Friday, August 16, 2013

Selling property in Belize

The housing market seems to be in a funk all over.  I hear that it's supposedly improving in the States, but talking to friends, they don't see it.  It's much the same here in Belize.  Property prices are all over the place, but we don't hear of much moving.  We've talked to most of the realtors in this area and, just like in the US, they want to list your place, but that's the last you see of them.  There is supposed to be a multiple listing service coming to Belize, but seems to be all talk.  Also, I don't like to give anyone an exclusive listing, because then they REALLY don't do anything.

Another route, which we've also tried, is to sell our place ourselves via internet sites.  We tried several of the free sites, but they seemed to attract the bogus interest of "I'm really interested in your place, can give you cash, but first I have to find a way to get the 17 million dollars I found while in the service in ___ fill in the country."  We haven't had a lot more success with the paid sites, but continue to work it.  

Our property is titled and fenced with a home and additional buildings, all new 3 to 4 years ago.  I've been very frustrated with some comments about price as tho' you should sell for the price of the land.  Until you've tried to build in a country such as Belize, you have no real idea of the hurdles you must cross.  It sounds wonderful that, in the country, you don't have to get permits and have an inspector looking over your shoulder for everything.  The other side of that coin is, who do you trust?  

We were extremely fortunate to have researched and found a wonderful Belizean man who contracted to build our houses.  He's honest and knows a lot about building.   His hobby and obsession is reading books about building.  Almost everyone we talk to who has built here has horror stories of being ripped off by a person who claimed to know how to build, or one who charged them huge prices for inferior materials.  We've watched a neighboring property where a huge crew seems to be taking forever to do very little work.  Just had a discussion with a couple who are trying to have a place built and nothing is as they want it, and some of the rooms aren't even square.  

Besides the work, the materials can be difficult to find.  We went thru a couple of concrete block suppliers before finding ones that would hold together and being square made it easy to plaster.  There isn't anything like a "licensed" electrician or plumber.  Here again, you have to talk to a lot of people to find one who can handle your work.  We have several DC appliances and even the solar people didn't really know how to wire in our AC and DC circuits.  We eventually found "the" guy who has helped us tremendously.  

It can seem wonderful and exciting to find a piece of property that's back-a-bush and makes you feel like a pioneer.  That's just about what you have to be.  Something that can seem easy to get to in dry weather can be impossible in the wet, which is much of the time.  Finding a reliable person to bring in bulldozers, graders and rollers to put in a decent road and then bring in rock that will withstand the weather conditions can be a huge challenge.  We have seen neighbors have loads of white gravel dumped on their road and then during the wet weather, the gravel just disappears into the mud.  We had a lot of prep work done and then had about 20 loads of heavy rock brought in for our road.  It was then rolled.  I treat it with roundup periodically to keep it clear and after four years it's still great.  It just took a long time to find the right person to do the work for a price we could afford.  

Once you get your place cleared, it's important to find someone to help you keep it that way.  We've been blessed with Rene, who has worked wonders for us.  But, most Belizeans don't work as hard or efficiently as Rene.  Previously we had a crew of three do clearing work for us before we moved down.  We paid a huge price and they took a week to clear a strip about 30' wide and they only chopped it to about ankle high.  Wonderful.  Walking thru was a great way to break an ankle with all the debris.  Before we moved down, we saw Rene working at another expats property and he was working all the time and the folks weren't even in the country.  We'd found our treasure. 

I guess my point of this diatribe is that this challenge isn't simple, or necessarily cheap.  You have to have patience and be willing to ask lots of folks for their help and recommendations.  You have to be willing to LISTEN. For Art and myself, it was the reason we came to Belize.  We needed new challenges.  Boy did we find them.  We don't regret the struggle, but do feel badly for folks who talk as tho' it's all going to be skittles and beer and that they can naively trust everyone. 

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