When it comes to growing things, Belize is almost embarrassingly blessed, with vast amounts of unused arable land, an abundance of water, and a geographic location that makes it part of both Central America and the Caribbean. Land routes allow for easy shipment of food products throughout Central America, and good shipping connections make it easy to transport harvests to the Caribbean. Also note that CARICOM has a free-trade agreement in place with the EU, meaning that anything produced in Belize can be shipped duty free into that region. The demand for agricultural products from Belize is seemingly bottomless.In the past couple of years, Belize has made major investments in its food-production sector, especially in large-scale commercial and industrial operations focused largely on corn, soy, and beans. A lot of this investment has been in Cayo, where a state-of-the-art corn mill and a drying plant have just been commissioned. In the north of the country, the main crop is sugar. Historically it was a small famer's cooperative that managed sugar production, but now bigger players are coming in, investing in a plantation and refinery in the north with a view to exporting all around the world. Farmers in the north also grow rice. Across the country you find plantations of citrus and bananas, traditionally our strongest agricultural industries. We also have shrimp and fish farms, including tilapia and experimental cobia farms.The recent implementation of cattle testing in Belize has opened up the possibility of exporting livestock to Guatemala and Mexico. Previously, because of tuberculosis concerns, all Belize beef had to remain in the country. That changed last year, and now the borders are officially open. The price of livestock in this country has doubled in the last several months as a result, and livestock farming is attracting a lot of new attention. All livestock in this country is grass-fed with no grain finishing. The most common and popular meat in Belize is chicken. We have a quality poultry industry here; the growing conditions mean that Belize poultry is healthier than poultry in a lot of other countries, especially in the region. The pork produced here is also good quality. Both these markets are prime for additional investment.A new industry that is getting attention is papaya. The conditions for growing it are ideal here, and fresh papaya is shipped from Belize to the United States several times a week. The U.S. market for this crop is growing.Other markets worth a Belize investor's consideration include chia, tropical fish, organic produce (you can get three crops a year easily in this country, and some farmers squeeze out four crops annually), and neem. This last is an amazing tree initially from India. The leaves are a natural pesticide that can be brewed into a tea and that will kill most pests that might attack your crops. The berries can be crushed to make a natural fertilizer.Belize is also a prime choice for a long-term investment in forestry. In addition to teak, this country is an ideal place to grow mahogany, rosewood (which is native), and ziricote, which is so valuable it is priced by the ounce. (One use is for the crafting of high-end guitars.) I like the bay leaf palm. If managed well, these trees can last up to 15 years. The trees are rarer and rarer while the demand from resorts around the region and around the world is strong.Of course, as I said, this is a long-term play. You can look for thinning harvests from Belize teak at years 7 and 15, but the real harvest won't come for 22 years. Ziricote is even slower growing; you're looking at 30 years before you'll see a return from a ziricote tree. Mahogany is a medium-growth wood (13 to 20 years to maturity). Rosewood trees are harvestable after about 30 years...Con MurphyEditor's Note: Agricultural expert Con Murphy has focused his attention on Belize, where he is helping individual investors (including us) take advantage of one of the world's most appealing agricultural investment markets. Today's dispatch is excerpted from Con's presentation to the group assembled for this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. The entire presentation was recorded and will be included as part of our newLive and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit.This bundle of resources is currently being edited. While the editing work continues, we're making it available pre-release for more than 50% off.Go here now to purchase for more than half-off while this pre-release offer remains in effect. You have only two days remaining.
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To state the obvious, a beach condo puts you right on the beach but keep in mind that little Belize has a long mainland coast and cayes offshore, meaning lots of beach choices, and not all beaches are created equal. Some beaches in this country are Robinson Crusoe-style. Others are rowdy and noisy with lots of nightlife and tourists. Again, it comes down to what you're looking for. Do you want privacy or company, solitude or parties?A home in a planned community means privacy and security, peace and quiet. Planned communities are relatively new to Belize. Most are being built to North American standards, meaning you won't have the quirkiness of a Belizean home (lights that turn on when you push the switch down, for example) and you won't have Belizean neighbors, either. This could be a plus for you or a minus. Planned communities are outside the towns for the most part, meaning that, while you'll be safe and secure behind the guarded gate, you'll also be a drive from shopping and restaurants. A drive at night in this country can be an adventure because the roads are basic, often dirt, and almost always unlit.A home in a planned community also means fees. Monthly HOA fees support the upkeep of community amenities and services. These can range from US$150 to US$200, something to keep in mind when doing your budgeting.A home in town can be your most convenient option and also your most affordable. The trade-off is that, with rare exceptions, houses in Belizean towns are local Belizean houses. You may have to search for a while to find one that will be comfortable for you. Not only is a local-style house in town more affordable than a new-built house in a planned community, but it also comes without a monthly HOA fee.If you're thinking of buying something local in town, understand that zoning doesn't exist in this country. If you buy or rent a nice big house in a nice part of town with a vacant piece of land next-door, don't be surprised if, a year later, someone buys that piece of land and builds a disco or a car repair shop. I'm not saying that will happen, but it could.How can you know how much you should pay for the kind of property you're interested in buying? You have to compare apples with apples, and that's not easy in this market. You want to consider the cost of a condo or house on a per-square-foot basis, but you also have to pay attention to what's included in the square feet. It's like asking, "How much does a bag of groceries cost?" It depends what's in the bag. In Belize somebody might tell you they can build you a house for US$80 per square foot, but you can't let the conversation end there. Ask what's included in those square feet. You might be surprised to learn that that per-square-foot price doesn't include windows, for example, or plumbing or cabinets. You don't expect a house to come with appliances, but most of us don't think of a water heater as an appliance.If you're looking for rental income, focus on San Pedro or Placencia. Those are Belize's highest trafficked tourist destinations. If you are looking for appreciation, focus on Cayo and Corozol. These are the fastest-growing districts in this country.Another option you may be considering is building your own house. In this case you should know about the Central Building Authority (CBA). This is a new government agency, maybe three or four years old. When I arrived in this country, you could build whatever you wanted. Now the CBA is putting some standards in place. Now, for the first time in this country, there is a building code that you need to adhere to.One more thing you should know: There are no escrow companies in Belize, and you can't take escrow for granted. It's not typically part of the buying process. You can insist on it, but you'll have to set it up. I'd recommend doing that through your attorney. If you have a good attorney, this can work. I don't recommend using the seller's attorney, and I really don't recommend using the seller's attorney for escrow!Jim HardestyLive at this week's Live and Invest in Belize ConferenceP.S. from Kathleen Peddicord: Jim Hardesty was one of 25 expert speakers participating in this week's Live and Invest in Belize Conference. If you weren't in the room to hear Jim live, don't worry. I wasn't either. But we don't have to miss out entirely.My team on the ground is keeping me up-to-date day by day, sending notes and recordings of the live presentations. I'll continue to share these with you throughout the week. Meantime, we're making the complete bundle of recordings and presentations from this week's event in Belize available pre-release for more than 50% off. As soon as the conference has finished, we'll edit the materials to create our new Live and Invest in Belize Home Conference Kit. However, right now, as the event continues live, you can purchase your kit, again, for more than half-off.Do that here now.
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"I'll serve," I replied, reaching for a towel to tie around my waist as an apron and a pitcher to fill with water. By now the dining room was full, and our tour-goers were visibly unhappy. I set the tables as quick as I could with the mismatched china we found in the kitchen cabinet, poured water all around, and took orders (fried versus scrambled), while Josianne fired up the gas stove. We served eggs, toast, juice, and tea that morning to our 40 guests and made it out the door in time to meet the bus scheduled to take us on our first property-viewing appointment of the day. If you were among the 40 participants at that long-ago event, thank you. You're a good sport. I hosted the second conference of my career a year later in Belize. Again, Josianne was my cohort. Infrastructure isn't Belize's strong suit, even today. But 30 years ago this was a seriously undeveloped, unappointed little country. After two days of meetings in Belize City, we wanted to take the group south along the coast to look at beachfront lots and houses for sale. We needed a bus to transport the 50 of us. The bus we'd organized in advance was promised to be "modern." The bus that showed up outside our hotel that morning was an old U.S. school bus with broken windows, torn seats, and balding tires. The best thing that could be said about the bus was that it was there, on the scene, as expected, at 8 o'clock that morning. The same wasn't true for the real estate agent who was to act as our tour guide for the day. The guy finally showed up an hour-and-a-half late and, Josianne and I realized quickly, drunk. We knew Belize well enough to know that substitutions were not an option. The bus was the bus and the agent was the agent. We either went off with them for the day or we cancelled the day. We loaded the group and set off. The road we traveled was dirt (today it's paved). As we had no air conditioning, we opened the windows for ventilation. But, with the windows open, the bus filled with dust from the road. With the windows closed, temperatures became unbearable. So we pushed the windows down when the air became stiflingly hot and back up when the air became stiflingly dusty. Josianne and I reviewed an itinerary for the day with our agent guide, who we positioned in the front seat so he could give instructions to the driver. Then we wandered up and down the aisle chatting with our tour-goers, trying to keep spirits up in spite of the transportation discomforts. The things I didn't know back then about managing conferences and leading tours could have filled an encyclopedia. One of the things I didn't know but have learned since, for example, is that you don't, at any time, want to hand over control of the group to a drunk real estate agent. After two hours had passed, Josianne and I became concerned and walked up front to check in with our intoxicated friend. The guy had passed out. We shook him awake and asked how much longer until we'd arrive at our destination. The guy looked at us, at the driver, at his lap, out the window... After a few long minutes, something finally registered and the guy began yelling at our driver. We'd missed our turn, Josianne and I came to understand, which was an hour-and-a-half back up the dusty road we'd just traveled. Now what? Turn around? No. Better to continue on to our next stop. This, the agent explained, was another hour in a different direction. "Where can we go for refreshments?" I asked the guy. "We need to take the group somewhere they can use a bathroom and buy drinks and snacks." He knew a place, he said, and gave the driver new instructions. About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a roadside shack alongside a river. We unloaded the bus. Our group used the facilities and ordered bottles of Coke and water, then stood in the shade of a big mango tree. The morning had been a bust, but the drinks and the shady respite cooled and calmed everyone down. Onward. But where was the real estate agent? He wasn't in the shop. Our male tour-goers assured us he wasn't in the bathroom. Josianne and I stood, with the group, at the door to the bus trying to figure out what we'd do if we'd lost our guide altogether. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy walking toward us. He was stripped down to his underpants and dripping wet. He'd gone for a swim in the river. The agent, carrying his clothes, climbed back on the bus and took his seat. Josianne and I looked at each other, shook our heads, and followed our guide back inside the vehicle, along with the rest of the group. By the time we arrived at our next destination, the guy had put his pants back on and sobered up enough to explain to us all what we were looking at. We toured for several more hours that day then returned late, dusty, and exhausted to our hotel in Belize City. Josianne and I went on to lead tours and conferences together for several years, in Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico, and Argentina. I have more stories from those early years. Ask me about them next time you see me. Some are best told over a cold rum and Coke while watching the sun set. I've been thinking about these stories from a lifetime ago this week as my current conference team has been finalizing our calendar for the next 12 months. Looking through 2015, we'll be returning to old haunts that continue to offer great opportunity for the would-be retiree and investor, including Belize, Panama, Nicaragua, and Colombia. In addition, we've added new destinations of special appeal, including Portugal, which took top spot in our 2014 Retire Overseas Index, and the Dominican Republic, our top pick for retirement in the Caribbean right now. We'll be hosting our annual Global Property Summit in March and our Global Asset Protection and Wealth Summit in October. This year's calendar also includes a first-ever Agricultural Investment Seminar, taking place in July. For our biggest event of the year, our annual Retire Overseas Conference, we're heading this 2015 to the Big Easy, New Orleans. I've learned a few things since those early years, and this much I can promise you: Breakfast will be served every morning, buses will be air-conditioned, and real estate agents will wear pants. Kathleen Peddicord
Orchid Bay embraces the ideas of New Urbanism and walkability. The town is planned around central plazas, providing gathering spaces for residents. One of Orchid Bay's biggest advantages is its location, on the bay but also only 10 miles (across the bay) to Chetumal, Mexico, with its hospitals, museums, movie theatres, restaurants, and shopping malls. There's even a Sam's Club in Chetumal, meaning you could live a quiet and simple life by the Caribbean Sea but not have to travel too far for supplies or medical support. This situation near Mexico also means easy access from North America. You could fly directly to Belize City and then drive up the mainland coast to Orchid Bay...or you could fly into Cancun or Chetumal (via Mexico City). Starting at US$189,000, the new canal villas are designed for flexibility. The one-bedroom model comes with a rooftop terrace so owners can take advantage of the sunshine and the water views. You could convert the terrace into a second level, adding one or two bedrooms, depending on your needs, and you could a third-story observation tower for bigger water views.Even better than the low starting price for these villas is the available financing. The developer has worked with a local Belize bank to create a developer financing package. You put down 25% and then can finance the balance at 9.25% over five years using a 10-year amortization schedule. In other words, for the base model, you put down US$47,250, pay US$1,815 a month for 60 months, then pay the balance of US$86,919 at the end of five years.While those terms aren't what you're likely used to back home, they are good for Belize. In addition, as it's the developer offering the financing, you don't have a high approval hurdle to clear. For the investor or retiree not quite ready to move to Belize full-time, the financing coupled with the opportunity to rent out your villa when you're not using it creates a retirement plan. Assuming furnishing costs of US$25,000, you could hit a 7% net yield if you achieved 50% occupancy and a US$175 average nightly rate for your one-bedroom villa. While 7% net yield is a decent yield, the cash flow from those figures would leave you short about US$500 a month if you did the developer financing.Still, paying US$500 a month toward your dream retirement home today and being able to use it for vacations until you do retire amounts to great retirement planning.Orchid Bay has developed into a ready-to-move-into Caribbean lifestyle option, with infrastructure in place, amenities built, and a community growing. If you're in the market for a tropical paradise on the Caribbean, this is a great option…and an affordable one, thanks to the new 2015 canal villas.You and your fellow Live and Invest Overseas readers are the first to hear about this new offering. This is a sneak peak of a new phase to be launched in the New Year.Get in touch here now for more information.Lief Simon
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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
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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.
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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