What is cost to Build a house?
To ask how much it is to build a house in Ambergris Caye is like asking how much does a bag of groceries cost. The cost of the bag of groceries depends on what you put inside the bag of groceries, and the cost of the house also depends on what you put inside the house. I’ve seen anything from US $135 per square foot to as high as $225 to $250 a square foot.
Americans and Canadians come from a world where houses are built with timber and paper. They do not do a lot of timber and paper building here in Belize. They build out of steel and concrete. Steel and concrete building costs a little bit more for the external structure, and including the niceties inside of it, those also cost more money. For example, a stainless steel refrigerator here will cost more in Belize than what you would pay for it in the United States and a large screen television here is going to cost be more in Belize than what you pay in the United States.
A well-constructed steel and concrete building would probably be costly to build in the United States. In Ambergris Caye, I would expect to pay around $150 to $250 per square foot to get myself what I would expect in a concrete building and probably not much cheaper to get some type of wooden structure.
We use concrete and steel in Belize because we are still in a hurricane zone, so they build these structures so they don’t disappear. To build a concrete house here in Belize is going to be less from a labor perspective than it would cost to build in the US. Materials are probably going to be about the same, or perhaps they might actually be a bit higher here because Ambergris Caye is an island and anything that comes out to this island has the expense of being shipped here. So you are going to see the cost of materials to be the same, if not higher compared to the US, but you are going to see labor being substantially lower, which is where you are going to get your cost savings.
The prices I quoted are without land. The houses here in Ambergris Caye are American style homes, except that they are built better because they are built with concrete and steel. The common labor you find here in Ambergris Caye is more accustomed to building concrete and steel, so they are skilled in doing that. In contrast, if you build with drywall and two by fours, you need construction workers who are good with finishings, because there is a lot of taping and sanding and mudding. Here in Belize, I would say the skillset is more leaning towards laying blocks and putting a nice cover coat over that block. That is the big difference.
It is not that you cannot build a house made of wood here and it is not that you cannot find it; it is just that the vast majority of the structures here in Ambergris Caye were built from concrete and steel. A majority of the labor pool are familiar with that, so they can give you more options if you use these materials.
The cost to build a 2, 500 square foot home in Ambergris Caye would be anywhere around $375, 000 to $550, 000, depending on how you build it, how you finish it, what fans you pick out, what air-conditioning units you bought, how many light fixtures you put in it, etc. The cost adds up for all those little things that we take for granted in the US. For example, there is not a Home Depot down the street, where I just go and get a fan and I can pick out as many as I want for $350. That luxury of selection and cost is just not here in Ambergris Caye.
A lot of people pack everything they want into a container and they will ship it down here and pay the tax on it. Doing this helps lower the construction cost a little bit. But if you came here and ask most of the builders, you will be looking at something around $150 to $250 per square foot in Ambergris Caye.