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Living In Belize

Fields and pastures, trees and jungle, rivers and livestock. Here and there a small house of concrete block or timber, in the distance the outline of the Maya Mountains. The land in Cayo is fertile. Farmers grow corn and sugarcane, watermelons and citrus.

We passed Mennonites driving horse-drawn carts and children walking home from school. Everyone going about his or her business, not much bothered, I’d bet, by sequesters, fiscal cliffs, or the mounting deficit. Here, in this land of escape, where life is simple, those things don’t seem to matter or even to register. Life here revolves around the land and values independence above all else.

To be truly independent in today’s world, you need to be energy-independent. That’s part of what Cayo offers, too--a chance to take yourself off the grid. Living in Belize doesn’t have to mean living a backward or burdened existence. Thanks to 21st-century technology, the self-sufficient life can also be comfortable, even fully appointed. This was what we made the trip out yesterday to see--progress at the riverfront development called “Carmelita Gardens,” where developer Phil Hahn is building a community of like-minded folks interested in being, as he puts it, “independent together” and completely self-reliant.

The first couple of houses have been built at Carmelita, and they’re charming. Modeled after Tennessee Williams’ home in Key West, these timber structures feature floors and ceilings of exotic hardwoods, long breezy porches, and an impressive attention to detail. They’re completely self-sufficient, with cisterns to catch water and solar panels to generate power...but also, again, comfortable, with washing machines, dryers, air conditioners, and dishwashers, if you want them.

These Carmelita homes are also affordable; you could own one, fully furnished and outfitted, starting for as little as US$100,000.

When Carmelita is fully built out, it will feature a “village green,” at the heart of the community, with space for retail and gatherings. Down at the river will be a small clubhouse and pool. And, all around, will be the wide-open spaces of Cayo.

After we’d toured Carmelita, Phil took us to see two other Belize builing developments he’s involved with--Mahogany Park and Maya Spring Estates. Phil’s vision for Mahogany Park centers around a business opportunity. His idea is to create a riverside restaurant and bar where tourists can rent rafting tubes, canoes, and other gear for river fun. “I think it could be an ideal situation for someone who wants to retire down here but who needs to supplement his or her retirement nest egg a little.” If the idea piques your interest, Phil would love to hear from you.

Maya Spring Estates is for people looking for a little more personal elbow room. The lots in this community are 3 to 9 acres. Many feature creek frontage, and the bigger lots are suitable for hobby farms or keeping a horse or two.

Lief and I hiked around...crossed the creek...considered the views from different vantage points...watched the sun begin its descent for the day...

“It’s getting late,” Lief said finally. “If we’re going to make our dinner meeting back in Belize City, we’d better get going.”

“Yes, yes, ok,” I said reluctantly.

Back in the truck, headed back in the direction of Belize City, I tried to refocus. I reviewed the agenda for our dinner meeting...thought over my opening remarks for attendees at this week’s Live and Invest in Belize Conference, which we kicked off this morning...remembered deadlines I was at risk of missing...

But, all the while, Cayo nipped at the edges of my thinking, teasing me, tempting me, calling me back...

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. I think Cayo was nipping away at the edges of Lief’s thinking, too...

“What would you think,” he asked me after we’d returned from our day out in Cayo yesterday, “of telling Phil that we’d like to invest in Lot 3 at Maya Spring Estates? I keep thinking how nice it would be to try our hands at farming out there. Lot 3 is about 9 acres. We could build a little house...plant some fruit trees...grow some vegetables...maybe even build a small stable and keep a horse for Kaitlin and Jackson. It’d give us a reason to return to Cayo more often...”

“You read my mind,” I replied.Continue Reading:

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The piece of land where Mahogany Park is being developed was chosen carefully. The property sits on the Mopan River just outside the town of Bullet Tree. The location is quaint, quiet, and back to basics. The river situation means cooling breezes and pleasant views.

As I said, this isn't a "gated community." No clubhouse, no gym, etc. All of that adds cost for the owners, both upon purchase (every amenity must be amortized over the prices of the lots) and ongoing (in the form of HOA fees). Plus, all of that would change the face of what's on offer here. If you want a full-amenity situation, you have other good options in this country. If you want sweet and simple country living, Mahogany Park could be just the thing.

While this isn't a master-planned community in the traditional sense, the property will be supported by roads, water, and electricity. You won't have to dig your own well, for example.

bullet tree

In addition, Mahogany Park will include a half-acre park with access to the river for use by all owners, a nice place to meet with your few neighbors and maybe share a cocktail at sunset. Otherwise, the property is being given over to dozens of mahogany trees (hence the name). Three of the lots are riverfront; owners of these will be able to step out your back door and be right at the river (note that there's a 66-foot government setback from the river's edge for construction).

With lots ranging from about 1/8th to 1/5th of an acre and prices starting at US$25,000, Mahogany Park is a very appealing option for someone looking to retire to Belize on a budget, build a second home, or invest in a small rental property. You could put up a two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot house for as little as US$70,000, including the septic system, meaning that you could have a comfortable home of your own in this riverfront setting within walking distance of town (Bullet Tree) for a total of less than US$100,000.

Belize is generally best known for its Caribbean lifestyle. That's out on Ambergris, and that's where you should look if you like to spend your days diving, snorkeling, and fishing. Belize's Cayo is a different place entirely. This is inland, in the mountains, in a region that has managed to remain largely undiscovered and undeveloped despite all the attention other parts of this country have attracted.

Frankly, the Cayo is my favorite part of Belize. The older I get, the more I appreciate the attractions of simple country living on the banks of a slow-going river. If that lifestyle appeals to you, too, the Cayo is one of the best places in the world to enjoy it.

Finding serviced lots in a riverfront setting at the prices on offer at Mahogany Park isn't easy--not in Belize or anywhere. And at Mahogany Park, there are only 23 of them.

Phil likes to launch any new project with a special offer. In this case, he's convinced me to offer a US$5,000 discount off the price of the first five lots sold. That means you could buy a lot in Mahogany Park for as little as US$20,000. I don't know of any opportunity anywhere that compares. And, again, this one is very limited in scope.

For more information on Mahogany Park, you can get in touch with Phil here.

Lief Simon


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Go here now to order Kathleen Peddicord's New Book!Continue Reading:

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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