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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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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