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Each unit has one bedroom, one bathroom, and a kitchen. The 672-square-foot cottages and suites also include a living room and two porches. The studios, which are 336 square feet, have no living room and just one porch. Cottages are independent buildings, while the suites and studios are part of two "stately country houses," as Phil calls them.

The River Club will have a restaurant, laundry, and gift shop for guests and River Club owners. Owners and guests will also have access to the other amenities in Carmelita Gardens, most notably the Belize River, which borders the property.

Carmelita Gardens is a unique sustainable community. The entire project is off-grid with each house designed and built with solar electric systems, cisterns for rain catchment (common in Belize), and eco-friendly wastewater-processing systems.

Just 15 minutes from Carmelita in one direction is San Ignacio (the biggest town in the Cayo and an important local meeting place) and just 15 minutes in the other direction is Spanish Lookout (the main Mennonite village in the area...the place to go for building supplies and labor). Living at Carmelita, you'll feel like you're enjoying the best of country life (as you would be) while enjoying quick, easy access to grocery stores, restaurants, bars, hardware stores, and services.

Development at Carmelita Gardens is well underway. Five houses have been completed, and another five are under construction or in planning stages. The 20 River Club units will add significantly to the size of the current community while also providing a critical necessity—comfortable places for lot owners to stay while overseeing the construction of their own homes. These homebuilders are a built-in and eager rental market.

An important element of the plan for Carmelita Gardens (as you might guess from the name) is its gardens. The garden and orchard areas will be communal. Residents will be able to participate as much or as little as they like planting vegetables and picking fruit. 

That's the lifestyle appeal of Carmelita Gardens. However, the appeal of the new River Club units is more straightforward. This phase is intended for the investor buyer looking for rental yield. I'd say, though, that the ideal investor in this River Club opportunity would also appreciate the lifestyle on offer and the community being formed at Carmelita Gardens. Property investments in another country are always best made when they're a marriage of personal and profit agendas. As a River Club owner, you could plan to use your unit as often as you'd like. As I've said, these haven't been designed for full-time living but would make for great holiday homes.

Rental yield projections are hard to put together for any rental property in Cayo, especially one targeting the middle of the market as the River Club is. On one hand, as a River Club owner, you would have no competition for your unit. On the other hand, you have no occupancy track record to reference. How many travelers in this region would be happy to pay a bit more for better-than-low-end accommodation and how many would welcome a more affordable option to the pricey high-end jungle resorts? No one could say right now.

However, as I've pointed out, I think that the core market for these units will be Carmelita Gardens lot owners needing places to stay while they build their houses. Thinking longer term, I think you'd also see traffic from visiting friends of owners who were clever enough not to build guest rooms on their own lots.

Projecting a conservative annual occupancy guesstimate of 40% and an average nightly rental rate of US$100, you could realize a net annual yield from an investment in one of these units in the double digits. Drop either the nightly rate or the occupancy rate in half (to be ultra-conservative), and you're still looking at a solid 5% net annual yield…plus use of the place yourself a few weeks a year if you wanted.

Bottom line, I see this as a great investment for anyone who has any interest in spending time in this part of the world.

Four of the 20 total River Club units have been sold to Carmelita owners. Live and Invest Overseas readers are the first outsiders to be invited to participate in the opportunity.

You can request more details, including floor plans, from Phil and his team here.

Lief Simon

Continue Reading: Low-Humidity Retire Overseas Options

The rentals market in Cayo is thin. You can shop for weeks or longer and not find a place to rent that'd qualify as comfortable by North American standards. All the would-be retirees interested in trying Cayo on for size are competing for a relative handful of suitable rental properties. The demand for quality rentals is heating up.

At this week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit in Belize City, developer Phil Hahn, with more than a decade of experience building in this country, presented a new investment offer that addresses this growing need. Phil has launched a phase of his riverside Carmelita Gardens community where he is building a cluster of turn-key rental units to be known as "The River Club."

Carmelita Gardens is a planned sustainable development where every house will be self-sufficient through the use of alternative energy and rainwater catchment systems. This is the first master-planned off-grid development in Belize, and it's not just the off-grid element that makes the community sustainable. Carmelita Gardens has been planned to include communal gardens and orchards so that every homeowner can grow his own food if he'd like. You could farm and garden all day every day if you wanted and live completely off the land...or you could be a "weekend gardener," growing some fresh vegetables to complement your weekly visit to the grocery store. It's up to you.

Having a mile of river frontage gives residents at Carmelita Gardens access to water activities, as well as a nice breeze to help cool things off on hot days. Now, along the river, on one of the river village lots, Phil has decided to build a group of 15 cottages intended specifically to serve as rentals.

These one-bedroom, one-bath River Club homes will help meet the need for rentals both in Carmelita Gardens and the greater Cayo region. Many owners at Carmelita Gardens are starting construction of their houses and need places to stay when they visit to check on progress. Some would prefer to live on the property full time while their houses are under construction. Right now, only one of the handful of finished houses at Carmelita is available for rent, and it's full much of the time.

Elsewhere, options for accommodation are mostly US$250-a-night jungle resorts and lower-end hotels and hostels. The new eco-rentals at Carmelita Gardens will fill the gap and offer an upscale, comfortable place to stay for a reasonable cost.

In theory, you could live in one of these 512-square-foot River Club cottages; however, they have been designed as rentals and with the investor in mind. They will be built using the same sustainable technology as all other structures at Carmelita Gardens, including solar electricity, treated catchment water systems, and eco-friendly septic. Each unit will come fully furnished and with appliances installed, ready to rent.

Of the 15 units available at River Club, 7 have been reserved. The remaining units start at US$76,500. Property management will be in place, and projections are for cash flow to begin within 18 months.

Based on current and expected demand and assuming a reasonable nightly rate, the projected annual yield from these units is 10%. Plus, owning one of these River Club units would give you a ready place to spend time in one of the world's most appealing get-away-from-it-all destinations.

If that's something that appeals to you...and you're in the market for a good rental investment opportunity...I'd recommend following up on this quickly. As I said, inventory is limited.

For more information on Carmelita Gardens and The River Club, you can get in touch here.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. We've been recording every presentation of this week's Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit, including Phil's on his new River Club investment opportunity. Even if you couldn't join the group in Belize, you don't have to miss out on all the intelligence, recommendations, advice, and strategies being shared.

These audio recordings will be edited and bundled to create our first-everWealth Building and Diversification Kit available pre-release for 50% off the regular price through Sunday, Nov. 2 only. Details are here

Continue Reading: Quality Of Health Care In Cuenca, Ecuador



"Belize is like Key West back in the day..."

--A Live and Invest in Belize Conference attendee who grew up in Key West

"Forget the golf course! Put in a garden instead..."

--Belize developer Phil Hahn on the vision behind his Carmelita community

"This isn't a consumer culture. This is a conservation culture..."

--Expat Amma Carey on the experience of living in Belize

"Belize is an entire country that feels like a small town..."

--Belize expat Macarena Rose

"The motto of Belize is: 'Under the shade of the mahogany tree we flourish.' In my now long experience doing business in Belize, I've learned that, if ever I can't find a local business partner, it's a good bet that he's under the shade of a mahogany tree somewhere...flourishing..."

--Phil Hahn

"Go slow. We have two cemeteries and no hospital."

--Sign on Caye Caulker, Belize

"There are more than 600 Mayan ruin sites in Belize. It's the greatest density of sites in all the Mundo Maya. In some caves in some parts of the country, you walk past Mayan pottery...actual pots made and used and left behind by the Mayans themselves...just laying around on the ground. There's the chance that the Department of Anthropology will close these caves, but, for now, they're open. You can visit them anytime..."

--Belize expat Jim Hardesty

"In September 1798, the Spaniards had been trying to push the Belizean settlers out. Local lore here in Belize has it that the Belizeans, a rag-tag band of pirates, slaves, and misfits, beat off the mighty Spanish Armada. That's not actually what happened. What actually happened is that the Belizeans annoyed the Spanish into leaving. Those pirates, slaves, and misfits swam out into the ocean and cut the lines of the Spanish ships...again and again. They moved the channel markers and generally irritated and confused the Spanish, who, eventually, gave up and went home.

"This Battle of St. George's Caye, as it's called, is a good lesson for life in Belize. Belize will do her best to annoy drive you away. Don't let her. Life here is worth all the struggles and all the frustrations..."

--Phil Hahn

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. What else this week?

  • I recognized the feeling when it hit. I've had it every time I've returned to this little corner of the world--the sensation of escape.

Escape from the obligations of the office back in Panama City...escape from the deadlines...escape from the grind...escape from concern over what's going on in the rest of the world, whatever that might be...

As we continued along the Western Highway, speeding toward the district of Belize known as Cayo, I was less and less distracted by the to-do list I'm forever reviewing in my mind...and more and more distracted by the view outside the truck window...

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. This 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," 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...

  • "What in the world am I gonna' do with her?"

That was Mick Flemming's first impression of me, he admitted years later, as I climbed down from the four-wheel-drive jeep in my linen suit and beige pumps.

I was 23-years-old, a just-starting-out travel writer, in Belize for the first time...

  • "Many folks come to Belize for the beach life," explained full-time Belize expat Jim Hardesty to the crowd gathered with us in Belize City for this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference today. "That's why it's worth pointing out that the entire community of Orchid Bay, where I live, is directly on the water...right on the sand."

Belize is known for sandy beaches; however, those out on Ambergris Caye get most of the attention. The beaches on this country's mainland coast are less recognized but no less quintessentially Caribbean. Because they get so much less attention than the beaches out on the cayes, they can also be much more affordable. This is the case with Orchid Bay.

Another big advantage of Orchid Bay is that it's built. Buy (that is, pay for) what you see, we remind you often. At Orchid Bay, the infrastructure is in, amenities (a dock, a restaurant, a dockside bar, an equestrian center) have been built, and houses have full-time residents.

Now, don't misunderstand. Orchid Bay isn't about flash. When I say that the infrastructure is in, I'm not suggesting that these sandy shores are now backed by parking lots of asphalt, high-rise condo towers, or souvenir shops. The "clubhouse" has a thatched roof. No structure is higher than three stories. Residents get around most often using their own two feet or on horseback...

  • I heard last week for the first time of NORCs: Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

The example I heard about was a NORC in Fairfax County, Virginia. House prices in this area have skyrocketed over the past few decades (the downturn of housing markets across the country notwithstanding). The current average cost for a home in Fairfax County is US$700,000; few newcomers can afford to move in.

Meanwhile those who live there, mostly government employees with fat salaries or fat pensions, need or want to stay. Voila. With few people moving in, and few moving out, the community ages naturally. It becomes a NORC.

In my experience, you'll find nothing NORC-like in expat communities. In most cases around the world, you'll find nothing like traditional retirement communities, either. Instead, overseas retirement communities are mobile, young and vital.


PLUS--From resident global real estate investing expert Lief Simon:

In Belize this week for the Live and Invest in Belize Conference, Kathleen and I took a day to travel out to the Cayo District to visit some development projects that I'm involved in. One is Maya Spring Estates. The idea here is privacy and elbow room. The developer has allowed for just 20 lots, each one big enough to serve as a base for a fully self-sufficient lifestyle. Lot sizes range from two-and-a-half acres up to more than nine-and-a-half acres, meaning you have enough room to build a house and have a large garden or even a small farm. The land in Cayo is very fertile, and this is one of the best places on earth to grow things. That's the attraction for me.

Creating a destination where we could be fully self-sufficient has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years. Self-sufficiency is a growing agenda for many people, and Belize is one place you can easily organize a fully self-sufficient life using solar power to run your house, growing your own food, keeping some animals, and, if you have the inclination, even building your own furniture out of local hardwoods.

Belize is also a good place to be self-sufficient because Belizeans like to take care of themselves. They always have. Founded by pirates, the country prizes independence above everything else (despite having been independent from the U.K. for only about 30 years).

Carrying on in that tradition of independence, Maya Spring Estates will be a small community for self-sufficiency aficionados. The infrastructure will be basic, including roads and electricity (although I'm planning for my house to be off the grid). You could have your own well if you prefer, or you could go with a water catchment and storage system. Modern, efficient wastewater systems will be used for effluent.

Maya Spring Estates' location in the Cayo is near enough (15 minutes) to San Ignacio so that residents will be able to take advantage of the restaurants and shops there, but the property is very much out in the country, meaning privacy and quiet. The small village of Santa Familia is just a few minutes away and the Mennonite settlement of Spanish Lookout is only about 20 minutes away. Spanish Lookout is where you'd go for your farm supplies if farming is part of your plan.

Our plan is to build a house that we'll use for vacation and rental income in the short and medium term. However, as we're buying more than nine acres, we also intend to see if we can find a local farmer interested in leasing it from us to make it productive.

Even if we never grow a single tomato or ear of corn on the property, though, we'll have the foothold in Cayo that we've been wanting for some time. We like it here. Coming to Belize is a chance for escape. The rush of everyday life disappears as soon as you step off the plane. And at Maya Spring, we'll be able to sit on our porch and enjoy the peacefulness of both the location and of knowing that we could take care of ourselves if we had to. If the world were, in fact, to go completely haywire, as some think it will, we'd be fine.

For more information about Maya Spring Estates, you can inquire here. The first three lot buyers get a US$5,000 discount. We've already taken the first lot so that leaves two more available with the discount.

Editor's Note: Now that the final speaker has left the stage, work has begun in earnest to edit the recordings from this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. As soon as the recordings (all 32 of them!) have been edited, we'll bundle them with our "Live and Invest in Belize" manual and other key Belize resources to create our new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.

Meantime, this one-of-a-kind Belize resource in the making is available pre-release at a 50% discount. Details here.


Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

Go here now to place your order!


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:

Image credit: drterdal


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


Kathleen Peddicord's New Book "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas" Available Now Pre-Release!

Kathleen Peddicord's latest book, published by Wiley & Sons, hits bookstores April 8. Starting now, though, you can buy a copy pre-release and save 36% off the release price!

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.

Read more here.


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