By John Lamkin, updated by Lydia Carey
Many publications have touted foreign ownership of real estate in Belize — and rightly so. With jungles, beautiful beaches and the second largest barrier reef in the world, the country is an excellent choice. Places like Ambergris Caye and Corozal have become known and still offer an attractive lifestyle, but for those that want to "fly under the radar," Placencia, Stann Creek District is the place to look.
David Kafka gave up his landscaping business in Charleston, SC to move to Belize for a simpler and less expensive life for himself, wife, and young daughter. In Placencia he found that and more. The opportunity arose to establish a RE/MAX real estate office in the small, upcoming town. The boom there managed to keep David, a distant relative of Franz Kafka it so happens, quite busy. Well, busy by Belize standards anyway.
In addition to his real estate business, he is participating in community affairs, making Placencia a better place to live. David says about the village, "I love the area, friendly people, great food, and more. Placencia is growing..." He says that Placencia is a great place to live, to bring your family, or just visit.
The real estate "ground floor" is still happening. The new cruise ship terminal finished in 2018 for Norwegian Cruises has been a brilliant success (but now with the corona virus there have been whispers that they may have to sell). The international airport scheduled to be built is still a way off says Kafka, but the landing strip and facilities that exist now have made it possible for private and charter planes to land right in Placencia. Even after a decade or more of development Kafka still says that this area is one of the best kept secrets in Caribbean real estate.
Just to give you a mental picture, on the southern end of Belize's Caribbean coast, Placencia is a peninsula within the state of Stann Creek District. It's comprised of a 24-mile road that runs north and south along a 16-mile peninsula. There several main residential areas along it, essentially (from south to north): the village of Placencia, Seine Bight, Maya Beach, and the Plantation area. There are luxury real estate opportunities to be had in each area, and many luxury resorts opened in the past few years that make a comfortable stay for one-time visitors or buyers scouting the area.
Here are a few places you can find your next dream home. All prices shown in the following examples are in U.S. dollars.
© Itz'ana Resort
Going north from Placencia village is Seine Bight, a local Garifuna fishing village. On the edge between Placencia Village and Seine Bight is one of the newest and most modern developments on the peninsula—the Itz'ana resort
Itz'ana is a subdivision and resort that stretches from the ocean front to the western lagoon. On the beach side is the very modern and high-end Itz'ana hotel and one of the complex's restaurants. There are also several 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units. Those already sold, are either rented out or owners live in them full time. The developers have focused on finishing their beachside units so the lagoon side of the resort is still under construction and probably won't be finished for another year or so. All the units for sale here are single family homes, 1-4 bedrooms on the lagoon side, with boat access and a marina on the way. It's a good moment to get in on the ground floor by investing in this development while there are still units and lots available.
The resort and its beachside restaurant are already open and the property counts a great swimming pool among its amenities. A world class gym and another lagoon side restaurant are also in the works. Prices range from a 1-bedroom on the lagoon side, what they call a solar cottage, for around $375,000 all the way up to $800,000 for a 3-bedroom on the beach.
Maya Beach and Coco Plum
North of Seine Bight is Maya Beach which over the past few years has grown as a residential area and in its selection of luxury property. This area has a strong ex-pat presence and a laidback bohemian vibe. It's an older area so you will find older trees and more foliage (in comparison with the Plantation area further north where many of the lots have been clear-cut). There are no covenants or restrictions either so you will find more restaurants, bars and boutique shopping. The area caters to a wide variety of values with roadside or canal lots going for around $175,000 as well as beach houses that cost close to a million.
Drawing a lot of attention to the area is the new Naia Resort in the gated community of Cocoplum. A boutique resort, Naia is a low density, luxury resort nestled into ancient oak trees and sea grapes. The hotel is run impeccably according to Kafka, with a low employee-to-guest ratio and a collection of 200-300 square feet cottages with deluxe amenities and finishes. While the units are not available for purchase, the resort has brought even more cachet to the Cocoplum gated community, known for its high-end properties.
Cocoplum is a 224-acre subdivision that stretches from the ocean to the lagoon. There are a range of resale homes here, condos and lots of remaining lots for building. It has become the refuge of more than a few celebrities. Condos run from 300-350,000 for a 2-bedroom and houses have gone up in price over the past few years, with several 2-bedrooms selling for around 800,000 on the high end, and on the low end, non-beachfront properties for around $320,000. There are interior lots in the mid-$200,000s for a half acre, and beach lots that are 3/4 of an acre for around $500,000.
Villas at Cocoplum is one of the neighborhood's best luxury developments. Started in 2008, the most recent unit was built with the last two or three years, so despite the development's age, it still feels current. Here you can get a 2-bedroom condo in the high $400,000s and a 4-bedroom for a million.
© 1st Choice Belize
Chabil Mar and The Peninsula Club
In 2003, entrepreneur Diane Bulman came to Placencia to "find her own small house" but ended up developing Chabil Mar, a luxury boutique condo resort. She went on to develop The Peninsula Club, a high-end residential development.
As one of the older developments on the peninsula, it's impressive to see how top notch this resort and the surrounding development remain. They continue to have one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios and owners that purchase units on the resort find that they get a 6.5% to 7.5% return on their investments yearly. Resale units are now selling in the $500-550,000 range.
The Peninsula Club is a good place to look for a deal as the owners (the place changed hands when Bulman died) are looking to move some of their inventory. The big lots are a half acre and can be purchased at around $175,000 and some of the smaller houses are in $400-600,000 range. Bulman's former home, also for sale, is a 3-bedroom, 3-bath house on a lot that is close to an acre. The property is surrounded on three sides by water, there's a swimming pool, and a very open floor plan. It's on the market for 1.2 million.
One bonus of buying in the Peninsula Club? No monthly or yearly property fees.