Retirement Legislation - The Effect on Real Estate
Recently Government passed special
legislation that is designed to make it attractive for non-Belizean
retirees to move to, and live in Belize. It is hoped that the presence of
these retirees will result in more money going into our day to day
economy and create more jobs in the private sector. According to some
international attorneys, Belize now has the most progressive and "user
friendly" retirement residency legislation in the world.
How does this legislation affect us in San Pedro? What
will be the effect on real estate values, trends and development? The
first thing we will see is probably a little increase in tourism overall,
as people with foreign-destination retirement in mind come to explore
Belize - and as tourism becomes stronger, property values go up.
Secondly, when and if these retirees decide to come here and live, there
will be an additional increase in property values due to scarcity and due
to an overall strengthening of our local economy.
San Pedro is already the preferred residential
destination for foreign retirees. Retirees tend to be older people with
concerns for the "second half" of their lives. If we are to benefit from
this event, then we must continue to be the best place in Belize for
these folks to live. Just because retirees have chosen to be here in the
past does not mean they will automatically choose to be here in future.
This new legislation may bring to us a slightly different resident
profile, and we need to be aware of that. If we are to capitalize on this
immigration trend then we must understand what these people want, and
then we must be conscious of providing it. Another benefit of providing
the things retirees want is that these are things we ALL
want...comfortable, safe and affordable lives.
The most consistent and important issues for immigrant
retirees are COST OF LIVING and HEALTH CARE. The location that can
provide the "best deal" in these areas is the location that will end up
benefiting the most from this legislation.
COST OF LIVING - The legislation allows for a retired
individual to be granted retirement residency if she/he can show an
income from a fixed out of country source of $2,000US per month. Most of
the retirees applying under this legislation are anticipated to be North
Americans. Most North Americans have been taught that housing costs
should be about 25% of their net income. If these retirees arrive with
the intent to rent, then that means a single person will likely want to
spend no more than $500US/$1,000BZ per month in rent. Remember they will
still have water, power and phone to pay for beyond that target rental
amount. If Belize is your year-round home, this sounds like a pretty high
income for one person to live on every month - but these retirees are
going to have different priorities and we have to keep them in mind. The
biggest "different" expense item is travel. Most of these folks will make
fairly frequent trips "home". Think back to the last time you bought a
plane ticket to Chicago, rented a car, etc. Suddenly your budget
has a great big hole in it. So we must remember these are not "rich
gringos" - they are people with enough to live very comfortably, but they
are people who will look hard for a bargain and true value when they
spend. These folks will be looking for rental housing that is different
from the kind that students and workers will find appropriate. The
retiree is…retired. That means they have no job to go to every day, and
that "being home" needs to be a spacious and pleasant experience. They
will want room to "putter", room to lay about outside and more than
anything, they will want a view of the sea or lagoon. Being older,
they will probably find air conditioning important too - not because they
cannot live without it, but because they are most likely used to it.
Cost of living - here is what it means to
you as a property owner and potential property developer looking to
provide housing for this group or individual. Apartments or cottages with
water view, courtyards or gardens, air conditioning, television,
telephone and a quiet location (no adjacent sources of loud noises), are
the ones that they will ask for. The easier the access to town for these
folks the better too. And…in almost every case they will want, if
they can find it, two bedrooms - one for themselves and one for "the
grandkids to visit." Can you build to suit this profile? Sure you
can. Think it over - perhaps this is your next real estate opportunity.
HEALTH CARE is a very serious concern for the
immigrant retiree. We have several good doctors here. We have alternative
medicine available too, and of course the hyperbaric chamber. Our new
hospital is a wonderful development for San Pedro. It will have a very
positive impact on the health care issue here…but we all know we have a
long way to go. For the sake of good health, and consequently greater
prosperity for all, we need to encourage and support continued
improvement in our community's health care.
Will this retiree legislation have as great an impact
on rental housing as St. Matthews? The student at St. Matthews has to
live in San Pedro if she/he wants to attend the college. The
retirees will only come if they like it here more than anyplace
else. For that reason, the answer to the question is, "It
depends…". It depends on us, San Pedro.
As San Pedro Town grows, provided it keeps the charm
for which it is known, our prosperity should naturally grow too. There
are excellent real estate opportunities waiting for the creative and
well-informed person who wishes to address the needs of the retirees that
this new legislation will bring to our shores. If you find a need and
fill it well, the customers will come.
Thanks for reading