Our Frequently Asked Questions section provides common answers on Belize’s demographics, real estate, and other relevant facts related to buying properties, relocation and retirement.
What is the population of Belize?
According to the 2015 revision of the CIA World Fact Book, the estimated mid year population of 2016 is 347,369. Belize’s history plays a major role in the ethnic composition of the country, and, as the result, Belize is the one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the region.
What is the wildlife of Belize?
In Belize, you have the opportunity to observe hundreds of different species of birds. It is possible to spot over a hundred species in just a couple of days of time. Belize has variety of nearly six hundred species of birds. Because of Belize’s small population and lack of industrial infrastructure, much of Belize has remained virtually undisturbed. On various islands, you will find reserves for birds such as the reserve for the black catbird on Caye Caulker, and a bird sanctuary on Man-of-War Caye, where you could find pelicans, frigate birds and brown bobbies.
Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve
This may be home to the famed jaguar, but do not go there expecting it to cross your path as you amble through the trees, as it is rarely sighted. Instead, you will enjoy many different forest vistas and a variety of bird and animal species that make up a vital part of its habitat. Placencia is one of the closest places from which to get to the park, and it offers a good way to get an organized tour.
Green Hills Butterfly Reserve
Located in the Cayo district, between limestone hills covered with lush vegetation you will find “Green Hills”, the Belize Butterfly Ranch and Botanical Collections. Flocks of butterflies, from brilliant blue to gorgeous orange, dazzling yellow to intriguing gray, fly freely in a 2,700 sq. ft., beautifully landscaped flight area: it is the largest live butterfly display in Belize.
What are Belizeans like?
The first time you pass a Belizean, whether on foot, bike or in a car they will greet you warmly. Many visitors consider Belize one of the friendliest vacation destinations. Belize values its rural roots and rich cultural heritage. Belizeans are never in a hurry, and rarely busy. This is the Caribbean ocean. Carpe Diem. Relax and enjoy. Foreigners come here to enjoy the slow pace of life. Even Belize’s national animal, the Baird’s tapir, takes it easy. This mountain cow-like creature likes nothing better than to swim and wallow, with its head just above water—especially during the long, warm nights. As for Belize’s national bird, the brightly colored Keel Billed Toucan, it prefers to nest in holes in trees. It then uses its great, canoe-shaped bill, with serrated edges, to cut and eat fruit. Pretty relaxing…
Questions about Retirement and Relocation to Belize
What is the Qualified Retirement Program (QRP)?
Belize has gone to great lengths to attract foreign retirees. Named #2 best retirement haven in the world by International Living magazine the government offers a long list of incentives to expatriates in the form of a Qualified Retirement Program. This program has incentives that allow you to import your household items and vehicles duty-free. A QRP also pays no tax on foreign-earned income. To qualify, one must simply be aged 45 years or older, have a monthly income of at least $2,000 US dollars and comply with several other minor requirements including residing in the country for at least a month a year.
Submit an application along with:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- A police record from your most recent place of residence, issued within a month prior to the application
- A copy of each page (including blank ones) in your passport. Retain a notary public to certify the copy with his or her seal and mark how many pages are in the passport, the passport number, and your name
- Proof of income. This can be in the form of a statement from a pension of an annuity company or from your bank. The statement must show that your income is at least $2,000 a month or the equivalent of at least $24,000 a year. 6. Medical certificate stating that you are in good health and not HIV-positive 7. Color photos–four recent front-view and four side-view passport-size photo- graphs of yourself and any dependents who are applying
- You must also submit a non-refundable $100 application fee plus a program fee of $500 for yourself and $350 for each dependent. When you’re accepted into the program, you’ll owe an additional $100. Also figure on $2,500 to $5,000 to retain an attorney who can steer you through the application process.
What are the advantages of the QRP?
Paying no Belizean tax on foreign earned income, you won’t be taxed twice on money you’re bringing into the country. As a QRP you can import your household goods tax-free up to a total exemption amount of $15,000. You can also bring in a vehicle tax-free, which can be a car, a light aircraft or a boat. In fact every five years you can import a new vehicle tax-free as long as you sell the original vehicle outside of Belize.
In many countries you have to make a significant financial commitment in order to qualify for a program that provides financial incentives for living in the country. In Belize, you must simply prove an income of at least $2,000 a month.
How do I relocate to Belize?
If you are planning to relocate to Belize, take a look of our Belize Relocation Guide.
How long does the loan process take?
Most mortgages originated today calculate interest in arrears, unlike consumer loans which calculate interest to the date of payment receipt. As an example, when borrowers pay their February mortgage payments, they are paying the January interest. This method of calculating interest is based on a 360 day year in which each month has 30 days.
Can I bring my pets to Belize?
Read this article: http://www.lawbelize.bz/news/retirement-2017-06-10-bringing-your-pet-to-Belize-by-your-Belize-law-firm
Buying Real Estate in Belize
I want to buy property in Belize, where do I start?
Buying property is always a stressful process, and it could be even more so when buying in a foreign country. However, Belize is part of the British Commonwealth with a legal system that shares the same British common law, as does Canada and the United States. However, there are few basic things that every buyer must know before they begin the process of buying property in Belize.
Can a foreigner own a property in Belize?
A foreigner can own property outright in Belize and has the same rights as a Belizean citizen to freehold property ownership. Since the Alien Landholding Act was abolished in 2001 there are no licenses, permits, special permissions or conditions needed for a foreigner to take title to freehold land in Belize.
Do I need an attorney when buying property in Belize?
It is always recommended to have professional legal advice when purchasing property in Belize. There are experienced and reputable paralegals who will be familiar with the title history of local properties, and, they can often finalize a purchase on your behalf. There could be important issues concerning property title, closing costs and taxes. Don’t take any unnecessary risks, obtain a qualified local legal representation.
What are the closing costs in Belize?
Closing costs in Belize are not very complicated, in fact they are pretty straigh-forward. Since there is no capital gains tax associated with the purchase and sale of real estate, Belizean Government assesses a 5% stamp tax on the declared purchase price of the property at the time of transfer of the title. However, there is an additional tax of 5% for foreigners and persons who have resided in Belize for less than 3 years. It is important to fully review and understand your options prior to completing the sale to insure you take title to your Belizean property that best serves your particular circumstances. Closing fees to your lawyer or paralegal should be budgeted at a minimum of $500 to $1500.
What is Title insurance (Belize)?
Title insurance is a type of insurance that protects the lender and buyer against any losses incurred from disputes over the title of a property.
Title insurance is very prevalent in the United States, and increasingly so in Canada, but not common in Belize. However, Belize is one of the few Central American countries that does offer title insurance through one of the major American providers, such as Stewart Title. It is important to note that the Government of Belize guarantees most Belizean titles while your local lawyer can provide a title opinion which makes property purchase as secure regarding your title as in the United States and Canada.
Can I register property title under entity other than my Own?
Yes. This is one area where purchasers are generally lacking in their due diligence. In many cases, it is prudent to form a Belizean company and take title to the property under this structure. The cost to form a company runs around US$1,000 and around US$150 annually to maintain it in good standing. One should always think re-sale when investing in property. If you purchase a Belizean company that holds the property then you will be subject to only a 3% tax on the value of the purchase price. If you purchase a property, which is titled in the seller’s name, then you will be subject to a 10% transfer tax on the purchase price. On sales under corporate ownership the savings on the closing costs for the purchaser is always a ‘deal sweetener’. One can also take title under a foreign LLC however we have never run into a situation where a foreign LLC was purchased along with the property. It might behoove some foreign purchasers to take title under a domestic LLC but we have yet to figure out any logical reason to do this, other than to afford the owner some degree of domestic liability shielding. A foreign LLC, just like a Belizean company, must have a Belizean registered office (an attorney or CPA) and be kept in good standing locally via annual filings. One can also take title to property via an offshore vehicle, be it a foreign trust or International Business Corporation (IBC). An IBC is the most popular and is simply an anonymous company that is housed in one of many offshore jurisdictions around the world. The ownership of the IBC is via bearer shares so there is no record in any registry of the actual shareholders of the company. The bearer shares can be issued in ones’ names or in the name of the attorneys of the registered office for additional shielding. In most offshore jurisdictions the registered agent must hold the bearer shares under lock and key. Under Belizean law, only a foreign IBC can hold title to shares of a company that owns real estate in Belize. Here is an example of the mechanics of an offshore ownership structure:
1. The purchasers would hire a Belizean attorney to remotely form a Panamanian IBC through the Belizean attorney’s corresponding Panamanian law firm. Bearer shares would be issued in the name of the purchasers and would be held in trust at the IBC’s Panamanian registered office.
2. The purchaser would then form a Belizean company and issue the shares to the Panamanian IBC. The directors of the Belizean company can be either the purchasers or the Purchasers’ Belizean attorney.
3. Title to the property would then be taken under the name of the Belizean company. Under this ownership structure, the purchaser would have complete anonymity of ownership and absolute isolation from any personal liability. The cost to set up this structure would be approximately US$1,500 for the IBC, US$1,000 for the Belizean Company and around US$1,500 per year to keep both companies in good standing. Ownership under this structure can be very appealing to purchasers of larger commercial facilities and to individuals requiring high degrees of privacy.
Can I finance a property in Belize?
Local financing, although available, would not be a recommended course of action. The majority of foreign property transactions is either cash or otherwise financed offshore. Belizean interest rates are typically much higher than you will be used to in your home markets with fixed terms of only twelve months, and only issued in Belizean dollars ($BZ). At the end of every year the loan is closed out and then renewed at the current interest rate. A more reasonable alternative may be to borrow through an offshore banking institution and, as always, professional legal advice is very important. Most non-residents will find local rates extremely high. Effective local interest rates are currently at around of 12-14%, with fixed term of one year (12 months). Effective interest rates are approximately 12% and the banks usually require that they be 50% collateralized.
How can I be sure my Title is Clean?
Have your legal representative research the title and issue a title opinion. The title is researched in the Lands Registry, and in the companies Registry if the land is held under a certain company. Liens, judgments and encumbrances are valid only if properly lodged. A title opinion for land which is not in the new registration section, such as conveyed land, takes a little longer as an abstract of title must first be prepared that goes back no less than 30 years in past. The statute of limitations on land claims is 30 years. An opinion of ‘good and clear title’ will be issued once the attorney has satisfactorily examined the abstract in fine detail.
Are The most purchases made in US Dollars?
The majority of properties in Belize are bought and sold in US Dollars. This gives the buyer a higher degree of security with currency exchange rates.
What are the property tax rates in Belize?
Most properties in Belize are taxed at 1.5% of the assessed value. Assessments are usually at 10-30% of the property’s market value.
Are squatters, campers and backpackers a problem on a property in Belize?
Belize has firm anti-squatting laws unlike Costa Rica and other Central American countries. One can only claim title to a land or easement upon proof to the Supreme Court of Belize that one has had continuous and undisturbed possession for 30 years on National and Conveyed lands, and for 12 years on registered lands.
Can I insure my property in Belize?
Good all perils (including Hurricanes) property insurance in Belize is available for most buildings and structures, but through the local insurance companies who are re-insured through US and European insurance carriers. Rates go from 1.5% for concrete structures, to 2.5% for wooden structures. Deductibles are usually 5% of the sum insured on storms and less for fire.
What is a title?
In property law, a title is a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document, such as a deed, that serves as evidence of ownership. Conveyance of the document may be required in order to transfer ownership in the property to another person. Title is distinct from possession, a right that often accompanies ownership but is not necessarily sufficient to prove it. In many cases, both possession and title may be transferred independently of each other. For real property, land registration and recording provide public notice of ownership information.
Is Title insurance available in Belize?
Title insurance in Belize is available, although it is not necessary, unless it is tied into some form of international bank financing package on a sizeable purchase. ‘Stewart Title’ from Texas had issued the first policies in Belize about 10 years ago. Belize is the only country where the reputable American title company has felt comfortable with the security of a Central American nation to guarantee title. In our opinion, a TCT, Land Certificate or clear Deed of Conveyance, which are all guaranteed by the Government of Belize, are as secure a title as one can obtain in any of the commonwealth countries, or in the United States and Canada.
I want to know about Belizean Land Surveys
Most of the Belizean land surveyors are trained educated in the United Kingdom or Canada. Surveying land in Belize is a strict procedure, and there is a rigorous apprenticeship process that one must go through in order to obtain license. The survey plat of a parcel or sub-division is only valid once registered, examined and approved by the Commissioner of Lands.
Will North American government going to inquire into my offshore activities in Belize?
Belize is an offshore nation that does not have a tax treaty with the United States or Canada. Belize government will co-operate with these countries if there is sufficient evidence that a person or entity has been involved in criminal activities or money laundering. Belizean banking legislation is modern, and it includes a tough anti-money laundering act, which is designed to repel illicit activities. A legitimate foreign investor can invest in Belizean property through offshore instruments and enjoy all of the benefits of complete offshore privacy.
What is a Broker?
An agent who is authorized to open and run his/her own agency. All real estate offices have one principal broker.
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