Ambergris Caye as an investment

Posted By: gsreimers

Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/04/16 03:58 AM

My lovely bride and I have been to La Isla Bonita twice and are coming down again in less than sixty days and counting. We have both talked about Ambergris Caye as a place to spend much more time after retirement and I have read all the post about the expats coming down and the challenges of island living. I have loved my visits and look forward to the day they can be longer, but I have no intention of ever moving down full time. While Minnesota winters are long and awful, the summers are beautiful and we have a lake place to spend 6 or 7 months a year at.

My real question is does anyone have any stories to share about buying properties in AC as an investment. I'm tired of losing 30% when the American stock market drops 20% and gaining 10% when the market goes up 20%. Last trip down (2014) I spent quite a bit of time talking to a gentlemen that bought a condo during preconstruction, realized a gain in value upon project completion, enjoyed rental income while not there, and sold to buy another unit in a newer development.

So is this a pipe dream or a possibility. I know there are risks, projects not finishing, cost higher than anticipated, rentals not as promised, but if anyone has anything to share, I would love to hear your stories.


Gary and Kari
Posted By: Judyann H.

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/04/16 02:41 PM

"bought a condo during preconstruction, realized a gain in value upon project completion, enjoyed rental income while not there, and sold to buy another unit in a newer development." This was certainly our experience ..... However we have since witnessed projects gone wrong and people losing money when the bank steps in.......We would recommend using a builder with a track record in Belize, a project that is accessible by road and land in a well established area. We continually hear of people investing based on 'futures' (i.e.; airport, road access etc.).... I am not a Realtor however owning a restaurant/bar, we have the unique experience of listening to people's stories on a daily basis. Send me a private message and I can share with you projects that we know are doing well and others that we believe will do well based on the developer/builder.......
Posted By: larrypied

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/04/16 10:52 PM

Invest wisely! No the check is not in the mail, trust me, I won't %$# in your mouth!
Posted By: Shyboy

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 02:03 AM

Have purchased two properties One is ok; 2nd is fantastic.

Bottom line; know your broker. I have been doing this in the states for 40 + years.
Posted By: joey2angels

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 05:50 PM


Your nose is growing.....
Posted By: joey2angels

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 05:52 PM

When you get a chance I would like to set up a meeting. I have a beautiful bridge for sale in the US you might be interested in making an investment.
Posted By: RobertJ

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 06:21 PM

Iíve had more than a few conversations with folks who have invested in Ambergris......a minority seem to feel there is promise, but I think it was wishful thinking. The majority of my feedback was ďDonít Do ItĒ.

Weíre talking about a wonderful place to vacation, but, really, itís a who-knows-whatís-next Banana Republic.

There are lots of better ways to put your loot in jeopardy.

You donít need to own everywhere you go.
Posted By: Shyboy

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 10:58 PM

Joey... Happy to go over $$$$$ figures with you anytime you want. There are cash deals to be had way under MLS prices ( from time to time).Trick is; keep it rented.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 11:01 PM

It seems people come to Ambergris, have a good time on vacation and make hasty, foolish decisions about buying a condo while under the influence of the carribean breeze. They then slam the country for their error. There are lots of successful developments and rental management programs. You just have to look around carefully and not forget your brains in the states. Talk to other owners.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/05/16 11:21 PM

Well I've known people who have lost money on housing and some who have made good money. I sold my place last April and broke about even, maybe a little ahead after owning for about 6+ years. That includes furnishings, vehicle and miscellaneous. The last 3 years or so I used the place 4 - 6 months a year and rented the other months. The rentals helped with expenses a lot but I don't see how you could cover all expenses only renting on less than high demand months. The last few years I purposely came down after the first of the year because Christmas and Christmas week was really lucrative but still those rentals wouldn't cover all year expenses but they helped.

The value is having a nice place and if you can help cover expenses then ok but I think you are looking at pie in the sky to think you would make money unless you rented all winter. I know a few people who did this and they grossed 35-65K USDA a year on short term rentals but that is gross and they worked hard using VRBO. It was really just about a full time job for them. I know these numbers to be correct because I was part of the organization. The rest of the owners did much less than this.

shyboy, invested in some commercial properties if I remember correctly and I believe that is what he is talking about. I think he probably is doing OK. I owned some seasonal rentals in Florida and after a few years I converted them to annual rental and I'm finally cash flow positive after converting. Seasonal rentals are tough even though the rates are much more than annual because you have to pay for management, utilities, taxes and such year round and summer rentals in warm climates don't usually do well. The seasonal renters are tougher on the property and very tough on utilities. Seasonal rentals here are about the same in my opinion.

I think it is very good advice to research your real estate broker as well as the project. (I bought pre-construction in a very successful project and had an excellent broker) When all is said and done I about broke even minus air fares and regular living expenses for almost 7 years of a great place to live. I'm satisfied and would call that a success but I never envisioned making a lot of money on my place in Belize. Of course don't forget I owned it through this last great economic downturn and many in the USA lost tons of money in real estate. One of the places I bought in Florida the owner was in big trouble because he owned several and he actually had to come up with more money than I did to settle up with the bank at the closing. I felt bad for him but that's business. Another property there I bought from a foreclosure from Fannie Mae and the person who had owned that one paid 3 times what I paid for the property when he bought it. Both of these properties are worth about 35% more than I paid and are both cash flow positive today.

Hope this helps.
Posted By: Shyboy

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 02:51 AM

As USUAL... Ragman gives a well thought out, detailed answer. I have a LOT of Real Estate experience but have only 1 year of Ambergris Caye experience. My " take" on vacation rentals is this. I happen not to like condos for many reasons and love small Villa complexes. Many factors... If you have the right broker and IF you get a below market deal and IF you keep it rented and IF the management fee is NOT 40-50% here's what you will get. You will have a vacation rental and you will make some $ over expenses AND a free place to come to for a month or two months during the year. I was offered a Villa at a complex with a "fish" name with a 50% management fee. I asked the owners profit which was apprx 7%.. Ok, how many weeks was the owner using it? NEVER. Do it right and have a free place. My wife and I are down every 4 months +/- for a week and I am down alone in-between times for a week. Apprx 8 weeks a year of free Villa AND, cash flow on rental.

A secret about brokers on the island... In the States, most agents are honest OR their brokers will fire them for fear of the Department of Real estate.. No license for a broker in Belize... many outright crooks... Not kidding.. Find a broker who has been of the island for 10 + years and has a "great" reputation. Make sure that broker has a good knowledge of real estate titles, searches etc. Showing you property is easy; anybody can do it BUT do they know what they are doing re title? Any broker who does this full time for 10+ years knows the market and knows many people on the island. I was just offered a "steal" because of currency exchange in another country. All cash; quick sale.. I am happy and content with two properties; didn't want another... Become an expert in one small segment of the market and be ready to "buy" when the deal is right.

The Villa that I purchased has been rented "solid" for 3 months and I already have two weeks in August rented and one week in November. Yes; I work a few hours a week on VRBO but I am not competing with hundreds of condos. Best of all, I'm an old fart and go into the office late everyday. I have plenty of time to deal with new guests and, frankly, enjoy dealing with guests. Get consistent 5 STAR ratings and the rents will come with no problem.

Ragman; looking forward to meeting you in a week +/-
Posted By: Uncle Buck

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 01:30 PM

Make your money in the states, and spend it in Belize. End of story.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 02:30 PM

Excellent advice Buck. There are several gringos on the Island who have done very well but they have been here for a while, worked hard, and were lucky. There are many other gringos, most no longer here, who have lost a ton of money buying real estate and trying to go into business here.

Advice-- It ain't easy! Laws, politics, regulations (or lack of) will be tough to maneuver. I know some very smart people who were extremely successful in the States who left a lot of money down here. That unfortunately is a familiar story.

It is this way in most any country in the Caribbean or Central America. In the 90's I decided that I was going to be a developer in Puerto Rico. I had a vision of a retirement community built on a mountain side maybe with a view of the ocean. Luckily a friend put me in touch with a very nice Puerto Rican attorney who was involved in construction and such. We had dinner together and at the end of the night he told me that he would welcome me as a client, but he finally said to me, "I like you, on your own the locals will eat you alive when you try to compete with them." The only way that it may be possible is to find a local partner but that is a mine field in which you will be the point man. His final advice was, enjoy our Island and people. Buy a residence if you would like but do your investing in the USA. I think that was excellent advice which I decided to follow.
Posted By: Shyboy

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 02:39 PM

In retrospect, I agree with Ragman ( again) and Uncle Buck... Judyann told me the old Belize saying; " if you want to have a million dollars in Belize (either currency), bring TWO million". Not word for word but close enough.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 03:18 PM

That's Emory King, hes said, if you want a small fortune in Belize bring a big one.
Posted By: Shyboy

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 06:50 PM

Thanks for the help. That's a much better quote.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/06/16 11:02 PM
Posted By: Judyann H.

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/07/16 01:35 PM

Thanks for the credit Shyboy.....the first time I read the' half your fortune quote' was on this message board.....However, I can say our experience has been much different.....We are hard working committed business and property owners in Belize with a great deal of Investment property experience. It may look easy on the outside, but like any investment/business or venture, success comes with commitment & dedication.....I know Shyboy has those good practices as we do.....There are no 'get rich quick' programs anywhere in the world that I'm aware of......We are and have been successful in Belize and like Elbert and many other business owners we have earned that success. And by the way....I wouldn't change a thing..... It's a wonderful life....... smile
Posted By: gsreimers

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/07/16 05:29 PM

Thank you to everyone for your responses. I was guessing I would get very different opinions and experiences and that's what I recieved. Judyann, my wife and I will be visiting the first week of April and I will send you an email before we come down.

Posted By: Inplub

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/09/16 04:01 PM

I second Judy, we have been here on and off for over 14 years and run a Thai Restaurant. If you put the work in you will be successful, if you let other people run your business it can only go one way.
Posted By: CaptOneIron

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/09/16 05:32 PM

I would like to add, and I don't mean this as being cruel, you will quickly find that every single San Pedrano you meet will consider you as a source of income for themselves whether or not it is in your best interest. It is like walking around with a big target on your back.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/09/16 06:24 PM

You must learn that sometimes you have to give instructions on something that you may think is not necessary but do this respectfully. It was only a few decades ago when there wasn't much going on in San Pedro and learning the ins and outs of complicated machinery; modern construction or maybe the hospitality/restaurant business is not something that could be learned when they where young. Be patient and respectful.

You must learn to say no thank you and thank you.

You must learn that tomorrow only means not today. It does not necessary mean tomorrow. They don't want to disappoint you so they are apt to say tomorrow when it could be next week.

You must learn that a loan is not a loan and not to expect to get repaid.

You must learn to evaluate the stories of medical emergencies of family members and other emergencies requiring money.

You must learn to keep your mouth shut at times when maybe you only think you know best.

You must learn to be respectful of your workers feelings while still being firm. ie: 8 am starting time is not 8:30 etc.

The people of Belize are some of the best I've ever worked with. They are very clever and very friendly. One of the best compliments I've received in my life was one day when I was telling my men that I was leaving and wouldn't be their boss anymore. I complimented them on their ability and how much I'd learned from them. Two of our best employees immediately told me together how sorry they were that I was leaving and how much they had learned a lot from me. I guess it was a mutually rewarding experience and you can't ask for more than that.

There are many struggling people in the USA who are in similar positions whether self imposed or not. They would take any advantage if you allowed them. It is very difficult to be in business in the USA or here. If you go into business here it could be a very rewarding experience but not necessarily wildly financially rewarding. Again good luck.
Posted By: OttoGear

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/11/16 03:10 AM

I've lost lots of money in the United States buying stocks that went down and that I sold at a loss. I have also lost money in alternative investments while living in the states.

But the land I bought in Belize many years ago is still there and has more than doubled in 20 years. At least I have my piece of land and I can not get my money back from the stock losses.

Boo Hoo and Yeah Belize !!!

My recommendation: Buy lots and lots of silver now because it will go through the roof in the future.

Posted By: Agavegirl

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/12/16 03:48 AM

We came down to Ambergris Caye in 2000. We came back in 2001. We decided to purchase a small, unique property in a small condominium complex that had just come up for sale. We thought of it as only a "Jumping off point" should we decide to retire in Belize. It was reasonably lucrative and we liked and trusted the developer. He had the condo next door and lived there. We made a decent amount of rental cash with the one Condo and enjoyed free lodging for our 2 vacations a year. The developer decided to expand and build another resort North of the cut. At that time it was a hand ferry to get across and we bought another unit there pre-construction. We were required to purchase a furniture package.

Long story short...We became Me. I inherited the Belize (fully paid for) properties as part of a divorce settlement. Enter...2008. After my divorce I listed both properties for sale at the then FMV which was higher than my basis in the properties. I was able to sell property one (the small resort) for a small gain. The second property I did not even break even and it took over 5 years to sell due to the proliferation of other listings of similar properties on the island.

Prior to my final sale, US banking law changed. I could no longer bring back a check for my rental proceeds in US Dollars. I had to got through a bunch of hoops to open a bank account locally and big IF..the bank could disperse US funds, I could take them home. It turns out none of that mattered because the property sold just before I could set up a US dollar bank account. Now the rental proceeds are in limbo unless I use them there or wait. I waited and am using them at the same resort. After which, I can receive the remaining balance in the rental income of my already sold property through a new arrangement.

Do check out the banking laws. Do consider your personal use of the property. Do consider the current market. Do conisider your management company and the two year history of rental income. Do consider your own willingness to have a long term relationship with Belize.
Posted By: lil'red

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/12/16 12:34 PM

Agavegirl makes a VERY good point. Getting your money into Belize to invest is easy. Getting your money OUT of Belize is nearly impossible. But one more thing few people consider, and I wish I had when I "invested" in my first restaurant here. Do look at auction properties. Everyone wants new development, and pre construction. I watch the auction properties and have seen how quickly last years "new construction" can become this years fire sale. They are sold not with the owner in mind, but with repaying the bank debt. I went to one in town auction, the only person in attendance, and the lot I was bidding, I could have had for $50,000BZD plus the fees. The lot had been on the market for $79,000USD for 2 years. I got my bank loan together and in that time a friend became very ill, and the money went to hospital bills, but the property stood for another year with no interest. It went again to auction and sold to a young man about a year ago, and I bet he did not pay more than $40kBZD for it.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 02/12/16 02:05 PM

You have to have a lot of talent to have lost money in equities if you held them for 20 years in the States. That has not been my experience and even with the recent drop in equity prices I'm buying a little and not selling. Good luck on Silver and Gold, but hey maybe it is "different" this time.

Land, well the value of land have increased tremendously in the USA over time in most places and most of my real big gains have been connected to this. A few years ago I bought a three units in FL and 2 are already worth about 35% mores on a quick sale if I wanted to sell. The other I've only owned for a year and it is about worth what I paid for the property plus my expenses. It will do fine in the future. In my youth I bought up a lot of relatively cheap land on the edge of city. Well years went by and the city grew into this area. One 4 acre lot that I had bought for $10K I subdivided into 18 house lots. Another piece of property a mile up the road became a strip mall abutting a new shopping center at a 20X + gain. My point is property is good most anywhere over the long term. However some countries and systems provide you with more protection than others. Last but not least, "TIMING" can be everything but long periods of time are very forgiving.

Good Luck with you investments.
Posted By: Judyann H.

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 04/09/16 06:23 PM

Posted By: gsreimers

Re: Ambergris Caye as an investment - 04/11/16 11:40 PM

Judyann, It was a pleasure meeting you and Tom Friday night and the snapper I had at your place was wonderful. We enjoyed our stay and looked at a couple of condos while we were there. Now I have some research to do to see if we can possibly make the dream a reality.
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