BUYING REAL ESTATE IN BELIZE – THE PROCESS – RE/MAX Island Real Estate
Like in North America, there is a process. Over the years we at RE/MAX Island Real Estate have been leaders – and if we can use a fancy word – Trail Blazers, in stream lining the process for our clients. We secure services from trained professionals so that our investors can feel the same ease as they would if they were buying back home – albeit usually with better views on the island. This is what you can expect.
We’re gonna skip past the sexy part. After connecting and exchanging dozens and dozens of emails, WhatsApp messages, I put a shortlist together. You ride around on a golf cart with me and laugh at my dad jokes. With much patience your wife is happy. We finally found a property that checks all the boxes. So what happens next?
The first step would be to draft an offer or purchase agreement. We gather the legal description from the title and put it on a RE/MAX sales agreement and add your legal names as the buyers. We submit the offer to the selling side. I then proceed to take a bat and hit them on the kneecaps until they sign. Just kidding….I hit them on the shins.
Once terms and price point have been agreed upon the first thing we do is we high five obviously. We would request 2 forms of IDs (Bio Data Passport Page & Drivers License) from you or all parties that are to assume ownership. Unfortunately your Sam’s Club card won’t work. The Government of Belize requires this for proof of identity and residency.
How do you choose to take title? The recommendation to take title is a Belize Chapter 250 Corporation (our version of what you guys call an LLC). This reduces the Stamp Tax (Transfer Fee) from 8 to 5% as well as provides limited liability protection and serves as a holding company. The lawyer we recommend has a list of ready to go corps we recommend assuming to save time.
A US Trust can be the director and shareholder of the Belize Corporation but needs to be registered to do business in Belize. The title company does that on your behalf all together at closing. This cost is reflected on the 1.5% legal fees.
Another advantage of the Belize Corporation is that you can open a Belize Dollar bank account. This process can start once you legally own the property. We will connect you with the bank they will then request a list of documents needed to open a bank account. It will feel like they ask for everything including DNA samples but in the end a lot of my clients feel it is worth it.
If title is already held in a holding company or Belize Chapter 250, then no stamp taxes or transfer fees apply. The only fee would be 1.5% legal fees plus the transfer of shares and directorship which would be approximately 1%. The title company performs a full title and corporation search and offers an opinion with the end findings to guarantee clear title. It will also make sure the corporation has no liability and has done no business but act as a holding company for the property.
In certain situations and because the corporation name cannot be changed, we do end up with some pretty cool and sometimes some pretty unique names. Imagine taking ownership of Cheeseburgers In Paradise Limited or the coolest one I’ve seen is Casa Sin Pantalones Limited.
Home Inspections cost $600.00 and are recommended on all purchases. If you meet a Real Estate Professional that tries to tell you it’s not common, tell him this is not 2016! We hire a civil engineer and he flies down to perform the inspection and within 72 hours has a full report and recommendation back. These are all rentable units so the aesthetic stuff isn’t really what we are looking at. The major issues we inspect are appliances, HVAC, electrical and of course Structural Integrity. Resurveys range between $550.00 to $1900.00 depending on the lot size. Again, we get a professional licensed surveyor to carry out the resurvey. The results take between 48-72 hours.
Closings typically take 30/45 days however I always add an additional 15/30 day extension on all my contracts to purchase. The Belize Government requires wet signatures on all transfer of land documents submitted to the lands department. We use FedEx or DHL to send originals to buyer and seller for signatures and notarizations.
I can jump on a FaceTime call if that works for you guys to discuss further. I can also setup a phone call with our preferred closing agent/lawyer. Arguelles & Company is one of the Real Estate Law Firms that we use. The Firm’s focus is primarily on Real Estate Law and they give our clients first class service. Additionally they have a US based escrow account so earnest monies are held in a bank in the continental United States. I have found that this gives my clients just a little bit more comfort when sending earnest funds. Fund transfers can be confirmed as received within 24 hours as opposed to 7 business days if sent out of country from US to Belize.
The closing agent is your legal representative so we work together. Monies are only dispersed to seller once he confirms that all the required documents for a safe and guaranteed transfer can occur. After that funds are dispersed only after your authorization and permission. Emil & Saidi have been god sends throughout these busy times. Once funds are disbursed, Emil and his team have already submitted the required documentation to the Lands Department and Companies Registry and we can now track the submission with the LRS number issued. Easy right?
The blabbing or blogging ends here. At this point we have everything moving on cruise control and only wait for the title to be returned to Arguelles & Co. That is a whole other blog post. Although you have ownership and possession of the property, the physical title turn around time is between 9-12 weeks.
Let me know if you guys have any questions. Thank you again for allowing me to help share more information about Belize. Have a great day.
SAN PEDRO AGENT