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why so many half built homes?

hello everyone, just returned from my first trip to belize. spent a week in the hopkins area, but had a rental car and drove over the the middle of belize. one thing i kept seeing, from altun ha to hopkins, was the number of half built and obviously abandoned home sites. can anyone shed some light on this? is it problems with contractors and builders running over budget? hangups with local government inspections and licenses? any clarification would help alot. thanks ron

Well depending on the location the problem could be Expats who changed their minds, and/or ran out of money or it could be  Belizean's who are  building their home on possibly  government lease land. In the latter case the leasee has to show Improvement to the leased land within a window often 3 years to keep the lease. So many will start a building  until he runs out of money, and then 3 years later add to it,  possibly this way they can have a concrete home to move the family  into in about 10 years.  Then they will save to change the lease to titled land.
Some Belizeans  even onowned titled land will build homes piecemeal like that as they have to save to pay for the next step all the time.  Even what is considered well paid employment only pays about or  little over US minimum wage.
There are a bunch of ugly rotting half finished blocks of apartments at the end of the Placencia peninsula that the developer abandoned when under investigation.

Another thing you may see are concrete homes obviously dwellings  that have  large  amounts of re-inforcing steel  sticking out the top of the walls, this is so when they can afford it they can add the upper floor. Easier if the steel is in place so as not to disturb the finished lower floor.

yes, we saw many of the houses you refer to that had the steel reinforcement sticking up, and many smaller structures that belizeans were building a little at a time. but what i am referencing were many larger homes in the planned developments, obviously for expats. in my conversations with several expats while visiting, it was clear that there were several expat developers and builders that were trying to capitalize on the increasing number of foreigners buying and building, either as rental homes or to live in themselves. as a result, i wonder if the typical aggressive western business practices have already taken hold and many have already fallen victim to price gouging and cost over runs. or as i have been cautioned about already, the bribes required by the local officials to move the needed inspections and permits along. as a result many are becoming disgusted with the difficulty or the expense and giving up?

We puchased Property in 2014 within 6 months our fist home was bult and occupied We used a local builder and built a wooden house on 9 foot concrete posts and ring beamthe simple house withstood direct Hurricane unscathed last year. We were at the time advised by many to use expat builders and build a full concrete home. We had personal recocmendations and had seen the builders work and have never had a complaint. the lowest estimate for construction of the similar concrete house by 3 of the Expat run/owned companise was triple the time frame and 2 and a !/2 times the costs. with little finishing or water catchment set up. Unfortunately when we wished to build the second house that builder was not coming out as far as our location any more. So we asked and got further recommendations again we looked at both expat companies (who by the way employ local builders to do the work) and local builders. we checled out the second builder by having him put a concrete under building for our first place. that was a great job so he built the forever house that i had designed. it took about 10 months 9 if you take out the month of work lost due to Hurricane. we never had anything go missing from the work sites prices were not altered ( aaprt for my last minute upgrade for my Kitchen)  i had 2 different local builders and Either I am the luckies expat around or I just chose very well. During the time I have owned my place within a mile 2 houses have been started and abandoned but they are obviously the McMansion variety with huge floor plan, also those were being built for people not in Belize during the building of them (other houses have been built  in this area as well  and appear fine.
You often find those half built houses for sale at good prices for you to finish.

Terrific hit it right on.  I also have seen the following occur:

Some builders under quote on a build.  Then ask the customer for addtional funds to complete the home or put in inferior materials.  Eg. less rebar/cement/ aluminum wiring / inferior windows. 

Other builders set up the payment system on the build so they get most of the funds on earlier draws of construction so have little motivation to complete when they are nearly fully paid.  I am aware of a couple of instances where this has occured and the builder hasn't completed the project.

Often materials going missing on site.  Builder comes back to customer wanting additional funds to replace.  If you don't pay, the projects dies.  The other problem occurs is the builder has more than one project on the go at the same time.  This means less supervison of trades, often inferior quality, and more time to complete.

Lastly, sometimes trades do not follow the plans.  Naturally this creates problems and can cause conflict.   If a contractor agrees to redo it often comes at an additonal cost.

Just because someone is well known and has been there for many years doesn't make them qualified. 

Do your research and talk to a number of previous customers and see work.  Ensure your specs are very detailed and the draws for payment makes sense.    Do not overlook how materials are going to safeguarded during construction.

Lastly, be on site daily during construction to monitor and allow variance in your budget for cost over runs as will likely occur.  This can come at significant cost to you if the project extends over time alloted in contract. 

Building is not for the faint of heart and carries significant risk whether it is in North America or Belize.

monex90210 & Terrific are right to some degree

All the above can and have been experienced by someone or another.

Belize is a different ball game when it comes to building homes than you are probably used to, there can be a lot of pitfalls,
One other 'for instance' is the quality of building materials, some unscrupulous builders will buy the cheapest rubbish on the market, then watch your home disintegrate in front of your own eyes.
Basically do your homework or hire a 'Professional Consultant' to oversee your dream project, depending on your own ability and/or availability will determine the scope of involvement you may need them to be involved with to advise & consult with.

It always amazes me why some folk would gamble a good portion, if not all, their life savings on a build project that they just do not have any experience with.

Some of the things a consultant could help with
*Project/Site Management
*Design
*Procurement/Contracts
*Planning, CBA/PUC Permits
*Logistics
*Coordination
*Cash Flow
*Quantity, Materials/Valuations
*Quality, Materials/Workmanship

All the above have their own pitfalls, a good consultant will smooth the way
Relax-Slowdown-Live Longer

Belize (like Spain, France, Mexico and Puerto Rico) has a probate and inheritance law that includes a form of "forced heirship."  This doctrine essentially prevents the decedent from disinheriting their descendants and sometimes other heirs - even by Will but definitely when the decedent dies without a Will.  "Forced heirship" applies whether there is a surviving spouse or not.

So, many properties remain incomplete in these countries because someone died and there are multiple owners (maybe even ones who cannot be located) with divergent interests.  The surviving spouse might be hesitant to improve property owned jointly with remote heirs who have no ability or interest in contributing to the costs.  This is from a Belize law firm:

A testator is free to leave any part of an estate to anyone he/she wishes in a will; however, the testator must make adequate provision for any dependents at the time of death.

If adequate provision is not made, the dependent person can apply to the Supreme Court for relief. The judge has the discretion to reserve a portion of the estate for persons not adequately provided for in the will; however the judge can only act in response to an application by a dependent. If, for whatever reason, someone is considered “unworthy” to receive a gift in a will (e.g. if the inheritor is accused of murdering the testator) the gift to the unworthy person fails, but the entire will is not invalidated.

In the case of intestacy, the table of distribution as set out in the Administration of Estates Act applies. Under this table, the rights of the surviving spouse and children are recognized first, then the parents, followed by parents, then sisters and brothers (whole blood ranking before half blood).


Keep this in mind if you invest in Belize - the law of Belize (not U.S. law) governs probate and inheritance of real estate in Belize.  (It might also govern disposition of personal property if you are a full time resident of Belize.)  Definitely consult a Belize lawyer to work around this, perhaps through ownership in a trust or other entity.

thank you, your information was very insightful, and useful. could you tell me the names of the builders you used?
thanks, ron

thank you, that could explain many of the half finished homes around the area.

thank you mcagun, you are correct, but even in the states, much less belize, knowing a good consultant, or builder, from a bad consultant, or builder, is the million dollar question. if you can identify one the you should be able to identify the other. and if you can identify a good builder, then you dont need a consultant.

I'm curious about the govt lease land. Sounds a lot like the old US homestead program. But that went away decades ago. It worked for some people, at least.

Do you have to be Belizean or become a Belizean citizen to do it? I haven't found anything on it.

Bermuda has special programs for native Bermudans, but it was only for them. Very restrictive too.

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