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5 Things You Need to Know About Roatan Real Estate

Roatan Real Estate

Katy McClelland

With its powdery white sand and sparkling turquoise waters, it’s easy to see why Roatan, Honduras, has gained tremendous popularity over the past decade.  Recently touted as one of the best places to retire, particularly among island destinations, it attracts the attention of expats and tourists alike.

While terms like “best-kept secret” and sights such as the towering cruise ships in its ports might turn away some skeptical buyers, Roatan isn’t just another cookie-cutter expat destination.  Its heavily-touristed area is counter-balanced with acre after sparsely-populated acre, just a few miles down the road.  It’s accessible and surprisingly affordable.  And buying property is a breeze compared to other locations of its caliber.

So, before you write it off as just another passing trend in a long line of retirement hotspots, here are a few things you might not know about Roatan real estate.

1.  For a relatively small island, Roatan offers a lot of options.

Roatan is a 37 mile long island that is situated about 35 miles off the northern coast of Honduras.  It’s less than 5 miles across at its widest point, so essentially it’s a long strip of land that’s divided generally into an eastern and a southwestern section.

The island is made up of two municipalities: Roatan, to the southwest, and Jose Santos Guardiola, on the eastern end of the island.  The largest of the country’s Bay Islands, it also encompasses a few smaller land masses such as the Cayos Cochinos to the west.  The eastern end of Roatan also includes Santa Elena, a small island separated from the main one by a channel of mangroves, as well as Morat, Barbaretta, and Pigeon Cay.

While there are a few decent-sized cities on the eastern end of the island (such as Oak Ridge, the capital of San Jose Guardiola), almost all of the action on Roatan is to the west.  Cities like Coxen Hole and French Harbour offer services from banks to gyms to modern medical facilities.  The popular West End is home to the great sandy beaches and dive shops that attract tourists from all over.

If you’re looking for a well-developed, densely populated area where you can walk to bars and restaurants, the southwest end of Roatan is for you.  If not, come along with us to the eastern side.  There you’ll find quite the opposite of the tourist-heavy bustle of the west end.

On the less-populated end of the island of Roatan there are fewer paved roads and beaches with not a single other human in sight.  The amenities are fewer, and consequently property prices are much lower.  You can still reach the hotspots on the west end, as well as the airport in Coxen Hole, within an hour or so.  But with the lower cost of living on the east end of the island, you may not even want to.

2.  With direct flights from the U.S. you can be in Roatan in two hours.

Speaking of the airport, you can now find direct flights to Roatan from several major U.S. cities, such as Houston, Miami, and Atlanta.  This development has made a tremendous difference in the time it takes to reach this island getaway, as it was once only accessible by local flight or ferry from the mainland.

This new ease of access makes Roatan one of the simplest to reach island destinations in Central America.  And easy access makes for the potential for appreciation.  As more people and businesses flow into the island, the effect on the Roatan real estate market can only hope to benefit.

Once on the island, getting around is fairly simple.  Buses run every 15 minutes between Coxen Hole and West End, during the day.  Another runs every hour to Oak Ridge, stopping at places such as French Harbour and Punta Gorda, which is where the pavement ends.  The roads become increasingly primitive the farther east you go.

Because Roatan has everything you need and is far safer than the mainland of Honduras, it’s doubtful you’d have much need to travel there.  However, if you do, the ferry to La Ceiba runs twice daily.  It’s safe and reliable, takes 90 minutes, and can be a bit pricey.

3.  It’s incredibly easy to buy and own Roatan real estate.

Because North American expats represent one of the largest demographics of those buying property there, the Roatan real estate market closely resembles that of the U.S. So, similarly, prices are beginning to rebound after a downturn of several years. However, there are still bargains to be had. While the market still has some ground to recover, don’t wait too long to make your move if you’re hoping to score a deal on property in Roatan.

Today’s Honduras has a stable democratic government that is extremely foreigner- and investor-friendly.  Even more so in Roatan, which manages to shield itself from most of the political conflicts that plague the mainland.  From buying property to obtaining a retirement visa, regulations are fairly loose.  Property taxes are also a fraction of U.S. rates, and there is no tax on income earned from foreign sources.

As a foreigner, you are permitted to make a one-time purchase of up to ¾ an acre of land.  However, you can buy an unlimited amount by setting up a Honduran corporation.  This is a common practice and one that is perfectly legal.  A Honduran attorney can make this a simple process for you.

The assistance of a qualified attorney is also invaluable throughout the buying process. The steps of buying include proving a clear title, proper registration, and paid up taxes on the property involved.  An attorney can make these otherwise complex tasks much more manageable and handle all the related paperwork, which must be notarized and written in Spanish.

In terms of residency, Honduras offers several visa options.  Most notably, its retirement visa has an income requirement of only $1,500 per month, which suffices for the applicant as well as his or her dependents.

4.  If Carnival Cruise Lines is interested in Roatan real estate, maybe you should be too.

The top names in tourism don’t typically dock in places where there’s nothing to do, right?  Well, in Roatan there is certainly no shortage of activities to entertain even the most lively expats.  As a result, several cruise lines have added it as a destination port. And industry-leading Carnival recently developed a large section of beach where its cruise passengers can relax or embark on a number of excursions.

Without question the island’s biggest draw is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.  The second largest in the world, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it attracts divers and explorers from around the world.  The island offers a number of dive shops and guided tours of the reef.  Also featured are opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, and kayaking in and around the reefs and mangroves.

Until tourism took over, Roatan’s largest industry was commercial fishing.  As a result, it offers some of the best sport fishing around.  Offshore catches include tarpon, tuna, and marlin.  You can also try fly-fishing among the mangroves and sand flats.

For land-loving expats, there’s horseback riding, hiking, and the world-class Black Pearl Golf Course.  There are also restaurants serving up everything from steak to sushi and bars with live music and fresh fruit cocktails.

In addition to the abundance of activities, those interested in Roatan real estate will also be pleased with the infrastructure and amenities the island offers.  Electricity and water is available throughout the island, as are telephones and high-speed internet.  The roads are simple to navigate, and even the unpaved ones are easy enough (unless conditions are wet).  Medical services are also available everywhere, although those with serious conditions should probably travel to the mainland.

5.  The low cost of buying and living in Roatan leaves plenty left for all the perks.

One of the most attractive features about Roatan real estate is the price tag.  Combine this with one of the lowest costs of living in the world, and you can afford a lot of things you never imagined.

Prices in Honduras are often half that of even its Central American neighbors. As a result, many expats find that they’re able to afford larger homes and better views, with enough left over to hire an entire staff to keep up the property.

Still others are finding ways to use their resources to give back to the community, hiring locals to work in their small businesses or opening up their homes to be used as schools or retreat facilities.  The possibilities are endless.

With accolades continuing to pour in, and with Roatan real estate being viewed by starry-eyed would-be expats on House Hunters International, it’s certain that this Honduran island won’t be one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets for long.

However, with so many available options and great incentives to buy, it’s also certain to remain one of Central America’s best all-around retirement destinations for decades to come.


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