Belize Real Estate - Frequently Asked Questions
Welcome to our Belize Real Estate FAQs page, where you can review information about buying a home or land in our amazing country. Please click a question below to learn more:
Is it Easy for a Foreigner to Buy a Home and Land in Belize?
Yes. It is exceedingly easy to buy a home and/or land in Belize contrasted to elsewhere.
A foreigner has the same rights as a Belizean citizen to property ownership. If you are researching this and come across a reference to an “alien landholding license” or the Alien Landholding Act, please note that the Act was abolished in 2001. And now foreigners have equal property ownership rights. If you’ve done research on other jurisdictions, you know that this is quite rare in much of the Western Hemisphere, and rarer still in developing nations.
To learn more about buying a home and/or land in Belize, please visit our Belize Real Estate page.
How Expensive Are Homes in Belize?
It depends, of course. Like any location, the prices for buying property in Belize vary. There is an abundance of options, many reasonably priced, throughout the country, whether you’re looking for a Belize vacation home or a year-round abode. A few beachfront favorites include:
- The Cayes – located off the coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye real estate and Caye Caulker real estate are hot spots for water-based adventure and expat living.
- Placencia – located south of Belize City in the Stann Creek District, Placencia is a gorgeous peninsula with resorts catering to tourists as well as loads of beachfront property on the Belize real estate market.
- Corozal – in Northern Belize, Corozal real estate is less expensive typically than the options above, while boasting similar pristine beaches. You can buy a home in Corozal for less than US$100,000, although if you can manage closer to US$150,000, you’ll have a larger selection of homes to choose from. If you can swing more than that, you’ll be looking at the Caribbean Sea when your eyes first open in the morning.
Please check our our Real Estate News section for updated information about the latest Belize Real Estate prices and developments from our Belize real estate lawyers.
How Do I Buy Land in Belize?
Very easily! The first step, of course, is to submit an offer to the seller. The offer form is legally binding to both parties and includes a due diligence period for the buyer. Once the seller accepts the buyer’s offer, if the buyer doesn’t already have a Belize real estate lawyer, he or she would usually retain one at this point. Even if you do not retain the services of the Belize attorneys at Wrobel & Co, do not let somebody talk you into retaining no legal representation at all. There is too much on the line to risk fraudulent title during the next step of the process: title research. Once satisfactory title research is completed (i.e., the seller actually owns the Belize property in question), an Agreement for Sale is created and signed and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. The payment amount (either down payment or full purchase price) is due into escrow at the time specified on the purchase offer form or Agreement of Sale. The Belize property transfer documents are then executed and delivered to the buyer and (hopefully) the retained Belize real estate lawyer for review. The Belize lawyer finalizes the documents and funds are released from escrow. Lastly, the executed documents will be processed at the Belize Lands Registry and an original title or certified copy of the Agreement of Sale will be presented to the buyer. Easy enough, but you’ll certainly want to speak with a Belize real estate attorney about the process before you begin.
How Long Does it Take to Close on a Land or Home Sale in Belize?
Typically between 30 and 90 days.
Do I Need to be in Belize to Buy or Sell Property?
Many Belize property transactions are completed when one or both of the parties (i.e., buyer or seller) are outside of Belize. The real estate transaction documents are sent to the absent party or parties via FedEx and executed in front of a notary public overseas. Purchase offers can be submitted by facsimile, which is legally binding in the country.
How Do I Ensure the Belize Property Has a Clear Title?
Step one: retain a Belize real estate lawyer! The only way you can be absolutely sure that a Belize property has a clear title is by having a Belize attorney research the title and issue a title opinion. The title is researched at the Belize Lands Registry, and also the Belize Companies Registry if the property is currently held and being sold be a Belize company. Liens, judgments, and encumbrances are valid only if properly addressed.
An opinion of “good and clear title” is issued only once the Belize real estate attorney has conducted all necessary title research.
Should I Obtain Title Insurance?
If you have a Belize real estate attorney, then title insurance is not necessary. Title insurance is available, however, from reputable sources. In fact, Belize is the only country in Central America that ‘A+’ American title companies insure to guarantee title. Belize Land Certificates or clear Deeds of Conveyance are guaranteed by the Government of Belize and are as secure titles and any Commonwealth, European, or North American country.
After title research done properly by a Belize real estate lawyer, of course.
Should I Retain an Attorney in My Home Country for Purchasing Belize Property?
It depends where your home country is. Belize is a Commonwealth nation, which means we operate under British property law. So conceivably your home real estate lawyer would be familiar with the process if you’re from another Commonwealth nation. If you’re from a non-Commonwealth country like the U.S., for instance, it’s highly unlikely that your attorney will be able to help.
And regardless, the safest (and cheapest) route is hiring a reputable Belize real estate attorney to help with your Belize property purchase or sale.
What is the Deal with Condominium (‘Condo’) Titles in Belize?
As in many countries, the condominium designation in Belize enables one to hold or pass physical title to a “slice of air with a building in it” without owning the land that the building sits on. This simply means the title holder owns the living space on the fourth floor, for instance, without any claim or liability to any other part of the building or surrounding land.
The Belize Strata Act is the legal designation in Belize, and true Belize condos only exist in the New Registration Zones where the Act is applicable. These zones include Belize City, San Pedro Town, Placenia, and Seine Bight.
Units outside the zones do not fall under the purview of the Strata Act and are often titled via corporate share certificates. This ownership structure is similar to Cooperative (Co-op) ownership in North America. The advantages of this structure include minimal closing costs and minimal personal liability with the residence. An advantage is that share certificates cannot be mortgaged by a lending institution.
Purchasers of Belize residences usually feel comfortable with both forms of legal ownership, and you’ll see that both co-ops and condos exist in the New Registration Zones. However, the details can be tricky. To speak with a qualified Belize real estate lawyer, click here.
Can a Belize Property Title be Owned by a Belize Company?
Many of the purchases that our Belize law firm has assisted have wanted to take title to properties as part of their Belizean company. There are various reasons for this, but one primary factor is a low 3% tax on property purchases by a Belize company. (To learn more about the many kinds of Belize offshore companies that can take title, please click here.)
What are Property Taxes like in Belize?
Belize property taxes are affordable. Most properties are taxed at 1.5% of its assessed value, and assessments are usually 10-30% of the property’s market value.
What are Closing Costs for Buying a Home in Belize (and Who Pays Them)?
The Government assesses a 5% “stamp tax” on the declared purchase price of the Belize property at the time of transfer of title. The first $10,000 of this declared price is exempt from payment.
If you’ve visited our Belize Offshore page, you’ll know that Belize does not have a capital gains tax or anything else to give you pause about buying real estate in Belize. To learn more about the (lack of) tax situation in Belize, please click here.
Are there any additional costs? Well, if you’re diligent there are. Do yourself a favor and pay legal fees for a title search and other protections against real estate fraud in Belize. Whether you go with our Belize law firm or another, a Belize real estate attorney will protect your real estate investment.
Who pays: The purchaser pays for all closing costs for Belize real estate transactions.
What Currency Is Primarily Used for Belize Real Estate Purchases?
Most major transactions of Belize vacation homes, Belize property, and Belize real estate are made using U.S. dollars. The Belizean local currency is also frequently used.
Is it Possible to Obtain Financing for a Belize Real Estate Purchase?
This can get a little tricky. There are three ways to receive financing for buying real estate in Belize: 1) local financing; 2) offshore financing; 3) owner financing.
Local financing – Local interest rates are usually in the range of 10-18% interest with fixed terms of only 12 months. Every year the loan is closed out and then renewed at the current lending rate. Local borrowing is only permitted in Belize dollars, and because many Belize real estate transactions take place with U.S. dollars, local financing is not applicable in many cases. However …
Offshore financing – Non-residents can borrow U.S. dollars through a Belizean offshore banking institution. Effective interests rates are around 12% and most offshore banks require a high degree of collateralization.
Owner financing – Belize property owners usually agree to property financing at 10-15% interest. The rate is negotiable and often less than what is available at local financial institutions.
To learn more about Belize offshore banking, click here. To learn more about the Belize offshore sector in general, including Belize international business companies (IBCs), Belize offshore trusts, and Belize offshore foundations, please visit our Belize offshore page.
And, of course, to speak with a Belize real estate attorney about your goals or questions, contact our law firm today by clicking here.
Are There Escrow Companies in Belize?
There are no independent escrow services available in Belize. Typically an attorney, bank, or real estate broker will offer monetary and documentary escrow services for real estate transactions. The costs vary, so be sure to inquire. Our real estate attorneys at Wrobel and Co. are happy to assist you.
Where Should I Be Looking to Buy Real Estate in Belize?
Our Belize law firm receives variations of this question often from seasoned expats, vacationers, and people overseas doing their research. Naturally, the best location for your purchase depends on exactly what you’re searching for.
Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Do I want to be close to an expat community in Belize?
- Do I want a rural or more urban home in Belize?
- How much Belize land do I need?
- Is the rainforest or the beach more appealing to me?
- Do I want a permanent residence or Belize vacation home?
Belize has a variety of desirable districts offering different attributes for your money. Why not see them all before making your Belize real estate decision?
Here are a few favorites, along with links to more information:
- The Cayes – located off the coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye real estate and Caye Caulker real estate are popular with expats and lovers of watersports. San Pedro is the main town in the area. (Read more here.)
- Placencia – located south of Belize City in the Stann Creek District, the beautiful peninsula of Placencia caters to tourists with its plush resorts and oodles of beachfront property on the Belize real estate market. (Read more here.)
- Corozal – in Northern Belize, Corozal real estate is less expensive typically than the options above, while boasting high quality of life and similar pristine beaches. (Read more here.)
Our Belize law firm also recommends taking time to make your decision. It’s never a good idea to be so enthralled during a week-long vacation that you decide to buy Belize property as a long-term residence or investment. Take your time. To learn more, click here.
How are the Construction Standards in Belize?
The construction standards in Belize vary depending on the type of contractor you hire, their experience, and what you are paying for as far as quality of building materials. As a result, the construction standards in Belize range from the very low to the very high.
There are some fantastic high priced structures recently constructed here in Belize City using modern technology and techniques and modern materials. There are some great engineers and architects here in Belize and there are some engineers and architects on the low end as well.
If someone is interested in coming to Belize and building a structure, whether a Belize vacation home or Belize permanent residence, they should do their due diligence. Certainly, there are qualified professionals to assist and put up a world class structure for you in this country but at the same time, if you don’t do your due diligence, ask around, and ask for references, there are also probably several contractors that would not produce a building that would be adequate or satisfying for someone coming from the more developed world.
Certainly, there is a need to apply for and be granted a building permit before erecting structures in Belize. There is a building authority that does inspections of buildings before they are deemed habitable. As far as installing electricity to a building, there are certain codes in place and the building needs to be inspected by Belize Electricity Limited prior to them turning on current to a structure. So licensing, permitting, and inspections are needed for a building or buildings in Belize to exist.
There are no skyscrapers in Belize. There are no huge units, or anything of that nature. The inspectors in Belize do a sufficient job and the Belize real estate attorneys at our Belize law firm haven’t heard of any unsafe buildings being constructed or anyone getting hurt.
How do Homes in Belize Differ From Homes in North America?
Comparing the homes in Belize to an American or Canadian home will really depend on where in the US or Canada you live. One of the major differences is that there are no furnaces in a home in Belize, because there is no need to heat a home in Belize. It cools down in the winter months but not enough to require a wood-burning fireplace or a gas furnace or an electric furnace; in other words, something to heat that home. The majority of structures in Belize are manufactured or constructed out of concrete, because this type of construction holds up better in a humid tropical environment, and also one in which there are tropical storms and hurricanes. This may not be the case in the US or Canada where there are a lot of wooden homes, log homes, and a lot of different building materials used. Some of the newer buildings, especially if they were constructed by or for expats, use ductwork or forced air whole house systems. However, the vast majority of air-conditioning systems that you see in Belize are “split units.” Split units are utilized for individual rooms rather than an entire house. So, for example, if you own a 3-bedroom house, the chances are that each bedroom would have its own air conditioning unit. This would be similar to the old style window unit air conditioners except they’re usually installed at a higher level in the room and they’re not affixed in the window so you still have your window use. The condenser is outside and the blower and the fan are inside.
When looking into purchasing Belize real estate, Belize property, or a Belize vacation home, if it’s comfort you’re after, you can certainly make it happen.
Is Property Insurance Available for Belize Property?
Dependable property insurance is available in Belize, including hurricane insurance. Local companies, which are reinsured through North American and European carriers, offer rates from 1.5% for concrete structures to 2.5% for wooden structures. Deductibles are typically 5% of the sum insured on storms and less for fire.
Should I be Concerned about Hurricanes?
Hurricanes are certainly a concern in Belize, the way other natural disasters (tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, floods, etc) are a concern for people in other countries. Fortunately, Belize is located in the southwestern part of the Caribbean, which is out of the way of traditional hurricane paths. Historically, Belize has experienced a major hurricane every few decades. Ambergris Caye was hit by a hurricane in 1942 and then again in 2000.
Are Squatters a Concern in Belize?
Belize has strict anti-squatting laws protecting property unlike most Central American and Caribbean countries. Somebody can only claim title to property or easement upon proving to the Supreme Court of Belize that the person has 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.
As long as you have title, your Belize real estate investment will be safe and secure.
Are Con Artists a Concern in Belize?
Our Belize law office has heard many horror stories of unsuspecting people purchasing title to Belize real estate only to find out the title is fraudulent. Scams of this nature are all too common in Belize, unfortunately, a fact that is exacerbated by little regulation over whom may market themselves as a real estate agent. This makes obtaining a qualified Belize real estate attorney essential to navigate the process.
Why choose Wrobel & Co?
Let us Count the ways:
We all live in Belize, so we know the lay of the land in our country.
We are a law firm, so we know the ins and out of the legal system here.
We are big enough to get you what you need when you need it ... but we are small enough that you'll be treated as valued customer and friend.
We're available Monday through Friday from 8 - 5pm CST to answer any questions you may have in a friendly, professional manner.