Many Americans want to buy an overseas property. In some cases, it’s to have an amazing vacation home. In others, the main goal is to achieve the perfect retirement lifestyle, often for less than what it could cost in the United States.
For some, buying a house in Belize is the perfect option. Relocating to Belize allows you to capture a fantastic lifestyle while enjoying a lower cost of living. If you’re thinking, “I want to move to Belize” but don’t know where to begin, here’s what you need to know about buying real estate in Belize.
What to Know Before Moving to Belize
Belize is a breathtakingly beautiful country nestled along the Caribbean coast in Central America. Along with being incredibly welcoming to foreigners – including visitors and those looking to move to the country – Belize offers a tranquil lifestyle unlike any other. There are white sand beaches, expansive rainforests, and a general small-town feel no matter where you go.
Overall, Belize is also very safe. Politically, Belize is stable, so it doesn’t experience some of the hardships you find with other nations in the area. It’s also incredibly easy to establish residency and immigrate to the country, which is why it’s a popular choice for retirees.
Belize also has an intriguing history. This former British colony – the last one on mainland America – was known as British Honduras until 1973. Its path to independence was long, though it was ultimately achieved in 1981. However, while there are still signs of British influence, Belize maintains that Central American feel.
Plus, Belize is a surprisingly diverse nation. While its composition was mainly Creole into the 1970s, immigration has changed the landscape, creating a country where anyone can feel at home and welcome.
One of the most appealing parts of buying a house in Belize is the climate. During the year, average temperatures tend to range between about 73°F and 81°F, depending on where you are in the country. Even on the high end, temperatures usually only reach around 90°F. For lows, temps may dip to around 64°F at most.
Another reason many Americans think about moving to Belize is the lack of a language barrier. The official language of Belize is English, making it easy for Americans to transition into the country.
However, many people also speak Spanish, mainly since Spanish-speaking nations surround Belize. Additionally, a notable amount of the population speaks Creole patois, and most can easily switch between any of the languages they speak.
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar. It’s tied directly to the US dollar at a rate of two-to-one. As a result, US $1 always equals BZ $2, making it simple for Americans to estimate costs or design a budget.
The Belize dollar is the official currency, so it’s broadly accepted. However, you can also spend US dollars in most of the country, which also makes transitioning to the country easier.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Belize is generally pretty affordable, particularly if you aim to live like a local. As with most Central American countries, relying on imported products can increase your costs dramatically. The same goes for maintaining a resort-like lifestyle upon arriving.
However, living in Belize won’t break the bank if you focus on local foods, embrace products from the region, and aim to live a non-vacation lifestyle. That’s true even if you want to focus on organic foods, as they’re quite affordable from local suppliers.
As an American in Belize, knowing how to contact your nearest US Embassy is essential. They can assist you if you experience an emergency, including an arrest, crime, medical emergency, or death while in the country.
If you’re in Belize, you can contact the Embassy by phone at 822-4011 during normal business hours. For emergency assistance outside of regular business hours, call 610-5030. If you need to reach the Embassy in Belize from the United States, dial 011-501 before dialing the appropriate seven-digit number listed above.
You can also come to the US Embassy in person during normal business hours. The address is:
US Embassy Belmopan
Floral Park Road
Belmopan, Cayo, Belize
Legal Resident and Immigration Requirements
Generally speaking, becoming a legal resident of Belize is relatively straightforward. While you’ll want to contact the Department of Immigration and Nationality for details, the process typically begins with simply arriving in Belize as a visitor.
US Citizens can remain in Belize for 30 days without taking additional steps. After that, you’ll need to renew your tourist visa every 30 days. After doing so for 12 months, you can apply for residency.
In most cases, residency requirements focus on showing you’re financially able to care for yourself. You’ll also have to pass a background check and may need a medical exam before your application gets approved.
If you’re at least 45, the process is potentially simpler, thanks to the Qualified Retired Person residency program (QRP). With that, you may be able to bypass the 12 months of visas as long as you can show you have a reliable source of income or suitable assets to support yourself, along with passing a medical screening and background check.
After establishing residency, you can pursue citizenship if you so choose. The waiting period for eligibility can vary, typically ranging from one to five years. At that point, applying for citizenship is an option, though it isn’t required.
Buying a House in Belize
If you’re wondering, “Can Americans own property in Belize?” the answer is “yes.” Non-nationals have the same property rights as nationals, so you can purchase property outright even if you aren’t a legal resident yet.
As a former British colony, the real estate purchase process is similar to what you find in the United States. However, some of the mechanisms you see in the US aren’t present in Belize. As a result, you’ll want to work with a Realtor® that’s familiar with the country and the ins and outs of the home buying process. You may also want to enlist help from a real estate lawyer with experience in the area.
When you find a property with potential, a title search must be part of the equation. There are real estate scams in Belize, and a title search can reveal a slew of potential issues or points that could signal trouble.
It’s also crucial to be ready for various fees. Along with the cost of a title search through an attorney, you’ll have taxes to contend with, which are usually a bit under 5 percent of the purchase price. Attorney fees beyond the title search can run 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price, and new residential properties can come with an additional sales tax of about 12.5 percent.
When it comes to the down payment, 10 percent is typical. As for financing, you can potentially find options through banks in Belize, as many will lend to Americans interested in buying property. However, you can also explore financing options domestically, if you prefer.
If you’re ready to explore property listings in Belize, Global Property Systems is your go-to resource. Contact us for more information about how to buy a house in Belize, including homes, land, and investment properties that could meet your needs.