This is a story of one expat’s experience of selling their home and possessions in the United States and moving to the beautiful and welcoming country of Belize.
Our Journey Begins
My journey began with my husband and I wanting to move out of the U.S. We wanted to live in a part of the world where it was warm. My husband’s pains from military injuries would be lessened and we could live at a calmer and healthier pace. After months and months of research and visiting numerous countries we landed here in Belize. As fate would have it, one of the best realtors happened to be filling in for a colleague who was out of town – enter Robert Colon. Knowledgeable, patient, kind and extremely helpful, Robert helped us through the purchase (then sale) of our first condo. Then again for our second – which is now our full time home.
When we first moved down here permanently 18 months ago, Robert asked if we would write a little story about the logistics of our move – I waited – Island time, you know. I fit right into it.
I’ll skip the selection of location – that was a LOT of research and a lot of traveling. Belize selection made. Ambergris Caye was selected because it is a comfortable first step leaving the States. So, how to actually make the move?
Getting Ready For the Big Move
Start by getting your home ready for the market – you want top dollar, so do the prep work – then price it right for a quick sale. While your home is on the market, start selling the stuff you do not need.
We sold $5,000 worth of stuff on Ebay that was stored in closets and we were not using.
We scanned all of our photographs and threw out the originals – they will mold and decay in this sub-tropical climate and now I have them forever.
Take photographs of trinkets that are dear to you, but you don’t really need to move – keep the love, pass the item along.
Really think about what you need down here – not what you want – what you need (and sure, bring a few what you wants). It is a simple life here. You can wear shorts and flip flops to the best restaurants on the island. Yes, you do have opportunities to dress for the occasion, but you don’t need to bring your tux. (Of course, my husband brought his dress kilt – and has worn it here, but that is another story.)
If you have to travel north in the winter, put your winter clothes in those bags that suck all the air out and LEAVE them in there. Your winter clothes will mold if they are not aired out well – as in not touching any other item. So does anything else. That is why less is more.
Once we had a contract on our home, we used the services of a company that runs “tag sales” aka estate sales. They came into our home on Monday. The staff put price tags on everything that was not moved into our “safe room,”. Then held the sale on Friday and Saturday. At the end of it all, we had $12,000 from basically a really well organized garage sale. We had only a few items for local charities to pick up. And most importantly, we were not exhausted. Tired, yes.
Then came the packing. This is important, pay attention. Get some large white labels and a wide point permanent marker (I had blank UPS shipping labels left over and they were perfect). Use heavy duty packing boxes. Your stuff is going on a truck from your home on land to a cargo container on the sea, to a barge, to a truck. Spring for the extra cost of a heavy duty box.
Pack each box and keep an inventory of what goes inside. Put your big white label on the box, number it with your big wide marker, then go to your spreadsheet (or your pad of paper, but the ability to print out this list and email this list will make your life easier) and list what you just put in the box.
Keep receipts on any new item you purchased for your new home. Scan them if possible, you will need them at this end.
Packing done, we and friends loaded up our moving truck. We could have called a moving company to transport, but I really wanted to retain custody of our stuff until we delivered it to the cargo company.
We were able to sign our closing documents in advance, so we skipped sitting at the mortgage closing table and literally dropped the car off at CarMax on the way out of town.
There we were, waving goodbye and saying hello to a wonderful new world.
Shipping Our Must-Haves
We drove our rental truck to Miami where Hyde shipping helped us palletize our load, filled out the shipping paperwork and 7 pallets of household goods were on the way to our new home. Yes, I’m sure you are saying “what?!- 7 pallets?” Yes, we wanted specific high efficiency appliances in our new home and certain items were simply more cost effective to bring with us – an induction stovetop, a fancy clothes washer, a wall oven, a specific refrigerator, our air number beds, my kitchen items (not because you cannot find things here – because I want my specific All Clad pans, good knives – the stuff that I spent years getting that didn’t make sense to buy all over again.)
Our less than container shipment was shipped out of Miami Monday and was in Belize City Thursday. We called a customs broker to handle the clearing for us. We emailed him the inventory and the receipts for items we purchased. He handled the rest – at a remarkably affordable price. The customs and duty process took a little over a week as we needed an environmental certificate for the high efficiency refrigerator we brought over, but no problem. After we paid our duty and the broker’s bill at a local bank (yes, here you go to the bank and make a deposit into an account as payment – not credit card, not check, bank deposit, snap a pic of the receipt and text it to the vendor.)
Upon payment, our broker arranged to have our belongings placed on a barge and our wonderful local barge company showed up at my door (a day before they said they would). The barge company not only arrived with our belongings, they arrived with a crew to unload and carry it up to the 2nd and 3rd floors of my new home. That’s where the inventory came in handy again. I was able to say – “upstairs or this floor.” Everyone on the crew got a tip and the ones that hung around got a homemade lunch – chicken, rice and beans made by this gringa.
Our New Island Life
It has been 18 months now and I could not be happier. I love my new community. It’s different when the “snow birds” leave and the wind calms and the temperature rises. It is hot, it is dusty and it is wonderful. A trip to town for groceries takes a while. You stop and say hello, ask how the family is, chat about upcoming events. It’s nice to take trips to the mainland to see more of the country. We’ve enjoyed getting to know the expat year ‘rounders and the neighbors.
I would not trade this move for the world. There is nothing I miss about my old home and so much to love in my new home. We are truly blessed.