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Matthew Hoy of Pelican Properties – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Las Terrazas resort and Residences, Ambergris Caye, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe construction standards in Ambergris Caye are not the same as you would expect in North America. Living in Ambergris Caye is like living in the present and 30 years ago at the exact same time. Some construction methods here are still what some people in North America would call primitive. They do bucket brigades for pouring cement still as opposed to using the more modern methods, but they are very knowledgeable. They have lots of experience and they know how to get the job done well.
 
If you hire the right contractor, you would really get good service. The condo developments, in the end, have the same building quality as the ones you would see in North America just because this is a hurricane zone. Most buildings are built with reinforced concrete, form by form. The construction is done form by form as opposed to using cinder block with rebar and then pouring concrete. Some people do that but in other places they do forms and then pour the concrete. As a result, in the end, you would find the same building quality we the one you see in North America. It doesn’t look like it when they are still building it just because they are more old fashioned than what we are used to.
 
With regard to getting permits, it is a bit more libertarian approach. When you buy a property and you have a title, the main restriction is height. At this point, nothing over five stories can be built anywhere here in San Pedro or Ambergris Caye but outside of that, getting approval and building permits is generally pretty easy, but there is a requirement for it. You can hire someone to do the building inspections for you and do it properly but building inspecting is not typically done in the way that we are used to in North America.
 
There are companies in Ambergris Caye that can do home inspections. I always urge my clients to do that when they are purchasing property unless it comes from a development that has everything above board and you can see everything first hand and you feel a lot more secure with it. Especially when it comes to individual homes, I always implore my clients to get a home inspection done regardless if the building that they are buying is old or newly built. That is for their peace of mind so that they know what they are getting into. 
 
(Las Terrazas resort and Residences, Ambergris Caye, Belize, pictured.)
 
Bob Hamilton of Century 21 Coral Beach Realty – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Coast property Ambergris Caye, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe construction standards in Ambergris Caye is pretty close to the construction standards in the US. If you are building for a gringo, you will build to American standards. Even the hotels, resorts, etc., were built to American standards. They have granite countertops, marble floors, or whatever you want. The builders use rebar and concrete. We are in a hurricane zone so you build a concrete house and if a hurricane comes, you just invite friends over and bring extra food. The houses here do stand up to a hurricane. Even the wooden houses that are over 40 years old are still here. 
 
There are jurisdictional requirements and building permits that are required when building a house here in Ambergris Caye. There are inspectors that might come around. They will inspect your wiring. They have a sign-off on it but it is a little bit lackadaisical compared to the building inspectors in the US or in Canada. 
 
Ambergris Caye is a small community, so people know who does a good job.  If it was Graniels, Sr. that built it, you’ve got a very nice house. There are other contractors who may have cut some corners.  Everybody knows everybody else’s business here.  Graniels, Sr. is around 65 years old but he is still building condos and resorts.
 
(Coastal property awaiting construction,  Ambergris Caye, Belize, pictured.)
Lisa McCorkle Guerrero of DIAMANTÉ – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
dining room view from Diamante condos, Ambergris Caye, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThe construction standards on Ambergris Caye are very high. I’m a developer and I can only speak for myself with 100% accuracy, but I know other contractors as well, and their construction standards are very high.
 
Ambergris Caye is in a hurricane prone area of the Caribbean so we try to build to standards that are going to withstand hurricane force weather. For example, for our development, Diamante, we’re using a system called Panel W that’s basically 4 to 6 inch Styrofoam panels that have wire mesh on both sides. It’s Dade County approved and it’s supposed to be stronger than using regular cement blocks. You get the insulation properties as well. All our windows are hurricane resistant up to 150 mile an hour winds. Our roofs are poured concrete as well and we might put shingles on top of it just for decoration purposes, but if a hurricane comes our roof is not going to blow away because it’s not made out of wood, zinc, or something else light; it’s actually poured into the building. 
 
My development here, Diamante, is strictly condominiums. There are also one or two developments in town where you buy the land and build your own home in that development, although it’s not very popular. I know there are other places in the country of Belize that are doing that as well but the island (Ambergris Caye) has mostly condominiums.  
 
(Dining room view of ocean from Diamante Development under construction, Ambergris Caye, Belize, pictured.)
David Drummond of Georgetown Trust – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
San Pedro Wet Willie's Ambergris Caye, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIf I were to compare the construction standards in Ambergris Caye to the construction standards in North America five or six years ago, I would say that the construction standards here were a little lax.
 
However, the Belize government has now tightened up and they now have a building committee. You are now going to see some electrical requirements and other requirements throughout the construction of a home. There is a very high level of building standards in Belize now. They will tell you if you need safe switches near your water faucet. They will tell you if anything needs to be changed or added. Those requirements are pretty standard now here Belize. They may not put light switches in every spot that you would put them, but they will be built to the best standards. There will be an electrical outlet in every 7 feet within a 15-foot room and it should be at least 16 inches off the ground, for example. Anything of those usual details that you would get in North America is pretty common practice here in Belize.
 
In general, the building codes in Belize are coming up to what I would expect in the US, but it is the detail that you need to put attention to. As an example, make sure that the light switch to the room you are in is the first one you flip on and not the one in the kitchen. Paying attention to detail is very important.
 
They now typically have government inspectors come out to check the house you are building. There is also an inspection for the water. The standard of construction in Belize also depends on your location within the country. If you are in a very rural setting, it is less likely that they are going to come out to inspect, but if you are in Ambergris Caye, yes, someone is going to come to make sure that you are doing the electrical and the plumbing properly.
 
(San Pedro Harbor with view of Wet Willie's on Ambergris Caye, Belize, pictured.)
Kate Corrigan  of Georgetown Trust – Best Places In The World To Retire User Account
Construction in Ambergris Caye, Belize – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingThere is a wonderful company we work with called ECI Development that has 15 questions you should ask when looking at new development, and yes, you do have to be very careful in Ambergris Caye. You have to make sure that everything is built up to the standards you would expect to be safe. You have to be careful from who you buy the property and perhaps go through that list of 15 questions.
 
From my perspective, what I do is open the cupboard underneath the sink in the kitchen to make sure that there are actually two pipes: one hot, one cold, because sometimes the faucet says hot and cold, but there is only one pipe underneath. Make sure that the stairwell has the same depth on each step. Work with a good developer with a good history.  ECI, for example, works with a contractor from the States who oversees their projects. All of their properties are built to category 5 hurricane standards. Their clusters are up to category  4 standards purely because they have windows. I am not a builder so I am not the expert on this matter but you do have to be very careful.
 
Some people here live in wooden houses made of plywood. So you have to really watch out who you are working with. You have to do your due diligence and before signing any document, be sure to seek independent legal advice.

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