Beautiful Belize beckons as a pensioner’s Mecca, where favorable tax laws and minimal restrictions on land ownership have fostered a burgeoning expatriate base. Locals can help steer investors toward the best deals and unpublicized property finds, but be prepared to face a cumbersome national bureaucracy and a painstaking process to get title to the property. See the following article from International Property Journal for more on this.
Although Costa Rica and Panama get all the publicity, Belize is renowned as one of the easiest countries in Central America for foreign buyers to purchase property. There are few restrictions on non-citizens owning land, no capital gains taxes and low property taxes. The country operates as a British Commonwealth, with English as the primary language, and the Belize currency is fixed to the U.S. dollar, 2:1, providing a measure of stability to the money market.
Belize also boasts one of most liberal retirement programs in the region, the Retired Persons Incentive Program, first enacted in 1999. Under the program’s terms, any foreign citizen over the age of 45 can import their possessions duty free and gain special residency status, as long as they meet a few basic requirements. The primary stipulations are proof of pension income and a promise not to seek a job in Belize.
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That said, Belize has its quirks. Government operations are notoriously bureaucratic and slow; developments are often announced and then never happen. Agents can range from industry professionals to the captain of the fishing boat.
But there are changes in the works, as the expat community continues to grow. It’s very difficult for foreigners to get financing from a Belize bank, but title insurance is available. And in 2007 the Belize National Association of Realtors linked to the National Association of Realtors, adding a new level of professionalism to the business. Commissions are typically 6 to 7 percent, paid by the seller.
- Before a sale can close, the buyer has to pay a transfer tax, also known as the stamp tax, usually about 5 percent of the value of the property. The good news: It was recently lowered from 15 percent. The bad news: transfer costs can easily range from 10 to 14 percent of the price of the property.
- Like any other country, it is essential to ensure the seller has proper title to the property. It’s common to hire an attorney to draft documents and search the title history.
- If you’re buying a condo, it’s always better to find owner-owned condo associations, local experts say. Outside management companies can be flakey, unless they come with verifiable references.
- Available properties are not always listed for sale. And many old agencies don’t share listings. It never hurts to talk to the locals to hear about open-minded owners.
- Once you move beyond the new developments, prices are all over the map and often subject to negotiations. Check around to see if there is a “locals price.”
- On the islands (known as cayes) and in certain coastal areas, there are restrictions on non-locals buying property. And Belize’s government is showing increasing interest in enforcing environmental regulations, which can make development on the coast a challenge.
This article has been republished from International Property Journal. You can also view this article at International Property Journal, an international property and news site.