By RetirePedia's Roving Reporter Jim Veinot
As we’ve already indicated on our page about cost of living in Belize, housing is more expensive in places like Belize City or Ambergris Caye than it is in Corozal or Placencia.
Whether you rent or buy, many of the common sense rules that apply in other parts of the world apply in Belize as well. Let’s take a look at a few of them…
Rent before you buy! No matter how heady and right with the world you feel when you arrive in a tropical paradise, you need to learn a lot about the country before you make decisions about where you’re going to settle down.
Work with a reputable agent when you’re looking at properties to lease. Real estate agents don’t require a license in Belize so you want to know they’re affiliated with a company that has a licensed broker in charge. Here are two listings of licensed brokers:
Some of the things you need to ask before you sign on the dotted line…
My best advice? Use common sense and ask lots of questions. Know to some extent what you’re looking for but keep an open mind about what you can tolerate!
There’s a number of ways to get a lead on a rental property. The starting point, before you even leave home, is to get on the internet and look for property rental listings. This will help you get a feel for what the most recent rates are and also who’s in the game when it comes to agents and brokers.
This can be a long and arduous process, but a great pastime in the dream stage on those cold and wintry nights if you’re anywhere in the north!
Engage via email, ask questions (it’s a business for these people) but whatever you do, don’t reach any permanent agreement or send money until you have feet on the ground.
Here’s a few sites to get you started:
I found these with a Google search for “cheap houses for rent in Belize.” Try also searching for “Belize monthly rentals."
The best way to find a place to live in Belize is word of mouth. Look for postings on the bulletin board in the grocery stores; ask around; look for signs posted on properties. One thing about Belize... at least the signs will be in English so you’ll know what they mean!
Prices are as variable as the properties and locations. In a search through the above sites at the time of writing (January 2017) I found one bedroom furnished apartments as low as $325 USD and three bedroom 2.5 bath furnished apartments as high as $1000 USD.
There’s lots of houses for rent, from $500 to $2500 USD in the city and $350 to $1000 USD in the country.
Anybody can own a property in Belize! There are no restrictions based on residency or citizenship.
The process is very similar to Canada and the USA; also the documents and transactions are in English, which makes it easier than in the other top retirement countries we write about.
There is no Capital Gains Tax but there is a Stamp Tax. This tax is equal to 5% of the value of the property as established by the government and not based on the purchase price.
Property taxes are very affordable. For a house or condo worth $250,000 USD on Ambergris Caye for example you'll pay an annual property tax of less than $375 USD. In rural areas property tax is even lower.
Your first question when you start looking for a property to buy in Belize is: “Where do I want to live?”
Once you’ve established the where, it’s time for the what. Are you looking for a condo apartment, a freestanding house, a townhouse or an ocean cottage? Gated community or stand-alone house? So many decisions, but you need to know before you start to run willy-nilly around the country!
What about home prices? They vary widely, depending on location and style. You can still find simple Belizean style homes in rural areas for about $35,000 USD, or you can pay $750,000 USD for an American style house with modern amenities on the beach in San Pedro.
After you've made your decisions, the process for buying your dream home in Belize is pretty standard…
Local offshore banks offer financing to foreigners, but interest rates are rather high (8.5% to 12%). The maximum you can borrow is between 60 and 80% of the value of the property. If you can, secure financing in your home country. With cash at hand, you'll also get better deals than if you need financing.
The real estate broker standard fee is 10%, which will be split between the broker and the agent based on their agreement. A broker can offer to represent you for a lower commission rate at his/her discretion.
Next we’ll look at Visa requirements to visit or stay in Belize.