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News: Central Americas best kept secret

Tue, 27 Nov 07

One of the best-kept secrets of Central America; Belize’s tourism market is now the country’s second best money-spinner. The developing eco tourism now equates to 18% of the country’s income...

Although the country borders Mexico and Guatemala, Belize has an English speaking populace, and up until 1973, was known as British Honduras. Belize gained independence from the British in 1981 but has retained its membership as a Commonwealth state. The fact that all business is conducted in English adds to the attraction of foreign direct investment to the country, for both property investment and second-home buyers.

Upsurge in tourist numbers

Belize boasts the second largest barrier reef in the world, magical Mayan ruins, and an array of jungles home to many endangered species such as the Manatee and Jaguar. The barrier reef protects over 386 Km of coastline and two thirds of the country is covered in bio-diverse, rich forests. The young, growing population of Belize stands at 300,000, still a relatively small nation.

An upsurge in tourist numbers has meant that property prices in Belize are rising steadily, but remains affordable. Property reports from local experts show a 15% annual increase in urban areas and a huge 30% along coastal areas. As a tax shelter, Belize also lends itself to a retirement market due to zero capital gains tax and inheritance tax, and extremely low property tax at 1% of the market value.

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Belize and all negotiations and paperwork are in English. The only restrictions relate to the purchase of land exceeding half an acre within a town or city, or 10 acres within rural areas to which purchasers would require special permission.

Demand for rental properties growing

The growth in tourism means that the demand for rental properties is on the up and local agents have estimated rental yields ranging from 4% to 9% with an income tax rate of only 1.75%. The government has also put in place some enticing incentives for local and foreign developers with emphasis on resorts, infrastructure and tourism services.

Property investment prices are dependent on what you buy and where you buy it. For example, a small house in a rural community would cost from $5,000, and a village home approximately $15,000. However, a villa in a luxury beach resort could cost in excess of $500,000.

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