“My husband is in Belize buying a piece of property for our retirement. The real estate agent told him that we do not need to hire a lawyer because her office does all the things that the lawyer does. This way we can save on the attorney fee if we want. Should we take her advice? My husband says she is honest and trustworthy.
“The realtor said that the payment will be held in an escrow account. The money won’t be released until we get a certificate of title for the property. My question is, besides of certificate of title, should we also get a deed and title insurance in Belize? We get all these documents when buying properties in the United States.
“Also I understand that the new FATCA law was taken into effect in July. If a foreign bank is not compliant to FATCA, there will be 30% penalty charged on a wire transfer. Do you happen to know if the Belize banks are compliant to this new U.S. law? Thank you very much in advice!”
–Sarah L., United States
You should engage a local attorney to review the real estate contract and the title. This is no reflection on your real estate agent. It’s simply baseline risk management. You want your own attorney in the conversation, someone you know is protecting your interests without any conflict of interest.
The certificate of title is your deed in Belize. You can get title insurance, but, if you use a local attorney, this isn’t really necessary in Belize, as the title insurance company will rely on your attorney’s work anyway.
I believe that all banks in Belize are compliant with FATCA, but you can check directly with your bank or the bank you’re wiring money to.
Note that the 30% is a withholding and not a penalty, so you should be able to get it back when you file your annual tax return in the United States. However, of course, you’d rather avoid the withholding altogether, if possible.