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Developers, Retirees and Snowbirds Are Discovering Belize


Since there are almost no habitable dwellings on the island now, they are housed in large, elaborately appointed safari tents imported from South Africa, with air-conditioning, fully functioning bathrooms and mosquito nets over four-poster beds.

Less ceremoniously, new private homes elsewhere in Belize are selling with vigor. Dennis Craft, an agent at Sancas Realty, said that although the average price for luxury homes across the country remains under $1 million, there have been double-digit increases in prices over the last few years in coastal areas like Ambergris Caye and Placencia.

At the Grand Caribe development two miles north of San Pedro, a two-bedroom condo with an ocean view was being offered in October for $470,000. The buyer would pay $362 a month in homeowners’ association fees, $288 a year in property taxes and $1,914 a year for insurance.

A studio unit, with a loft bedroom and a view of the water, was on sale for $219,000.

Some of the retirees coming to Belize are drawn by the relatively low prices. Others have the means to splurge. Marty Smith, a commercial real estate developer from Temecula, Calif., and his fiancĂ©e, Tracy Park, first visited Belize in 2015 to look into “a potential development opportunity in an underdeveloped area,” Mr. Smith said. “We didn’t understand what Belize was all about.”

The couple, retired “empty nesters” and both 53, have bought a two-bedroom villa at Itz’ana Belize Resort & Residences on Placencia Peninsula, still under construction, which they will rent out when they are away; another house nearby that they plan to turn into a beach club “to give jobs to the locals,” Mr. Smith said; and a condominium at Margaritaville.

A dearth of development was commonplace in 1981, when the film director Francis Ford Coppola arrived shortly after the country achieved independence from Britain.

Mr. Coppola was looking for a jungle retreat that would recall the dense tropical rain forests of the Philippines, of which he had grown fond while shooting “Apocalypse Now” a few years earlier. He bought an abandoned lodge and its 72 acres in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve and used it for a decade as a family haven. In 1993, it opened to the public as the Blancaneaux Lodge, a resort with 20 thatched-roof rooms and cottages within hearing distance of a waterfall.

By 2001, Mr. Coppola had bought a second property, a large seafront lot in Placencia that he turned into a sumptuous 25-cottage resort, the Turtle Inn. Guests can rent his daughter Sofia’s cottage, with private pool and butler, or a small island, Coral Caye, just offshore.


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