Back when I was a Cowboy, Riding my horse “Cowboy”, and a Realtor selling Ranches in Oregon.
Everyone knows that I am a Travel Writer, have been traveling to Belize for many years, finally purchased a piece of property and built a beach home. When we finally decided to purchase our property, I spend a good amount of time researching Real Estate Offices, their Broker/Owner, and their Real Estate agents. I talked to locals who used different companies and agents and kept a “running file” in my head, and on paper about the reviews, I had gotten. I believe I made a well-informed decision when I picked 1st Choice RE/MAX in Placencia Village.
What I had been told over and over, was that the Broker, David was an upstanding and honest Real Estate Broker, was proficient in Real Estate Law and Contracts, and worked for his clients, professionally, honestly, and with integrity.
Now let me just say that after hearing and reading about how Real Estate in Belize is like the “wild west”, where anyone can be a gunfighter and sell property and houses, I was wary. Yes, as I soon found out, just about anyone can sell Real Estate, but not everyone is attached to an Internationally recognized Real Estate Group. Here in Belize, we do have Real Estate Offices owned/ operated and sometimes in the Brokers name. However, we also have “named brands, like Cauldwell Bankers, C-21, RE/MAX, Engel & Volkers, etc. These International Realties do seem to walk a tighter drum, keeping to the standards of their main home corporations, in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. I’m not saying you should only look at these offices because another office might do you right, but just be careful.
Now, let me interrupt your train of thought here, by interjecting a fact that not many people I know here in Belize are aware of.
I was a Real Estate Broker for many years back in the United States. I was associated with a few of the top International Brokerages as well, Better Homes and Gardens Realty, Prudential Realty and Century 21. In my final years in Real Estate, I was a Broker/Owner on my own.
When I really got serious in my search for the best of the best in Real Estate Offices, then agent, after hearing many recommendations, I then turned to my criteria. How many years had the office been open, how long had the Broker been the owner, how qualified were the Real Estate Agents in his office, and how long had they all worked there. How much clerical staff did the office employ, how long had they worked there?
Other very important questions for myself, which should be for you too. Do they show buyers only their own “in-house” listings, or do they show buyers all available listing that matches what they are looking for?
This is a very important question for you to ask, and track while you are looking at properties. There are offices and Realtors that will only show their own listings because they will make more commission if they have both buyers and sellers. But, keep in mind that you might have to make a decision on a property when there were actually other agencies listing that you would have liked better, and bought! So, as you are being shown properties by your chosen agent, if you have noticed or drive by a property that you like, ask to see it. Before you even come to Belize, print listing you found online that look interesting, and give to the Realtor for viewing. If he or she says “it’s not available”, or “you won’t like it”, tell them you still want to see it. You will know if they are trying to “steer you” around it, and your answer should be…
Another thing as a buyer you should be aware of is, you should never use multiple Real Estate Agents at the same time. Research and find the best Belize Realtor you can, one with experience, a good personality, and with experience in sales. That being said, if you do find you made a mistake, you can always tell the agent you are not happy and will be working with another agent. This is a prime example of the above paragraph, where the agent was not showing you all Realty listings in the area.
Also, beware of newly opened Real Estate Offices without a “track record”. It’s also easy in Belize for someone to get some experience as a Realtor and decide to go out on their own, starting a business in Realty/Property Management, etc. There is a major difference between being a Realtor, and becoming a Real Estate Broker. In the U.S., I had to take formal classes for a year and pass a three hour monitored Real Estate Agency Exam to become a Broker. That’s not the case here in Belize, at all, in fact, many will work out of their homes.
Finally, I will say a word or two about “Scams”, yes they do happen here in Belize, often.
I actually was involved with a very infamous one in my first couple of years looking at relocating to Belize. Does the name “Sanctuary Belize” or “The Reserve” sound familiar? It should, because the FCC investigated it, and shut it down after naming it the largest Real Estate Scam they had ever investigated. We were very lucky to only lose the price of a new SUV on the property we had invested in, with plans to move.
If you are looking at any new development, houses, condo’s, etc., I highly suggest that you don’t invest a dime, until the entire infrastructure is done, and building actually happening. Talk to anyone you can about the development, like Expats who live there, anyone who has already bought into the development, and your attorney before signing anything. Of course, your attorney from outside Belize can’t perform here in Belize, but a contract is a contract, and paying $1000 for attorney opinion, is better than losing everything.
Lastly, I will just use a term I have been aware of for many years, “location, location, location”! Be sure to research locations before you purchase anything. Ask your Realtor specific questions about the different areas you are looking at. Sign up for local Facebook pages about community “Neighborhood Watches”, Crime Pages, Belize on-line news Facebook Pages, etc. Visit local Expat hangouts, and ask about the area you are interested in purchasing in.
Be an informed buyer. Then, if everything looks and feels right, buy and enjoy.
I do hope this post helps anyone looking to move to Belize. Actually, it is a great guide no matter where in the world you are looking to move to.