Places to Retire Abroad – Belize

Let’s fast-forward to Belize’s unique appeal to U.S. retirees: It’s the only south-of-the-border country whose official language is English. Until 1973 it was called British Honduras, and was a crown colony of the U.K.; it was granted full independence in 1981 (although Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state).

Another goodie: It’s catching up to Panama and Costa Rica’s retiree perks. Its Qualified Retired Persons program, known as the QRP, offers benefits and a fast track to residency status.
Squeezed between Mexico’s Yucatan coast and Guatemala to the south, sparsely populated Belize is a Central American paradise, with tropical jungle flora, endless white beaches, an aquamarine Caribbean sea, some of the world’s best reefs for snorkelers, fishing to die for, Mayan ruins, and even casinos. Most expats settle either on the largest island, Ambergris Caye, or in Corazol Town on the mainland’s northern tip. Ambergris Caye has the fancy restaurants and condos, including million-dollar properties. It can be as expensive as South Florida (Leonardo Di Caprio bought an island west of Ambergris Caye). The Corozal district, a few miles’ drive from the Mexican border, is far more affordable. Corozal expats live a laid-back life, with year-round outdoor play (boating, hiking, swimming, diving), but are still only 20 minutes from the malls and cineplexes of Chetumal, the capital of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
After many visits to Belize, Atlantans Walter and Terri Fisher, 55 and 49, built a “concrete ranch house” with a water view for $125,000, including the lot. “The house was finished in 2007,” Walter reports. “Last year we sold our house in the States, got off the corporate treadmill, and moved here. I drove down in my truck on my own, and Terri—and five cats—flew down. We’re completely happy, though it’s tough being this far from family.”
A former educator, Audrey Shabbas, 68, moved to Corozal from Berkeley, California, with two of her four children three years ago. “We looked at Nicaragua, but Belize had what we wanted—water all around,” she says. “We bought a home with one-third of what we got for our Berkeley house—and it’s three times as wonderful. I’m very blessed to be here.”

Central Florida homes fly off the market

Buying a house has become a race to get the keys. Homes are flying off the market in Central Florida; some in a matter of hours.

Nationwide, homes sold faster last month then in any February since 2007. It’s a good sign for the housing market.

Buyers no longer have the option of “sleeping on it.” A lot of the time by the next day the house is already bought.

If you’re looking for a home or condo between $100,000 and $200,000, you’re in the danger zone.

Realtors are seeing buyers out bid by investors and properties are being listed and sold within a matter of hours.

According to the US National Association of Realtors, cash buyers accounted for 28 % of existing home buyers in January.

Realtors say the best advice for buyers is to get your ducks in row before you start to look, so you can even get in the race. This means buyers need to Pre-qualify, which doesn’t cost anything and ensures when they go in to make an offer on a home they have a pre-authorization and pre-approval from the lender, resulting in being a much more powerful buyer.

Some of the frenzy comes from a lack of inventory.
The economy is improving and buyers are ready, but sellers are waiting for prices to rebound more.

In fact, nationwide the number of homes for sale has dropped, but the number of days the homes out there are on the market is at a record high. The average time to sell is now just two weeks.

USA Real Estate update

How could we have a shortage of inventory at this juncture? Investor demand along with population growth and rising household formulation have all combined to remove excess inventory. Combine these factors with the fact that those who owe more than their homes are worth are reticent to sell. Even those who were foreclosed upon are starting to purchase again or need single family homes to rent. The question is not why is the inventory down, but will the lower inventory slow down the real estate market in the coming year?

You can’t have rising home sales with not enough homes for sale. We think that two factors will increase inventory in the coming year. Rising home prices will encourage more home owners to list their homes. And builders can create inventory by building more homes. Increased building activity is expected to help pump up the economy in the coming year. If real estate demand continues to rise, expect banks to accelerate the process to get rid of homes in their inventory. In other words, we are expecting the low inventory “problem” to be self-correcting during the year — unless new demand outstrips this additional supply.
Single family home tenants are 18 % more likely than apartment tenants to stay in their current homes five years or longer, suggesting that demand for single family homes, the fastest growing rental category, will be more stable than multifamily demand, according to a new national opinion survey released by ORC International for Premier Property Management. Twenty-six percent of single family tenant plans to stay in place five years or more, compared to one out of five apartment dwellers (22 %). Founded in 1938, ORC International is a leading global market research firm and since 2007 has conducted the CNN|ORC International poll.
One factor contributing to single family stability could be high marks renters give the quality of single family property management. Some 80 % of tenants in single family rentals said their property management was good or excellent compared to only 63 % of apartment renters One out of four apartment dwellers (26%) rated their management as only adequate.
Single family rentals can be found in virtually every community today and more and more families are choosing single family rentals either as a temporary stop on the road to becoming homeowners or as a permanent solution to their housing needs. Over half, of renters, said they anticipate becoming homeowners in the next five years. The near term interest in becoming homeowners among single family tenants reflects the new roles single family rentals are fulfilling as a stepping stone to homeownership for first-time buyers and as a sanctuary for large numbers of families displaced by foreclosures but who plan to buy again when they can afford to do so.
Fifty percent of Americans say they expect the housing market to improve in 2013, while 16 percent say they expect it to get worse, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,003 adults. What’s more, the majority of the Americans surveyed said they have big hopes that the improvement in the housing market will also help give a boost to the overall economy. More Americans are expressing optimism about the trajectory of home prices too.

Growing pains’ for home builders.

The housing market’s comeback has hit a speed bump — an index of home builders’ confidence slipped again in March.

The index, which is compiled by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo, is on a three-month slide after eight months of gains. It’s based on home builders’ perception of current sales for new single-family homes and their expectations for future sales.

Demand isn’t the problem; supply is. There are bottlenecks in the supply chain for developed lots, along with rising costs for building materials and labour
“Home building is beginning to suffer growth pains as the infrastructure that supports it tries to re-establish itself,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “During the Great Recession, the industry lost home-building firms, building material production capacity, workers who retreated to other sectors and the pipeline of developed lots.”

Other issues facing home builders include appraisals that are coming in too low and mortgages that are too hard to get for prospective buyers. Despite all of these issues, “builders are much more optimistic today than they were at this time last year,” Crowe said.

In fact, home builders grew more optimistic about future home sales in March; a decline in current sales conditions was responsible for the index’s 2-point drop to 44.

Plus, some regions are doing better than others. The index jumped 4 points in the West, to 58. That’s well ahead of the Midwest’s 47, the South’s 46 and the Northeast’s 39.

The U.S. housing market slowly returns to normal.

The latest forecast from Fiserv (FISV) Case-Shiller predicts home prices will increase by an average of 3.3% annually over the five years ending September, 2017.

2012 was the first year since 1997 that the housing market has resembled something close to normal.
From 1998 until the housing bubble peaked in 2006,home prices grew by 5% or more a year. But once the bubble burst, home prices plunged, falling 30.5% through the end of September 2012.
It wasn’t until late 2011 that markets started to stabilize. Between September 2011 and September 2012, average U.S. home prices rose 3.6%. By then, 62% of the 384 metro areas Fiserv tracks reported rising home prices, up from just 12.5% of all markets during the same period a year earlier.
Many of the metro areas hit hardest by the housing bust recorded the biggest price gains during those 12 months. In Phoenix, for example, prices climbed back by nearly 21%; prices in Detroit rose almost 16%; and homes in San Jose, Calif., gained 12.5%.
Values continued to decline on Long Island, N.Y., however, where prices fell 8.1% and where Stiff said the turnaround in median income lagged the rest of the nation by about a year. Brunswick, Ga., also saw declines, down 7.1%, as did Valdosta, Ga, off 6.9%. Both areas saw jumps in foreclosures.
By the end of this year, Fiserv predicts that home prices will be heading higher in almost every metro area it tracks. Medford, Ore., is expected to gain 9.7% in the 12 months through September, the highest of any city. Other big gainers are expected to be Santa Fe, N.M., up 8.1%, Billings, Mont., 5.5% and Syracuse, N.Y., 5%.
Fiserv expects Miami home prices to sustain a 10.7% loss over the same period, the largest drop of any market. A steady stream of foreclosures will keep prices soft in the area during that time.
Otherwise, there are many positive trends in today’s market, he said. Prices are extremely affordable and mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Overall, Fiserv Case-Shiller expects stronger demand for housing, and the sector should, once again, have a positive impact on the economy.