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
Belizeans are known for their hospitality. Plus, they all speak English, so new friendships are quickly and easily made. Corozal is home to an established and growing expat community, but this group is well integrated with the local Belizean community. Living here, how would you fill your days? Sailing around Sarteneja, horseback riding at Chan Chich, kayaking at Orchid Bay, fishing at Bacalar Chico, or bird watching at Crooked Tree Lodge, and you wouldn't ever lack for company, Belizean or expat, if you wanted it. While some expat retirees are prepared to be pioneers and carve a homestead out of the jungle or maybe plant a farm, most prefer to settle in a town (the three most appealing for expat retirees are Sarteneja, Corozal, and Orange Walk) or in one of the expat pockets developing in places like 4 Mile Lagoon and Gringo Lane. In recent years, planned communities have developed specifically with the foreign retiree in mind. Property taxes are miniscule in Belize. This is a plus on one hand, but it means that municipal services are thin on the ground. There just aren't funds to support them, thus the appeal of the organized and private communities that are evolving. These are places where you can enjoy a laid-back, bargain Caribbean lifestyle in Northern Belize while maintaining a North American standard of living. Retirees settling in this part of Belize are launching all manner of businesses, from restaurants, bars, and B&Bs to construction services and farming. Others are well and truly retired, choosing to spend their days deciding which book to read next or which restaurant to boat over to for lunch. Corozal (which is both a town and a district) maintains a Friendship List so expats can stay in touch and know what's going on. Every Wednesday, foreign retirees and residents meet at Jam Rock Restaurant for darts. One Thursday per month is the Corozal Women's Forum. Fridays are for Happy Hour and potluck dinners in expats' homes. The third Saturday of each month is Art in the Park, when local artists set up tables to display and sell their work. There's a local chapter of the Rotary Club, a Sailing Club, and Full Moon concerts in front of the Corozal House of Culture. Despite the growing expat influence and excluding most waterfront property, real estate in this part of the country is still priced for the Belizean market. This is unusual and likely won't continue much longer. The presence of foreign buyers eventually translates to pricing for foreign buyers. This hasn't happened yet, though, meaning a window of opportunity. As anywhere in the world, waterfront land is the highest priced and much more expensive than inland property. Still, the cost of waterfront in Northern Belize is a bargain compared with prices out on Ambergris and Belize's other cayes and an even greater bargain compared with values elsewhere in the Caribbean. It's possible to buy a sea-view lot for as little as US$30,000 or a small but turn-key casita in some of the development communities in the region for less than US$200,000. Also recently on the market was a seafront house in Sarteneja built to U.S. standards on 1 acre of land and listed for US$299,000. Inland you can find larger properties suitable for farming. If this idea interests you and you're willing to dig deep and talk to the locals, you can find land for as little as US$1,000 per acre. Belize Correspondents Phil Hahn and Jim Hardesty are working on a complete guide to living, retiring, and owning property in Northern Belize to be featured in the December issue of my Overseas Retirement Letter. Stay tuned. Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Phil and Jim will also be joining us for our Live and Invest in Belize events in January 2015. Details are here.
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Another neighbor has begun construction of his guesthouse on his 5-acre parcel. This will be followed by gardens and then, later, the main house. Lief and I also plan to build a guesthouse and a farmhouse on our plot at Maya Spring. First, though, we're interested in getting some trees growing. The Maya Spring community barbecue last night was a chance for us to formulate a plan with resident horticulturist Con (the one with the flat tire). We have 9 acres to work with. About 1.5 acres will be given over to the farmhouse, guesthouse, and kitchen gardens. The remainder of the land we want to treat as a mini-plantation. Our idea is to plant timber intercropped with specialty plants prized by florists. Lief and Con considered different Belizean hardwoods—mahogany, cabbage wood, cedar, rosewood—and Con suggested two varieties of palms whose fronds are in great demand and saleable for relatively large sums even locally in Belize. "Let's start by planting 100 neem trees along the far perimeter," Lief suggested. "That'll create a wall for privacy and also help control pests." "No problem," Con replied. "Can you get 100 neem trees?" I asked. "No, I don't think so," Con admitted. "People here, they grow a few trees and sell them. You don't find anyone with large stocks of inventory. But I can work with a grower to produce 100 neem trees and everything else you guys want." "What about the harvests?" I continued. "We want to keep this experiment as simple and low-key as possible. We're working with a small piece of land. We won't be growing enough to make exporting the harvests worthwhile. Would we be able to sell the timber we're thinking of producing in Belize?" "Definitely," Con said. "The timber and also the palms. I've been working with a hotel out on Ambergris, for example, that wants hundreds of the specialty palm fronds I'm suggesting you plant per month, but they can't source them." Lief and I know next-to-nothing about farming. But we have an interest, based mostly on a natural curiosity and an affinity for growing things. We're not doom-and-gloomers, but we do also like the idea of learning how to be more self-sufficient. Our 9 acres at Maya Spring Estates is our first focused effort at this. We feel lucky to have connected with Con, the friend of a friend, who shares our passion for planting and backs it up with experience, know-how, and local connections. "Make it so!" Lief proclaimed to Con with uncharacteristic enthusiasm after we three had agreed a plan. Maybe he'd had one too many One Barrel rums. The Cayo sky was fully dark by now. Above us a bright moon and a blanket of stars...in the distance, beyond the hills, the lights of nearby San Ignacio. "Time to head out," I said to Lief and Jack. "Couldn't I stay here?" Jack asked. "I could sleep in one of these hammocks. Just cover me with bug spray and come back for me in the morning..." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Whether you're after a place by the beach...or in the interior Cayo region (with its Mayan ruins, caves, rivers, waterfalls, and rain forest)... safe, welcoming, English-speaking Belize offers many appealing options. Which is why, I guess, our annual Live and Invest in Belize conferences sell out every year. We are just about ready to open registration for our 2015 Belize event, and because we'd like to be able to accommodate as many interested readers as possible, this time we're trying something new. We're planning not one event, but two, back to back. We have doubled our capacity. Still, based on experience, we expect these two conferences, taking place January 2015 in Belize City, to sell out. If you're interested in joining us for these once-a-year Belize occasions, watch this space. We'll be alerting you within the next 24 hours that registration has opened. Again, we've got twice the number of seats available this time, but we'll still have to fill them first-come, first-served!
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This is life today for a huge segment of the population in the United States.
Maybe it's time to stand up and say: Enough.
I did, five years ago. I said enough to the uncertainty and the worries of life in the United States and opted for a new life, in Belize. For me, this choice was all about new opportunities and new possibilities for growth and development and reclaiming the American Dream. Here's what my experience in Belize has shown me: The "American Dream" of a comfortable middle-class lifestyle and affordable home ownership is alive and well in this beautiful little English-speaking country.
Your retirement income, whatever it is, can stretch much further in Belize. If you want or need to, you could easily work via the Internet or start your own business. Specifically, here are 10 reasons to consider relaunching your life in Belize:
Reason #1: The economy of Belize is stable, with one of the lowest inflation rates in the world.
Reason #2: English is the official language. Belize is the only country in Latin America where this is true.
Reason #3: Belize is close by. You can get to it in two hours or less from Houston and many points east. You can easily visit your family and friends (and grandkids) often and vice versa. Living in Belize, you'll be surprised how many visitors you'll have!
Reason #4: The system of law in Belize is based on that of the British.
Reason #5: Real estate is affordable. Belize is not the cheapest place in Central America to buy real estate, but the cost can be amazingly low compared with the cost of comparable property in the United States.
Reason #6: The government of Belize welcomes you. And isn't going to tax you out of your mind. Depending on your situation and where and how you earn your income, you could have zero tax liability in this country.
Reason #7: If you're 45 or over, you can take advantage of a "retiree" program to help you establish legal residency in Belize and enjoy special benefits.
Reason #8: Belize itself. Ahhhhhhhhhh. This is a paradise of fabulous sun, sea, and surf. The barrier reef offshore is second in size only to that in Australia and should be on everyone's Bucket List. Inland are the famed rainforest and Mayan ruins, more for your Bucket List. Throughout Belize you'll find exotic flora and fauna. This is a country where Mother Nature rules.
Reason #9: The joy of family life and community, which are Belizeans' biggest priorities.
Reason #10: The expat community. Belize is a quirky country that has been attracting expats and retirees from around the world for decades. These are like-minded people who want to make their own way and live well on what they've got. Expats bring their dreams to this country, and Belize help to make them come true.
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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.
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