How To Earn A Solid Rental Yield In Our Favorite Off-Grid Part Of The World
During a two-week vacation in Belize this past summer, I was bewildered by the dearth of midlevel options for hotels and restaurants in this country’s Cayo District. You can find hotels in Cayo that qualify as low-end budget (charging US$50 to US$70 a night), and you can find high-end jungle resorts (charging US$200 to as much as US$500 a night, depending on the season). But if you’re looking for something in between, currently you have but one good option (the San Ignacio Hotel).
This market gap has been noticed by local entrepreneurs, and some are taking steps to fill it. Specifically, Phil Hahn, the developer at Carmelita Gardens, has focused on the growing middle-range tourist market in conceiving his latest turn-key rental investment opportunity: The River Club.
Phil has designed an area along the river of his Carmelita Gardens community where he is going to build 20 resort-style residence units. After considerable research and planning, Phil has hit upon the combination of total units, size and configuration of units, amenities, and pricing that seems just right for the market he’s targeting.
Three types of units are available, all designed for comfort and rentability. While you could live in one of these cottages, suites, or studios, they were conceived, again, with the short-term renter in mind rather than the full-time resident.
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.