Real Estate Corner - by Diane Campbell - Whats hot and whats not

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 42            November 4, 1999

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Right now it's "slow season" for just about every business in Belize. This is the time of year when we should take a good look at what happened last season and make a plan for the coming one. I have asked realtors to give me their feedback on last season's list of "What was hot and what was not" - and to give me a prediction of what they see as the trend for next year. None of the folks I talked to have crystal balls - just experience and pretty good common sense. Be sure to use your own common sense when thinking through what these trends mean to you.

    There is a general agreement that the hottest items this year were small in-town lots where apartments could be built; large lots with small down payments and owner financing for ten years; houses; and beachfront "villa homes". Sales were slow for condos, small beach lots, apartments and other commercial properties. Realtors expect the same things that were "hot" last year to be even "hotter" this year. Trends are to solid buildings, good quality land, long-term ownership and steady appreciation.

    It is always a good idea to watch the part of the market that was "slow" in the past year or two. Remember the old adage "Buy low, sell high" and when you see that prices on any particular property have not changed over a two or three year period, it may be time to look again, and MAYBE make a smart buy. It is also a good time to look at areas where there has been a real improvement in the neighborhood - the waterfront along the San Pedro River is being nicely developed with little docks, pretty yards, and a serious amount of cleaning up. Boca Del Rio is steadily changing in a positive and quite lovely way. San Pablo is growing houses like mushrooms. Front Street's most northern block is just about to see some changes that will most likely bring business back to a quiet commercial area. The entire beach area from the Hustler Pier north to Boca del Rio is seeing a remarkable upward trend in value. Several properties along the lagoon side of San Pedro are freshly remodeled, clean and neat little marinas have sprouted up and there is a real focus on pride of ownership there. The Boatyard has brought new attention to another lagoon area. Local investors may wish to revisit these areas and see if there is something right for their long-term investment program.

    Financing drives much of the real estate market.  What is "hot" in financing? Sellers carry loans with 10% interest over ten years. What is "not hot"? Loans at interest rates over 15%.

    What might we see in the next year? Fewer sales at higher prices. Inventory is shrinking. Steady appreciation of, and demand for high quality properties. Increased interest in property fronting lagoons.

    What does this mean to you as a local property owner? It means that if you take care of your property - keep buildings painted, keep it clean, continue to improve it even a little at a time - you are "putting money in the bank". If you can afford to keep what you have, keep it. Do not borrow against a property and risk losing it. Hang on, maintain what you have, and if you can do so without ruining your budget, buy something before prices rise again.

    What do these trends mean for the future of San Pedro's real estate market? They mean that Buyers and Sellers will have more money on the line in each transaction and will therefore rightly demand a higher quality of service, protection and professionalism from the folks who serve them. If the customers make this demand, then those who fulfill the demand will remain in business and will do well-and we will all find ourselves benefited by more honesty, more opportunity and more prosperity.

    Here's to prosperity and peace of mind throughout the month of November and beyond.

Thanks for reading...Diane Campbell
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