It’s been 9 months since we made the biggest move of our lives and relocated to Belize. Wow, time flies, especially when you’re busy! Yes, busy. We spend our time either at the construction site of our future new home and business, or jumping through all the different hoops (work permits, hotel licence, etc). I thought I’d explain a bit about building in Belize since we’ve learned a few things along the way.
Note – this piece is written from the experiences of an immigrant and any advice is directed to future immigrants considering a move to Belize.
It’s a wise idea to start with a reputable realtor, such as Rob Colon (broker/owner of Re/Max Island Real Estate in San Pedro). A realtor will find you an investment-worthy piece of land and walk you through the land title process, etc. Realtors are also a wonderful resource for reputable referrals (we found our architect and contractor through referrals from our realtor).
An architect is also a brilliant idea. A local architect – not one from “home.” Local professionals are the experts about laws and codes and resources in Belize – why work with someone who isn’t familiar with these important details? Things like hurricanes, humidity, salt and sand need to be kept in mind when building near the ocean, for example.
The single most important decision is choosing a reputable and knowledgeable contractor. Some people believe they can act as the general contractor and while I understand you may be talented and knowledgeable about construction at home, if you are newer to Belize, I do not recommend taking this job on. Things are done differently here. Read: not wrong, different. Having a contractor that already has all the right contacts and resources and knowledge is invaluable. It will save you money in the long run. It’s just my advice. Take it or leave it! Our contractor is great and our build is on budget and ahead of schedule.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to physically be present during the construction. We see too many partly constructed buildings that have long been abandoned. Why? Either the money wasn’t managed well and it ran out, or even worse, somebody ran off with your hard-earned bucks.
We live in San Pedro, so building on an island in a tiny county in Central America has it’s challenges! Everything you need is available locally, however it is sometimes more cost effective to import some items from Mexico (Chetumal) or the USA. Import duties and taxes are pretty hefty, ranging from 20 to 65% and even 80 to 100% for items made of wood. It can still be cheaper, and definitely more variety, for some items (TVs, for example). Bottom line – do the research.
We are building full concrete, “hurricane proof” for around $150/sq ft (USD), give or take. Your cost will depend on how high-end you want to go, of course. Building in wood is less costly, but insurance will be higher and I won’t be visiting you if a hurricane should stop by for a visit. (They’re rare, but I’m Canadian and therefore they are foreign and terrifying to me).
We started construction in September 2018 and expect to be complete in April 2019. We have a fantastic, skilled, construction crew that works hard. A couple of the crew members actually live on the property to watch over everything (we have our own “Night’s Watch.”). They don’t need or want much and we definitely appreciate them! Snacks and beer go a long way to express our gratitude.
That’s the high level summary of our experience so far! We’ve had no major issues or headaches but I promise you that’s only because we are on site everyday.
We are building our beachfront home on an acre of land. We are also building Mångata Villas, consisting of 2 villas and 3 casitas (aka cabanas) soon to be tourist vacation rentals. Please follow our progress on Facebook and/or Instagram @Mangatavillas, and feel free to visit us and this beautiful country soon!