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Gwido Mar of Grupo Mar Realty Ltd. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
The Parliment House in Belmopan, Belize 1975 – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingWithin Belize, acquiring permits and having inspections are done for construction done in certain places such as Belmopan, Belize City, and the cayes.  Those are areas where you would need to get a building permit and there are some restrictions and guidelines that need to be followed.
 
In any of these places, you have to have a plan that was drawn by an architect or an engineer. Then you need to turn it in with the building authority, and then they will approve it and give you a permit. There are small fees that you need to pay as well. Periodically, the inspectors will come out and check that everything is being built according to the permits that you have. On the cayes, there are certain areas where you could only build up to 3-stories high and there are some areas where you can build up to 4-stories high. 
 
In Belize City and Belmopan, since there are sewer lines, you are not allowed to go as close to your fence line, but in San Ignacio, there are no sewer lines. You don’t have to worry about that because there is so much space and everybody has large lots and space is is not a concern.
 
Here in San Ignacio, they still do not require you to have a architect or an engineer draw a plan. What they do right now is if you have a rough plan that was made by yourself, that is fine. You will pay a small fee, and that is it. It’s basically a joke.  They just want some money and then let you build whatever you want. They are not going to check on the construction or call you.
 
Being Belizeans, there are lots of things in our rule book that we, ourselves, are not aware of. Since there are not a lot of resources to enforce these laws, we may have built structures in the past that do not follow the law, but because we do not know the laws and there is nobody to enforce the law, it was just done and it is history.
 
In some cases, the people who come to Belize from Europe, Canada, or the US may have experience in construction and others don’t. What you do is probably based on your comfort level or your expertise. If you feel that you can just hire a general contractor, then you could do that and supervise their work. If you feel that you actually need to go a step further and have an architect draft your plan and give it to a general contractor and make sure he can read the plans, and you would still supervise to make sure everything is being done according to your plan, I would recommend that you be here in Belize while your house is being built. Personally, I would be there while my house is being built no matter where in the world I am building my house. 
 
( The Parliament House in Belmopan, Belize, pictured 1975.)
Ryan Wrobel of Wrobel & Co., Attorneys-at-Law – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Beach house in Placencia, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe construction standards in Belize vary depending on the type of contractor you hire, their experience, and what you are paying for as far as quality of building materials. As a result, the construction standards in Belize go from the very low to the very high.
 
There are some fantastic high priced structures recently constructed here in Belize City using modern technology and techniques and modern materials. There are some great engineers and architects here in Belize and there are some engineers and architects on the low end as well.
 
If someone is interested in coming to Belize and building a structure, they should do their due diligence. Certainly, there are qualified professionals to assist and put up a world class structure for you in this country but at the same time, if you don’t do your due diligence, ask around, and ask for references, there are also probably several contractors that would not produce a building that would be adequate or satisfying for someone coming from the more developed world.
 
Certainly, there is a need to apply for and be granted a building permit before erecting structures in Belize. There is a building authority that does inspections of buildings before they are deemed habitable. As far as installing electricity to a building, there are certain codes in place and the building needs to be inspected by Belize Electricity Limited prior to them turning on current to a structure. So licensing, permitting, and inspections are needed for a building or buildings in Belize to exist.
 
I wouldn’t necessarily say that the construction licensing in Belize is equivalent to the US. Probably things like asbestos, lead paint, and some of the other kind of evils in building and inspections don’t exist here in Belize. I don’t know if those products even exist here in Belize. But as far as building permits, I don’t want to say that it is not as extensive as the United States here in Belize. I would say that it’s adequate based on the type of construction that exists here. There are no skyscrapers in Belize. There are no huge units, or anything of that nature.  The inspectors in Belize do a sufficient job and I haven’t heard of any unsafe buildings being constructed or anyone getting hurt.
 
(Beach house in Placencia, Belize, pictured.)
Chris Leonard of Paradise Found Belize Real Estate and Development – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
House in Cerros Sand development, Belize  – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn order to build in Belize, you have to get an architectural design and submit it to the Belize building committee. Once it’s approved, you can start construction. In order to do the construction, there are wealth of construction companies that are available to meet the building demand here and you can find some with good, competitive pricing.

You always have to make sure that you have a good builder. The government will not provide you with an onsite inspector to make sure that things are done. There have been cases with storage and staircases ending up inside the house, when it should have been outside. The house was still functional, but it definitely looked weird. You want to make sure that you have a good builder with a strong reputation. That is why we have our own company and our own architect and construction manager to ensure that construction is done within our guidelines, so you don’t end up with salt water concrete or no rebar in the concrete.
 
These situations could very well happen because they don’t inspect buildings during construction in Belize. You just cannot assume that anything you build in Belize will be built to the North American standards, even when the government approves it. You could still run into people making short cuts in the United States, so I don’t think that only Belize has that problem. Contractors and construction companies anywhere could take shortcuts and the house could conceivably not be built the exact way that you want it, like with the staircase inside the house, when it should have been on the outside.  (This is the worst story I’ve heard.)

There are a good amount of high quality contractors who have a good reputation, but you have to check. You can feel fairly confident that your house will be stronger than North American standards. Generally, houses in Belize are built with concrete and steel, so they can withstand the pounding that a normal home in the US would not withstand, which is important, because here in Belize we do have weather flare ups.
 
Personally, if I were having a house built, I would make sure that I had a trustworthy contractor that was properly vetted, and I would also visit the property frequently to make sure that things were going the way they’re supposed to go.
 
(House under construction in Cerros Sand, Belize, pictured.)
Jim Hardesty of TropicChoice Properties & Investments, Ltd. – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Belize home built of Insulated concrete form construction with a traditional Mayan thatched roof – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingUntil just a few years ago, there actually were no construction standards in Belize. Competent architects, engineers, builders and tradesmen built excellent buildings, but essentially anyone could build whatever they wanted.
 
The Central Building Authority was established to bring an international construction standard to Belize, and all new construction must pass a thorough review by Belizean architects, engineers and the CBA.
 
This is overall a very positive development, since not only does it deliver an internationally acceptable product, but it sets the standard for Belizeans to be trained and educated, too, and as such, unskilled labor becomes skilled labor and works towards providing a higher standard of living for Belizeans themselves.
 
Historically, wood was the main construction material, and very abundant due to the Belizean timber industry and the plethora of beautiful hardwoods indigenous to the country.  Wood construction is very conducive to the British Colonial style of building, which prevailed over the past hundred years.
 
In the aftermath of some intense hurricanes, which wrought tremendous damage in the mid-part of the 20th century, concrete became the preferred building material, mainly due to its strength and imperviousness to insects.  
 
More recently, new, innovative technologies are being used, such as Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) and modular steel construction, even in conjunction with ancient Maya thatched roofs!  (See the picture above.)
 
Whichever style of construction you choose, will have to meet the new standards of the CBA and will be an excellent home for life in the tropics.
Kate Corrigan  of Georgetown Trust – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Belize construction workers working on foundation – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe construction standards in Belize depend on who you work with. I know people who live in plywood houses, including some locals.  Nowadays, most of the construction here is built to Category 4 or Category 5 with the same windows as well. I have been here for just over 4 years and I have not seen a hurricane. When I wrote this we were in the middle of hurricane season and we had a bit of rain yesterday.
 
You have to be careful which developer you choose. It is best to get an independent assessor to have a look at any real estate you’re thinking of buying.  Also, look at other work the developer has done.  If they’re building houses on the island and you are buying in or anywhere in Belize, go and see one they built two years ago and see how they are still standing. Normally if you get a good developer, you will have a well built house.
 
They do not have inspections or building codes here in Belize, but you have to go and get a building permit.  You create your plans, you say what you are going to be doing, and then you get a building permit. They come and say, “Yes, you can do this.” Then, they come and stick a piece of wood in your ground to say that his has been approved by the building association and they don’t come to see you again until the very end of the project when they come to measure or give title to the property based on what you built. I am sure there are supposed to be checks in between but I am not entirely sure that they are followed. One of the great things about financing through us is that we will disperse the financing only as the developer needs it in each stage. At each stage, before we go to disbursement, we will go in and physically check that the construction is being built to the standards that were promised within the contract.  Otherwise, we don’t disburse the money.
 
We are a bank, we’re not builders and we are not the developers; we do money. So if we are going to lend on a property, we are very strict with our criteria. If we are going to lend on something, we need to know the developer, we need to know the land, and we need to know that everything is good. We need to see the designs because we know what works here. The directors and shareholders of the bank have been here in Belize for about 23 years in real estate and all sorts of other activities. They have a wealth of knowledge and they are the decision makers when we give out the loans. We do not want to work with developers that are renowned for finishing the job halfway because we then have to pay for it to be finished, before we can get back our money on the loan. It is prudent, I suppose, to consider working with a bank on financing or making sure that you seek correct legal advice and work with good people, with good reputations. 
Boris Mannsfeld of Boris Mannsfeld & Associates – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Verifying block construction in Belize of building – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn the last 5 years, the new construction here is almost entirely of concrete. The new buildings are made of cinder blocks with reinforced bar and concrete, including the interior walls. So pretty much there is very little wood being used now like there used to be in some older construction. Some buildings even have concrete roofs.
 
It is not that much more expensive to build with concrete but there are a lot of advantages.  The maintenance and the wear and tear is much less, you do not have termite issues, you do not have mold, and you don’t have many other issues.  In addition, if there is a hurricane and major winds, you would also prefer a concrete building to a wooden building. It is much better in pretty much every way. This construction standard is just based on consumer demand.
 
The building department in Belize follows the International Building Code or IBC, which is up to American standards. Here in Belize, they have inspectors who check the construction. It is not as rigorous as in the States but they definitely have inspectors check every construction.
 
This has changed in the last 5 years, when they did not do this. It used to be like the “Wild Wild West.” Before, you could do whatever you wanted but now they have the International Building Codes and the government building department, which is called the CBA (Central Building Authority). The Central Building Authority approves your plan. They get your plan approved by an architect and engineer. Once approved, you can build your plan and they will come out and inspect.  

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