Retirees “flocking to Belize”, says agent

The English-speaking Caribbean country, with a couple of hundred islands to its name, are drawing the notice of those looking for a picturesque place to put up their mature feet, according to Crystal Investment and Real Estate.

Indeed, go back a few years and the numbers of foreign retirees living in Belize numbered only a few dozen. Today, small but ever-expanding communities of expats and retirees seeking a back-to-basics lifestyle have established themselves in along the coastline.

The climate and stunning backdrop are attributed by the agent to the growing interest – but the country’s financial benefits are also a key factor.

Luke Smith, Managing Director of Crystal Investment and Real Estate explains: “Belize offers The Retired Persons Incentive Program which permits people to live 100 per cent tax free.”

The QRP program gives tax and residency breaks to foreigners with the status of a Qualified Retired Person (QRP). QRPs are exempted from all taxes on income and receipts, all import duties and taxes on personal and household effects upon first importation into Belize (up to a maximum value of US$15,000), all import duties and taxes every five years on approved means of transport (such as a motor vehicle, boat, or light aircraft) and can also have their dependents included in the program (spouse and children under the age of 18 or under the age of 23 if enrolled in college).

QRPs can also conduct business within Belize, if the business activities are mainly outside the country, and not with Belizeans, and are allowed to own rental properties too.

“To qualify for this program, the individual can come from any country, must have a minimum age of 45 and should have a qualifying non-Belizean based income of minimum 2000 US dollars per month. This person may be subjected to some background checks,” continues Smith.

“The tourism, agriculture and construction sectors are progressing rapidly. Among the Central American countries, Belize (2012 pop. approximately 307,000) has the largest foreign population who enjoy a low cost of living. Water, electric, telephone, local goods are inexpensive, however imported goods are costly.  

“Real estate is very affordable too.   It is difficult to say how much house prices have changed in Belize recently, as there are no official house price figures. They declined by as much as 25 per cent to 30 per cent after the global economic crisis in 2008, according to M.H. Chebat & Company’s Michel Chebat. Belize’s real estate market saw significant improvement in 2012, after slow sales in 2010 and 2011 as a continued reaction to the financial situation in the US. Despite problems selling their homes in the US, Americans found ways of purchasing property in Belize. This trend is continuing in 2013.

“In Belize, there are two prices for everything—the local price and the ‘rich foreigner’ price. Since majority of properties for sale are not advertised, the best way to get a feel of the difference between the Belizean price and the non-Belizean price is to travel to the country and spend time there.”