Eyes Wide Open When Buying Property in Ecuador…
I used to sell real estate in a past life. I was in my late 20’s and the sales job was going to be my ticket into the building profession. A large national builder let me design and manage the construction of new models in Tempe, Arizona. Pretty cool for a salesman to be given so much responsibility.
But I had hurdles to jump over in order to sell these upscale, middle class homes. Although Tempe is a great college town, this area was nowhere near the University. It was as far south as you could get, near a few orange groves, older junky homes, and a huge pig farm was right next door… The bonus was, in the late afternoon, the wind would change just enough so the pungent odor of pig would drop into the sales office as a welcome hello to would be buyers. The disclosure laws dictated that I tell each buyer about that smell….
So, how does this relate to Buying Property in Ecuador?
- In the States, as a salesman, it was disclose, disclose, disclose… that was the law. In Ecuador the rule is… “Buyer Beware.” Take this rule and multiply it at least 100 times when buying property in Ecuador. Take nothing for granted.
- Remember you have a language barrier. Get everything in writing and then get it translated. You probably won’t understand when you’re told there is no water hookup and the big tank in the back yard is where your drinking water is stored, or thats a catchment tank for rain.
- Did you know that there are no licensing requirements for real estate agents in Ecuador, and no code of ethics?
- Expecting a subdivision report? Forget it. You need to do your own research on everything when buying property in Ecuador.
- Where does the water come from, what is the quality, can you drink from the tap, how much it costs… is your home connected to sewer or is it a septic system? Get certification that the existing septic system is in good working order.
- And if this is new construction, what about the infrastructure, curbs, gutters, paved streets, pool. Are the funds escrowed that guarantee the completion of those amenities or am I just taking the salesman’s word they will be completed?
- Hospitals, shopping and schools… Are they close? Does that matter to you?
- And what is causing that smell coming from the ocean everyday at 3 pm? Better find out if there is a sewage treatment plant close by and just exactly where they dump the treated dodo water… This is only the tip of the iceberg. Question everything…. Trust but verify and get it in writing…
- And let me repeat what I consider to be the most important issue. How important is having water at your new home? Water is the most important question to ask. Where is the water coming from? Unless it is already at the site, get official documentation that it is on its way. Turn around and walk away if the developer does not have this proof of water service. Remember, a septic system can be installed just about anywhere. Solar energy can be installed if all else fails. But you can not make water. Now, you can have water delivered in trucks to your home. This is not uncommon. But you need to know this upfront. In certain rainy areas of Hawaii, they have catchment systems that capture the rainwater, then filter it for daily use. Vertical and horizontal water wells are also very common. But unless wells are already drilled and working, there is no guarantee that water will be found. Just make sure you understand where the water is coming from. Then get it in writing. WATER WATER WATER WATER. Wars gave been fought throughout history for water…
Now here is a real life story I received a few days ago from Wally and Hazel about their Ecuador Home Buying Adventure. This is a great example of doing your research and not jumping in to soon.
Hi George, here is a synopsis of our house-buying journey in Ecuador.
In March 2009, we decided to do a recon trip. We spent a week in Quito at a conference and also went to Cotacachi and looked around.
We then took part in a real estate tour along the coast that ran from Salinas to Manta. Although we weren’t considering buying at this point, we wanted to see what was available and what the prices were. We did love the long stretches of beaches that we saw on this trip. We were also very satisfied with the Ecuadorian culture and the local Ecuadorian people we met.
After completing the tour, we returned to our home north of Atlanta where we took a few weeks to hash this out. We eventually decided that we would rent out our Georgia house for 1 year while we returned to Manta and try it out. We agreed that we wanted to buy a house on the beach where we could open the doors, walk onto the sand, and let our dogs run free. That was our dream.
We prearranged a rental place that would accept dogs and made the move in May. We found a second rental place closer to the beach (4 blocks away) after a couple of months. This allowed us to take the dogs and walk on the beach every day. We did have a problem with no-see-ums. As long as we remembered to spray our ankles / legs with insect repellant, we had no problem. Without that though, we usually ended up with lots of bites.
Another problem we ran into was that you could not drink the city water. This was easily surmounted by having bottled water delivered. Additionally, there were scorpions in the house. We believe this came from a nest that they built when the foundation sat empty before being completed.
None of these problems were deal killers though. We spent 9 months there looking for our house on the beach. In the end, the best we could do was find a house nearly an hour south of Manta or about 1 ½ hours north of Manta. These were beautiful locations but just too far from any kind of city to meet our social life expectations.
A friend of ours bought a condo on the beach in Manta, which he eventually sold. He pointed out problems to us that we had not considered. Firstly, if your condo or house faces the ocean, at night it is just pitch black. Rarely will you see lights of ocean going traffic. Mostly, it is just like ink – nothing to see at night. Secondly, of course, there are problems with sand and the salt air. The sand goes everywhere and the salt works relentlessly on any exposed metal. Lastly, he said that he could not stand the noise of the ocean. He thought he would like it, but it eventually wore him out. He had to close all his doors and windows to get any sleep at night.
Lastly, there is a gringo community there, but most of them have become very close to one another and it is difficult to break free. We also found that cultural activities in Manta were very limited. This is a poor, working (fishing) port city, so you can’t expect too much.
The final straw for us was when sewage discharge lines started leaking on the beach where we walked. It is not uncommon to find these types of pipes in the U.S. on the coasts. These transport partially treated sewage a few miles offshore to be discharged. So it was not raw sewage, but it certainly wasn’t completely treated either. We also noticed during our stay there that the waters off the coast were not very clean. A friend of ours kept getting repeated ear infections when he swam and kayaked in the water.
Next, we decided to look around Crucita and Bahia de Caraquez. Crucita we found was a lovely, isolated beach town. Many of the available houses were on cliffs though . . . not on the beach. There were also problems getting water up to some of them.
Lastly, we went to Bahia for a weekend. We looked around there at properties. One of our acquaintances was building a house on the other side of the bay (this was before the bridge was completed). The view from there was absolutely stunning. To the right was the Pacific Ocean, straight ahead was the view of Bahia itself across the bay, and to the left was the remainder of the bay. We were cautioned that buying in this area required a 24-hour caretaker because you could certainly not expect to leave your house unattended even while doing a shopping trip. Bahia did have some small stores but nothing like a Supermaxi. So figure on 1 ½ hour trip (one way) if you needed much of anything. We did not want to go any further north because the closer you get to Columbia, the more crime risk you expose yourself to. We drew the line here, which I acknowledge was a very conservative decision.
From reading and interviewing a number of ex-pats, we knew that Vilcabamba, Loja, and Yunguilla were not for us. Although warmer than mountain cities, they were too small and isolated for our tastes.
Lastly, we decided to try Cuenca. We arrived for a weekend with a couple of friends and we knew within an hour that this is where we wanted to be. We loved the historic area, the architecture, and the cultural activities available. We moved there within 2 weeks in March, 2010. We rented on the east side for 3 months and then moved to the Bella Vista area (on the north side). We were a 10-minute downhill walk to the historic area. We love all the little stores and the markets. We spent 6 months scoping out the neighborhoods and learning our way around. We eventually found our current house just 4 blocks from our last rental from an Internet posting by an Ecuadorian real estate company. We found the typical Ecuadorian houses to consist of many small rooms so that all the generations of the family could live there together. Not really the same as North American standards. This mades it a challenge to remodel.
We purchased it and spent 5 months remodeling it to our standards. For a General Contractor, we hired a maestro who worked for an Ecuadorian friend of ours for 20 years. He was going out on his own, so we took advantage of that and hired him. Our poor Spanish was a definite hindrance as he and the entire crew spoke only Spanish. We changed the house from 8 bedrooms down to 3 with 3 ½ baths. Our master bedroom suite now consists of three former bedrooms. We moved in during March 2011 and have never regretted it. It has a small backyard and a casita.
As a warning to others thinking of moving to Cuenca, there are a few main complaints that I hear often: it is too often cloudy, too wet, and too cold. Of course, everybody has his or her own tolerance levels but this is something to be considered. Also keep in mind, crime is rising in the city.
Remember this journey was to satisfy our tastes and requirements. It is certainly not meant to belittle anyone elses choices. Many would find the isolation of a beach town perfect for them. It just wasn’t for us. However, we found our perfect spot!
Thank you to Wally and Hazel for their very candid story about buying property in Ecuador. I hope they will send me a few pictures of their home so I can post them here….
Have a story…. Is it something you would like to share? Send it along to Ecuadorgeorge….. If it is on topic, and helpful to others, we can post it right here…
Comments anyone…. leave them below.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Morning Update – Friday, June 29, 2012 « South of Zero | June 29, 2012
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