BUYING AND SELLING LAND IN BELIZE:
BUYING LAND IN BELIZE
Buying land in Belize might be the second easiest official procedure which you can do in Belize, the first being obtaining your entry visa into Belize -for most nationalities, a quick glance at your passport at your point of entry, land or airport, will earn you a free 2 week or one month stay in our tropical haven. Longer than that, can usually be had for the cost of $35. Bz. per month. Many people who decide to reside here, either 1. use the retired persons program, offered by the GOB, (Government of Belize) (http://www.belizeretirement.org/incentives.shtml ),2. if intending to work here, purchase a work permit, ( usual term is for one year, renewable, and which usually includes the worker's family's residence for the same time frame), cost depending on both nationality of applicant and type of work , or 3. pay the monthly fee and, after a year's residence in-country, make formal application to become a 'Permanent Resident' of Belize. After a further 5 years residence, a person can then apply for nationality as well. Most countries now allow dual-nationality. Most of us at Holdfast are dual nationals - of Belize and the United States.
Fyi, as well as the easy land purchase requirements here, there are no capital gains or inheritance taxes. Nice.
Buying land here is equally simple...the procedures for land purchase is the same for foreigners as for native Belizeans. The transfer tax,, known as the 'stamp tax', (which is 5 % of the purchase price, after exemption on the first 20,000 Bz$) was recently reduced to be the same for all purchasers, regardless of nationality. There are a few other costs, itemized below.
Land in Belize, comes in 3 forms of title, all of which are guaranteed to be indefeasible by the government. There is not much you need to know about these, more than the following:
The oldest form of title THE CONVEYANCE,
The 2nd form , is THE TRANSFER CERTIFICATE OF TITLE, fondly referred to as the TCT.
The 3rd form and the most modern, is THE REGISTERED LAND CERTIFICATE. The entire country will eventually be transferred to this system. However, this is taking some time, and is not anticipated to be completed for several years.
Truly, there is not much that you as a purchaser need to know about title documents more than this: Ask your realtor which type of title the land you have chosen to purchase carries. Then, follow the following guidelines, according to type of documentation.
Registered Land Certificates are the most transparent - any lien, or complication concerning the property is shown on this, and, because of this, many purchases of this type, are consummated in either a realtor's or a justice of the peace's office, rather than in an attorney's.
In Cayo District, where Holdfast is headquartered, the Santa Elena side - that is, the town on the east bank of the Macal River, has already been converted into the registered system. The San Ignacio side, on the west bank, has just last month (Jan 09) been declared as a 're-registration area', meaning, that government is giving notice to all landowners, that now they must convert their titles(today mainly conveyances) into the newer Registered Land Certificates. Time is given for this procedure, during which land transactions can still proceed under the old system.
Most of the rural Cayo District titles are still in either Conveyances, or TCT's. We at Holdfast recommend that you choose an attorney for the paperwork required for purchases of these types of title (Conveyances and TCT's) - for the security of a complete title search, and to insure that the paperwork is correctly executed. We can provide you with recommendations of attorneys who specialize in real estate, and with whom we have worked successfully.
The costs of an attorney for this (Conveyance, TCT, or Registered Land Certificate land sale) ranges from 1/2 % to as high as 2 % of the purchase price, with most firms having a minimum fee of $500 Bz. Often in Belize, purchasers and vendors, agree on and then share the expenses of one attorney, to complete the transfer. You can choose the method with which you feel the most comfortable. Holdfast, and most local realtors, have an in-house fee of $500. Bz. for paperwork for Registered Land Certificate Sales, including all trips to Belmopan for delivery of title to purchaser. If paperwork has to be fed-exed to purchaser or vendor, these fees are additional.
So, in summary, for most transactions, you will have:
a. the land price,
b. the price for the paperwork - either, 1/2 % to 2 %, or 500 Bz $, for Conveyance or TCT for an attorney, or realtor doing paperwork.
c.. a 5% 'stamp tax', or transfer tax, charged by the GOB (Government of Belize), on the actual selling price, AFTER, an exemption on the first $20,000. Bz$ of the purchase. For example, for a purchase of $100,000., the stamp tax would be (100,000 less 20,000 = 80,000.) $80,000. x 5 % = $4,000.
d. for some types of purchases - namely, the first transfer of parcels in new subdivisions, there is a new additional tax of 10 % applied. You should inquire from your realtor, if these apply, and if they will be passed on to you as purchaser. This is a new feature to real estate here, and the kinks are still being worked out.
The time frame for most transactions, after completion of the document preparation (which varies) and signing off of all requirements by vendor and purchaser, the purchaser having provided a copy of their passport(s) (for identification and record of nationality in GOB's records), and the necessary filing fees ( usually $30. Bz $, and sometimes included in the attorney's fees,) is approximately 30 days. After elections, with the change of parties in power in February 08, there was a slight backup of paperwork in the Lands Department in Belmopan, but this has lately been rectified, with many new policies and swifter transactions taking place.
Strangely, almost all land prices that you will encounter in Belize, are given in U.S. Dollars. This has been the case, for the past 50 years - as long as some of us have been here, and we can't explain it, as it originated in an era when the Belize and United States dollars were NOT pegged together. (The very first official realtor in Belize, in the late 50's though, was an American - Mr. W. Ford Young.) All other fees associated with land transactions - attorney's fees, stamp tax, etc, are spoken of in Belize Dollars. Occasionally in the tourism area, especially on the cayes (islands) will you encounter prices listed in U.S. currency. Almost all the other prices, will be in the local Belize Dollars. Contracts should specify in writing which it is. Most attorneys and realtors offer escrow services for both Belize and U.S. Dollars. The Association of Real Estate Brokers of Belize (AREBB), to which Holdfast belongs, is currently working with the GOB to standardize and facilitate many facets of Real Estate business in Belize. AREBB has recently affiliated with NAR of the United States too.
Another word - if you are the adventurous type who is thinking of purchasing direct from seller, be aware that there is a lot of leased land, which is not yet titled. Yes, you can purchase, and assume someone else's lease, but, perhaps you might need an attorney, or someone to guide you. Holdfast, and many of the leading established realtors do not list or deal with leased land, in general. There may be exceptions. However, first items for you as purchaser would be to research, in whose name is the lease (ie, is the person purporting to sell same , the same person listed on the lease) and secondly, is the lease paid up to date.
SELLING LAND IN BELIZE
We at Holdfast offer services to the purchaser and to the vendor. We concentrate on lands in the western Cayo District, but occasionally carry lands in other districts, and cooperate with all AREBB real estate brokers countrywide. We have excellent contacts in the Placencia area - Bayshore Ltd. ( www.BayshoreBelize.com >, Consejo Shores area up north, and in San Pedro Town, to assist you. We are a family business- small, and we aim to please. We would be delighted to hear of your real estate requirements, and try to work out suitable arrangements with you.
Like most realtors, there are no charges to the vendor for listings with us. We prefer, and can do more advertising for your particular property, if the listing is exclusive, but we also work with open listings (listings where several brokers are involved, or the vendor also wishes to try to locate purchaser). Our usual term of listing is 10 months, but again, we will work with every client as individual, according to your needs. We have several clients who list with us for a term 'until sold'. Let's talk !!