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…
Belize Housing: Rules for Renting Accommodation
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…
- Are the utilities included? That means electricity, water, gas (for cooking), TV cable and internet.
- Is the house or apartment air conditioned?
- Who is in charge of maintenance issues? You can probably change your own light bulb, but how about if the plumbing backs up?
- Are there back-up water and electricity systems in place?
- Is the neighborhood safe? Is it a gated community or an apartment with controlled entrance and/or a security guard?
- How far is it to the grocery store on foot, and is the area safe for walking or do you have to organize a group?
- What is the length of term of the lease and what are the penalties if you want or need to break the lease?
- If you’re going to rent or buy a car, is there a parking spot for you?
- If the place is furnished and the fridge or stove goes down, who fixes it? Who pays for it to be fixed, more importantly?
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!
Belize Housing: How to Find a Rental Property
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:
Looking for short term rentals? Check out these 10 best Belize vacation rentals and villas on TripAdvisor.
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.
Belize Housing: How to Find and Buy Property
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?”
- Do you want to live in an expat community (Ambergris Caye or Placencia for example) or integrate with the locals (Corozal or Hopkins for example)?
- Do you want to live on the ocean or further inland?
- Can you survive the heat and humidity of the shoreline or would you be better off in the highlands where it’s cooler?
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.
Belize Housing: Purchase Process
After you’ve made your decisions, the process for buying your dream home in Belize is pretty standard…
- Find an agent and tell him/her what you have in mind. See what’s available and if you don’t find it, find another agent.
- When you find the perfect spot, make an offer through your agent.
- Expect a counter-offer and a period of negotiation.
- Once the offer is accepted you will need to make a deposit to demonstrate goodwill.
- Have a lawyer do a title search. This should include a report of any outstanding liens, mortgages, property taxes, etc. You will also want a Survey Plan which details the layout of the property and house. The legal fees should be between 1% and 3% of the purchase price.
- Your lawyer will provide a Purchase Agreement for you, which is a detailed version of the Offer to Purchase. You need to sign this and pay for the property.
- Payment of the Stamp Tax is the next step. This is followed by a transfer of title, which can take thirty to sixty days.
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.