Why is Belize the "next big thing" in Caribbean real estate?
Belize is quintessentially Caribbean. The sand is soft, the palm trees sway on the gentle breeze and the aquamarine water is so clear that you can see the coral below. Belize, known in travel circles as "Mother Nature's Best Kept Secret", is truly a naturalist's paradise. This tiny country squeezes a tremendous diversity between its borders - not only is Belize the diving and snorkeling capital of the western hemisphere but it also boasts incredible old growth rain forests, rushing rivers, majestic mountains, intricate cave systems and ancient Mayan pyramids. To top it off it is the only English speaking democratic country in Central America, has a benefit-laden retirement program as well as a broad array of tax incentives for property investors.
Timing is everything ... and now is an intelligent time to choose Belize real estate
Right now Belize is an increasingly popular destination for tourists, and this trend bodes well for investors who acquire a foothold now. Belize is the only Central American country to enjoy consistent increases in tourist arrivals since 1998 including over the post 9/11 period. Cruise visits to the country increased by over 50% between 2003 and 2004. Some commentators are predicting that this tiny tropical paradise is destined to be the next Cancun or Costa Maya. Real estate dollars tend to follow leisure and tourism dollars and with tourism growth rates surpassing other counties in the region, the market for Belize property is set to boom.
Belize real estate has flown under the radar for some time being a small country, the word is now getting out but its not too late to make your claim. The opportunities are proven as the early risks have been taken. Furthermore, with baby boomers turning 50 at a rate of three to four million a year, the demographics are set for growth.
Belize and Baby Boomers
Time Magazine recently reported: "Many of the 76 million American boomers are more likely than their parents to consider retiring to a foreign land, because they have traveled more, have higher hopes for retirement, and tend to be more active and adventuresome." The Baby Boomers are looking beyond Florida and the southern states to countries such as Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize. Belize stands out as offering a unique combination of affordable properties and world-class amenities not to mention one of the most attractive retiree benefits package in all of Central America.
What are real estate investors buying?
Although vacant property makes up a large proportion of real estate sales in Belize, recent years have seen a growth in turnkey products for sale. This is particularly the case with condominium units in Ambergris Caye where an increase in construction and sales has been evident for 24 months and is accelerating.
In general terms, the real estate on offer is evolving as end user investors become more sophisticated and expect a higher real estate standard. For example, we are seeing an increase in brand name offerings; franchise products in different locations; amenity based products; products being marketed as ecologically sound ("eco-sell") and technology supported real estate ensuring full connectivity with the internet.
The buyers for turnkey product (as opposed to raw land parcels) in Belize tend to be motivated by the potential for rental income; the attraction of a maintenance free lifestyle (particularly when it comes to condo units) and are drawn to the local cultural infrastructure. Belize also offers real estate investors the affordability factor when compared with turnkey homes and condos in North American, Canadian and European vacation settings as well as elsewhere in the Caribbean. The link with tourism is particularly strong for turnkey product in areas attracting most visitor numbers.
It takes little imagination to see where Belize is heading
With a stable political democracy, consistent increases in tourist arrivals since 1998, a currency pegged to the US dollar, miles and miles of sandy beaches and the largest barrier reef in the Western hemisphere, Belize promises to be one of the strongest emerging markets in which to invest. The timing is right and Belize is beginning to attract real estate investors attracted by the potential for capital appreciation in the "New Caribbean".
There are no barriers to foreign investment and, as a member of the British Commonwealth, Belize has a legal system based on British law and is the only English speaking country in Central America. In addition, Belize has no capital gains or inheritance taxes and a growing private offshore banking sector. It takes little imagination to see where Belize is heading.
About the Author: Claudia Gonella, is director of Coldwell Banker Belize Real Estate http://www.coldwellbankerbelize.com She works in both commercial and residential real estate across Central America and has co-authored a number of "Market Analysis Reports" for investors and property owners charting latest real estate trends. She co-authors a monthly “investor briefing” charting real estate trends in the property market in Belize. Visit http://www.coldwellbankerbelize.com to subscribe.