So many come to Belize, fall in love and start working out how they can invest in something more permanent than a 2-week vacation. Since there are so many things to consider I decided to accept an offer from a Belize City real estate attorney to give guidance to my readers.
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Ryan J. Wrobel, an American-born attorney who has called Belize home for the past 14 years (and counting). Ryan’s office, Wrobel & Co. deals predominantly in assisting people looking to move to or retire here in Belize and also assists with companies who would like to operate from Belize.
This will be helpful for those who interested in relocating to Belize and purchasing a property and/or business here in paradise. You will learn more about what is involved in an official capacity and especially what to watch out for.
What Not to do When Buying Property in Belize
One of my biggest joys as an attorney here in Belize is helping those people new to the country in purchasing their slice of paradise. On a daily basis, my firm is involved with real estate transactions ranging from small beach shacks to large development sites. There’s so much to love about Belize, from the year-round tropical weather to the favorable living conditions due to the cost of living, not to mention living a stone’s throw from the beach. But with these advantages, comes trouble in paradise for those unsuspecting folks who dive in before testing the depth of the water.
In this write-up, I will share some of my top tips for securing the property of your dreams and cover off on some of the checks and balances you (or your lawyer) should undertake in order to secure the property.
Buying property in Belize, even as a foreigner, is one of the more simple legal processes worldwide. The Belizean government tries to make it as easy as possible for you to get into your home, even providing uncommon tax advantages such as a lack of capital gains taxes when selling your home in Belize, along with all the other advantages that come along with the QRP (Qualified Retirement Program). However, there are several pitfalls that it would pay to be aware of when making your move on a property.
Without further ado, here’s what NOT to do when purchasing a property in Belize.
1. Do not skip due diligence
One of the biggest mistakes that would-be owners of property in Belize forget or neglect to do is to undertake their due diligence. Due diligence is a term used to encompass all aspects of the checks and balances required for any type of transaction.
Any property lawyer worth their salt will do standard checks such as a title check at the Ministry of Natural Resources. More skilled professionals who complete a more thorough due diligence on behalf of their clients will also undertake checks with the Registry of the Supreme Court in Belize in order to ensure the owner is not involved in any lawsuits that may impede the free transferability of the subject real property.
It is also worth your time and money to verify dimensions and boundaries of the parcel of land you are purchasing, especially in established neighborhoods.
There can sometimes be several meters difference between official boundaries and fence lines, which can cause serious issues in the future. Some firms, such as ours, are able to arrange for a site visit by a site surveyor. Dimensions of the lot are confirmed and new concrete markers are placed at the lot corners.
Due diligence is one of the most important steps to ensure that the business, house or land you purchase is legally binding. Not getting a trained professional to undertake this due diligence on your behalf could prove costly.
2. Do not forget to read the fine print of any agreement or contract you sign
Another error of judgment that sees innumerable people at a disadvantage in the rush to secure their property is the failure to read the fine print of the contracts they are signing.
It is vitally important to have a solid understanding of what it is that you are signing. I would personally recommend having a trained eye review any type of sales or purchase contract before you sign it. There are many legal terms used in contracts that can catch unsuspecting victims, and the relatively small investment in having a trained lawyer review these types of contracts can help avoid disaster.
3. Do not rush
As the slogan goes, Speed Kills, and this can apply to property transactions, too.
You may find that you get caught up in the moment, once you find the property of your dreams here in Belize and want to secure it as soon as possible.
You may also find some agents representing new developments, or condominiums, as they are commonly known here who will employ high-pressure sales tactics, coercing you to sign a contract and reserve your block of land, apartment, etc.
We would strongly counsel against this, as this approach could lead to you missing crucial detail related to your purchase decision. Ensure that you are comfortable with the finer points of the contract, the area in which you are buying and that you are totally confident with all aspects of the transaction. Having your legal representation by your side with each step of the transaction can and will pay dividends, and allocating sufficient time to complete the due diligence steps mentioned previously will protect you from anything that may go awry during the course of the transaction.
4. Don’t use independent escrow services
As there are no official licensed closing agents, title companies or escrow agents in Belize, it is important for the purchaser to utilize the services of a reputable law firm to assist with a real property transaction. This service allows for the secure release of funds and handing over of the title to the property once settlement/closing has occurred.
5. Don’t neglect to use the services of a Belize real estate attorney
Our last tip on what not to do when purchasing a property in Belize might be quite obvious by now, but it is imperative that you employ a licensed real estate attorney of high standing to protect your interests while completing your real estate transaction in Belize. Trying to go this path alone may lead to any number of undesirable outcomes which are easily avoidable with the right advice.
We hope you have found these tips on what not to do when purchasing a property in Belize helpful. As mentioned at the start of this blog entry, our firm is involved on a daily basis with real estate transactions in Belize. If you have any further queries please feel free to reach out to our firm, or visit our website, Wrobel & Co. for further information.
We would also be happy to answer any general queries in the comments section below over the next week.
If you find this post useful then you will get additional insight on the Living in Belize page.