What Makes Belize Real Estate So Exclusive
When looking for a tropical destination that scores big on many levels, more and more expats are considering purchasing Belize real estate as the backdrop for their next adventure.
The tiny country (it’s barely bigger than New Jersey) is the northernmost of Central America, tucked neatly under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s also the only one that borders only the Caribbean Sea, which is a factor that heavily influences its real estate offerings.
With just over 320,000 inhabitants in the entire country (about as many as St. Louis, Missouri), it has a laid-back small-town feel. Even the capital of Belize City, which has only 70,000 residents.
There’s also a very youthful vibe, with 40% of the country being age 15 and under. And, although the country encompasses only 8,800 square miles, it claims a whopping 149 miles of Caribbean coastline. What’s more, it’s all protected by the world’s second largest barrier reef.
Expats are drawn to Belize real estate for its affordability, as well as the natural beauty that abounds throughout much of the country. They love the climate, the friendly locals, and the familiarness of the ways of doing things.
Belize Has Always Been a Refuge
Belize, unlike any other country in Central America, was originally founded as a British (not Spanish) colony. In fact, until 1973 it was still known as British Honduras. It only gained independence from Great Britain somewhat recently, in 1981.
It’s long served as a refuge of sorts, beginning with pirates looking for a place to trade their treasures. Other immigrants included Mennonite farmers who fled their homes in Germany and the Netherlands seeking religious freedom.
The British were next, establishing colonies in Belize where they could do their banking in private. Immigrants from neighboring Mexico and Guatemala also flocked to this peaceful country to escape turmoil and caste wars in their own nations.
Today, it’s expats from all over the globe who are drawn to Belize. This history of refuge-seeking immigrants has resulted in a fantastic cultural fusion that is evident throughout the country. From the languages to the cuisine, there are so many ethnicities reflected in every region and in every aspect of life in Belize.
The Unique Appeal of Belize Real Estate
What makes Belize real estate such a hot commodity is the fact that much of what it offers literally cannot be found anywhere else. That’s not an exaggeration or a marketing strategy. It’s the God’s honest truth. Here are a few of the factors that have made this haven so popular among expats.
It’s Close to North America in More Ways than One
Due to its physical location, Belize is one of the easiest places to get to in Latin America. And while expats obviously desire to get away when they relocate overseas, it’s not uncommon to want to find that home away from home as close to your original home as possible.
You can find direct flights to Belize from a number of U.S. cities, such as Dallas, Houston, Miami, and Atlanta. Even better, it’s three hours tops.
Not only is Belize physically close to the U.S., it’s also similar in a number of other ways. Due to its origins as a British colony, Belize is English-speaking. There’s a lot of Spanish floating through the streets, but the important stuff (i.e. street signs, legal documents, menus, newspapers, and television stations) is all in English.
The court system is based on British common law, which is familiar to U.S. residents. The education system is also all done in English and is well-regarded, which is important for families with children.
There’s no metric system, so it’s all inches, feet, miles, and acres. And while there is an official form of currency, the Belize dollar, it’s permanently tied to the U.S. dollar at a rate of two to one. So there are no conversion issues. Not to mention, the U.S. dollar is accepted practically everywhere (except government offices).
Belize Is an Ocean Lover’s Dream
Due to its geographical location, much of Belize’s population (and most of its desirable real estate) lies along and near the coast. What’s inland is overwhelmingly undeveloped (Read: There’s little to no infrastructure.).
In fact, an estimated 80% of the country is not being used by humans. That’s not to say it’s wasteland. Belize’s inland areas are packed with jungles, waterfalls, ancient ruins, and thousands of species of flora and fauna. So one could argue that it’s also a land lover’s paradise. But that’s not why most people come here.
What they do come for is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world (after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). It’s the country’s top tourist attraction and offers some of the world’s best fishing, scuba diving, and sailing.
If you’re not into all of those active aquatic adventures, there’s also the fact that it’s just gorgeous. In fact, the Great Blue Hole is one of the most spectacular sights on earth.
Not only does Belize offer an extensive amount of coastline, off its shores lie roughly 450 islands. Some are among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Others are sparsely populated. A few are completely uninhabited and available for purchase. Not many tropical destinations can make such an offering.
It’s an Easy Place to Buy and Own Property
Not only does the end result of owning a piece of Belize real estate sound pretty appealing, but the process itself is a relatively simple one as Latin American transactions go. For starters, Belize places no restrictions on foreigners buying property, even beachfront real estate. That’s unheard of in many countries that are popular with expats.
There are also no capital gains taxes. You will have to pay a transfer (or stamp) tax, but even that is low, usually around 5% of the value of the property. Even annual property taxes are low, with even the priciest lots accruing no more than $200 or $300.
Many other transactions are also easy in Belize, making it an ideal destination for those who wish to invest or operate a business. In fact, it’s a popular offshore banking center and a great place to set up a corporation or trust. Opening a bank account is a relatively simple process, and interest rates are quite favorable (as high as 6% on deposit accounts).
The country is also politically stable. It’s a fairly young nation with a small population. Politics are a matter of great concern for most residents, and they’ve been known to show up at rates as high as 75% for national elections. While politically interested, however, everyone remains peaceable and good-natured with their political opinions.
Belize Real Estate Outlook
Belize is a great example of a tropical place whose property values have seen tremendous increase in recent years. However, there’s no indication that this trend appears to be slowing. Growth in Belize has been steady, stable, and consistent. The stable government deserves some of the credit for this.
Future growth projections are promising, particularly with the prospect of direct flights from Europe on the horizon. Tourism is on the rise, and the government is actively taking steps to ensure that popular attractions, like the rainforests and natural coastline, remain intact as development continues.
Current property values are often as low as half of that of similar lots in the nearby Bahamas. However, with the influx of new visitors from Europe, prices can be expected to rise drastically as the market is opened up to a whole new set of buyers. This could be great news for current Belizean property owners or those looking to invest in land in the immediate future.
Popular Places to Own Real Estate in Belize
As mentioned, much of the available (and desirable) real estate in Belize is located near the coast. However, even more specifically, there are several key areas that are the most popular among expats.
Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye has become increasingly popular among scuba divers and fishermen, thanks to its proximity to the Belize Barrier Reef. Because of its popularity and numerous amenities, it is one of the pricier places to own Belize real estate. However, there are still bargains to be had if you don’t mind a bit of a walk to the beach.
Even though Ambergris Caye has a distinctly small-town feel, the atmosphere of Caye Caulker is even more laid-back. It has only about 1,500 residents and no motorized vehicles. Prices are lower than its larger island neighbor, but that gap is likely to close as Caye Caulker increases in popularity.
Stann Creek District
While the first two hotspots are island destinations in northern Belize, there are also a lot of expats buying homes in the Stann Creek area to the south. One of the most popular spots is Placencia, which sits on a peninsula.
Some claim that it has a more authentic Caribbean feel than the luxurious island developments. It also has wider beaches with whiter sand that are often virtually empty of other people in some spots. This area can also be pricey, but good value can be found just a little further outside of town.
What Your Money Will Currently Buy in Belize
Here are a few properties listed for sale in Belize at the time this article was written.
A mere $75,000 will get you a 1 bedroom, 1 bath cottage on over an acre in Esperanza Village, near the Guatemalan border.
The same $75,000 buys you a 2.89 acre lot with around 75 feet of beachfront on Cross Caye in the Stann Creek District.
For $431,000 you can own a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom beachfront home on Maya Beach in the same area, complete with a pool, high end finishes, and lots of great outdoor space.
These are just a few of the great opportunities available in Belize. Depending on your individual preferences there are tons of other options that could make for the perfect setting for you to begin your expat life overseas.
Due to the inefficiencies of the real estate market, prices can often range all over the board for properties with similar features. So plan to set aside plenty of time to perform your search. Most importantly, you’ll want to plan a trip soon to see for yourself what this beautiful country has to offer. The pictures don’t do it justice.
Map of Belize
Belize Fast Facts
- Population: About 324,000
- Typical temperature: 84 degrees
- Nearest airport with U.S. flights: Belize City, Belize
- Nearest U.S. Consulate: Belmopan, Cayo, Belize