With one foot in the Caribbean and one foot in Central America, Belize is a land of astonishing natural beauty and a warm, hospitable population. A true melting pot of cultures, Belize is one of the most popular vacation, retirement, and investment destinations in the world, nearly every visitor falls in love at first sight with this charming country.
Although Belize is a relatively small country, it is becoming one of the hottest places to live and invest in due to the abundance of prime real estate opportunities, stable government, and reliable judicial system that offers strong protection for private property.
With just 360,000 inhabitants spread across a nation the size of Massachusetts, Belize has many choice options for building homes and owning property. Whether you prefer a beach property with a stunning view of the sea or a cozy lodge in the rainforest, you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the country while remaining just a short distance from the facilities and benefits of an urban area.
Belize is the only country in the region where English is the official language and used for all contracts. The government of Belize offers attractive residency programs to qualifying individuals that allow retirees and households with a family member over the age of 45 to import personal vehicles and items duty free.
With all of the top airlines competing to serve the busy North America-Belize market, it’s now easier and more affordable than ever to get non-stop flights from major cities in the United States to Belize. Whether you’re looking for a vacation home, a place to retire, or a solid investment, Belize truly has it all.
Belize is the region’s Best-Kept Secret
Long overshadowed by its neighbors, Belize is rapidly becoming one of the hottest places to visit, live in, or retire.
- Belize is in Central America, offering a low cost of living and laid-back lifestyle with the perfect mix of modern infrastructure, entertainment, and services.
- Compared to nearby countries like Costa Rica or island nations in the Caribbean, real estate prices in Belize are very competitive.
- Belize has a stable, peaceful government that welcomes and protects the rights of foreign investors.
- English is the official language in Belize, meaning all contracts, laws, and judicial proceedings are in English.
- Most of the countries in the region have already boomed, making real estate expensive and investment opportunities scarce. Belize is a rapidly growing market with lots of foreseeable growth in the future.
Foreign Ownership of Property in Belize
If you’ve heard good things about investing in real estate in Belize but are worried about what’s actually involved, this article is for you. By the time you read this article, you’ll understand everything you need to know about buying a home in Belize. Many expats are already enjoying the good life in Belize thanks to a number of factors which make buying a villa, condo, or building your own home no more difficult than in America. Established, gated communities like Cerros Sands are ideal locations for homes that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Below are 5 things you need to know about foreign ownership of real estate in Belize:
Rules and Regulations
Unlike other countries in the region, Belize has no restrictions on foreigners acquiring and owning property. There are absolutely no barriers or restrictions on non-citizens buying and selling real estate.
Furthermore, the official language in Belize is English, meaning that all paperwork, contracts, and documents are in English. The court system in Belize is based on the British legal system, and are strongly protective of property rights. Foreigners enjoy exactly the same property rights as citizens.
Belize has its own currency called the (Belize) dollar, permanently pegged to the United States dollar at 2 to 1. This makes it easy and simple to pay fees or transfer funds. Furthermore, new homeowners – including foreigners – are entitled to multiple tax breaks when purchasing property.
In Belize, many expats find that they can enjoy a better standard of living than back in North America. The government of Belize has a special Qualified Retired Persons Program (QRP) wherein qualifying individuals over the age of 45 enjoy tremendous financial benefits including the importation of personal goods and vehicles (including boats and small planes) completely tax and duty-free.
Well-established, master-planned communities like Cerros Sands make it very convenient to find the right land, home, or villa to best suit your needs. Whether you need the assistant of a shipping agent, paralegal, title search firm, attorney, decorator, or other services, the staff of Cerros Sands has everything you need to make buying property and moving to Belize simple and easy.
The Tax System
Expats in Belize benefit from paying zero income taxes, zero inheritance taxes, and zero capital gains taxes in Belize. Furthermore, the rates for property tax are far lower than most places in the United States. Foreign property owners are warmly welcomed in Belize with tax holidays and other considerations.
Real Estate and Commercial Investment Opportunities in Belize
One of the many benefits of investing in Belize is that the government imposes neither capital gains taxes nor any estate taxes. In fact, foreign investment is warmly welcomed in Belize, and the government has created many laws that encourage foreign property ownership.
In 1990, Belize passed the Fiscal Incentives Act which permits locally registered companies to enjoy tax holidays every 5, 10, 12, or 15 years depending on the type of business and the degree of co-ownership with Belize nationals. The Fiscal Incentives Act allows foreigners to repatriate a full 100% of both their initial investment as well as all profits.
There are three principal reasons why international investors are increasingly choosing Belize:
Belize enjoys a democratic parliamentary government, an independent judiciary based on the British system, and a stable currency permanently pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed ratio.
The government of Belize provides ample fiscal incentives and concessions. There are also special Commercial Free Zones and Export Processing Zones.
Belize enjoys a year-round warm climate and the majority of the country’s territory is virgin rainforest, pristine beaches, national parks, protected wildlife refuges, and a highly bio-diverse environment, including the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Belize also has a very friendly and bilingual workforce.
Belize is located just 2-5 hours’ flying time from the United States and has non-stop air service to major cities across North America.
Belize has been an independent country since 1981 and has preserved its well-developed legal system modeled on British Common Law and practices. Furthermore, Belize is an offshore jurisdiction with ample protections for financial assets.
The government’s Retired Persons Act allows qualifying individuals age 45 and older to gain residency in the country and includes provisions for the duty-free importation of personal goods, including vehicles, boats, and light airplanes.
Other relevant laws include the International Business Company Act that allows for the creation of limited liability companies and the Trust Act for the benefit of benefit of any person for both charitable and noncharitable benefit. International Business Companies (offshore enterprises) owned by foreign nationals have the right to own real estate as well as any other type of property inside the country.
Because of its strict privacy laws, rigid protection of property rights, and low taxes, Belize is a well-regarded offshore jurisdiction for individuals seeking to protect their hard-earned assets. Belize is a proud member of the Commonwealth of Nations and has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the protection of privacy and asset control for both Belizean nationals and foreign nationals alike.
Buying Land in Belize
Belizean law imposes no restrictions on foreign nationals buying, selling, and renting property. Despite the recent boom in the real estate market, many prime properties, including beachfront lots, are still available at affordable prices.
All property in Belize is assessed by the Department of Natural Resources with taxes due on April 1 of each year. The property tax rates ranges between 1-1.5% of the assessed undeveloped value of the land.
Property transfer taxes are assessed at 8% of the property value. Attorney fees range between 1-2% of the assessed value, leading to a combined total of 6-7% of the final sale price for closing costs.
Retire in Belize! Live Out Your Dreams in Belize!
Most people dream about living the good life once they retire, with fantasies of enjoying balmy weather, sunkissed beaches, and plenty of enjoyable outdoor activities. Often called “Mother Nature’s Best-Kept Secret,” Belize is a tropical paradise just 2-5 hours’ flying time from the United States and Canada. And with so many benefits, it’s no wonder why more and more people are choosing to retire in Belize.
The Qualified Retirement Program
The government of Belize has a special program called the Qualified Retirement Program (QRP) that allows eligible individuals age 45 and older along with their families to gain residency in the country. The QRP program imposes a very generous 30-day minimum residency requirement per year. Best of all, QRP individuals can import all of their personal goods completely duty-free, including cars, boats, and light aircraft.
The QRP program imposes no taxes or fees on income earned outside of the country. You can’t work in Belize on the QRP program, but you are allowed to set up a Belizean corporation to manage and protect your assets.
You don’t have to technically be retired to qualify for the QRP program, but you must be at least 45 years old and be able to provide proof that you have a guaranteed income of at least $2,000 per month. In addition to some processing fees, all QRP individuals must pass a background check performed by the Ministry of National Security.
Belize openly welcomes expat retirees. In fact, the QRP program is sponsored by the Belize Tourism Board which handles all applications and related documents to the Department of Immigration and Nationality.
To apply for the QRP program, you must provide:
- Your birth certificate.
- Marriage certificate if you intend your spouse and/or children to qualify for the QRP program.
- A document indicating your criminal record, issued no more than one month prior to application.
- Your passport.
- Proof of guaranteed income (Social Security, pension payments, etc.).
- Four passport size photographs.
- A clean bill of health that includes a test for the HIV virus.
- Processing fees.
Right now, the processing fees for the QRP program are divided into four categories. All prices quoted are in U.S. dollars.
- Non-refundable $150 application fee.
- $1,000 program fee (if accepted).
- $200 for your residency card (if accepted).
- $750 for your spouse and/or each child.
Note: You will not have to pay the program fee, residency card fee, or spouse/child fees if you are not accepted into the QRP program.
The fees and/or process for being accepted into the QRP program are subject to change. To find out the exact requirements for being accepted into the QRP program, consult with the Belizean Department of Immigration and Nationality in Belmopan or Belize City or by visiting their website. You can also contact the Department of Immigration and Nationality by dialing 822-3860 or 822-0284 inside the country.
Mark Leonard of Cerros Sands is your trusted broker in sunny Belize. Below is more information on who Mark is:
A licensed broker with over 30 years of experience and 19 years living in Belize.
A member Belize National Association of Realtors and NAR, USA.
Mark has very strong credentials covering all aspects of real estate. From sales, lending, marketing, development, including land planning and engineering, infrastructure, residential and commercial construction, business management, and real estate law.
Mark is a specialist in Waterfront and Resort-Recreational. His experience includes brokering and owning a Residential and Commercial Sales, Leasing, Mortgage Company and a construction company.
Prior to entering Real Estate and obtaining his California Brokers License, Mark worked for Chevron Corporation for 13 years. Working his way through all the major accounting departments ending this career as a Financial Analyst in Chevron Information and Technology, the companies Computer Technology and Telecommunications subsidiary.
Mark Leonard brings nearly 30 years of real estate, financial management and development experience to Belize.
Many leaders from State, County and City government and civic organizations in his former California home, honored Mark with his recognition as Business Person of the Year, 2001 for The City of Pittsburg, California.
Among the Affiliations and Accomplishments bestowed upon Mark are:
* Founding Member, Belize National Association of Realtors.
* Member, National Association of Realtors, California and Delta Association of Realtors.
* Board Member of the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce.
* Past President, Pittsburg Rotary Club 1999-2000
* Chairman, Planning Commission, City of Pittsburg, Ca.
* Member, Power Plant Advisory Committee, City of Pittsburg, Ca.
* Member, Board of Directors, East County Boys and Girls Club, City of Pittsburg, Ca.
* Commodore, Pittsburg Yacht Club, Pittsburg, Ca.
* President, New York Landing Business Association, Pittsburg, Ca.
* President, New York Landing Homeowners Association, Pittsburg, Ca.