Actually, it is difficult to be sure how much house prices have changed, as there are no official house price figures. However, realtors estimate that house prices declined by as much as 25% to 30% during the global economic crisis. The property rebounded strongly in 2012, and has continued to rise since then.
Outside buyer interest in Belize rose rapidly from 2000 to 2007, partly due to the passage of the Retired Person Incentive Act (RPIA) in September 1999, and to the tourism boom. Tourists flocked to Belize’s natural wonders - beautiful beaches and tropical forests, plus ancient Mayan temples. From 2003 to 2007, property prices in coastal and tourist areas rose by as much as 30% annually, while prices of inland properties rose by around 15% annually, according to local real estate agents.
In 2015, the average price for luxury homes in Belize was less than US$1 million, well below the US$2 million average price of luxury home in some other Caribbean destinations, according to SANCAS Realty.
Ambergris Caye and Southern Belize – Placencia – continue to be the two most popular areas for foreign homebuyers, said Chebat. Ambergris Caye has the most expensive housing in Belize, because tourists and expats are attracted to the beauty of the Barrier Reef. Oceanfront condominium units are priced at about US$500,000, while two- to four-bedroom oceanfront houses are priced around US$1 million.
More affordable houses are found in the south, especially in the Placencia Peninsula and nearby areas such as Sitee River, where residential properties are usually priced 40% lower than those on Ambergris Caye. A two-bedroom oceanfront condominium unit is priced between US$350,000 and US$450,000.
Some expats choose to settle in areas close to the border with Mexico or Guatemala. Corozal Town in the north (bordering Mexico), and the Cayo District in the west (bordering Guatemala) are some popular places for expat retirees. In San Ignacio, Cayo District, the average price of luxury homes was US$500,000 in 2015.
The number of affluent individuals seeking property in Belize increased in 2015, thanks to the relatively low prices of luxury homes in the islands, according to SANCAS Realty.
“Many international buyers are just beginning to discover the potential opportunities of investing in this tiny central American nation bordering the Caribbean Sea,” said Christopher Todd of SANCAS Realty. “Savvy buyers can find tremendous value in Belize, especially on the Placencia Peninsula in the Stann Creek District, and in the Cayo District to the west.”
Most foreign buyers in Belize come from the United States. There are direct flights from numerous U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Newark. There is also a growing interest from Canadians, Britons, Italians and Russian investors.
Foreign nationals represent 95% of homebuyers in Ambergris Caye, in the Cayo District, and the Placencia Peninsula, according to SANCAS Realty’s 2016 report.
“The mid-term potential of the Belize real estate market is absolutely phenomenal,” said Todd. “The consensus opinions from our experts all paint a promising picture for those seeking to invest in Belize over the near-term.”
Hon. Santiago Castillo, Belize’s Minister of State for Economic Development, says: “We are extremely bullish on the appreciation value of northern Ambergris Caye over the mid to long term. We expect to see considerable new construction in this area over the next five to ten years as the northern area captures the attention of high net worth individuals and becomes the new epicenter of luxury real estate for the island.”
Most property transactions are done in cash, as Belize’s banks charge high interest rates. The Belizean dollar is tied to the US dollar at a fixed exchange rate of 1 USD = 2 Belizean dollar.
There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing real properties in Belize.
Analysis of Belize Residential Property Market »
This year, included condos in our research. Condos in Ambergris Caye sell for US$2,660 to US$3,330 per square metre.
Capital Gains: There is no capital gains tax in Belize.
Inheritance: There is no inheritance tax in Belize.
Residents: Residents are taxed at a flat rate of 25% on their employment income. Income from other sources is subject to business tax, wherein the applicable tax rate depends on the classification of the income.
Sale of new properties is subject to 10% General Sales Tax.
Tenant Security: Non-payment of rent and sub-letting without the landlord’s knowledge are grounds for eviction. Landlords, through a court order, can forcibly enter to reclaim the property from tenants, and claim compensation for damages and unpaid rent.
In 2015, Belize’s economy grew by 1.5%, after growth of 3.6% in 2014, 1.5% in 2013, 3.8% in 2012, and 2.1% in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In Q1 2016, the economy contracted by 2%, in sharp contrast with a spectacular growth of 7% during the same quarter last year, according to Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB).
In June 2016, Belize’s total imports dropped 11% from a year earlier, while exports also plunged 30%, according to SIB.
During the first half of 2016, the number of stay-over visitors in Belize totaled 213,430 people – the first time ever that arrivals exceeded 200,000 people, according to Belize Tourism Board. Cruise ship arrivals also increased, up 2.6% from a year ago.
Unemployment was 8% in April 2016, down from 12% in 2015, 11.1% in 2014, 14.1% in 2013, 14.4% in 2012, and 14% in 2011. Over 8,700 jobs were added in April 2016, according to SIB.
In June 2016, inflation stood at 0.9%, in contrast with -0.8% in the same period last year, based on figures from SIB. Inflation averaged 1.9% from 2000 to 2015.
Belize is a former British colony, and won full independence in 1981. In February 2008, the left-leaning United Democratic Party (UDP), which had led the country to independence, won the general election, unseating the centre-right People's United Party (PUP), which had been in power for 10 years and had been rocked by allegations of corruption. The UDP’s leader Dean Barrow is Belize’s first black prime minister.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow was re-elected for an unprecedented third five-year term in office in Belize in November 2015, and his UDP party retained its power.