other investment initiatives and incentives in Belize.

Trade Agreements

The main exports from Belize are seafood, sugar, citrus products, bananas, and clothing, and its chief imports include machinery and transport equipment, food, fuels and lubricants, and chemicals. Belize benefits from trade agreements with several developed countries. Belize is also the only agricultural exporter in CARICOM. Some of the preferential trade agreements and policies include:

    • Full member of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM).
    • Preferential treatment from the U.S. under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) which we receive several tariff and trade benefits.
    • Under the Lomé IV Convention, it has duty-free access to the EU for certain commodities.
    • Certain Belizean goods enter Canada duty-free.

The Government Of Belize’s Investment Incentives

Belize has a number of incentives and programs in place to attract foreign investment. These include:

    • 100% foreign ownership of land and company assets.
    • Encouragement of joint ventures with local entities.
    • Special incentives for retirees (like QRP).

Tax Holiday Program

The Fiscal Incentives Act of 1990 relates to tax holidays and duties. A tax holiday is a temporary tax break. In the United States, tax holidays often suspend state and local sales taxes paid by consumers. Governments also use tax holidays as investment incentives that may exempt a foreign investor from import duties or property taxes for a number of years, for example. In Belize, the tax holiday period shall normally be for a five-year duration from the date of production. However, there is a provision that the Minister for Economic Development can, on application by the company, in a fit and proper case, review the company’s operations and renew the tax-holiday period for a further term not to exceed 10 years.

Incentives under this particular clause in the Act also allow exemption from income tax under the Income Tax Act, including the repatriation of profits and dividends. The Act allows duty exemptions to companies that are granted an Approved Enterprise Order (Development Concession) to import items into Belize, free of import duty and revenue replacement duty. Since its independence in 1981, Belize has enjoyed the stability of a long-standing, democratic tradition, and has an independent judiciary. Belize is a part of the British Commonwealth and the British ties are still present, including; British Common Law & British Parliamentary Democracy.

The currency exchange rate in Belize is now fixed for 25 years at 2:1 with the US Dollar. The pegged currency further incentivizes foreign investment and ensures the stability of investment. Real estate transactions are also primarily done in USD which means a real estate investment is an appreciating asset pegged to the US dollar. Property taxes in Belize are also very low, which makes the cost of real estate ownership very low with little to no carrying costs.

Belize’s Export Processing Zones

For certain types of businesses, Belize’s Export Processing Zones (EPZs) provide substantial benefits to investors. Investors who take advantage of EPZs are often in the business of tourism. For Belize, the benefit of these free-trade zones is a way to encourage investment as well as foreign trade. For investors, the advantages include:

    • Exemption from import and export duties as taxes on capital gains, property, sales and consumption, trade turnover, foreign exchange, and transfers
    • An income tax holiday of 20 years with an option to extend and deduct losses from profits following the period of the tax holiday
    • Dividend tax exemption in perpetuity
    • The opportunity to open foreign currency bank accounts in Belize and abroad
    • Exemption from the Supplies Control Act and its regulations

In addition, EPZs aren’t burdened with restrictions on raw materials or export licensing requirements.

Belize is a country full of opportunity. Belize is like foreign investing on training wheels; everything is in English, we have full foreign ownership, practice British Common law, etc. The leading industry in Belize is tourism, which is mostly driven by San Pedro & Ambergris Caye. The world-class fishing and Belize Barrier Reef keep the flow of tourism year-round. Belize is kind of like investing with a time machine. Overall, there is low competition in most sectors and innovation is welcome. Belize is lucky to be in a growing market (both for investment and tourism) with a favorable tax environment and a pro-business and pro-foreign investment economy.

 

Benefits of Buying a Belize Vacation Home

Belize Vacation Home

When investing overseas a person has a lot of options. They have even more options when considering a vacation home. You can look at domestic options (in your home country) or look at off-shore markets like Belize.

There are many benefits to building a home anywhere in the world. Every destination also has its advantages when it comes to a vacation home. Nevertheless, there are a lot of benefits to buying and owning a vacation home in Belize that other markets may not offer.

One of the big draws to Belize is the fact it is relatively undeveloped and an emerging destination, this provides owners and investors with a lot of opportunities when it comes to real estate and building in a top-tier vacation spot. The advantages of owning and investing in Belize are both long-term and short-term.

Now, Belize being a Caribbean dream spot, and tropical destination makes it an even more appealing place to own and invest. Just imagine, building your dream home whether it be big or small, but it is in the perfect location that you can come to whenever you like, and when not occupying the home, you can generate vacation rental income.

Belize is more than just a tropical paradise, you have world-class fishing and diving. Many consider Belize the perfect destination because it has taste for everyone. With a combination of nightlife and restaurants with the laidback beach atmosphere, Belize has a lot to offer when it comes to owning a vacation home abroad. Belize has a unique combination of Caribbean islands and the mainland, you have pristine beaches, a lively reef, and lush jungles. When it comes to owning a vacation property in Belize, you have a lot of options with such a diverse landscape. You can build your dream home in a waterfront gated community like Mahogany Bay Village, or a simple off-grid cottage near Secret Beach.

Many owners are drawn to the Secret Beach area with the privacy and beautiful beaches, where really have no limitations on what you build or when you build it.

Now, Mahogany Bay Village is a gated community and every property is a canal-front homesite. The Mahogany Bay community offers an array of amenities and a very first-world lifestyle with restaurants, coffee shops, and dozens of other businesses. Something like Mahogany Bay has the luxury of being able to park your water vessel right in your backyard, all streets have canal access with Caribbean Ocean access. You can just hop on your boat and quickly go fishing, snorkeling, diving, or just have a regular boat ride with friends or family. Accessing the array of secluded beaches Belize and Ambergris Caye has to offer.

Belize has a slow season, a high season, and a peak season. So when building, whether you want to come in any season you have your piece of paradise. In the winter months (November to April) Belize sees a lot of sunseekers escaping the frigid winter months. During the Spring and Summer months, the island of Ambergris Caye is full of avid divers and fishermen, coming to enjoy the world-class diving and fishing Belize has to offer. Lobster Fest in June & July is also a popular attraction, drawing in people from around the world. Regardless of the season, there is never a bad time to visit Belize and enjoy your vacation home. You can spend the morning on a jungle hike, and the afternoon enjoying the pristine beaches.

When buying or building a vacation home in Belize you can also create a second source of income. Since it is a vacation home, it is unlikely you will occupy the home full-time. This means you can generate rental income when the home is not in use. You can find a vacation rental home option with management in place, self-manage, or find a property manager. Belize allows you to have passive income when you are not using your vacation home. In Belize, there are no rental restrictions, we are also one of the only pro-landlord destinations in the region.

In Belize, we do not recognize squatting rights. Another draw to owning a vacation home in Belize is the fact you own the property outright with a fee-simple title (the strongest form of property ownership). Belize is the only English Speaking country in Central America with British Common Law, because of this, we have full foreign ownership and foreigners enjoy the same ownership rights as locals.

If you are buying or investing in a Belize vacation home, you can use the passive income to help pay off the house. Over time, the vacation property in Belize will have easily paid for itself with the passive rental income generated from tourists.

Belize is the perfect location to consider investing and owning a vacation property as you have the cash flow/yield from the rental income, while also owning an appreciating asset with low taxation and costs of ownership. Property taxes in Belize are very low, and because of this, the cost of ownership is also very low. Belize is also an emerging destination. Our property prices are much less than in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, etc. As Belize continues to grow and develop, so does the value of your property.

Belize is a beautiful place to be in and besides owning a house in one of the most picturesque destinations in the world, you also have a protected asset that is held in USD. Having full ownership and a fee-simple title is a major advantage of owning and investing in Belize. Belize is one of the best destinations to buy real estate from an asset protection standpoint.

Regardless of how frequently you occupy the home or visit Belize, the tropical destination is the perfect location to own and invest in a vacation property. If you are looking to buy and own a vacation home or property in Belize, contact us at RE/MAX Belize. We eagerly await to help you with your Belize real estate search.

 

Home Insurance in Belize

Home Insurance in Belize

There is insurance and home insurance in Belize. Having home insurance means that the financial cost of replacing your home and contents is covered if they are damaged or destroyed by a specific event covered by the policy. Dependable property and home insurance are available in Belize, including hurricane insurance. Local companies are reinsured through North American and European carriers. Deductibles are typically 5% of the sum insured on storms and less for fire.

In Belize, we have something called “all-perils insurance.” All perils insurance covers everything from rental damages to flood, fire, and hurricane. All perils (including Hurricane) insurance is available here on buildings and structures through local insurance companies, the primary insurance providers are;

All insurance in Belize is re-insured through US carriers which makes it very reliable and similar to insurance in the United States & Canada. Deductibles are normally 5% of the sum insured on storms (like Hurricanes) and less for fire. Insurance in Belize is paid and renewed annually.

There are different means by which a provider calculates a home’s annual insurance. 

  • Wood vs Concrete Construction
  • What is the state of the pilings?
  • The construction value of the house vs the appraised value of the house.

In Belize, there are a few ways a provider calculates the annual property insurance. One means by which the general home insurance is calculated is $8 of insurance for every $1,000 of home value for concrete. And $30 insurance for every $1,000 home value for wood.

The most common way local Belize insurance companies, which are reinsured through North American and European carriers, offer rates from 1.5% for concrete structures to 2.5% for wooden structures. Deductibles are typically 5% of the sum insured on storms and less for fire.

Like any Caribbean destination, Hurricanes are a concern. That being said, there are a number of factors that make Ambergris Caye less susceptible to hurricanes and hurricane damage. Hurricanes are a very real concern when owning real estate in the Caribbean. That being said, Ambergris Caye is somewhat perfectly situated to minimize the severity and damage from large storms, including hurricanes. Ambergris Caye is not in the strike zone where large storms make landfall. It is also important to note that there are also 2 types of damage with a hurricane, wind damage (which proper construction can minimize damage severity) and storm surge.

You can prevent wind damage with proper construction. Storm surge is the cause of the high level of destruction you see when a hurricane runs through. Storm surge is a rising of the sea as a result of atmospheric pressure changes and wind associated with a storm. A storm surge (also known as storm flood, tidal surge, or storm tide) is a coastal flood or large waves, it is a phenomenon of rising water commonly associated with low-pressure weather systems, such as cyclones or hurricanes. It is measured as the rise in water level above the normal tidal level.

Luckily on Ambergris Caye, we have a 1-foot tidal variance (due to the reef and proximity to the equator) and the reef (which is 400 yards from our southern shore) breaks up any large waves before they are able to hit the island’s shoreline.

To have a storm surge, a storm needs a long shallow plane of water, bringing the storm from the deep sea to a shoreline; if the depth is gradual over a long span, the storm can grow and become larger. Ambergris Caye is lucky because just off the Eastern coast is the Belize Barrier Reef which acts as a wall, and beyond that, some of the deepest water in the Caribbean. 

Hurricanes are certainly a concern in Belize, as they are throughout Central America & the Caribbean the way other natural disasters (tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, floods, etc) are a concern for people in other countries, states, or provinces. Mother nature is a part of life. Fortunately, Belize is located in the southwestern part of the Caribbean, which is out of the way of traditional hurricane paths.

The good thing about home insurance in Belize is that the all-perils insurance covers everything. All-perils insurance in Belize covers fire, earthquake, and hurricane. It also covers you if by some random chance an airplane crashes into your house. The insurance policies here in Belize are cheaper than the policies in the US. Though they are equally reliable. 

For more information on home insurance in Belize and Belize real estate contact us!