Guest Blog - Life as an Expat - PART III
FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE IN SAN PEDRO
By Ron Delvalle
Now that you’ve considered your options for staying in Belize legally it’s time to find a place to live. Depending on your long term plans for staying in San Pedro, you’ll first have to decide whether you want to own or rent. If in fact you’re planning to live out the rest of your years in San Pedro or you intend to own a business and live on premises, you may want to purchase. The only other reason I would consider owning is for investment income reasons. In other words, you plan to visit for some portion of the year and the rest of the time you will draw income from vacation rentals. Even if you plan to purchase you’ll want to rent initially until you get a better feel for the island and decide where you want to own.
North or South
The island is divided into two halves, north of the bridge and south of the bridge. You’ll need to experience both in order to decide which suits you best. Since we knew our plan was to only be here for a year or now even possibly 4 or 5, renting long term was our best option, in our opinion, and I’ll explain why.
San Pedro is growing at a rapid pace and which means there is a lot of construction and developing going on. If you ask a real estate broker about the health of the market they will all tell you that it is strong. What you won’t find out right away is that the resale market is soft. Most owners and I mean most because there are always exceptions, that bought and are now trying to resell, are doing so at a loss. When you add transaction costs to the equation, the investment gets worse. If you have plans to relocate again in the near term as we do, owning would be a poor investment making long term renting your best option.
When it comes to rentals, there are two flavors, long and short term. Long term is defined as anything longer than 6 months. The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) taxes long term and short term rentals differently allowing long term rental rates to be far more favorable financially to the tenant. That said, short term rentals can yield significant income for investors willing to market their properties and keep them occupied.
In trying to find a place to rent there are numerous resources. From home in the states, you will be restricted to the internet in most cases allowing you to only see what is listed online in the local paper or on various rental property sites. Unfortunately that is only a small subset of what is available and what shows up in your search is in most cases old information. All this is to say that the best way to find what you are looking for is to be here. I came to the island alone for four days in June before moving here in August. I looked at 13 properties in those four days and found one that suited us. Of course the whole time, I’m live streaming information to Annette back home including pictures of what is in all of the kitchen drawers and cabinets. The place we chose lasted us for nearly two years and in that time we assimilated into the community. We have since found a new place and are signing a two year lease to avoid having to move again in the near term. In finding our new place we enlisted the help of everyone we had gotten to know here on the island and despite that our search took nearly two months before we found our new home. Networking is certainly the key and until you have been here for a while you will be working with limited resources.
Don’t let any of this discourage you. There is a lot to choose from and the more you look the more you will find. It’s just a matter of finding the best “compromise” for YOU! As a broker friend of mine advised, when working with clients, you need to first sell them on the lifestyle and then find a place to suit them. If you are trying to fine the perfect property first, it will be a tough sell because nearly every choice involves a compromise of one sort or the other.
Stay tuned for preparing to moving out of the country, purging or storing and arranging transportation for your pets for those of you that have them. Check back for more information as I share more of what we’ve learned about moving and living here in our tropical paradise.