Do’s and Don’ts for Investigating Real Estate in Northern Belize

If you haven’t bought land or an existing home in Belize yet, you’re in luck. Just learn from my mistakes and successes and you’re well on your way to finding the perfect real estate that fits your needs.

Here are some tips, outlining do’s and don’ts of a successful real estate investigation. Most of these tips are common sense and make sense for real estate searches in any locale, whether if be local or abroad.

But searching for the perfect area for your Belize retirement can be a daunting task, especially when you don’t really know the place, the people or best practices in Belize. How do you learn enough to make real progress, without feeling like you are being “taken”?

Read on and implement as many of these “do’s and don’ts” as possible into your search. You’ll be glad you did.

This article is written with a few assumptions about you in mind:

  1. You are excited about your choice of a warm-weather climate for your retirement
  2. You are anxious to find “the place”, but you want to be smart about it. Let’s face it, this is the rest of your life we are talking about here.
  3. Your pool of retirement savings has probably taken a hit in recent years, so funds for retirement may not be as “unlimited” as you wished.
  4. You’ve discussed your “plans” enough to know what you are looking for, but you also are flexible enough to alter your plan if the right possibility presents itself.
  5. You are familiar enough with Belize to know it might be a good fit whether you read about it or have visited in the past. 

1. Do: Let Your Search “Breathe”

Timing is everything. Time is on your side. Time will tell.

Time is so precious to those of us from the United States. We only have so much of it and the culture we live in presses us to “make the most of it”.

This pressure is so real, that many of us skimp on planning and go directly into the implementation phase of any project. The goal is “to be done” for many of us, rather than to plan carefully and allow enough time to execute the plan.

That’s not easy for a “doer” like Donald Trump or for my wife, Linda.

She can be impulsive to get things done. It’s funny to see a Belizean who has so much drive. Maybe it’s that impulsive nature that allowed me into her life so quickly after we met. At times, however, I think she has a hard time being married to a plodder and thinker. The yin and the yang, I guess.

As we travelled through Northern Belize on our most recent trip, we looked over many possible pieces of property. I was content to take in an area that I hadn’t visited before to look at land or homes that met the criteria of our written plan.

But I also would allow myself to wander off the plan in search of that place we hadn’t thought of … one that could expand on our original plan.

Linda, on the other hand, was anxious to find that area that was perfect for our Bed ‘n Breakfast idea.

We visited many areas along the coast, from the Belize/Mexican border all the way down the eastern coast — Consejo, Corozal, the Cerros Penninsula and much more. We’ll outline each of these areas in future posts.

But the more locations that we visited, the more frustrated Linda became that we couldn’t find that perfect gem for our Bed ‘n Breakfast. We stumbled on a few possible places, but you’ll need to read further to see what we chose to do.

Bottom line: Have a plan and allow yourself the time to let the plan breathe.

By breathe, I mean giving it room to expand if it needs to. Give it time to be the subject of long walks and talks with your spouse. Give it time to work itself out based on a wealth of  experiences, not just one.

You’ll be amazed at how much you learn and how much your plan is refined by giving it enough time to do so.

2. Do: Your Research & Homework

Don’t worry, there won’t be any written exams or pop quizes.

I first visited Belize back in 2005. I had thought about going there even before I met Linda.

Being from Orange Walk, she still has family there, so I had the best of both worlds. I could enjoy the touristy areas while also seeing the parts of Belize where the locals choose to live.

I took mental notes during that first trip and knew some of the places that I could eliminate for a future retirement location right away.  But I enjoyed the vibe of entire country.

Linda’s home town of Orange Walk was so interesting with plenty of shopping, the best street tacos, the New River and the major north-south highway that runs from the northern Mexican border all the way down to Belize City.

I even got to take in the town square by the market and saw the area where Linda accepted her crown as Miss Orange Walk in 1981. To see her face as she reminisced was an enjoyable education in itself.

The island of Ambergris Caye is touristy, but a good time. I experienced the Costa Maya Festival, a cultural gathering of all Central American countries in San Pedro.

The’s no better way to learn that you have no reggae dance moves! I’ve also learned that it’s not something you acquire by osmosis.  Darn.

Canoeing with the “Crocodile Dundee of Belize”

But one of the highlights of that first trip to Belize was the 15-mile canoe trip I took with Linda’s brother, Quidi. He is referred to a the “Crocodile Dundee of Belize”.

Quidi loves Belize and was proud of his race horse “Blood Money”.

We launched from the coast just outside of Copper Bank and canoed across the bay to a 5-acre parcel of virgin coast land owned by an Orange Walk pharmacist.

What a unique way to learn about the miles and miles of open coastal land in Northern Belize. The coconut trees were abundant, the baraccudas could clearly be seen beneath the canoe and silver fish glistened as they jumped in unison over the bay.

We stayed up all night by the campfire, watching for wild animals, talking Belize politics and drinking coconut water and Belikin beer.

They slowed their Kriol dialect enough so even I could understand, and I learned quite a bit about what third-world countries think of the U.S.  I threw in my two cents and tried to help them understand the U.S. perspective, unsuccessfully.

That night helped me to fall in love with Northern Belize despite our political differences.

Subsequent trips to Belize over the years have taken me to Caye Cauker, the Placencia Penninsula, the foothills of Benque Viejo del Carmen, the caves in Mountain Pine Ridge and the farmlands of Spanish Lookout.

The farmland of Valley of Peace, just east of Spanish Lookout was the definition of “roughing it” for me. The bushman are skilled with their machete and could clear land with it with ease. But time was always taken for long talks, cooking on the makeshift barrel grill and enjoying the solitude.

Although each area has it’s own charm, Northern Belize was the area I wanted to explore more. You can read more about Linda’s preference of the Corozal/Chetumal area here.

I would never have adopted such a strong preference if I hadn’t visited Belize on numerous occasions and experienced so much of it. This education was priceless and continues to this day.

I still have yet to live in Belize for an extended time period. Two weeks at a time doesn’t really give you the confidence that you could live their full time.

I believe my love affair with Belize is deep enough at this point that I’ll have no problem living there. But my education continues and my next homework assignment will be to live there for months rather than weeks.

What’s your next homework assignment?

3. Don’t: Be Afraid to Get Varying Opinions

No matter what your reasons for exploring Belize as your retirement haven, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and seek other perspectives along the way.

Let’s face it. That’s probably why you stumbled onto this blog post, right?

More and more, the web is where we get much of our knowledge today. And a lot of this knowledge is biased, coming from a perspective that you may or may not hold.

And when searching for opinions regarding Northern Belize real estate, most aren’t shy. But who should you listen to?

Here are some of the sources we heard from over the years regarding our desire to move overseas:

OUTSIDER SOURCES:

  • Blogs from those who live in or have lived in Belize
  • Social media and online forums
  • Those who have vacationed in Belize
  • The vacation and hospitality industry outside Belize
  • Family and friends outside of Belize
  • Travel websites

INSIDER SOURCES:

  • Locals who live in the area you are investigating
  • Expats who live in the area you are investigating
  • Belizean Business owners and Expat business people
  • Belizean real estate agents (careful, this is a loose term in Belize)
  • Local government, police, banking and tourism officials
  • Land Development Sales Teams and owners
  • Local builders and utility workers
  • Local Media

You could list more, but you get the idea. The real question: which ones are trustworthy?

In my investigation, I’ve researched and sought out opinions from both inside and outside sources. We are compiling an exhaustive list of them for your possible use. You’ll see it on this website in the future.

Note that while information on from outside sources can be accurate and valuable, it’s usually inside sources that give you quality information.

And that’s why you should make numerous trips to Belize to gather first-hand information and opinions.

Filter All Opinions 

Make sure to wear your “perspective filter” when speaking with everyone in Belize. For example here are some seemingly conflicting statements and their sources that I heard during my most recent trip:

Whom would you believe?

  • A banking official told me that it’s only a matter of time before the Consejo Road will be upgraded so it’s not so slippery during the rainy season.
  • But a local resident told me that plans for upgrading Consejo Road first surfaced over 15 years ago and no action has been taken on the plan at this point.

You can view an actual post here from ambergriscayes.com forum that may show the extreme when it comes to the weather in Corozal, but it shows the possibilities of which you should be aware.

Bottom line: Sift all information through your “perspective filter” and ask the same questions of multiple sources to see both sides of any issue.

So, our goal to build a Bed ‘n Breakfast is tempered by the statements above. I’m not sure if we will buy near Consejo or not at this point, but I know I’ll find out the real truth about the conflicts above before making a decision.

Best case scenario: The road is upgraded so folks can safely get to Consejo area during the rainy season. This would be great for a Bed ‘n Breakfast.

Worst case scenario: No road upgrade would keep tourism at it’s current level (or slight increase) in the Northern part of Belize. Then I would need to decide if the current level is enough to support a year-round Bed ‘n Breakfast.

My goal is not to opine on the feasibility of a Bed ‘n Breakfast business in Belize within this post. If that’s your dream too, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My goal is to impress upon you the need to dig for information from reputable sources, and in most cases, that is done by visiting to get “insider” information.

4. Don’t: Let Your Desires Rule Your Actions

One thing is for sure. Northern Belize is riddled with many home developments, (most owned by Expats), that have sold many of it’s lots to future Expats from Europe, U.S., Canada and other areas.

Many of the subdivision have only a few lots available so “time is of the essence” according to the sales personnel that we met.

But you also see many empty lots that have never been built on. And you see many empty lots that are for re-sale by the original buyer.

Sure, there are good reasons for this phenomenon. Some bought as an investment with no plans to build. They just want to re-sell at a profit. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But some of the stories we heard were a bit different. Many future Expats bought years ago with starry-eyed dreams of building a retirement haven. But at times, circumstances change, dreams change and the land is no longer needed.

Even others had built on the land, moved into their new retirement home, and they found that Belize was not what they envisioned. Their home is empty, for sale and they need to get their money back to invest in their new dream.

It would be safe to assume that some of these situations came about because Expats found the reality to be different from their dream.

And it’s not hard to imagine that many of these situations could have been avoided if decisions hadn’t been made in haste, out of an impulsive purchase mentality.

The good news is that many of these properties are for sale for you to consider. Some are available at bargain prices!

This parcel of land is humorously named “CASA BEIRUT” by the local expats in Consejo because of the concrete structure on it that looks like it’s been through a few wars. We were told by a local realtor that the owner might take $90,000 USD for the land, but you’d have to demolish the structure for approximately $5,000. Is this a great spot for the next Bed ‘n Breakfast in Belize? And why has it been sitting unoccupied for so long?

I belong to a few groups on Facebook that cater to those looking to move to Belize. It’s valuable to join them to get a feel of what’s available and to understand the reasons Expats have for considering Belize.

But it’s more valuable for reading the stories of those who have succeeded and others who have given up their dreams and why.  Some of the stories outline impulsive decisions based on unrealistic dreams.

Bottom Line: My hope is that you plan, do your homework and be self-aware enough to know the possible pitfalls that could lead you into making an impulsive decision.

5. Do: Pull the Trigger When You’re Ready

Most of this post has been an encouragement to plan, take your time and avoid impulsive purchase.

But now that you have been as careful and thorough as possible in your search, and you’ve narrowed down a perfect location, it’s time to act. This is the part that Linda would love!

Let’s face it. The current climate in the U.S. and other developed countries has made those looking to retire in Belize want to speed up their move overseas.

Belize is English-speaking, is in a tropical climate and boasts a favorable 2:1 dollar exchange, so many are setting their sights on this tiny country that’s about the size of Massachusetts.

In fact, International Living Magazine has continually ranked Belize within the top retirement places taking into account things like real estate prices, cost of living, health care, climate an other criteria.

So when you find the land or home that meet your criteria, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and purchase the land. Belize real estate purchasing laws are quite advantageous.

No matter where you are at in your search, let us know what stage you are in and send us your thoughts below. We appreciate any feedback you have for us.

 

4 thoughts on “Do’s and Don’ts for Investigating Real Estate in Northern Belize”

  1. CASA BEIRUT legally does not include the edge of the waterfront property. That wall was built illegally in the Consejo Bay and filled in with soil, both extending the property and creating that half moon shape that you can see in your ariel view.

    1. Cheryl, Thanks for filling in a missing piece. Do you know how long ago that happened? Can you point me to any legal evidence? The agent that showed us the property never mentioned that to us. I guess “Buyer Beware” is even more important in Belize!

    1. Cheryl, we visited Casa Blanca on our last trip and I will be posting on it in the next week or two. It sure has a lot going for it, and the price seems to be fair. So what’s your story?

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