That is a really sad reputation to have . . . "Otherwise, people will make a lot of promises and take a lot of money from you and when you come back, the money is gone and the work isn't done."
I retired a few months ago, was a home inspector. The biggest gripe I heard from people here in my area was about contractors, plumbers, roofers, even home inspectors, not returning phone calls and not being on time to the appointment.
I made it my goal never to be late. In 13 years I was never late not one time to an appointment and believe me that reputation helped to grow my business. I think if a builder, plumber, electrician etc. on the island had the reputation where people would say "Use Joe Builder, he does a good job, has never cheated anyone, always finishes the job on time, etc. " that their business would grow like crazy.
Yes, I have heard the comment about builders on Caye Caulker, or rather, builders that built on Caye Caulker, "you need to be here while your house is being built to protect your investment and money"
So, what is a person supposed to do? Line up say a contractor or electrician or plumber, get a work order in writing, handcuff yourself to him while he does the job, or what? I mean it sounds like there is no legal recourse for being taken for a ride. So, how does an expat protect themselves? 1/3 payment down, 1/3 later and 1/3 when the job is done?
Rips offs even happen in my area but when they do word gets around and no one recommends that person any more.
If I had the tools and time I would build the home myself, have built two our homes we have lived in here in the States.
My wife and I love Caye Caulker and want to call it our home.
I hope it is possible to do so. Our funds are really limited and we cannot afford being ripped off.
How does a person on the island protect themselves when they hire anyone to do a job for them?

Frank and Natalie Ross
"May you always have a seashell in your pocket and sand in your shoes"