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Belize - Real Property Issues


Acquisition costs
The cost of transfer of title to real property is 10% of value for Stamp Duty and a token fee for registration. Attorney's fee is additional.
Property and ownership information
IA non-Belizean may purchase land and property in Belize. Full title is granted to non-Belizeans. Anyone wishing to purchase land consisting of a half acre within city towns or villages and in excess of 10 acres anywhere in Belize needs a permit to purchase the property. This permit is regulated by the Alien’s Landholding License issued by the Department of Natural Resources
Transaction information
Real estate commissions in Belize are similar to those in the U.S. Agents typically charge the seller 6 or 7 percent commission on residential property, and around 10 percent on raw land. Because many properties are in remote areas, brokers often charge prospective buyers expenses for travel and transportation incurred in connection with showing properties.
Real estate trade association
There are no trade associations or licensing requirements for Real Estate companies in Belize
License requirements
There are no trade associations or licensing requirements for Real Estate companies in Belize
Land description meters and bounds survey system
In 1987, the Government passed the Registered Land Act and certain areas of Belize were subsequently declared compulsory registration areas. Under this act, the conveyed properties were re-issued new physical Land Certificate Titles with parcel number designations that replaced the old Meets and Bounds references on the original conveyed properties. The Government is in the process of re-registering all freehold lands under the Registered Land Act so as to eventually have a uniform nationwide system of land ownership.
Rights and interests in land
Forms of ownership
Transfer of title
Registration and Title
There are three different real property title systems in Belize:
1. Conveyance system, which involves the transfer of land by conveyance and registration. In order to assure that the seller actually owns the land, a title search must be made in the Lands Unit in Belmopan (formerly Registry Office in Belize City), to unearth the chain of title and to uncover any encumbrances such as uncanceled mortgages. This search is normally done by an attorney. The owner holds a deed but the proof is in the registry search. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult or impossible to trace old conveyances with any degree of certainty of results, due to the terrible condition of the index books.


2. Torrens system, which involves a First Certificate of Title (FCT) followed by Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT). Unlike the “real” Torrens system in use in parts of the U.S. and elsewhere, the Belize systems is not backed up by a fund which guarantees title. Under this system, the undischarged (uncanceled) "charges" or encumbrances and the transfers from the title are shown on the relevant Certificate, so no further search is normally needed before the new Transfer Certificate of Title is issued, following the application for transfer.


3. Registered Land Act system, in which application for transfer is made, and a new Land Certificate is issued to the grantee. Under this system, an application is made for title transfer and a new Certificate of Title is issued to the grantee. Any existing "charges" will be shown on the Land Register for that parcel of land. The owner holds a Certificate of Title, and this, together with the relevant Land Register entries is the proof of ownership.


Which system you use depends on where your property is located. With only a few exceptions you won’t have a choice. If for example your property is located in an area of Belize where the Registered Land Act system is in place, such as around Belmopan or in a planned subdivision, your property will be registered under that system. Land in Belize is being put into this system area by area until eventually the entire country will be included in it. The Government of Belize in 2001 received a grant to help it pay for consolidation of land registration systems under the Registered Land Act.
Recordation and transfer of title
To curb land speculation the government enacted legislation in 1973 that requires non-Belizeans to complete a development plan on land they purchase before obtaining title to plots of more than 10 acres (40,000 m²) of rural land or more than one-half acre (2,000 m²) of urban land.
Purchase of Land by a Belizean:
Belizeans pay 5% of the Selling Consideration as a Stamp Duty or Transfer Tax to the Government of Belize. Registration and fees are very minimal (approximately $15.00BZ / $7.50 US). Lawyer’s Fees for Legal Services for Conveying property is approximately 1-3% of the Selling consideration. Each individual is entitled to seek their own personal Legal Council. Approximate total closing cost for a Belizean citizen is 6-8% of the selling consideration.

Purchase of Land by a Non-Belizean:
Non-Belizeans pay 15% of the Selling Consideration as a Stamp Duty or Transfer Tax to the Government of Belize. Registration and fees are very minimal (approximately $15.00BZ / $7.50 US). Lawyer’s Fees for Legal Services for Conveying property is approximately 1-3% of the Selling consideration. Each individual is entitled to seek their own personal Legal Council. Approximate total closing cost for a Belizean citizen is 16-18% of the selling consideration.
Contracts
Mortgages
Foreign investors are typically expected to pay cash for property. There is little to no financing available for foreign investors.
Financing and lending practices
Financing
Land in Belize is usually purchased on terms under an Agreement for Sale or Contract for Deed whereby the seller keeps title to the property until it has been paid for in full. Terms vary but can range from 10 percent down with 10 years to pay at 10 percent simple interest per annum to 50 percent down and three years to pay at 12 to 14 percent.


Residential property may also have owner financing, although commonly the lowest price will be for an all-cash deal. It is difficult for a non-resident to get a mortgage loan from a bank in Belize for buying or building, so you should be prepared to pay cash or to get financing through a loan from a non-Belize financial institution on your assets back home.


For citizens and official permanent residents of Belize only, the Development Finance Corporation, a financial institution owned by the government of Belize, makes loans of US$3,000 to $75,000 for building or buying housing for up to 25 years at interest rates of 8 1/2 to 13 percent. The DFC also has developed housing subdivisions near Belmopan, on the Northern Highway in Belize District and in Corozal Town. These subdivisions have new homes such as a 680 square footer for US$33,000 and a home of about 1,000 square feet for US$41,000. Financing is at 12 percent for up to 25 years.
Property taxes
A Speculation Tax was implemented in 2002, which is 5% of the undeveloped value of the land as set by the Department of Natural Resources, and applies to property in excess of 300 acres. This was established to provide for large tracts of land and to push developments throughout the country. This tax is paid on the 1st of April of each year. Property tax generally consists of between 1-1.5% of the set value of the property assessed by the Department of Natural Resources and is due on the 1st of April of each year.
Closing and escrows
Appraisal
Insurance
Title insurance may be available. Regent Insurance (tel. 501-2-73744 in Belize City) offers title insurance through Stewart Title, a U.S. company. Typically, title insurance costs 1 percent of the purchase price.
Land use control
Land can be leased from the Government of Belize with an option to buy if the planned development indicated at the time of the application is carried out. Land in general has a one percent (1%) tax on the unimproved value of the land.