Ambergris Caye: Small Island…Big Opportunity
By Rich Checkan
According to research by the National Institutes on Retirement Security, one-third of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 have absolutely nothing set aside for retirement. Another third have savings of less than one year’s salary.
According to a Harris Poll conducted for Wells Fargo, a third of respondents ranging in age from 25 to 75 - with median annual household income of $63,000 – said they were not saving for retirement at all. Half of those over the age of 50 believed they would not have enough money to live on once they stopped working.
Of course, one big reason for these astonishing numbers is the lingering effect of the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the ongoing recession. During the crisis, equities markets plunged 39%. Just to get back to pre-crisis portfolio values required 67% gains.
Couple that with the staggering numbers of Baby Boomers set to retire in the near future, and it is no wonder more and more people are considering alternatives to retiring in the United States.
Destinations which make it possible to live on social security payments alone are becoming increasingly popular.
Ambergris Caye, Belize is one such destination.
So, a week and a half ago, I took a trip down to this 25 mile long by 1 mile wide Caribbean island off the coast of Belize – formerly British Honduras – with my colleague, Harry Eagens.
Most of you do not know Harry, but you will hear more from him in the future. Harry met Michael and Glen about three decades ago when he came to work for Deak-Perera straight out of college. Harry has worked in the financial services industry ever since, and he recently agreed to help us evaluate and report on the myriad offshore real estate opportunities being offered to us in both young and mature markets.
Harry and I only had about two and a half days on Ambergris Caye, but we saw quite a bit. We were invited down as part of a “Chill Weekend” with our hosts, Joel Nagel, Mike Cobb and Rachel Jensen of ECI Development. The gathering brought together shareholders, current owners and potential owners. Rather than opt for diving or snorkeling adventures, Harry and I took four different tours of the tiny island…one with our hosts, one with a resident Re/Max agent, one with a client of ASI and one on our own.
What did we find?
Well, whether you are looking for lifestyle, retirement or investment, you can find it in Ambergris Caye.
Thanks to the contributions of the Belize Barrier Reef – the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world – activities such as fishing, boating, snorkeling and diving are as good here as it gets.
And, one short (17 minute) flight or one high-speed ferry ride gets you to mainland Belize and a multitude of jungle tours and adventures.
The food is fresh – especially the seafood – and there is no shortage of excellent dining. Of course, the laid back pace of life is a welcome change for those looking to either leave or temporarily escape the rigors of their current day-to-day.
For those considering Belize as a retirement option, Ambergris Caye ranks high here as well. It is no surprise both RetirePedia.com and islands.com list Belize in their Top Ten Best Islands to Retire.
- Your U.S. dollar goes far. The Belize dollar is pegged at 2 Belize dollars to each U.S. dollar, and most agree you can live just fine on U.S. $1,500 per month.
- It is accessible. More airlines are adding service to Belize to their list of destinations. Pending U.S. government approval, Southwest will begin service to Belize in October of this year.
- Real estate is still affordable. Unlike other, more developed markets, Belize has not overheated…yet.
- Belize boasts one of the lowest rates of inflation in the world.
For those looking to make an investment in offshore real estate in Ambergris Caye, there is a lot of potential here.
- Although it has been 34 years since they gained their independence from Great Britain and 28 years since Madonna’s chart-topping song, La Isla Bonita, made it famous, it is still today in the early stages of development as a market.
- There are currently no “flagged” resorts to be found anywhere on the island. But, they are coming. In fact, the Four Seasons brand may be one of the first in conjunction with Leonardo DiCaprio’s purchase of a tiny island off the west coast of Ambergris Caye. (I understand you can wade the roughly 6 miles out to his island in mostly waist to chest deep waters.)
- Over the past year, the difference between the peak season (Thanksgiving through Easter) and the off season is becoming more and more indistinguishable.
- Of all the tourists who find their way to Belize each year, 70% to 80% make their way to Ambergris Caye.
- Ambergris Caye boasts peak season occupancy rates of over 80%.
- And, the west coast is virtually undeveloped. And, as you may be aware, that’s typically the gold coast when it comes to investing and real estate appreciation potential. Currently, there is no electricity, water or sewer capability on much of the west coast, but we saw the poles in the ground stretching from east to west. Again, it is coming.
The Beautiful Island
Regardless of whether you seek lifestyle, retirement or investment opportunity, Ambergris Caye is worth considering.
The economy is stable. English is the official language and is widely spoken – along with Kriol and Spanish. They are governed by British common law. Taxes are low. Residency packages are available. They have a clear and refreshing sense of community, and, it is absolutely beautiful.
In future alerts, look for more information on specific real estate opportunities available in Ambergris Caye. But, if you can’t wait to take a closer look at this island paradise, send me an email, and either Harry or I will be in touch to discuss what we saw and to make some referrals.
We can also arrange for you to go see for yourself…and I highly encourage you to do so.