Beach on Ambergris Caye [credits: forevernewbie via flickr]
With cruise ship tourism up by 300% in the last five years and swanky new developments all around the island, Belize has quietly worked its Caribbean magic to become a hot and sought after destination for property investors.
With a fixed currency of two Belizean dollars for every U.S. dollar and English as the primary language, it is no wonder that the island of Belize is becoming the flavor of the moment.
Belize is situated in Central America and slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Massachusetts. Bordered by Mexico to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east and Guatemala to the west this little island paradise is a pearl amongst many.
Although English is the official language, Spanish is spoken widely on the island. Originally known as British Honduras from1854 to 1973, Belize was a British colony. Today is is considered a parliamentary democracy with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.
Why To Invest Now?
Property values in Belize have risen steadily over the last few years. Beachfront properties increased by some 25 percent/year while the rest averages about 20 percent. The favourable dollar exchange has also been a major factor for many Americans who have retired in Belize to stretch their dollars some more.
Exchange rates are even better for Europeans and Canadians who have recently started to see the immense potential in the region.
Planned direct flights for the year 2009 from Europe to Belize will make it even easier to visit your investment property.
However, it is worth to be noted here that if you are looking at investing into Belize, you are recommended to deal with reputable agents only as there are some shady operators among the growing crowd.
One bedroom apartments can be had for as little as $79,000 / €56,000 / £45,000. Or if you have a bigger family and consider to move there indefinitely, you can buy a 3-bedroom house on a stunning 11 acres for $154,000 / £87,000 / €109,000 .
Where To Buy?
As with any island investments, beachfront properties are definitely the hot ticket right now. However, one particular area in Belize has attracted more overseas investors and developers than others.
San Pedro, on the island of Ambergris Caye [credits: tomeppy via flickr]
Ambergris Caye is the islands most popular tourist destination. For investors this means two things:
- If you want to buy on the low end of the market you are probably better off to look outside the fringes of Ambergris Caye.
- If you want to buy into the action and don’t mind spending a bit more for convenience and infrastructure, then Ambergris Caye is your place.
Either way, judging by the current market you will most likely be at the right place in the right time.
Despite the glitzy surroundings, Ambergris Caye has kept its pristine and unspoiled condition with minimal impact on the environment.
Can foreigners buy property in Belize?
Yes they can. There are no restrictions on foreign nationals owing property on the island. You will have the same rights as a Belize citizen.
Is Belize safe?
As with every place in the world, there is always crime somewhere. If you stay away from Belize City (with some crime) and the more urban areas you should have no issues with crime.
What are the chances of hurricanes in Belize?
The chances are very minimal. Belize has a big barrier reef which helps to protect the island and break up large waves associated with massive storms. Chances of hurricanes are smaller than in Texas.
Can I bring my pets?
Pets are welcome in Belize, as long as they are vaccinated, free from disease and infections. Special documents are required and a vet must examine your pet no more than 48 hours prior to entry into Belize.
Legal – Financing and Tax
If you consider investing into Belize, it is highly recommended you consult with a Belize attorney. You can be assured that your interests are protected and there are no nasty surprises after you sign the dotted line.
Property taxes usually run at 1.5% of the assessed property value which is typically between 10-40% of the actual value of the property. A home in the popular Sapphire Beach Resort will set you back approximately $500year on taxes.
Financing for new residents might prove a bit tricky. Some developers might be prepared to work with local banks to help you get setup but traditional style mortgages are still relatively new to the country.
Belize has certainly started to attract some serious attention overseas. Living the Caribbean dream can still become a reality for those who buy at the right time. One thing is for sure, the paradisiacal setting and the warm weather year round are certainly inviting enough to take a closer look.