Process of Buying Real Estate in Belize
The buying of property in Belize is rather a straightforward and is somewhat a much uncomplicated process. Titles to freehold properties can be taken in three different ways:
Deed of Conveyance
This is the oldest method for ownership of property in Belize. Ownership by way of Deed of Conveyance is in fact the absolute right to ownership of property. The ownership by means of conveyance may be converted to a Certificate of title through an application for a first registration. Thereinafter any subsequent purchaser is issued a Transfer Certificate of Title. It must always be noted that a Deed of Conveyance is a valid legal title. Once it has been confirmed that the seller is confirmed to have good title on the property.
A Transfer Certificate
A Certificate of Title is a physical title to a specific portion of land. This means of ownership is secure and is the more costly and time consuming manner in which to transfer ownership in comparison to the transfer process of Deed of Conveyance. The process for Transfer Certificate may drag on for months and may incur high cost in attempts to fast track the document.
A Land Certificate
A land Certificate is an absolute title, applying to properties in new or special developments. The Government of Belize, presently is undergoing a process which calls for the re-registration of all freehold lands under the Registered Lands Act, which the overall goal being a uniformed system of nationwide land ownership. This process, though underway, entails much work and re-surveys are yet to be scheduled. Note that title insurance is not necessary for purchasing property, and that closing cost tend to be very minimal. The purchase price is assessed and an 8% stamp duty is charged on the declared purchase price.
Why Buying Real Estate in Belize is Attractive
Belize is the only English-speaking nation in Central America and has retained strong relations with the UK. The country still recognizes Queen Elizabeth as sovereign, as well as being fully constitutionally independent.
Situated on the eastern coast of Central America and with some 450 islets scattered along its coastline with the Caribbean Sea, Belize is also home to the second longest coral reef in the world. Tourism, and scuba diving in particular, is the major driver behind the country’s economy, while production of citrus fruits, sugar and bananas are the main export crops.
In recent years, Belize has become a popular destination for retirees from the US and now from the UK. Its warm climate and the islands dotted along the coast in the Caribbean Sea mean that it is often categorized along with the rest of Caribbean, something that the somewhat colonial atmosphere of the country helps to perpetuate.
Popular Buying Locations
Property in Belize has been one of the victory stories of the overseas property world. With growths that are sympathetic and fit in with the environment, as well as being modern and suited to the retirement market.
Given the location of the country on the edge of the Caribbean Sea and bordered by Mexico and Guatemala, property purchasing locations are largely confined at present to the coastal regions. This may change and spread out as infrastructure develops and communications in the outlying areas improve, but for the moment, the coast is where everyone wants to be.
While this means that the inside of the country is largely still to be explored by the overseas property buyers and by many tourists, the extent to which the coastline is being prepared for residential tourists goes far beyond the few miles north or south of the capital city, Belmopan.
For example, there are beach resort developments that are being built more than one hundred miles from the capital on the Placencia Peninsular in southern Belize, upon an 18-mile isthmus of sand stretching out into the sea. This location is developed enough to have a regional airport with regular flights from Belize City, as well as links on the more rudimentary road system. The region also has the typical palm-fringed beaches and the powder-white sand that abounds along the whole of this coast.
Other popular areas for overseas property buyer are Hopkins and Sittee Point, both near to each other and on the Caribbean coast. While these places share the beach paradise traits to be found up and down the coast, they are somewhat more primitive in their infrastructure and outlook. Otherwise, there are major new developments springing up along the coast in increasing numbers. The north of the country is predominantly geared to the beaches, while in the interior the Mountain Pine Ridge is covered in the lush forests and ribboned with rivers and rafting opportunities. Further south there are pure tropical rainforests with all manner of wildlife.
Legal Issues Regarding Buying Real Estate In Belize
There are no limitations on foreign nationals buying property in Belize, and you do not even need to seek authorization or get any licenses granted in order to proceed with your purchase.
People over the age for 45 are able to apply to join the Belize Retired Persons Incentive Program, which is classed as one of the best in the world for retirees’ tax breaks. It was set up with the aim of attracting affluent retirees to the country with tax breaks and investment incentives, permitting them to invest in the country without impeding social services or the jobs pool in Belize.
In any purchase in Belize, make sure you employ a good, independent attorney to oversee the purchase, more than anything to make sure the property has clean and clear title before you transfer funds.
Estate agents in Belize does not have a set governing association with any set rules and regulations, however steps are being put in place to legislate an association to implement set rules and regulations. All buyers are ask to be vigilant when purchasing properties, make sure you have everything very clear before you make any firm decision.
The Buying Process
The system of buying a property in Belize is incredibly easy for all of those who are used to the buying systems in the UK, Ireland or the US. The official language spoken in Belize is English, thus cutting out many of the biggest problems faced by overseas property buyers, caused by lack of understanding and the vagaries of translation.
Belize also functions politically as a member of the British Commonwealth, and as a former British colony has based its legal and property systems on the model of English law. This makes the process easy and hopefully trouble-free for the majority of buyers in the country. Finally, the currency, the Belize Dollar, is officially pegged to the US Dollar at a rate of two to one, giving the market stability from the fluctuations of the currency markets to a certain extent.
The buying process in Belize takes somewhere between 30 and 90 days. Once an offer has been made and formally accepted, and a deposit paid into an escrow account. There is a obligatory agreement in place between the two parties. Then there comes a period to allow for the relevant legal searches and due diligence to be completed. Following this stage, an Agreement of Sale is drawn up based upon the details of the original offer, which is then signed by both parties. This agreement also sets out the details of the payment schedule for both parties to agree, as well as any other terms and conditions.
Once the final payment or instalment has been paid over, the transfer documents will be drawn up. Then reviewed for signing, and the escrow accounts will be released for the seller to access. The final stage is for the new documents to be registered officially, and you are then the owner of a property in Belize.
There are some specific mortgage products available for buyers of property across the Caribbean, and Belize is often classed within this bracket due to its past colonial links and the way in which property is bought and sold. A number of the regional banks which cover the whole of the Caribbean are able to lend to overseas buyers, and often at quite competitive rates.
Generally, you will find that there are options to get 70 per cent LTV mortgages for property in Belize across a term of 20 years. The finance is available in US or Canadian Dollars, as well as in Sterling or Euros. Interest rates are linked directly into the US LIBOR interest rate, giving you the relative stability of being linked to a larger market. At the same time, this links you in with an economy that is not necessarily in step with the UK market, which might mean that there is movement in the market in the opposite direction to the UK.
Fees and Taxes
The taxes in place for buying a property in Belize are small compared to other countries in the region. Transfer or Stamp tax is due only on properties valued at more than US$10,000. Over this and the rate of five per cent is standard. The average price for a luxury new-build two-bedroom apartment on one of the top new developments is around £190,000. There is an additional ten per cent tax payable on this transaction for non-residents. Also for those who have been in the country for less than three years.
Legal fees should come to somewhere around two per cent of the purchase cost. There is a nominal fee of up to US$700 for the drafting of the Agreement of Sale.
Running costs of property in Belize are also low. With property tax charged at somewhere around 1.5 per cent of the property value.
Visas, Residency, Work Permits
Residents of the UK and most members of the EU, US and Canadians. They do not need to have a visa in order to enter Belize.
One of the major attractions of buying property in Belize is the advantageous status accorded to overseas retirees who come to the country. This means that citizens of the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland have the right to apply for residency under the Belize Retired Persons Program if they are over 45 years of age.
This status will give them tax advantages, as well as allowing them free access to the country. The conditions of the program are that the person must have an income of more than US$1,000 per month (or a lump sum of more than US$12,000 per year) which is deposited in a bank account in Belize and comes from a source of income outside of the country. This source can be pension, property investment returns, or any other source outside of Belize.
In return, the resident is then exempt from taxation on any income that comes from outside of Belize. They may import personal effects, a car and even a boat, without paying duty.
Investment Potential of Buying Real Estate in Belize
Property growth in Belize has generally been good, stable and reasonably reliable. The government has been in power for more than ten years. Growth has been impressive in recent years, with projections for the future equally optimistic as the prospect of direct flights from Europe draws nearer. Tourism is growing, and the government has been careful to keep the natural beauty of the coastline and rainforest as intact as possible while still allowing development to take place. With all of this growth, property prices remain somewhat below the levels you might expect. Once direct flights from Europe begin in the coming years, expect prices to rise sharply.
Property outside of the major destinations might be difficult to reach at the present time. The issue with transport in the provinces of Belize is that road transport can be quite sketchy at times. Try to buy in the vicinity of regional airports that will at least give you options for access.