5 Misconceptions About Moving to Belize

5 Misconceptions About Moving to Belize

Belize is an amazing place to live and there are tons of opportunities for people not only looking to retire but also invest and/or start a business. Moving to Belize is much easier than in other countries with a lot of incentive programs in place. But there are a few things everyone should know before moving to Belize (to avoid any surprises). The lifestyle in Belize & Ambergris Caye is amazing and it is easy to see why so many people are making the move every year.

Here are the 5 biggest misconceptions about moving to Belize! If you’re considering moving to Belize from the US or Canada be sure to give this video a watch before doing so. We break down some of the key things you should know before making a move to Belize and 5 misconceptions people have before making the transition

 

 

Misconception 1: Belize is All the Same

Belize has a very diverse landscape ranging from the Caribbean Islands of Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker to the lush Rainforests in Cayo & San Ignacio. If you have visited Belize, you know how different each area of the country is. If you are looking to be near the beach and reef, you will likely want San Pedro or Ambergris Caye Real Estate. If you are looking to live near Guatemala and enjoy the rainforest, you may prefer Punta Gorda or Cayo. Belize has a lot to offer, and it is important to know that not all of Belize is the same.

 

Misconception 2: How Quickly Things Can Move

Things sometimes move a little slower in Belize and the different departments handle different areas of permitting. Belize does have a slower and less stressful pace, which is one of the reasons so many people love Belize. That said, the slower lifestyle sometimes requires a little more patience and a different process. You are able to get things done in Belize, but be prepared to go through the due process.

 

Misconception 3: Everything in Belize is Cheap

A lot of things in Belize are less expensive. Anything made locally is a fraction of the cost of what you are used to in the US or Canada. That said, there are things that are more expensive. If something is imported, you will notice that you are paying more. Also, if you are on an island, there are additional logistics that are needed.

 

Misconception 4: You Need Residency or Citizenship to Move to Belize

You do not need to be a resident or citizen to move to Belize or to buy property in Belize. There are also no restrictions or time constraints on how long you are able to stay in Belize as an American or Canadian. You can stay in Belize as long as you want, as long as you renew your Tourist Visa every month.

 

Misconception 5: Finding Property in Belize is Easy

Belize does not have an MLS or standard listing platform. There are a lot of opportunities in Belize and a diverse real estate market. We do not have a formal MLS in Belize, so a real estate agent’s job is a little different. This makes it important to work with a real estate professional who knows and understands the market. We also do not have the same licensing for realtors or a standard real estate association. Make sure you are working with a realtor who has licensing and/or is a member of the different Belize Real Estate associations like AREBB (Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize) or BNAR (Belize National Association of Realtors) or have a brand like RE/MAX which holds its brokers and agents to the highest standard.

 

If you are considering moving to Belize or investing in Belize real estate, contact us at RE/MAX Belize!

We look forward to helping you find your property in paradise.

Belize Real Estate Investment & Relocation

Belize Real Estate

Facts About Belize Real Estate

Belize Real Estate is becoming more and more of a hot topic for Americans, Canadians & Europeans as more learn about the tremendous benefits of owning real estate in Belize. Whether it be for investment or lifestyle purposes, Belize stands out amongst other countries in the Caribbean & Central America region for several reasons. These are the cornerstones of relocation to the county and are as follows:

 

English Speaking

When you consider that 90% of the U.S. only speaks English, this is a huge benefit of Belize. People love the fact that when they go to their doctor in Belize they can communicate in their native tongue or when they go to fill out legal documents they can read them in English.

 

British Common Law

Belize is the only English-speaking country in the region, this is a direct result of British influence over the years. The British also left something else extremely beneficial behind, their legal system. Other countries in the region (Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, etc.) adopted the Spanish legal system, Napoleonic Civil Law. When it comes to Belize real estate there is a key difference between the two. That is, with British common law there is full foreign ownership. When Americans, Canadians, or any foreigners for that matter invest in property they receive a fee simple land title along with their property and truly own it.

When you invest in property somewhere with Napoleonic Civil Law there are two-tier ownership rights where residents can own, but foreigners must do so through a corporation with local directors or other grey area strategies. This is not the case in Belize, where foreigners have full ownership under British Common Law.

 

Proximity to the U.S.

Belize is 750 miles from the nearest point in the U.S. and has direct flights from L.A., Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Newark, Toronto, Chicago, & more locations being added. The flight from Miami is roughly an hour and a half making it very easy for Americans and Canadians to get down in a very short period.

Fun Fact: Belize is within five hours of 82% of the U.S.!

Below you can see the direct flights to Belize;

 

46% of Belize is National Park & Marine Reserve

One of the things about Belize that most don’t know is that the official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on 21st September 1981. Given that Belize as a nation is relatively young, it has had the opportunity to model policies and characteristics from other countries that it feels are beneficial to the country.

One of the biggest things Belize has done in this regard is dedicated 46% of its land to a national park and marine reserve, one of the largest portions of a country in the world to be a national park. Not only is this beneficial from an ecosystem perceptive, but it’s also highly valuable from a real estate investment perspective. When you put a 46% restraint on development, you increase scarcity, which as we all know leads to appreciation.

 

Property Tax

In Belize, there are no capital gains taxes and property taxes are extremely low compared to what many are used to in the U.S. and Canada. For example, property taxes on a 60’ by 75’ piece of land would be roughly $75 per year paid annually in April.

 

Tourism & Rental Market

Belize is going through a state of high nightly rental demand with increasing tourism (44% over the past 5 years) without an equitable increase in the supply of nightly and monthly rentals leading to increasing rental rates and higher returns for investors. 2019 was the all-time high in tourism that Belize had ever seen, and the trend is showing absolutely no sign of slowing as Belize’s tourism in 2022 rebounded strongly after the pandemic.

The Belize Real Estate Market and Tourism are also looking promising in 2023. In fact, with the airlines adding as many flights as they have in recent years, Belize is expecting the growth to not only continue, but increase. With 70-75% of all tourists who visit Belize going to Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) during their stay, Ambergris Caye is the standout location for relocation and investment.

 

Ambergris Caye Real Estate

Ambergris Caye is the largest island in Belize measuring 27 miles long. Ambergris Caye is located at the northern point of Belize’s coastline with the Belize barrier reef just off the east Coast. Ambergris Caye is the top tourist destination in Belize and sees hundreds of thousands of tourists visit every year. Here are some quick facts about Ambergris Caye;

  1. The largest of all Cayes and Islands in Belize, Ambergris Caye is widely known as the “Jewel of Belize”.
  2. Belize’s largest island is 24 miles long and 3 miles wide
  3. 70% of overnight tourism comes to Ambergris Caye
  4. 12 miles from the mainland
  5. #1 tourism destination in Belize

One of the best-kept secrets in tourism-driven markets is the distinct correlation between the change in tourism numbers and real estate appreciation. As tourism increases, we tend to see a proportionate increase and appreciation in property values.

 

Baby Boomers & Belize Real Estate

As many of you may know (or maybe going through the process) more baby boomers are looking to relocate from the U.S. every day. About four million people will retire every year, as of 2014. From 2014 to 2034, about 80 million people are expected to retire. This equated to roughly 10,000 people retiring per day for 20 years. Obviously not all these people will choose to relocate however, according to an AARP life survey, roughly 28,121,000 people will be relocating outside of the U.S., and the area with the largest expected growth is the Central America & Caribbean Region.

When you factor in our list of retirement benefits (English speaking, Proximity, Legal System, Etc.) it is more than safe to say that Belize will receive its fair share of baby boomers. This is only leading to more scarcity in the rental market, as when baby boomers move down, they generally take inventory out of the rental pool as they will live in it year-round as opposed to previous owners who would rent the majority of the year. When you factor these aforementioned thoughts together, you have the “perfect storm” for rental rates to increase and investor returns to increase.

 

Belize Facts

  1. The Capital of Belize is Belmopan
  2. The Population of Belize is 404,915 (2021) World Bank
  3. The Currency in Belize is the Belize dollar with is 2:1 with USD (U.S dollar accepted nationwide)
  4. The Government and Political System in Belize is a Constitutional Monarchy and British Parliamentary System.

 

Belize Real Estate – Investment & Relocation

There are many other benefits when it comes to Belize real estate. For the most part, Belize is still underdeveloped and sparsely populated so there is still plenty of room for growth, and property values haven’t come near adjusting to where they should be given the growth in tourism we discussed in the previous section of this post.

Another benefit of Belize is its economic and political stability. The economy here in Belize isn’t a one-legged stool, there are many facets to the GDP including agriculture, energy, transport & tourism. The government has shown it is a pro-foreign investment country by facilitating the process for foreigners and even bringing in the QRP program to reduce the costs and expenses of relocation to Belize.

 

If you have any further questions on Belize and looking to buy Belize Real Estate we are happy to chat via email or phone, feel free to reach out to RE/MAX Belize to chat and discuss your Belize real estate goals in further detail and get all your questions answered.

 

Guide to Buying Belize Real Estate in 2023

Belize Real Estate in 2023

As 2022 comes to an end and we look towards 2023, Belize real estate continues to boom as Belize is now very much on the world’s radar. When looking at the Belize market (considering we do not have an MLS), we have seen Belize real estate demand and prices trend upwards over the past 10 years. Going into 2023, demand is still on the rise. Properties on the islands that are popular tourist destinations like Ambergris Caye continue to be an excellent investment, for both appreciation and passive rental income. The tourism sector is booming and we saw 2022 Belize tourism rebound, nearly reaching pre-COVID numbers.

Belize is a great place to live and invest. The lifestyle on Ambergris Caye has a very laid-back Caribbean vibe. If you are looking at Belize from an investment standpoint, rental income-producing properties are in high demand for both vacation and long-term monthly rentals. Belize properties and vacation rentals on Ambergris Caye (San Pedro) rent out quickly and for a high nightly rental rate. Whether you are planning for a long-term investment to buy and hold or a short-term source of passive income, you can’t go wrong with Belize and owning Ambergris Caye real estate.

Just to illustrate the popularity of Belize real estate, you can see the transaction volumes for RE/MAX Belize (all offices & agents in Belize) below;

 

What Makes Belize Real Estate So Attractive?

Compared to a lot of places Belize offers an outstanding quality of life. The quality of life exceeds the warm tropical climate (which is very consistent year-round). Ambergris Caye is a perfect location for a young family looking for a better lifestyle, or an investor/business owner who wants to get in on Belize’s growing tourism industry or diversify their investment portfolio. Belize is also the perfect destination for individuals looking to retire in a warm, affordable place to call home. Whether you are looking for personal use or investment, Belize real estate has a lot to offer.

If you are on Ambergris Caye, the weather is warm year-round, and you can enjoy sunny skies and a tropical Caribbean climate almost every day of the year. If you enjoy outdoor activities and being active you will be mesmerized by the water-based recreation, and endless hiking trails. Belize has all of the charms of the Caribbean.

People in Belize and Ambergris Caye (locals and expats) live a relaxed, stress-free life. One of the most charming things about Belize is the fact there are no chain restaurants, skyscrapers, or fast-food restaurants. This also shows the opportunity in Belize and where the country is at in the scheme of time. When living or visiting Belize you will quickly notice are no traffic jams and no blizzards. Ambergris Caye is also incredibly safe, for both visiting and investing.

 

Why is Belize Real Estate so Popular?

Living and investing in Belize allows you to stay close to home and quickly get to your investment property. Belize is a short flight from the US or Canada with direct flights from most major airports. Belize is also English-speaking (one of the only English Speaking countries in the region). Along with being English-speaking, Belize also practices British Common Law and allows for full-foreign ownership and some of the strongest property ownership rights in the world.

Belize has also grown in tourism popularity without new lodging inventory. With increased awareness comes increased demand but the lodging and vacation rental inventory supply is behind the tourism and vacation rental demand.

You can see the tourism growth in Belize from 2014 to 2019 below;

BTB Belize Tourism Board Data

Even though tourism has grown (and continues to grow post-pandemic) the total rooms for lodging have stayed stagnant. Tourism pre-COVID grew by over 60% in 5 years (over double-digit annual growth of 14.6%) but lodging and inventory stayed the same. Even now, rental inventory saw a -2% decrease from Q2 to Q3 of 2022. Below you can see the lodging and rental inventory on Ambergris Caye over the last 3 years;

As you can see, the 3-year trend has been consistent with many quarters seeing a dip in rental inventory (even with an increase in demand). The opportunity for a better lifestyle and a high-yield cash flow property is the driving factors on why Belize real estate has been so popular and continues to be in demand for years to come.

 

Where To Look for Property in Belize

Like anywhere, there are certain areas of Belize that attract more tourists, expatriates, and retirees. There is a reason why the popular areas are popular. Every year, Ambergris Caye and San Pedro are the top tourist and investment destinations. Ambergris Caye provides the best lifestyle and investment upside. As an island, there is a scarcity of property which improves the rate of property appreciation. Ambergris Caye also sees the highest volume of tourists, which increases investment potential and improves infrastructure.

 

Ambergris Caye Real Estate

Ambergris Caye is an island on the western coast of Belize and on the northern Caribbean side. Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourist destination in Belize. San Pedro is the main municipality on Ambergris Caye and is a well-developed town with all the amenities and infrastructure you could need. San Pedro boasts high-end, luxurious resorts and real estate opportunities for personal use or investment. With its scenic surroundings (with the reef just off the East Coast and sandy West Coast beaches) and lively nightlife, it is easy to see why Ambergris Caye is so popular for tourists and expats and why it is the #1 destination in Belize.

 

Belize Real Estate for Foreign Investment

When it comes to owning off-shore, Belize is one of the only countries in the region with full foreign ownership where foreigners have the same ownership rights as locals (nationals). Belize is one of the few countries in the world that has full foreign ownership and foreigners have the same real estate and land ownership rights as citizens. Other tropical destinations like Costa Rica or Mexico do not allow for full foreign ownership and when purchasing property a foreigner has to take extra steps.

Even with the extra steps, when investing in another off-shore market (like Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, or Honduras) a foreign investor does not physically own the property. If you are investing in a market outside Belize, you can own property, but additional work is required. Other countries in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America make it even more difficult to buy property as a foreigner. This is not the case in Belize where foreigners have the same ownership rights as locals and when a foreigner buys a property they own it outright with a fee-simple title.

In Belize, you can buy property as easily as you buy property in the US or Canada. This is due to Belize sharing the British Common Law system. When you buy Belize real estate you can purchase a residence to live in, a home to rent out, commercial/business properties, industrial buildings, and raw land all as a foreigner.

Belize also offers a lot of investment incentives for foreigners looking to buy and/or invest in Belize. These are further reasons to invest in Belize.

 

Tax Incentives for investing in Belize

There are a lot of benefits when it comes to owning and investing in Belize. Belize is a low-tax jurisdiction. One amazing benefit of buying Belize real estate is the fact that there are no capital gains taxes or estate taxes. If you purchase land, develop it, and then sell it for a profit, or even flip a property for more money you are not obligated to pay any capital gains tax in Belize. You keep all the money. Also, if someone inherits your property or Belize asset, they are not subject to estate tax or inheritance tax.

One of the other major draws of Belize is the fact that property taxes are very low (almost shockingly low). Belize property taxes are affordable and the cost of land/property taxes is next to nothing. The low taxation and cost of ownership are one of the driving reasons so many investors and owners are investing in Belize.

Most property taxes are 1% to 1.5% of their assessed value. What is even more appealing is that property or land assessments are usually 10-30% of the property’s actual resale value really is. For example, property taxes for land around Belize Secret Beach start at $75 per year. Property taxes in Mahogany Bay are $108 per year.

When you compare property taxes in Belize with other countries you will see why so many people are buying and investing in Belize real estate and Belize land.

 

Language & Laws

Belize is English-Speaking and one of the only English-speaking countries in the region. The fact you do not have to learn a new language to live or do business in Belize is very appealing. When owning or investing in Belize you will find that it is very easy for a foreigner to do business in Belize. Having the official language English helps with more than day-to-day communication, it also means that all legal documents are in English as well. This is from Belize’s former history as a British colony, and practice of British Common Law. Having the language and legal system in place makes dealing with contracts and other legal matters much easier.

It is also important to note that the property and real estate contracts in Belize are similar to the real estate contracts in the US, UK, and Canada. There are some cases with corporate tax optimization programs like IBCs. But for the most part, a transfer of ownership and land title certificate is very similar to the US & Canada. When buying real estate in Belize you won’t have trouble understanding the process or the documentation.

 

Affordable Prices

Compared to other Caribbean & Central American real estate markets, Belize is still very affordable. Even though our real estate prices are on the rise, they are still a fraction of what you will find in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, & Panama. The affordability of property and the affordability of lifestyle are major reasons people keep flocking and investing in Belize.

It is important to note that the real estate market in Belize has not stayed stagnant, prices have gone up over the years, but it is still affordable compared to the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, or Mexico. For retirement and vacation homes, Belize is a fraction of the cost of the coastal areas of Florida and California. Belize also does not have the red tape and restrictions on rent controls other markets have in place. When buying land or real estate in Belize it is an amazing deal when compared to other destinations.

The cost of living in Belize is also less expensive than you are likely used to in your domestic market.

 

Government

Belize has a stable government. The Belizean political system is a British Parliamentary Democracy. The democratic system in place makes Belize one of the more stable emerging countries with a democratic government. Belize also has the growing tourism industry which is strongly supported by the local government, which can be seen through the amenities and stronger safety measures. When compared to a lot of the world Belize has a low crime rate and is not subject to riots or terrorism. The crime in Belize is concentrated to a small area of Belize City. The island of Ambergris Caye (the #1 destination in Belize) is very safe.

The government in Belize supports economic growth, foreign investment, and the popular tourism sector. The currency controls in place also prevent corruption on a federal level as we have a pegged currency (2:1 with USD) that is not subject to localized inflation rates.

 

Ways To Own Belize Real Estate

There are a variety of ways to own property and real estate in Belize. Belize has a lot of incentive programs in place to make purchasing real estate easier and remove some of the tax obligations. When buying real estate in Belize you can property in your personal name, a corporation (like and IBC), or a Belize trust. Belize is an excellent choice if you want asset protection.

When you are looking at investing in an offshore market like Belize, there are 4 pillars a person should look for regarding real estate investment;
  1. Capital Protection: How safe is the investment? In Belize, there is full outright ownership. Belize is also pro-landlord and does not recognize squatting rights.
  2. Capital Growth: The appreciation of an asset. Belize is growing, and with growth comes increased demand. Belize is an appreciating market.
  3. Yield (Cash Flow): Can you produce passive income from the property? In Belize, you can rent out a home or condo with ease. You have passive real estate income from vacation rentals.
  4. Favorable Taxation: Belize is a tax haven with no capital gains or estate tax. Property taxes are also low and corporate taxes are 1.75% for international companies and 3% for domestic companies.

Luckily, when you invest in Belize, you are in a position to check all 4 boxes. You also have the added benefit of limited supply and scarcity in a market with growing demand when investing on an island like Ambergris Caye.

 

Buying Belize Real Estate

Hiring a reputable Belize real estate agent can help you navigate the process and find a property that is inline with your needs and/or investment goals. Our team at RE/MAX Belize are here to help answer your questions and aid in your property search. It is important when making a purchase and investment off-shore that you work with a professional real estate office. Also having someone who understands the Belize market that can steer you to the right areas and the best properties.

When buying real estate in Belize it is important to rely on your realtor for your property search. We do not have a standard MLS in Belize, which makes a real estate agents job even more important. Your RE/MAX Belize Real Estate Agent can explain the process to you and expedite the purchase process.

Belize has a lot of advantages and offers owners and investors affordable prices, high rental income, and low taxes. The ease of purchasing real estate in Belize is very similar to the US & Canada but without as much bureaucracy and red tape. Belize is a very easy country to invest in and do business. In Belize the real estate contracts are quite easy and we use English as an official language make Belize an attractive real estate option.

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

 

Questions to Ask When Buying Land in Belize

Thinking of Buying Land in Belize?  

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

What Type of Land Can I Buy in Belize?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do I Have to be in Belize to Purchase Land?

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

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

Using technology and online resources neither the buyer nor the seller of a property needs to be in Belize. The closing and transfer of property can all be done remotely.

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

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

 

Can I Get Financing For Buying Land in Belize?

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

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

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

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

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

 

With Owner Financing, When Does the Ownership Transfer?

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

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

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

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

 

Why Should I Use a Closing Company?

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

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

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

At ReMax Belize, we use Capital Corporate Services as our closing company for our clients. It is also common in Belize for a closing company to use an Escrow Agent and/or Escrow Account. This helps to protect the buyer and the seller during the real estate transaction. Since most real estate transactions in Belize are done in USD it is common for the Escrow Account to be in the US and with a US Bank.

 

Buying Land in Belize

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

For more information on Belize Land and buying land in Belize, contact us.

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities

Ambergris Caye Utilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities Availability

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

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

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

 

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

 

Ambergris Caye Electricity

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

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

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

Electricity and power prices right now are comparable to domestic markets.

Electricity on the island at this time is around $0.17 to $0.22 per kWh.

This is comparable to the US, Canada, or the UK. The electrical provider is BEL (Belize Electricity Limited). Billed monthly like US or Canada.

 

Solar Power

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

Things to consider:

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

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

 

Ambergris Caye Water & Sewer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0 to 1,000 gallons: $12.80
1,001 to 2,000 gallons $15.11
2,001 to 3,000 gallons $16.27
3,001 to 4,000 gallons $17.44
4,001 to 5,000 gallons $18.60
5,001 to 6,000 gallons $22.08
6,001 to 7,000 gallons $26.15
7,001 to 8,000 gallons $29.05
8,001 + $31.96
*note that all prices are in USD

 

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

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

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

 

 

Sewer vs Septic

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

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

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

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

 

Off-Grid Water Storage

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

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

 

Off-Grid Septic

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

 

 

 

Internet on Ambergris Caye

Internet and connectivity on the island are top of the line with some of the fastest internet speeds in the region. Back in 2017, San Pedro went through significant upgrades. Now the town of San Pedro has some of the fastest internet speeds in Belize. In 2017, Ambergris Caye had a fiber-optic submarine cable installed with connectivity to San Pedro, enabling super-fast broadband speeds to the island of Ambergris Caye.

Since 2017, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye boasts the fastest internet in the country. Super fast Fiber-based Internet up to 130Mbps for home or business.

 

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

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

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

 

SMART Internet


Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Digi Internet

Prices are in Belize Dollars

 

Ambergris Caye Utilities in Belize

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

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

 

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

Types of Property Ownership in Belize

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

 

Shares vs Strata Title vs Fee Simple

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

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

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

 

Housing Cooperative (Shares)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Strata Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Fee Simple vs. Leasehold Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Belize Real Estate Appreciation

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

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

 

Property Liquidity

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

 

Belize Property & Belize Real Estate

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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 fee 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. 

 

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

Owning Property in Belize as a Foreigner

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

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

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

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

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

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