Saturday, January 31, 2009

We have a Plan

It took a little give and take and a little financial awakening, to arrive at our decision to build a single level home with the pool. We decided to build the second floor at the beginning of 2010 when finances are a little better. The Market has to go up some time ( I hope ).

The cost to build, of about $67-$70 per square foot, is right in line with what I was expecting to pay. I was hoping that with the cost of cement and rebar, both being lower this year, the cost to build would be a little lower. But I don't think that the prices have filtered down to the contractors, yet. Suppliers are probably locked in a price contract for a year. Maybe when we build the second floor, prices will be lower.

John Harris will draw up the plans and FedEx them to us for revisions. He expects that to take about a week to ten days. The tenative date to break ground is March 16th. I plan on being there for most of the building.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Due in part to the economy, we have instructed our contractor, John Harris, to give us several building options.

1.Go ahead and build it all at one time. Two level with a garage and a pool.
2.Build the two level with a garage, no pool.
3.Build two level with pool and no garage.
4.Build two level, no pool and no garage.
5.Single level with pool and garage.
6.Single level with only a garage.
7.Single level with only a pool.
8.Single level only. No pool, no garage.

Now we have to go over the pros and cons of each option. If we build it all at one time, will we have the extra money for appliances, furniture, moving expenses, etc. Sometimes you forget those extra expenses and they can add up quickly. I'd hate to have a new home and no money to finish the move.

I'm leaning towards a single level ( with everything ready for a second floor ) and the pool. During the summer, it would be nice to go in the pool instead of the bay. The pool water would probably be cooler. Also, it would leave money for all the additional surprises. We don't really need the garage right away and could build it next year.

But the wife is another story. She wants it all. She's afraid that the second floor won't get built if we wait. That's the master bedroom and bathroom. She wants her dream home and that's what I promised her if we moved to Belize (I just didn't say how long it would take to build it). So now starts the give and take. I give, she takes. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a beautiful woman.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We have a Response

A week after our contractor, John Harris, received the plans, he has given us a rough estimate of what it is going to cost to build our dream home on the sea. It's about 30k more than I had budgeted for, but with all the extras, it's right in line with our targeted cost of $65-$70 per square foot. Now we start going over the details. Our, soon to be next door neighbors, Pip and Jason, and are breaking ground March 2nd. John would like to start ours two weeks later, so we are possibly looking at March 16th to break ground.

With the time table he has given us, our house would be done by late June or early July. And at that point I had also better start looking for hurricane protection for the windows. I don't plan on using plywood because of the storage problems. The high humidity and the bugs would ruin plywood after a few years, anyway. Some of our neighbors in the Shores are using a corrigated sheet metal bought from company in Belize City. It looks like it's a good product and fairly easy to install. The other thing I will need to look at is the air conditioning. With the hot and humid days and nights of summer, we will need a place to retreat and get cool.

With a start date on the calendar, there are so many things to do. Now the fun really begins.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Still waiting for a response.

Ten days have passed since my last blog, and I was waiting to hear from the contractor. Well, he e-mailed me to tell me he has received the plans and now must look them over, after which he will give us an aprox. cost to build per square foot. So, we are still waiting.

So while we were waiting, we went to Vegas!!!! Why wait at home? Mischelle was invited to a slot tournament and the rooms were comp'd for 5 days. Although Mischelle didn't do that great at the tournament, she did pretty good at the video poker machines. I played some blackjack and a little Texas Hold'em.

Mischelle at the Slot Tournament

Part of Ceasar's Palace at night

Me at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville

I' m sure not as young as I use to be. Those late nights take their toll. You lose track of time in the casinos, and they keep the inside so bright. We saw a few of the tourist spots, shuffled between casinos and generally had a good time.

With the drive just a little over 4 1/2 hours, we took the Avalanche truck because the gas is fairly cheap ( $1.99 gal.) and flying takes just as long with all of the security, getting to the airport, etc., and that's with no delays.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Waiting for a response

A view from Pip and Jason's back yard.

I've heard mostly positive things about John and like his work ethic. He was the contractor we were looking to use after CJ Consulting decided they didn't want the job. His build schedule is unheard of in Belize. We are looking to break ground March 22nd and we could be in our new home by August. Now we just need to sell the place, here in the States.

View from our lot

We have sent off our plans to John by way of snail mail, so we hope he receives them sometime this month. He will look over the plans and give us an estimate of the per square foot cost. Now we need to look into housing for the duration of the construction. There is a small house across the street going for $500 mo., but I'm not sure if it has air conditioning. You need a/c for the dog days of summer. At least somewhere to retreat, during the hot, humid days and nights. It will also get us ready for life in the Shores. No real stores near-by and only a couple of resturants with differing schedules.

It's also time to begin packing things for the move. The BIG garage sale. No winter clothes. I'm ready to go!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Finding a Contractor

In late Nov of '08, I went down to Belize to find a contractor to build our house in Consejo Shores ( I had seen several different homes from builders in the area and now I needed to get references. A few contractors had been recommended to me and a few contractors I was told to stay away from. Problem was, they were the same contractors in both categories. It just depended on who you talked to.

The one contractor, who has built quite a few homes in the Shores, has stretched his resources a little thin and the workmanship has suffered. He was recommended by a few people who had their homes built by his crew, but a few others had horror stories of past encounters. I went to see one of the homes he was building, and it was about 2 months behind schedule, with the owners expecting a finished product by the first of December. The tile work was OK, but they had no direction on how to do the layout, so transitions from one room to the next had poorly offset tiles. The tile was set from one side to the other, not factoring in corners or doorways. It had lots of small pieces and odd shapes.

The dock that was built used 12 inch wide boards, instead of 8 inch, so the edges are curling up. Makes it easy to catch a toe. Less than half of the nails used for the dock were gavanized, so rusty nails are already showing up. And the Palapa, built on the dock, had no side to side support. It was a 30 MPH wind away from being blown into the bay. The project looked as though it had no supervision.

So the next day I went to the neighboring development called Wagner's Landing/Mayan Seaside ( and toured some of the houses being built there. There were a couple of houses being built by other contractors that had been recommended. I had seen other work by one of the contractors who had built a pool for Dave and Dianna, ( and they are very happy with his work. They are now in the process of building a guesthouse next to the pool using another contractor that is on our contact list. It may come down to the price per square foot.

I also checked out a new B&B on the road out to Consejo. It's called Serenity Sands ( and it's run by Phyl and Jill Mason. The main B&B was built by the contractor who had spread himself a little thin and Phyl was not too happy with his work. But down closer to the bay they are building a beautiful new home for his son-in law. This building has gone to the other extreme. They are extremely happy with their contractor but the budget went from $250K US to over $580K US., about $220 a square foot. The building could withstand a hurricane, tornado and an earthquake, all at the same time, and it would be the last thing standing. I'd like that too, but I don't have that kind of a budget. I think it's a little over engineered, but I'll be at their house during the next Cat 5 hurricane.

Another recommended contractor only takes on 2-3 jobs a year, and he already had one going in the Shores and another over at the Mayan Seaside, so he wasn't sure if he was going to pick up any more jobs. The neighbor nextdoor to our lot was also looking to use him as their contractor and to start building in Feb. '09, so they are in limbo until he makes his decision.

I'm hoping that the decline in prices for gas, steel and cement will have a positive effect on the budget and that building costs will be around $65-70 per square foot.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The New Year

The New Year is finally here and good bye to last year. The niece and nephew are gone and the house returns to somewhat normal. It was a good Christmas with friends and family. At one point we had 4 generations together for Christmas Eve dinner.

Now, Mischelle and I are going to get ready for the big changes that are coming up this year as we chart our path to moving to Belize.

In my last post before the holidays, I was covering my trip to Belize in Nov. 08. One of the first things I wanted to do was get a local telephone number so I could be reached while I was in Belize. I had used my local carrier in the States the last time I was here and got on their International Plan. The problem was that I was charged $3.49 a minute for both incoming and outgoing calls. On top of that, I only received a few of the calls that were made to my phone during that time. The outgoing were OK, but I was charged $3.49 a min for a local or long-distance call. So this time I had my AT&T phone (GSM) unlocked, bought a SIM chip at BTL, the local cellphone company, and received a local Belize telephone number and rechargeable time for about $25US. The rates were MUCH better. It cost less than $.50BZ per minute to call the US and $.10BZ for local calls. And ALL incoming calls were free to me. So I had Mischelle get a calling card from Costco, and she was able to call me from the States for between $.31 and $.52 a minute. And I could go down to the local store and buy additional minutes for my phone in $5, $10, or $25 increments.

Next on the list of things to do was to open a local bank account. I decided to use Atlantic Bank because of the ease of opening a savings acct., it being local, in town, and the availability of branches, nationwide. If you go to the bank prepared, you should have no problems opening a savings account (checking is a little different) Due to the problems with money laundering, a little more paperwork is required than you might expect. First, they want a letter of recommendation from two different banks in the States. This is more of an introduction from your bank to theirs, stating that you have had an account with them for over one year and that you are in good standing with the bank. I had them include checking and savings information, how long I've had my accounts and any credit cards issued though them. That, along with a color copy of your passport (picture and address only) and $100BZ, I was able to open a local savings account.

My next stop was to get a P.O. Box in town. I had heard that this was the hardest thing to get and they were right. I couldn't even get on the waiting list to get on the waiting list. It seems as though they are sold out for years to come. Opening a P.O. Box store would be a great little business if you're allowed to compete against the gov't. So, no P.O. Box this time. Maybe next time there will be an opening on the list.