Northern Belize is an area of mainland Belize made up of the districts of Corozal, Orange Walk, and parts of the district of Belize. With a rugged, undeveloped feel, it’s often completely bypassed by tourists and expats on their way to more popular places, like Ambergris Caye or the Cayo…
But this undiscovered corner of the country has much to offer, including one of the lowest costs of living in the country… opportunities for a self-sufficient lifestyle… friendly locals with wholesome community values… and the cheapest land available for sale in Belize today.
The value on offer in northern Belize is superior to that of San Pedro, Placencia, or Hopkins, with land going for 25% to 50% less than in these areas. You just have to know where to look (and be aware of a few special considerations of buying property in this part of the country)…
Private Residential Developments Or Belizean Homes
Private residential developments are popular across northern Belize. These are gated communities with American-style homes and shared amenities, like private security, gardens, pools, tennis courts, boat ramps and water access, and more. They’re popular among American and Canadian expats who want familiarity and security in their new life in Belize.
Consejo Shores is one of the most popular of these private developments, offering attractive, newly built homes set on meandering roads and surrounded by manicured gardens. Sizable lots in Consejo Shores range from US$25,000 up to US$130,000 (price depends on whether you go waterfront or a few blocks inland).
You can also find good deals if you opt for Belize-style homes set in northern Belize’s villages and their outskirts. Though not as fancy as their North American counterparts, Belizean-style homes are much more reasonably priced.
Building Your Own Home
This can be an exciting adventure… or a stressful nightmare. Like everywhere else in the world, builders vary in experience, quality, price, and skill in Belize. There are skilled concrete workers and carpenters, though many of the local crews aren’t experienced in U.S.-style home construction.
You can build simple, 900-square-foot concrete bungalows with 200 feet of decking finished sturdily by local crews for US$50,000, but high-end finishes add a lot more to the cost.
Ask around the community for references for a building contractor, unless you’re experienced enough to manage the build directly yourself with a local crew. Make sure you get everything in writing with your builder, with a detailed specification sheet and a drawdown schedule with at least six stages.
This isn’t a task for the fainthearted…
Mennonite Cabins & Homes
Alternatively, you can have tropical-hardwood Mennonite cabins and homes delivered to your property from the Mennonites in Spanish Lookout, Cayo, or Orange Walk for reasonable prices.
These serviceable homes are delivered on a truck and are fitted in a day if you want a quick and cheap cabin. Many people choose to buy a little cabin to live in while they oversee the building of their main home, and then afterwards use it as guest accommodation, worker housing, or a rental.
If you find a plot of land close to power lines you can have a nicely finished 720-square-foot hardwood finished cabin with a porch delivered for under US$35,000.
For US$12,000 more, you’ll get a septic system, landscaping, utility connection, air conditioning, 200 square feet of covered porch, and extra finishings… all the makings of a lovely tropical home.
The Rental Market
Rentals in northern Belize are much more reasonably priced than in the other waterfront destinations in Belize… But finding them is difficult. The best value ones aren’t listed with a realtor or on rental websites.
In fact, the only rentals that realtors bother to handle are the high-end ones. The best option for finding great value accommodation is to ask locals and expats or drive around looking for rental signs.
Renting a big American-style house in a private development on the water will cost much more than good-quality local housing… Some love living in an expat community; others prefer the savings and adventure of living in a local village. It depends on your preferences and your budget.
Rent a basic, local-style house for US$200 per month; with US$300 to US$500 you can rent a nice, medium-sized local-style home in Corozal with seas views. For US$800 to US$1,000 per month, you can get a local rental overlooking the water.
Rental Leases & Agreements
Leases in Belize are in English. Most U.S. landlords and many local realtors use American-style leases tailored to Belize law. Local landlords sometimes use old-fashioned leases copied from old English legal books, which I enjoy reading out loud for the novelty.
Typically, landlords to ask for a security deposit and the first month’s rent, though some American landlords might ask for the last month’s rent as well. Make sure to clarify who is responsible for what malfunctions in the house before signing.
Utilities are usually paid by the renter unless specifically stipulated, and the yard maintenance is included in the rent or left to you, depending on the circumstances.
Your landlord might have property insurance but your contents usually aren’t included.
Belize Property Pitfalls
I’ve seen too many intelligent people step off the plane in Belize and leave common sense behind… They rush into real estate or construction deals without doing due diligence.
It’s the beautiful surroundings, the impatience to start the dream life, and often way too many cocktails while discussing business.
Come to Belize and see all of the country before buying. Live in Belize for a while to make sure you like the area or property you’re thinking of buying before cracking that nest egg.
There are two forms of title available in Belize: registered and unregistered land. Registered land is held by certificate of title and is guaranteed by the government. Unregistered land is passed by deed of conveyance, and there can be historic title issues that aren’t immediately apparent.
When buying either form of land you must have a reliable agent conduct a full title search in Belize’s capital city, Belmopan. Just because someone has a title or deed in their name doesn’t mean it’s what’s registered in Belmopan.
Land scams are less and less common, as the government hikes up due diligence, but if you’re reckless, scammers will find you…
Google any development you’re considering and read the blogs. If there are loads of unhappy reports, take it as a red flag. Retain a lawyer to handle your land transactions until you learn the process yourself.
How far away are utilities like power and water from where you’re buying and how much will it cost to bring them to your property? Belize Electricity Limited can give you an estimate of the cost before you buy.
If power lines are far away from your dream property, you’ll need to find a reliable solar installer and factor that into the cost of your build. Luckily, it doesn’t cost much to install a roof water collection system for your home.
Tidal Flats & Low, Swampy Land
If someone offers you a killer deal on waterfront property make sure it isn’t a few inches above sea level. The cost of filling low lying land is exorbitant depending on how far away the quarry is. Have a surveyor estimate the cost of filling if you’re buying lower land.
These pitfalls aside, northern Belize remains a top option for a property purchase in Belize. The Path of Progress is overdue to arrive in this part of the country… When it does, the value of its real estate will only go up.