It all sounds great - buy a piece of property in Paradise, enjoy it and make some money - but what do you DO to get started?
1. Make a budget. Sounds obvious, but most people start out asking how much things cost and then think about whether they can afford them. Do yourself a favor and think about money before you stand on the beach or on a mountaintop and fall in love with a place. Assume that you have already learned all the legal stuff and are comfortable with the idea of buying. How much cash do you have today for investment? Do you have a reliable cash-flow from work or other investments that would allow you to make ongoing payments on a property? Answer each question before you go shopping. You can always revise your budget down (or up if you win the lottery) later.
2. Define your goals. Don't make yourself crazy with this, but do have some idea of what you'd like to do. Do you want to invest in something you can use today for income and vacations? If so, a condo or home are suitable. Do you want to spend a little today hoping it will grow over time? If so, perhaps a parcel of vacant land is the thing to look for. Are you looking for a place to live longer term? If so, make a list of things you "must have" in a daily life situation.
3. Book a trip to Belize. Don't overdo the "research trip" idea. Pick one or two places that appeal to you most and spend several days there. If you feel at home someplace then realize you ARE home, and concentrate your property search there.
4. Locate a realtor who lives and works in the area you are interested in. Develop a rapport with them. Tell them about #1 & #2 above. Without that information they can't help you. The idea of finding something on your own in a place where you don't live is not practical, and in the end could cost you dearly. Professionals do exist here, and the ones with good reputations have earned the trust and loyalty of their clients.
5. When you find something you like and can afford - buy it. Use your head as much as your heart when making a choice. In the end the property that has "emotional appeal" is going to be the most fun to own, and the easiest to re-sell if/when you choose to do so. Don't buy ugly, and don't buy junky. If your search parameters are realistic, your realtor should be able to find you a property meeting your needs without too much trouble. If it's not there at the time, they will tell you.
Watch for the next installment dealing with step #5 above - "Buy It" - How do you safely and sanely proceed? We'll deal with several kinds of properties and what kind of questions you should ask, what contingencies you should demand, and what kind of legal services you may require.