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Where to Get the Best Property Value in the Caribbean

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Live and Invest Overseas.

Belize is the best property value you’ll find in the Caribbean, with properties selling for a fraction of what most other Caribbean destinations sell for.

It is one of the world’s most solid investment options in this post-pandemic era, with buyers more motivated than ever to find a property overseas.

The pandemic was a setback for Belize, but tourism numbers and property prices are starting to hit their stride once again.

Why Belize Should Be on Your Radar

Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock.com

Belize has powerful market appeal and one of the broadest attractions of any place I’m familiar with, rivaling Costa Rica.

The country appeals not only to those who follow the “live and invest abroad” trends but also to the mainstream vacationer and traveler who’s never thought of living overseas.

It’s close to the United States. Flight time is about two hours from Miami, and air connections are good with nonstop service from six U.S. hubs.

You can even drive to Belize if you have a sense of adventure. (Plan on taking at least 25 hours from Brownsville, apart from any delays.)

Tourism is up, with tourist entries to Belize on the rise in a strong post-pandemic recovery. The number of visitors to Belize increased by 52% in 2021 and by an additional 70% in 2022.

A Desirable Destination

A thatched-roof bungalow over the water at sunset in Ambergris Caye, Belize.
OLya_L / Shutterstock.com

English is Belize’s official language. This makes it the only English-language option in Central and South America, apart from Guyana.

Flexible residency programs are available for those who want to settle in Belize.

No currency fluctuation risk because the Belize dollar is pegged to the U.S. dollar (at a 2:1 ratio).

Property taxes are low, so the overhead of owning or managing a rental in Belize is attractive. Also, foreign residents do not pay income tax in Belize on their non-Belize income.

Intrinsic Beauty and More

Bird in Belize
J.L Levy / Shutterstock.com

Most importantly, Belize is naturally beautiful, with year-round warm weather, warm waters, white sand, swaying palms, and friendly people.

This intrinsic beauty keeps Belize at the forefront as a successful and mature tourist market… so investors here are not gambling on an unproven idea or untested destination.

It’s also a big player in the ecotourism market and ranked as world-class for diving and snorkeling. Belize is also well-known for its sportfishing industry, drawing anglers from all over the Americas.

Importantly for investors, Belize is a Caribbean destination that’s inexpensive when compared to most everything else in the Caribbean…

So it draws middle-class investors and travelers in addition to the high-end investors seen throughout the Caribbean.

This broad appeal boosts rental returns and adds to market liquidity.

The Need for a “Plan B” Is Bringing People to Belize

Happy Retirees on a beach
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There are now multitudes of people in the States who understand the need for a Plan B.

That is, a plan that gives you the option to relocate yourself and your assets to a better… or safer… or more stable environment in another country on short notice.

And many of those who were not working on a Plan B before the pandemic are working on it now.

Many will end up in this tropical paradise due to its proximity to the United States, stability, low cost of living, easy residency, and English language.

The Hottest Destination in Belize

The Caribbean Island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
james bommarito / Shutterstock.com

Ambergris Caye is a narrow, 26-mile-long island just off the coast of the Belize mainland.

It’s the largest of around 400 cayes off the Belize coast and is home to about 15,000 people.

Formerly a backpacker destination, Ambergris Caye is now the target of high-end hotel and resort operators, such as Hilton and Marriott.

Best Western has also set up shop on Ambergris Caye, bringing their worldwide marketing power to a few projects on the island.

Ambergris accounts for about 70% of Belize’s significant tourism income.

It became famous among divers in the 1960s but gained widespread mainstream attention when the TV show “Temptation Island” was filmed there in 2001.

What Ambergris Caye Offers

Swimming with tropical fish
Tropical studio / Shutterstock.com

Located squarely within the barrier reef system, Ambergris Caye is where most divers and beachgoers go when visiting the country.

The barrier reef here is second in size only to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia.

The main population center on Ambergris Caye is San Pedro (locally called San Pedro Town), a typical, quirky Caribbean town that’s loaded with character… as well as a wide array of dining options, conveniences, and even an airport.

For the investor, Ambergris offers a lot.

It boasts a mature tourism market in a destination that’s best-in-class, in a country that’s world-renowned for its diverse tourism potential… from exploring Mayan ruins to watching a giant manta work the barrier reef.

The Real Estate Market on Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye / Belize - March 17 2018: Walking in the streets of San Pedro in Ambergris Caye
ClS / Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for a rental property, you can expect a diverse group of renters: tourists, potential expats checking the island out, and shoppers looking for a second home in the tropics.

There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of land in Belize, including beachfront.

The high season in Belize is roughly December through mid-April, with an extra-high season in January and February when rates can be slightly higher.

Occupancy will vary with the property and location. To be conservative, island-wide, I’d assume about 40% occupancy for an average property in an average location.

Hotel operators with premium properties in good locations assume 65% in their models, so an individual should certainly be able to beat 40% with a careful purchase.

Where to Invest on Ambergris Caye

woman on pier feeds flying sea birds with shoreline background in the Caribbean island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Lux Blue / Shutterstock.com

I divide the market into two broad options for the investor or buyer on Ambergris Caye: San Pedro Town and nearby areas, and the opposite version of Ambergris Caye—the remote tropical paradise.

1. San Pedro Town (and Areas Convenient to It)

Belize. Sunset on San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye Island
WitR / Shutterstock.com

This is where the tourism infrastructure is best and where I’d want to be if I were living on Ambergris Caye full-time.

I like the high energy, the music, the bars, cafés and great dining options. The Afro-Caribbean rhythm of life in San Pedro draws you in and hooks you.

San Pedro Property Pick:

I saw studio apartments for under US$150,000 that are part of an exclusive community.

The developer has partnered with Best Western, which brings the full weight of its name, spending power, and experience to market this project to tourists.

They’ll manage the entire rental process on your behalf, handing you a projected 6% to 10% ROI.

2. Remote Tropical Paradise

A luxury home with a pool and hot tub
EpicStockMedia / Shutterstock.com

I’ve seen tasteful developments and standalone homes that do an amazing job of conveying the impression that you’re on a remote island paradise—which you actually are—and a world away from the hustle, bustle, and noise of San Pedro.

If I were visiting Belize on vacation, this is the Belize I’d be after.

Remote Tropical Paradise Property Pick:

For a great tropical getaway, I saw a large, luxury property that looked like the epitome of luxury tropical island living.

The house has two bedrooms, three baths, and 186,000 square meters of living space, which is huge by island standards.

The house is bright and airy, with lots of beautiful Belizean hardwood and plenty of glass to maximize the tropical beach and sea views. The asking price is US$639,000.

Which Is Best?

Woman on vacation in tropical setting
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Property ads usually give the property’s distance from San Pedro (the only town), but to the landlord, that distance is less important than you might think.

I’ve seen properties in remote areas 10 miles north of town renting for more than US$250 per night, driven by vacationers who want that remote island experience in a quieter setting.

The property’s condition and appeal will trump the distance to town, despite the slow, rough road to get there.

That said, I think you’ll have a better market for expats and part-year residents if you’re within a reasonable distance of town.

Vacationers are willing to travel farther… but in the far-flung areas, you’ll have more vacationers and fewer long-term tenants.

Of course, you’ll need to consider how you want to use the property. If you plan to use it part of the year, then your personal preferences will play a big role.

The Best Buy in the Caribbean

Happy senior retiree living abroad in a tropical area
SueC / Shutterstock.com

I’m expecting the post-pandemic bump on Ambergris Caye to continue for a few reasons:

  • Belize had been closed to most foreign travel during the pandemic, and there is still a pent-up demand among vacationers.
  • And I also expect a continued surge of expat interest as more people realize the value of a home abroad. Belize, as always, will be at the forefront of this interest.
  • Belize is intrinsically beautiful, so interest in the country comes organically… without having to build it up with a sales pitch.

Best of all, prices for this Caribbean getaway are still reasonable.

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