From the Belize First news blog.
--Lan Sluder www.belizefirst.com
AMBERGRIS CAYE DEVELOPMENT HEATS UP Placencia may be in the news these days, but Ambergris Caye is still by far the #1 tourism destination in Belize. Observers say it is only area in Belize where annual hotel occupancy reaches levels to provide profitable operations for most resorts and tourism-related businesses. Now, development is heating up on the island, with developers targeting foreign buyers and would-be expats, along with tourism. The new 10% GST on new condos and homes and other tax concerns could slow sales, however. Las Tarrazas is one of the latest developments to break ground. Its developers say it will have 74 condos and two beach houses on almost 5 acres some 4 1/2 miles north of San Pedro Town. Prices will start at around US$300,000. Ma'lo Ha is another planned new development that, according to developers, will eventually have 88 units in 22 separate buildings just north of the Boca del Rio. Ma'lo Ha's architectural renderings show its buildings will have four stories, plus a rooftop deck, while in the past island development has been limited to three-story buildings. Prices start at around US$475,000. Among new developments that recently have opened or are nearing completion are Grand Colony, a group of condos with 21 suites in three buildings about 2 mile south of town, most priced at US$600,000 to $800,000 (about one-half reportedly have sold); The Phoenix, on the site of the old Paradise Hotel at the north end of San Pedro Town, has 30 units (nearly one-half so far have sold, according to reports) in the US$350,000 to $500,000 range; Sueno del Mar is a "membership-style" project on North Ambergris where members buy the use of two, four or six months of a one- or two-bedroom furnished condo each year, with prices starting at around US$50,000, plus annual fees; Blue Reef Island Resort is another condo development on North Ambergris; Seascape Villas, developed by long-time island builders and real estate agents, Bob and Diane Campbell, has six luxury homes on 4 seafront acres on North Ambergris, with an additional three units planned for a nearby location (all six original homes are sold). Many of these and other condo and home developments target buyers in the U.S., Canada, and Europe who will live on the island for a few weeks or months of the year, then rent out their units for the rest of the year, splitting income with the management company, usually run by the developer. Real estate experts say that concerns over the new 10% GST on new residential property is slowing sales. This tax, combined with the uncertainity over the stamp duty, which, beginning in 2005 hit foreign buyers with a 15% upfront transfer tax, is a problem for developers and real estate agents in San Pedro and elsewhere in Belize. Under proposed legislation, the stamp duty is supposed to be reduced, but the law is not yet in effect. (July 17, 2006)