12 Happy Reasons to retire in Belize
1. English is the First Language (Sort of!)
It’s almost true! Belizeans are warm and friendly people, virtually all of whom are multi-lingual. Nearly all Belizeans speak Spanish at home with their families and (fluent) English with tourists and ex-pats. Coming from North America or the UK, you’ll have no need to buy a Rosetta Stone. After all, people are speaking English all around you and don’t worry about the restaurants as they all have English menus, to make it so easy! You may spend less to retire in Guatemala or Mexico, but speaking English is helpful in deciding to live your retirement years in Belize.
2. You Will Live Longer
Retiring in Belize will actually make you look and feel better. You will eat mostly unprocessed foods, fresh fish and fresh fruits, locally grown vegetables, free range chickens and eggs, and probably consume less here.
Aches and pains should begin to disappear. Most people report feeling healthier within months. Slower pace of life means less stress. Taking in fresh air, a healthier diet, and living in a beautiful tropical climate will do that for most.
3. Cost of Living in Belize
Retiring to a tropical paradise, with nearly perfect year-round weather, does not need to be as expensive as you think. Most items used every day are cheaper here. You will save significantly on primary medical care, household staff, insurance, fruits and vegetables, and taxes. Your investment income and retirement checks will go further in Belize. Housing will completely depend on your preference and may be cheaper or more expensive than you planned. You can rent a basic condo for US$500-$750 a month and a retired couple can easily afford a decent lifestyle on $1,500 US per month.
4. There Is So Much to Do in Belize
There is no end to the diverse landscape in Belize where beaches, coral reefs, jungles, rainforests, caves and Mayan ruins are so numerous; boredom will never be your problem here. It could take years to see everything.
5. You Will Love the Belizean Community
Belizeans are a very happy people and enjoy a good celebration. They love to party. Belize officially has over a dozen different holidays; some actually last 5 days. There always seems to be something going on, where work can wait, and fun must be had!
6. The Community of Expats
Expats, retired or otherwise, have been coming here from all over the world for decades. Belize has been attractive for people that hear the beat of a different drummer, while wanting to not outlive their money. Living here is not for everyone, those not fitting in return to their old first-world lives. The remaining Expats live out their dreams here. Belizean weather, its culture and people, and the lifestyle make it possible.
7. Belize is Not Too Far Away
Dallas, Houston, or Miami are basically a two-hour flight away. This makes visits from kids and grandkids easy. You will be surprised at how many guests will visit you from back home, especially if you’re originally from a cold weather place! Take it from us Minnesotans!
8. You Can Use US Dollars and the Exchange Rate is set at 2:1
US Dollars are accepted everywhere. US Cash, ATM, or Credit Cards can pay for everything, except government fees. Virtually every establishment that has a door will accept credit cards. ATMs are located throughout the country. The exchange rate is set at BZ$2 to US$1. So, it is easy to understand what you are paying for things.
9. Understandable Property Rights and Laws
Belize law is founded on British Common Law, much like legal systems in the US and Canada. According to the Belize Constitution, citizens and foreigners alike enjoy the identical property rights. Foreigners can own property in Belize, including oceanfront properties. A recent newspaper study revealed that foreigners now own over 60 percent of Belize’s oceanfront property.
10. Belize Real Estate is Reasonable
You can find cheaper real estate prices in other Central America countries. However, compared to the cost of real estate in the US, Belize real estate seems cheap. A beachfront lot in Belize can purchased for anywhere between US$30-100K. Go a block or two off of the oceanfront and your property will be about half that cost.
Construction of a concrete structure range will cost between US$40-$80 per square foot and be hurricane worthy. Most experienced expats suggest using an architect or engineer to supervise construction of your home. Those extra fees will probably save you time and money.
Belize won’t excessively tax you. Most retirees pay no tax on anything other than purchases and real estate. For an example, Belize real estate taxes on our 2BD 2.5BA beachfront condo is approximately US$450 annually. Your US income is left alone for tax purposes by Belize.
12. Belize Retirement Opportunity
Belize offers a “retiree” program (QRP) for those over 45. This program helps one to get legal residency as well as receive tax advantages and other benefits. Besides meeting the age minimum, the only other requirement is to be able to prove a minimum monthly income of US$2,000.
In addition to paying no income taxes on income earned outside of Belize, you will be able to import household goods and personal belongings for one year with no import taxes. This can also include vehicles, boats, or plane. Lastly, with QRP status, you can come and go as often as you please without needing a visa each time you re-enter the country.
BUYING REAL ESTATE IN BELIZE
Belize is a place where foreigners enjoy the same property rights as citizens. Land ownership, even beachfront, is not difficult to obtain. All land purchases are subject to a Government Stamp Transfer Tax which is currently at 8% of the purchase price. Of course, for those investing in real estate in Belize there is no capital gains tax. So, if you purchase property, and then are able to sell it later at a profit, you will pay no capital gains tax here.
Condos are the fastest growing part of the real estate market, particularly in Ambergris Caye and the Belize government handles this kind of property ownership based on the same strata principles used in Australia, Canada, South Africa, Singapore, and many other countries.
It is highly recommended that you complete all real estate transactions through a reputable attorney and title company. Be sure that your title search is conducted at the Government Land Registry and that the property is clear of all judgments, liens, and encumbrances. Just a quick note, real estate agents are not required to be licensed here. Most of the agents are decent and hard-working. In fact, most will be ex-pats, as Belizeans don’t seem to want this particular job. We have a favorite group of real estate professionals that we’ve teamed up with to assist in our clients home purchases. You can find them at BHA-Real Estate.
Everywhere in the world real estate scams exist and Belize is no exception. Be wary of anyone making a high-pressure pitch. Be ready to walk away from a transaction at any time. Patience on any real estate transaction here in Belize is your friend. They’ll be another opportunity if the first one doesn’t work out.
Lastly, in virtually every purchase you’ll need cash to buy a home here in Belize. US banks generally won’t lend money for a foreign real estate purchase and the Belizean banks won’t either. There are some sellers willing to provide partial financing, but we encourage you to come prepared to shop for your home here with cash.
moving to belize
Staying in Belize
You can enter Belize without a visa and stay up to 30 days, as long as you have a valid passport. In order to extend your stay, you will need to visit a nearby immigration office to renew your 30-day visa for US$25. You can get your permanent residency card, equivalent to a USA “Green Card” or a Canadian “Landed Immigrant”, once you’ve been in the country for an entire year with certain constraints. Belize offers a “retiree” program (QRP) for those over 45. This program helps one to get legal residency as well as receive tax advantages and other benefits. Besides meeting the age minimum, the only other requirement is to be able to prove a minimum monthly income of US$2,000.
If you need to work in Belize for financial, or other reasons, such as sanity, you’re likely going to have to “buy a job”. Belize protects their jobs market and virtually all openings go to Belizeans first. Alternatively, you can always get work on the internet. You won’t need much except for a computer, internet service, and some basic skills to offer.
Buying a business is easy in Belize, as nearly every business is for sale here every day. Be forewarned, there’s a good reason why you can buy businesses here. The current owners are likely tired of working hard for very little money. Please do your homework and have very modest expectations.
Healthcare in Belize does not match healthcare in the United States, Mexico, or the even that of our Central American neighbors, such as Panama and Guatemala. For someone with a chronic illness, or one who develops an acute illness, Belize is probably not for you. The healthcare system is not up to first world standards. However, if you are healthy and are not concerned about needing hospital care for the time being, then come and enjoy the laidback lifestyle here in Belize. You can rest assured that minor ailments and illnesses can likely be treated inexpensively at the local doctor's offices or clinics, which can be found throughout Belize.
Advantages of Living Here
It’s generally a simple life here in Belize. Simple is better, right? Most of the time. Until you need or want something. Grocery shopping can sometimes take hours due to number of stops needed to fill the shopping list. Major appliances, or replacement parts can be hard to find. Theaters are almost non-existent. But so are traffic jams, job pressures, crowds, and other high-stress contributors to first world life. In total, Belize is a wonderful place full of happy people and a beautiful locale. Yet, Belize isn't for everyone. Here in Belize you will quickly learn to love the slow and simple pace of life, or you’ll vote yourself off the island.
Yes, your pets are welcome in Belize! Be sure to bring all the documentation for vaccinations as well as a health certificate for your critters.
Belize has two major private insurance companies. You can insure your home, its contents, your boat, your car or cart, and your business.
Cell Phone Service
Most American and Canadian cell phone companies offer roaming service while you’re in Belize but calls can be very expensive. One US company, T-Mobile, offers free unlimited data and text messaging. Alternatively, you can buy an unlocked phone in the US or Canada, it will work just fine if you buy a SIM card from the local phone company in Belize.
Belize has several internet providers offering similar service as you would find in the US or Canada. You can buy pre-paid internet for your mobile phones and cable or fiber optic service to your home or business.
Investing in belize
Let us begin by saying we’re not investment, tax, or legal professionals. We have visited Belize for many years and have owned a home here since March of 2017. We write about travel and the happy place that we now call home. Having said all that, we are frequently asked about investing in Belize, so we have put together some background information for your reading pleasure. We hope that as you get ready to invest in Belize, that you will consult with the proper professionals and invest with great caution.
Belize is located south of Mexico, within 2 hours of several major US airports, and other Caribbean islands. It has a multi-lingual workforce and relatively stable economy. Belize does not have a capital gains tax or an estate tax. Investment in Belize is always encouraged. There are many investment incentives which are presently being offered to make foreign investing in Belize more inviting.
International investors will find that Belize provides three important characteristics:
Quality of life - Subtropical climate, friendly people, Caribbean beaches with a beautiful barrier reef with healthy marine life, and an abundant rainforest.
Belize is stable - An exchange rate that has been fixed for a quarter century, an independent court system, and an enduring, democratic tradition.
Focus on profitability - Commercial Free Zones, Repatriation of profits and dividends, and Export Processing Zones.
Areas of Investing
The Belize Government wants your investment in the following sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, furniture manufacturing, call centers, and tourism. Here are the usual suspects that are generally available:
· Real estate development
· Rent out a home or condo that you’ve purchased
· Buy land and hold for future development
· Buy and run a farm
· Buy and run a restaurant, hotel, or resort
The Belize Government has worked to provide investment incentives they believe should be attractive to foreign investors.
Negotiated trade agreements benefitting Belize businesses include:
Many Belizean goods enter Canada duty-free.
Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM)
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI)
Duty-free access for certain commodities such as bananas and sugar with the EU
In addition, the Belize government offers the following incentives for in country investment:
Special incentives for retirees.
100% foreign ownership of land and company assets
Encouragement of joint ventures with local entities
This category is not uncomplicated. We’re happy to introduce you to the proper in country professionals to ensure your investments are as safe as possible.