Open Your Eyes When Buying Property in Ecuador…

| June 28, 2012 | 44 Replies

Eyes Wide Open When Buying Property in Ecuador…

 

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.

Property in Ecuador

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.

Property in Ecuador

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.

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Category: Living in Ecuador, Moving to Ecuador, Retiring in Ecuador

Comments (44)

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  1. Lisa says:

    Very nice post! Wally and Hazel’s narrative points out issues to consider, and their example illustrates that one must not be too hurried when searching for the right place. Eventually the right place comes along, and one must not settle until finding it!
    Z

    • Ecuador George says:

      Is that Lisa with a Z? Sorry, I’m a fan of the theater.. I really liked their story. Slow but sure and you will find something that suits you.

      And I really like your blog. Beautiful work and lots of great pictures. Visit Lisa’s blog by clicking on her name in her original comment. George

      • Lisa says:

        Hey, that made me smile! Si, there’s a Z connected with my name, but not the Z that links to a superstar named Liza!
        Thanks so much for mentioning my blog. I love my life here in Ecuador and look forward to when I am here ‘full time.’
        Z aka Lisa!

  2. Tommy says:

    Nice to hear from people with honest reasons for decisions made. I heard about the same septic problem at a very large older but nice development north near Esmareldas. Poor septic design 20 + years ago caused millions of dollars to fix when beach started stinking. This is addressed upfront and seriously where my development is. Sand and salt air should always be addessed when building. I am using no outside wood, and pvc windows and doors. But the ocean “noise” was wierd. That is one of the primary reasons I needed beach living. I sleep with beach “noise” artificially until I get to the real thing. Still, wish more people would post this like.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Tommy, send me a little blurb and a few pictures… I would love to feature your place…. George

      • Tommy says:

        If you’re interested in the construction pics, sure. But they don’t show the finished product yet, so featured won’t do much. You can download the pics on my FB page if you see some you like particularly of construction. Thanks

  3. Mark and Annette Brennan says:

    Hi George.
    This first article is priceless. So very much useful info. Although we are not in the market to buy (we love our life in Vancouver Canada and only want a winter getaway a few months of the year) nevertheless this info is invaluable. Thank you to whomever wrote it.
    Re the sound of the waves!! It is amazing how different we all are. During our 3 week stay on the beach in Manta, this was absolutely the loveliest of features. It got to the point I couldn’t sleep without the sound of the waves and I meditated to them twice a day. We sorely miss them now that we’re back home.

    • Ecuador George says:

      I think “Gray Noise” is what those waves are… My television on a low volume does the same thing for me or I find myself falling asleep when the air conditioner kicks on… but I know some people that can not fall asleep with the TV on. We are all different and that is what made Wally and Hazel’s story so good. Glad you liked the article. George

  4. Rick says:

    My wife and I are in the process of purchasing property not too far from Salinas. We will keep you posed as it progresses.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Rick, Thanks…. Let us know how it goes… The more information the better. Good luck. George

    • carole walsh says:

      HI Rick, How did your purchase of property around Salinas work out? I was told that there is a golf course around Manta. but, I can’t find any pictures that look like it is more than artist sketches. Im a sailor girl and new golfer. I’m trying to find a place where I can do both in a warm climate. thanks.carole

      • Lyle says:

        As far as I know the coarse was put on Hold in Manta,However there is a GCC being constructed in Monti Christi the designer is from the states his name is Chris.They are building homes around the Coarse and I believe there is a property that they own on the ocean that is used by all owners in the community.
        hit them long and far

      • Raul Saavedra says:

        If you are into sailing and golfing, I recommend Salinas as the best choice. Monte Cristi is nice but too “parochial”. Every decent shopping center and health care center is too far. Lots of issues with the electricity and water.

        Treat yourself right get the peace of mind you’re looking for by not worrying where to go for bottle of Tropicana juice or finding a real doctor!

        So, good luck to you and if there is anything you may need while here in Ecuador, let me know. my email is rasaamar2006@hotmailcom. I’ve made it my business to help investors.

    • Raul Saavedra says:

      If your looking to purchase around Salinas, keep the following in mind:

      Electricity supply
      Running water
      Neighbors – if you buy in a neighborhood that is empty 6 months out of the year, it should be a gated community.
      Ballenita is a dying place to purchase – too many fisherman in the coastline
      Montanita, Manglaralto has not progressed enough. The only good opportunity here is to build a cheap-motel for the young surfers and tourists.
      Olon – best place to buy. Lots of wealthy families live here and own real nice properties that will keep up your properties value. Also, has a lot of police presence here. Very low crime level. Gated communities available and the best thing is that the ocean is very tranquil and shallow…you can literary walk in the ocean 100 yards and the water is up to your waist.

      So, good luck to you and if there is anything you may need while here in Ecuador, let me know. my email is rasaamar2006@hotmailcom. I’ve made it my business to help investors.

    • Raul Saavedra says:

      If your looking to purchase around Salinas, keep the following in mind:

      Electricity supply
      Running water
      Neighbors – if you buy in a neighborhood that is empty 6 months out of the year, it should be a gated community.

      Capaes – Gated community that is beautiful but no coastline. The beachfront that is has is too dangerous. Also, too expensive.

      Punta Blanca – Several locations along the coastline. Some better than others. It can get very expensive to build here due to the distances that everything has to travel. Some of the gated communities have over priced properties. Be careful about this.

      Ballenita is a dying place to purchase – too many fisherman in the coastline

      Montanita and Manglaralto have not progressed enough. The only good opportunity here is to build a cheap-motel for the young surfers and tourists.

      Olon – best place to buy. Lots of wealthy families live here and own real nice properties that will keep up your properties value. Also, has a lot of police presence here. Very low crime level. Gated communities available and the best thing is that the ocean is very tranquil and shallow…you can literary walk in the ocean 100 yards and the water is up to your waist.

      The other small communities in between these locations are just not worth it.

      So, good luck to you and if there is anything you may need while here in Ecuador, let me know. my email is rasaamar2006@hotmailcom. I’ve made it my business to help investors.

  5. KEVIN BRUNET says:

    NEED HELP,,,,leaveing montana 3/23/13 flying into QUITO,,,need guide to travel with me around EQUADOR to translate..would like to possible buy a ranch,or start a towing co ?? also do water and mineral rights come with land ?? ANY HELP WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED…THANK YOU KEVIN

    • Ecuador George says:

      Kevin… In Quito, JourneyManJack is my go to man… Click on this link and it will take you to his blog. I will email him to get in touch with you. He is a great guy… Good luck and let all of us know how things work out… George

  6. raymond auger says:

    Much is made of healthcare in Ecuador, but how likely is it to find a doctor who has a good English capabiliy? I presume that if one is in a small town, it would be most unlikely.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Raymond…. You will get great health care in the larger cities… rural, not so much. Same goes for the language barrier. There are English speaking doctors in the big cities… Good luck. George

  7. william killoran says:

    nice site info.well done

  8. Edward says:

    Well written my man, buyer beware and do your homework before purchasing a place to live.

    • Ecuador George says:

      Yes Edward…. In todays world we all need to be very cautious.

    • Raul Saavedra says:

      Is not just about how careful you have to be when looking to invest, but also about who you hire for the job. You want the best realtors to help you scout the top notch places, you have to pay. “You get what you pay for and nothing more”.

      Keep this in mind, for those Ecuadorian Real Estate agencies that have invested in ads and internet traffic worldwide, is not only about selling or renting but also about who else you can recommend as a satisfied customer. I strongly recommend you do the research first and get the real facts…

  9. Peter says:

    George,

    Like your site, very informative. I am hoping to go to Ecuador in the very near future for a recce to pursue buying property there. My intent is to buy now before the big boom and be able to rent it out, and when I get to retirement age (just a few years down the road) be able to move there for good. Having said that, I am wondering if you have any contacts in the Manta area that would be able to assist me? I guess what I am looking for is a Realtor who also does property management. I know finding someone in North Am to do that isn’t a problem, but as you stated their Realtors are not full service. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.

    Peter

    • Ecuador George says:

      Peter,
      Be very careful. I have friends who did this very thing during the Costa Rica boom and it was great for the first few years. Then the property management company started renting out their place and keeping the money. If you are not there they can do whatever they want. I don’t mean to sound cynical, but unless you are there managing or at least watching what is going on, I wouldn’t touch this with a 10 foot pole… Good luck.. George

    • Raul Saavedra says:

      Peter,

      As an Ecuadorian living here since 1996, I would like to let you know that is not very wise to think about buying a place and renting it out to the local tourists. You’ll get a great benefit by renting it out to folks in the US that want to travel down here just for the simple reason that you’ll get the feedback you want to hear. Here in Ecuador there are several companies that will care for the cleaning and maintenance of your property once your “client” has arrived and has called the agency to show up and clean up the place.

      Renting you property is very lucrative as a matter of fact, but it all depends where you buy. As an example, some of the apartments in Salinas, fully furnished, can go from $1,000 to $2,500 during the carnaval season (school vacation period).

      So, good luck to you and if there is anything you may need while here in Ecuador, let me know. my email is rasaamar2006@hotmailcom. I’ve made it my business to help investors

      • Lyn says:

        Hi Raul,
        I tried to send you an email to the email address you gave and it appears to be invalid. I was just curious what you do as your “business to help investors”. I am looking at purchasing land along the Ecuador coast. I was there for 10 weeks and just got back to the States two days ago. I made some great contacts as far as realtors, builders, and property managers but am always on the lookout for any expert willing to help me with my search.

        Thanks,

        Lyn

  10. Roger says:

    Great article:
    Like Peter, my child bride and I are considering moving to Ecuador.. We are thinking of building which since I have been in the business for 40 years is not new….HOWEVER I know enough that paying someone who knows the local ropes is well worth the money in the long run.. The trick is finding that person/company… We are open to recommendations if you have any….
    again … A great Blog!

    • Ecuador George says:

      Roger… I have been building for 25 years here in California and I would be hard pressed to refer you a person here. Out of site out of mind is the perfect saying here… You are the only one who has your best interests in mind. It is my belief that you must be in Ecuador to build in Ecuador… Good luck. George p.s. Maybe my readers have a recommendation. I know a few have had good luck with builders.

    • Raul Saavedra says:

      Roger,

      I’ve lived in Guayaquil since 1996. I can recommend for you several trusted builders that follow every code and building regulation to the “t”. It’s sad to read how poorly the Real Estate business here in Ecuador is recommended. But it is what it is, if you want the best, it has a cost. There are many licensed realtors that will tell you the truth about every detail and inquiry you may have about a property here in Ecuador. The difference is that for those tourists that come to Ecuador thinking that folks here will work for pennies, including the realtors, they’re in for a big surprise. Here in Ecuador, as it is around the world…”you get what you paid for”.

      You want to visit top quality, high standard real estate, you have to hire the top realtors. What you should know is that until you purchase, if you should decide to purchase here in Ecuador, the only cost you may have with the realtor is your mobilization. Give it a shot and let me know. I have my family here and personally own a few properties here that I can show you for your consideration so that you may see the difference of hiring the best. It all depends on how much you’re willing to spend and where you want to live.

      Gated communities are common around here due to security reasons. So let me know, it will be a pleasure to serve you next time you’re here. You will be amazed. There are some gated communities that offer houses and apartments and a great club, gym, etc that in the U.S. these places could cost hundreds of thousands. So, don’t trust everything you read, the meaning of “good living” or finding “a place to relax” doesn’t mean the same for everyone.

  11. Alexandra says:

    Hello,
    and thank you for the informative site.
    I am considering moving to Ecuador, and as I understand, the only way for me to get my residency is to get an ivestor visa. Is it possible to buy a small pice of land? and if so, can I build on it later for my personal use?
    Thank you,
    Alexandra

    • Ecuador George says:

      Alexandra, I believe their is a work visa, a student visa, and a few other types also. The investor visa requires that you either deposit $25000 into an approved savings account in an Ecuadorian bank or you can buy a piece of property that appraises/has a tax evaluation of $25000 or more. Good luck. George

  12. Danny Weil says:

    Can you tell me about subdividing in Intag? I wish to buy four hundred square meters in Intag but it is connected to 80 hectareas and does not have its own escritura. I was told I could do a fracionamiento but now, i am told no. The Canton of Cotacachi says that four hundred meters taken from 80 hectareas is too small and that the least I could subdivide is 2500 square meters.

    The escritura, as said, is for the entire 80 hectareas and the seller says there is no problem to ‘fracionar’ or subdivide but I am being told differently. Can someone help and tell me the name of the law that applies to subdivisions?

    Thank you

    Dr. Danny Weil

    • Ecuador George says:

      Sorry Danny, that is such a specific question that you will probably need a real estate lawyer for the answer. Good luck. George

  13. Lissette says:

    What is the best way to sell a home in Ecuador from the US? My parents own a couple of homes there but as they are of advanced age, cannot travel there to sell themselves?

    • Ecuador George says:

      Lissette,
      I do not know the answer to that question. Maybe a reader will know. Be very careful. George

      • Brian says:

        I live in Australia and about two years ago sold properties in Salinas and San Rene through paid advertising on the International Living site. I had Power of Attorney documents signed and left with Lawyers in Salinas and Quito, but all negotiations after inspections were direct with purchaser and myself and once agreed upon, lawyers were advised of conditions and price etc. I was also able to have documents sent to me, Notarized by the Ecuador Embassy in Australia and sent back to Ecuador. No dramas. Worth a try as International Living has a large following and ads are reasonably priced.

  14. liz scott says:

    are there any condo hotels along the coast. I am looking to retire and rent out until that time. With renting I am hoping that the hotel would look after the rentals etc. for a fee of course. When retired I would like the amenities. Can you get back to me please. It is very difficult to find any info on the web. I did find a condo hotel in quinto but am not interested in living off the coast

    • Ecuador George says:

      Liz, If you would join the Facebook group “Ruta Del Sol Mates”, they will have all this information in almost real time. I do not have this type of information for the coast, sorry… But this group has 700 plus members and most of them live on the coast of Ecuador. Good luck. George

  15. G Yepez says:

    Hi everyone,

    What a great website you have ecuador george. I used to go by that name once. This is mainly because I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador but raised in NYC. Friends would refer to me as just that, being the only ecuadorian kid in the neighborhood at the time. With that said, I am too looking forward to purchasing property along the coastline of ecuador but know very little about my own country as far as location goes. This website has definitely provided plenty of information to consider prior to buying or building – thanks george.
    A little about me: I currently live in Denver, CO. pursuing my profession as an Architect. Previously working with structural engineers (and married to an engineer) then obtaining my bachelor’s in architecture and planning and interning/practicing with great firms in Denver area I am definitely ready to begin residential projects in Ecuador and hopefully throughout South America.
    I am planning on returning soon in the next couple of months to scope out some potential plot of land and to start my business as an architect/designer.
    I do currently own property in Guayaquil and have family living there while I am away. I am also in the works of having my parents villa in Guayaquil for sale in coming months as it goes under some minor reparations before it goes on the market.

    Although I have a lot to learn about real state laws in Ecuador it will be a great time for exploration and go site seeing. Hopefully along the way I can help provide answers to those who wish to buy/build in Ecuador. I will post again soon and have a website ready and possibly some potential projects for everyone to see. Good luck to all in their search.

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