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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 16 Responses from People When You Tell Them You’re Moving to Ecuador

It can be amusing how people respond when you tell them you’re moving to a third world country. Everyone will react differently depending on how they are associated with you. 


Family, especially parents will appear in shock and then sad. And because of this initial reaction they may get negative about your move.  They may try and talk you out of moving. It can be difficult to leave especially if you were close. 


Adult children, if you live in the same city or at least close by, may feel as if you are abandoning them, even if they themselves are married and have their own families. Of course they would never admit such a thing. Why not invite them to Ecuador too! Happiest is the families who all stay connected physically and emotionally. You’d fit right in here in Ecuador. 


Even if you have lived thousands of miles away for years from your parents or adult children and you tell them you’re moving to Ecuador, they will react shocked and sad. It’s because they are shocked and sad that you are moving away from the U.S! The connection was that you at least all lived in the same country. Remind your family that they will still get your emails and your phone calls. Also in some cases you may be geographically closer. 


Friends will appear happy and excited for you but will feel left out and a bit jealous that you’re more adventurous than they are…LOL. Friends will be inquisitive because they too may want to do what you’re doing.   As soon as they get a chance they’ll get on the computer and do their own research about living and retiring in Ecuador. heheheh

Parents and adult children will feel the saddest and the most apprehensive about your move. Lots of questions, worries and concerns will run through their head. There is a fear they may never see you again.  
 
To help ease some of these concerns let your family know you are not leaving them behind but that you are moving on into a new chapter in your life. Let them know that they, if they so choose, can also make such a move to whatever city you have chosen in Ecuador, so you can all be together. If they don’t want to move to Ecuador, reassure them that you are going to visit them if and when money permits.


Here are our top 16 responses. If you have gotten a different response from your family or friends when you told them you were moving to Ecuador, let us know in the comments section…we’d love to hear about it. 

  1. Ecuador? Is that in Central America? 
  2. Why so far away, I may/will never see you again! 
  3. Is it safe? 
  4. You’re moving to a third world country? 
  5. I just don’t understand why you have to leave the U.S. 
  6. The U.S may be going through some rough times right now, but it’s the best country in the world. 
  7. I thought you said you were moving to __________. 
  8. What if you don’t like it there? 
  9. What made you choose Ecuador?
  10. Oh wow! That’s neat…I’m happy for you. 
  11.  I wish I could go with you.
  12. Let’s connect on Face Book. 
  13. I’m moving to San Francisco or ______________. 
  14. You’re moving to Ecuador all by yourself?
  15. Ecuador? What’s over there?
  16. Why would you go to Ecuador, isn’t it like dirt roads with sheep and chickens running around loose over there?

The last one is pretty funny but someone really did say that to us, probably because this is what you see in movies often times. Well of course we had to tell him, “No, it’s not sheep and chickens running around loose, its goats, chickens and cows…and the roads are pretty good in Cuenca.  


Monday, February 27, 2012

What Future Expats Need to Know BEFORE Retiring to Ecuador


As our readers know, we like to show people all sides of an issue and other opinions, not just what we think they want to hear; and we’re not posting this on the blog to keep anyone from coming to Ecuador; some of these issues may be hyped just to scare people from moving away from the U.S to another country, so keep this in mind as you read through this incomplete report by the U.S Travel Website.
 
Some of you may have already gone to the U.S Travel Website and saw this yourselves, nonetheless, for those who have not, we would like to share a few bits of information with you just so you can know about these things and then take your own appropriate measures for yourselves according to your circumstances. 

Retiring In Ecuador

In recent years, Ecuador has become a top overseas destination for retiring U.S. citizens. Bear in mind, organizations promoting Ecuador or any other place as a retirement destination may have a financial incentive to attract retirees, and may not always present a balanced picture. Consider multiple sources before choosing a destination. 

Remain vigilant when contracting professional services for assistance with Ecuadorian visas, real estate transactions, or customs brokering for imported household effects. U.S. citizen retirees regularly complain about unethical practices by lawyers, real estate agents, and others who have taken advantage of their lack of knowledge about local language, laws, and culture, resulting in costly losses and little hope for a remedy through the local judicial system. 

As in any country, Ecuadorian rules governing visas and customs are subject to change with little notice. The Ministry of Foreign Relations and other Ecuadorian government agencies publish little information in English, increasing foreigners’ reliance on lawyers or other facilitators, some of whom have distorted the true cost or requirements for obtaining Ecuadorian visas. Staff members at the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General are not in a position to give detailed advice about Ecuadorian immigration law. 

Women Traveling Alone to Ecuador
 
We are often asked our opinion about women traveling alone to Ecuador…well, our opinion is this. It’s not the traveling part that is dangerous it is the living part. I would not want someone such as my sisters or mother, or aunt, or any of my females friends to move to and live in Ecuador alone…you may think you can handle yourself and you are independent woman, but many men that travel alone and walk alone are targets of all kinds of crimes, so how much more would be a women? It’s not a matter of “I can take care of myself”, all women can take care of themselves, but not all women can fend off an attacker because she happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you have taken defense classes, how will the perpetrator know that and, how will you defend yourself against a person with a knife or gun?  And why would you want to put yourself in a position of having to do so? The attitude “it won’t happen to me” is foolish thinking at best.

I would not want my sister or my mother living alone anywhere in Ecuador. But this is just us and is our opinion, but here is what the U.S Gov. Travel Website says about crime here in Ecuador. BTW, this is just a snippet of what they state on their website: to read the complete report about and all of the different types of crime and where it is located in Ecuador, click here.

Ecuador Crime 

Crime is a severe problem in Ecuador. Crimes against U.S. citizens in the past year have ranged from petty theft to violent offenses, including armed robbery, home invasion, sexual assault, and several instances of murder and attempted murder. Very low rates of apprehension and conviction of criminals – due to limited police and judicial resources – contribute to Ecuador’s high crime rate. 

“Secuestro Express” Taxi Assaults: Robberies and assaults against taxi passengers, known locally as “secuestro express” continue to present a significant safety concern, especially in Guayaquil and Manta, but also with increasing regularity in Quito. Shortly after the passenger enters a taxi, the vehicle is typically intercepted by armed accomplices of the driver, who threaten passengers with weapons, rob passengers of their personal belongings, and force victims to withdraw money from ATMs. Increasingly, victims have been beaten or raped during these incidents.  

(Note: we have never heard of this happening in Cuenca). 

Violent Robberies: Armed or violent robberies can occur in all parts of Ecuador, not just the major cities. Many travelers have been robbed after using ATMs or when exiting banks. Travelers should avoid withdrawing large amounts of cash at one time from banks and ATMs, and should use ATMs in protected indoor areas like well-guarded shopping malls. In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and flee the scene. Tourists have also been robbed at gunpoint on beaches and along hiking trails. 

Sexual Assault: Incidents of sexual assault and rape have increased, including in well-traveled tourist areas. Criminals generally target women who are alone, and use alcohol or incapacitating drugs on unsuspecting tourists to rob and/or sexually assault them. These so-called date-rape drugs disorient the victim and can cause prolonged unconsciousness and serious medical problems. To lower your risk, travel in groups, don’t leave food or drinks unattended in public places, and never allow a stranger to give you a drink. 

Murder: Since September 2009, at least four U.S. citizens in Ecuador have been victims of murder. In most cases, the victims and alleged perpetrators personally knew each other. Investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators is the responsibility of the Ecuadorian government, and do not proceed with the speed and thoroughness we are accustomed to in the United States. Although the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate Generally monitor and encourage these investigations, our ability to intervene is extremely limited.

What We Think about This Report?

The report is just letting people know what they may be up against if visiting/moving to Ecuador…if they did not make such a crime report and a U.S citizen gets robbed while getting cash out of an ATM in Cuenca Ecuador, the first place the victim is going to go is to their home country complaining that they were never warned. Well…here is that warning.

Some folks take it all with a grain of salt while others take it all in and are diligent and aware of what’s going on around them while living in Ecuador. They take special measures to not be targets of crime. The report is there for anyone to read and then do with it what they will.

Although Cuenca is not a city where there is very much violent crime, this is changing, especially around the stairs area by the river, leading up into the old center of Cuenca. In the month of January it was posted on a forum on the Internet that there were like 4 robberies of gringos and even some Ecuadorians and the perpetrators (4 or 5 guys) used a knife to get personal valuables from these people…many of these robberies happened during the day!

(Note: we cannot confirm this as being true, however)

Rumored reports on forums state two of the perpetrators were apprehended and questioned by police but then they just let them go. So, to this day, as far as we know, they are still robbing foreigners and even Ecuadorians.

We know personally of a Canadian couple who were robbed of a necklace in Early February 2012 while walking up the stairs (during the day), into the downtown area of Cuenca, right there on Calle Larga. They just snatched the necklace right off her neck and then sped down the stairs knowing they were not going to be followed by this older couple.

But the crime does not stop just in the downtown area of Cuenca either. Thieves are all over the city of Cuenca and being out after dark alone is not a wise thing to do unless you are traveling in pairs and groups and taking taxis to and from your destinations. Leaving night clubs and bars intoxicated, especially at night is extremely haphazard and we do not recommend it.

The thing about the government report is that like any amount of statistics, they mix it all in and label it “crime in Ecuador”.  Again, most of the very violent crimes are in the big cities.  In the smaller towns this is not an issue, whether at the coast or in the mountains.  However, we say that with caution, because, again, you can make yourself a target anywhere in Ecuador at any time even during the day.

Violent Crime in Wal-Mart Parking Lots in the U.S

Even so, in many cities of the U.S there are violent crimes of robberies and rapes happening in such seemingly safe places as the Wal-Mart parking lot, some of the robberies happen during the day too! So, we’re not saying all this to single out Ecuador, but we think that everyone who is thinking of coming here to live should be aware of what’s happening crime-wise in Ecuador.

We do know that those people who are robbed usually do not take measures to protect themselves and their valuables. Almost all robberies here in Cuenca happen out of randomness and because the perpetrator KNOWS they can get something from a vulnerable looking person or couple.

Who is Vulnerable?

1.    Older expat couples
2.    Disabled persons
3.    Women alone
4.    Flashy donned individuals
5.    Persons that have been drinking and coming out of night clubs
6. Anyone, no matter the age, who is walking out at night

Just because you may fall into the "more vulnerable" category does not mean you should not come to Ecuador, but it means that those people that are more vulnerable need to take special precautions according to their circumstances. 

You do not have to become a victim of crime. Take measures to make sure that no one sees you have anything of value on your person!  Don’t go out at night; never walk around alone even if you are a male; be diligent when getting money from the ATM machines; Call a taxi, never just get into a taxi(in the big cities); and be a careful diligent  traveler/expat.  Don’t just shrug it off, with the –it won’t happen to me—attitude.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, remember?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ecuador, Earthly Paradise but Legal Nightmare

Uh, why would we call Ecuador a legal nightmare? Well, for starters, it has been our experience, as well as others who are moving to Ecuador permanently that getting a residence visa is a terrible nightmare at this time.   This is not because your paperwork is not in order, it is not because you did not apply to immigration with EVERYTHING they ask for, and it is not because they don’t want you here; it’s because of disorganization in the immigration department itself. 


Yes, Ecuador is an earthly paradise with some fantastic people and beautiful cities and towns, but it’s still a third world country when it comes to getting anything done such as this. Now there is another story—the nightmare where you never wake up because you’re not asleep!! It’s really happening!


After reading forums and actually talking to other North Americans with the same experience with the immigration department, it could take years to actually receive legal residency in Ecuador under certain circumstances.  Rumors are circulating that the immigration office itself has fired and rehired four different directors in just one year because of…well, corruption or better known in the immigration circles as bribery. 

There are numerous foreigners that are living in Ecuador, who have a lawyer, and who are going through all of the proper channels, dotting all the I’s to obtain residency, yet none of it means too much at this point…ALL paperwork is at a standstill in the Ecuadorian immigration right now because of disorganization in the department of immigration. 


On top of that, we have heard that some corrupt police officers are targeting gringo areas, in particular for gringos that are in limbo with their residency papers, though no fault of their own, since it is a known fact, and intimidating them for bribes. 


 Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has offered to help foreigners with their immigration papers if they help with the capturing of a police officer who is engaged in corrupt practices. 


Of course, there are those who already have provided all the necessary paperwork months ago, and are now just sitting around in limbo waiting, waiting, waiting for someone to actually read the paperwork and authorize it. We think those who have applied for their visa should just be given their residence status without having to get mixed up in their government problems—it seems like it could be dangerous, after all. 


It seems a no brainer:  if you’re willing to make a presidential decree to fix someone’s residency issues for turning in a corrupt policeman, why not simply grandfather in all expats that are in legal limbo though no fault of their own.  If you’re going to change a law and add requirements, why not let those that were already here just pass through instead of pulling the rug from under them.  Fair is fair, change the laws if you wish, but start with all new entrants.  Those already here should just pass go and collect $200.  No? 


To be clear, not all expats are having these issues.  Mostly just those caught in the “retroactive” law changing web, which by the way, can catch anyone by surprise since laws can and do change without notice.   What do readers think?


Here’s the full story taken from the Latin American Herald Tribune on what the Ecuadorian President is offering to foreigners.


Ecuadorian President Makes Offer to Illegal Immigrants

QUITO – President Rafael Correa has offered to assist illegal immigrants seeking to stay in Ecuador who provide information about corrupt police.

“I have complaints about police officers who extort (money) from those without papers. There are neighborhoods where they know foreign citizens who are in the country without authorization gather and, instead of pursuing the case, they ask for money” or other things, Correa said during his weekly show.

“I am telling those foreigners publicly. If you help me capture a police officer who is engaged in corrupt practices, we’ll give you the papers so you can be legal in the country,” the president said.

A tip line will be established in the next few days for immigrants who want to report corruption, Correa said.

“If you help us fight corruption and arrest the police officers who are extorting (money from) irregular foreigners in our country, we’ll help you become legal. Don’t be afraid,” the president said.

The government agency in charge of fighting corruption launched an investigation several months ago into alleged irregularities in the legalization of foreigners, especially Cubans.

Several former immigration service officials and notaries who allegedly arranged marriages of convenience for illegal immigrants have been targeted by investigators.

*******
So it seems all is not wonderful in paradise.  Things in the bureaucracies, we are told are going to change for the better, but when that actually happens who knows. 


So should foreigners still come to Ecuador? Our full recommendations in our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.  I know, I know.  We’ve been promising this guide for weeks.  But it’s almost done.  Really.  It’s just that in paradise, things do move a little slower after all… Tell us what you think?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrating Carnaval in Cuenca Ecuador at the Children’s Home

The Carnaval celebration is a BIG deal all along the Ecuadorian coast, but here in Cuenca they don’t celebrate it like they do elsewhere in Ecuador.  In Cuenca they love to bomb you with water! They will use water balloons, squirt guns, big water guns, and even buckets of water to make sure you get wet.

All through the month of February when walking around in Cuenca you may get a bucket of water or water balloons thrown at you.  The dates to really watch out for are February 18th through the 21st when about 75% of the population in Cuenca throws or squirts water on passerbyers.   

We celebrated Carnaval with the children and we all had a blast!

                 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bargaining in Ecuador: How to Know What the Going Rate Is

The biggest setback for foreigners when shopping for food, clothing, rentals, and other merchandise in Ecuador is they do not know what the going rate is for whatever it is they are wanting to buy.

Before you can bargain intelligently you need to know what the going rate or price is for what you’re buying, whether it is an apartment or if its ten mangos from the mango vendor. In other words you have to KNOW what the LOCAL price/market is.  How do you go about finding that out? 


Well, it takes a little bit of patience and keeping your eyes and ears open and listening carefully when sellers negotiate with the locals. If you speak Spanish then that will be very helpful, if you do not speak Spanish, learn your numbers in Spanish first and foremost, so you can make out what they are saying what the price is to the locals. 


Remember: when shopping at grocery stores and department stores the prices are fixed so you can’t negotiate. Also, the price is not what is labeled below the item like what you see in the states; instead the price is what is marked on the product in little tiny text so small you have to squint to read it. You may want to bring your glasses or magnifying glass—no kidding! LOL


Where can you bargain in Ecuador?


Bargaining is expected in the open air markets and the Mercado’s where souvenirs and other crafts and produce are sold. You can bargain at some of the little souvenir shops around town as well as any of the family owned businesses in and around Cuenca. This includes bakeries (pandaerias), grocery-marts, jewelry stores, and clothing and toy shops.

Home purchases are always negotiable.  


Rental prices are also negotiable—accepting the asking price for a rental is never a good idea because it “sets” other rental prices and it establishes a precedent for others, including the Ecuadorian landlords to higher their rental prices to that gringo precedent. 


We’ve even negotiated with the price in the government offices. Getting one document notarized in Ecuador is like $10 to $12 compared to $2 or $3 in the states and when there is five people getting paperwork notarized the cost adds up significantly, and so Frank manages to negotiate a “family discount” at the notary office downtown Cuenca.  We have saved a good chunk of money just because he was assertive and asked for this discount. It has probably never been done before, and it may seem odd, but they actually liked the fact that Frank asked them for a discount. We’ve done business in that office several times now and they automatically give us the discount. 


Many foreigners just pay whatever they are told without batting an eyelash, but in most Latin American cultures it doesn’t work like that, unless, of course you simply don’t care and you allow it to work like that. But this is what ups prices considerably.


In many instances, the minute a gringo shows up they are quoted 20% to 50% percent higher on purchases, just because the seller thinks/knows they can get away with it. Remember: all gringos are rich. We know this is not true but try and tell the person behind the counter that.


Can they get away with it? Obviously it depends on the gringo. Let us put it to you this way; WE DO A LOT OF WALKING AWAY.  Sometimes they call us back with a new price quote and sometimes they let us walk away. Often we go back into that business on another day and we get quoted the local price.   You see, if more people would simply just walk away then prices will not go higher like they have on many things here in Cuenca, such as food and yes, real-estate.


Some people don’t want to take the time to bargain or they have the money and simply don’t care to negotiate the price, but remaining lackadaisical about “gringo targeting” is doing yourself a disservice, and all the future expats the come after you a disservice, and the whole community of Ecuadorians a disservice!


Five ways to find out what the going rate is on a certain product


Listen carefully when the vendor is selling to the locals; if the locals aren’t negotiating about the price then that price is usually the going rate. Believe us, Ecuadorians love to haggle and especially those who are buying!


Establish friendships with the locals and ask them what the price should be on something you are interested in; take your Ecuadorian friends shopping with you the first couple of times so you can see how bargaining is done. Fortunately, Frank, when he was a boy used to do it with his mother in Italy all the time so it is just like second nature to him.


Learn Spanish—knowing just a little bit of Spanish will help you get the going rate. Speaking English will not help you get them to lower the price on anything. Speaking Spanish will help you get a better rental price from the Ecuadorians too.


Walk away – if the vendor wants to sell something she will lower the price once she sees you are WILLING to walk away. Works the same way when looking for a rental; you have to be willing to walk away.


Dress Like Them – Don’t wear flashy clothing or jewelry, or walk around with an expensive cell phone in your hand. Also, don’t wear fancy watches and sunglasses.


It’s like what Frank said in one of our videos, “once a place becomes expensive, it just becomes another place to go”.  Cuenca is a nice place and everything but MOST people come here because the “cost of living” is low, not because it’s a nice place and everything. Hawaii is a nice place and everything too, but we don’t think a lot of people are retiring in Hawaii. Do you want Cuenca to become “just another place to go”, or should we all work together to keep Cuenca livable for everyone?



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Portoviejo Ecuador -- 6th Largest City in Ecuador

Portoviejo was our last town we visited on the coast. Actually Portoviejo is 19 miles from the coast. Crucita, Jaramijo, and Manta are all very close beach cities. Portoviejo boasts two big malls and a huge hypermart (big department store) and even a Supermaxi grocery store. It is the 6th largest city in Ecuador and is not too far behind in population with Manta.

        

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Welcoming New Visitors (Karen and Lucie) to Cuenca

In this video, Karen and Lucie, some friends visiting Cuenca for a week, cooked lunch for us. Karen and Lucie were so gracious to have us all over for lunch that we wanted to return the favor, and so the next night they came over to our house for lasagna dinner. We also got to show them a little bit of Cuenca and some of our favorite places.

                      


Karen is thinking about moving to Cuenca and she talks about this in detail on her blog. Click here to read about Karen's Experience while visiting Cuenca Ecuador.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Frugal Living: Wooden Shelves Made from Scrap Wood

Alex built us some cool shelves. When you watch the video you'll notice in the background that we still have a pretty big pile of scrap wood...sure hope we can find a use for it. If anyone has any ideas we'd love to hear them. The boys at the children's home want some cars to play with and Frank came up with a great idea...to build them wooden cars...so that will be one of our next projects.

Here is the picture on Google images of the shelves we wanted

Watch the video and see the shelves that Alex built. Plus, he gets a bit cocky at the end...I guess that's what I get for having him edit the video. LOL

                                 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ford F-150 Stuck in the Sand in San Clemente Ecuador

This video was taken from the hostel we were staying at in San Clemente, Ecuador. The Ecuadorian driver of the Ford truck was stuck for about an hour and ten minutes in the sand! Notice he is wedged in between two trees as well, making getting out even more difficult. It took a lot of pushing, hollering, manpower, and thinking to get unstuck after a long day of sun and fun in San Clemente.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More Frugal Wall Decor: the Big Wooden Key

Have you ever seen or heard of the "big spoon and fork"? Movies and television shows like to show the big wooden spoon and fork in the background hanging on kitchen walls. Well, this is our "big wooden key", it is little over 3-feet tall, and it is hanging on the wall in the hallway of our home. I put a banana next to it so you can see that it is a BIG key.

 We have a lot of scrap wood we're trying to use up and so we picked out some wooden decor items in google images and now Alex, our youngest son, is building them for us! I much prefer homemade wall decor than what you can buy at the store--it has much more meaning; it is custom made to our liking; and it looks nice too. Being frugal in Cuenca is a lot of fun!

Here's the google image of the key and where we got the idea from (the middle one is the one we liked the best)

 Here's the video of Alex making the BIG wooden key.
                      

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Ecuador Adventures: We're Taking a Tuk-Tuk to Crucita Ecuador

From San Clemente we decide to take a day trip to the coast of Crucita. The trip was a little bit more involved than we thought. We took a bus to Charapoto but it would not take us any further, so we hopped on a tuk-tuk for the last five miles of the journey through farmland to Crucita.

                         

Cruicta beach was packed on Sunday when we were there...Sorry didn't take too many photos of the beach on that day. There were a lot of crowds and people partying on the beach. There was a live band playing very loud and families playing ball on the beach and enjoying their Sunday. We heard that this beach is very tranquil during the week days. Really?

Crucita is a little bit bigger than San Clemente but the roads within the city center of Crucita are not paved and they were very muddy and difficult to walk on. There was also a lot of trash on the city roads. We were a little bit annoyed by the trash and muddy roads, plus the beaches were so packed with people there virtually was not a place to really sit and enjoy the beach.

The beaches are long but not very wide--the tide was almost up to the rocks and there was barely any sandy beach at all by about 3PM (tide in) when we were there. But for those people who like crowds and a lot more happening, Crucita is the beach!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Can You Still Find the $250 a month Rental in Cuenca? (Part 2)

To see part 1 of this article click here.

A few weeks ago we met up with Karen and her daughter from Wisconsin who were checking out Cuenca for possible part time living. She brought us a few items with her from the states and she and her daughter cooked us a wonderful fish dinner and then she came over to our house for Lasagna dinner before leaving to go back to Wisconsin…videos coming soon. We had a great time showing Karen and her daughter around Cuenca.

Karen speaks fluent Spanish and so she was able to meet up with several Ecuadorians, who invited her over for dinner. 

The BIG question that many people want to know is if it is still possible to find rents in the $250 price range... and the Ecuadorians are saying, yes!

{UPDATE August 2013: It is rare to find the same amount of house in the same condition as ours in the $250 price range. We have not yet found a $250 rental as nice and as big as our home rental. We do not want to be discouraging but it just is what it is. However, in the $350 price range and even in the $300 price range you can still find nice 3 and 4 bedroom homes. And we're here to help you find a nice rental in the local price market.

When we moved to Cuenca we already knew that it was possible to rent for $250 or lower.  We're renting in that price range now. But until one sees it and hears it for themselves it may be difficult to believe. 

We've read on blogs and forums of how people say, "yeah you can rent at $200 to $250 a month in Cuenca but you'll be living in squalor". Uh? Who would say such a thing? Those who have a vested interest in the rental market in Cuenca Ecuador!!

This is a great article written by Karen and sums up her experience talking with the Ecuadorians about rentals here in Cuenca. To see the slide show photos that she attached with her article click here and go to Karen's Blog. 

What You Get for $250 – Cuenca, Ecuador

In one of my earliest posts, I said that it was possible to live in Cuenca and only pay $250 in rent per month.  A kind commenter, who currently lives in Cuenca, then replied that really the monthly rates are more in the range of $300-$500. So, delaying further discussion, I decided to see for myself.
After a week in Cuenca, talking to everyone from taxi drivers, to friends, to shop keepers and bank officers, I can say that the commenter was WRONG!!  You can absolutely live in a nice place in Cuenca for $250 or under and $250-$300 is considered the higher-end by the average Cuencano.  Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is a fact.

Sure if you want to live the high life/expat life, with the other expats, paying higher rental fees to live in condo buildings that are essentially occupied by other retired expats from North America (ex Mexico)….then go ahead and pay more. [There's also that really fabulous, fully furnished house for $600 that I really want.]  However, if you are moving to Ecuador to make friends AND save money, well then you are in luck, because there are lots of options, you just need to have patience, a little flexibility and some time.

Okay, so why the serious difference in rental rates (perceived or real) between me and the commenter?  Language skills, living standards, other stuff ….take your pick.  All the conversations I had with people regarding living expenses were in Spanish.  While I did contact one of the expat real estate agents, it was on the last day I was in town and we really did not have a chance to speak.  For $250 and below (and it should be below), you can get a two bedroom newly renovated, apartment and the further you are from El Centro, the cheaper it gets. 

I took a tour of a small, 2nd floor, 2-bedroom apartment that had just been renovated and the asking price was $250, which to me means that for a year lease you can get it for $200.  It is a 10 minute walk from downtown and in a decent/typical area.  I also spoke to the owner of a 2 bedroom, new construction apartment that had just rented it for $180.  It is walking distance to a Coral Supermarket (one of the supermarkets that we all would be happy with), a $2 taxi ride or a $0.25 bus ride to downtown and it is a block off a major road and right on the bus lines.

If you are looking for a place, there are tons of rentals, signs are posted on the homes (“se arrienda”) and foreigners are very welcome.  Just bring along some Spanish or a Spanish speaking friend, and negotiate heavily.

The big prize, however, is the home that originally got me excited about living in Ecuador.  I actually got to see the house in person, had dinner on the beautiful handmade/homemade furniture, and it is now the type of house I aspire to have…at the exact same price or less! [Side Note - Frank, Angie and their boys have created some really incredible furniture pieces, my personal favorite is the dining table and its seating.]

To supplement the pictures of the house, below are pictures of the neighborhood. The house is about a 10 minute, $2, taxi-drive from downtown area, or a $0.24 bus ride.

Pictures of the home I visited, before it was furnished, are at following link – Frank and Angie’s Blog.
 
So when someone says it is not possible and you can’t, just repeat these words, “Yes you can!”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Don’t Be a Naive Gringo and Fall Victim to the WAY overpriced Real-estate in Cuenca (Part 1)


Almost every day we see advertisements listing WAY overpriced homes in Cuenca, both for the cost to purchase the home and or to rent the home. These ads are geared to the foreigners. Locals aren’t going to buy or rent these overpriced homes. More and more ads are saying they will rent to foreigners or Norte Americanos only. 

And many of the ads are being advertised in English only online periodicals geared to foreigners. 

So, want to help keep Cuenca’s cost of living down?  Want to be sure that when it’s time to sell, you won’t need to find a greater (foreign) fool to pay the price? Then you should avoid the above like the plague.

Remember: Walk Away!! Don’t act interested!!  Keep Looking!! You Will Find Your Ideal Home!!

“Rent to foreigners only”? This is disgraceful, especially to this beautiful country and its Ecuadorian people! Essentially they are saying; “only rich and/or stupid gringos may apply to this rental ad”.  So, if you want to appear rich and or stupid, the easiest and quickest way to do that is just shop at the English only advertisements.  That way you’ll be guaranteed a (much higher) foreigner price.  Oh, and that includes the rentals too.

Another thing:  be sure to compare to “back home prices”. That way, you can convince yourself of what a good deal you’re getting.  

Seriously though, putting sarcasm aside, we are listing sources of how you can find these listings at real local prices in the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.  How is that? Because they’re geared to locals, in Spanish…in local periodicals…and you won’t have to take anybody else’s word for it, you can see it for yourself…

Why are we so adamant about this?  Because we actually love Ecuador and its people, and we don’t want to see it ruined.  We’re not here only because “it’s cheap”.  We love the landscape and the culture.

Whether you’re looking to rent or to buy the same due diligence is needed, especially of how the real estate market works in Ecuador and having the knowledge of “gringo targeting”. Letting your emotions and desire lead you to purchase, or allowing your pocket book to help you sign on the dotted line just because you have the money and it seems like a good deal when compared to where you live now is making the problem worse.

A devoted follower of our Discover Cuenca blog sent us this overpriced Cuenca home to show us how ridiculous the prices are getting in Cuenca. It certainly does not surprise us, as we see this more and more often in Cuenca, and now after visiting the coast, some of the cities on the coast!

Here is what she said and we absolutely concur with her reaction and feelings. BTW, this is just one example, there are others just like this and it’s growing…

WAY Over-Priced Home in Cuenca!

“Did you see this posting on GringoTree this morning? They want more than half a million dollars for a 4-bedroom house! We moved here from Boulder Colorado which was one of the more expensive places to buy housing in the US. These are Boulder prices! Unbelievable that they can ask that much, even for Cuenca this is WAY up there!”

Yeah, we think it is WAY up there too! Here is what Frank responded with.

Agreed!! What a silly notion. You can probably have that house built for $60 K.
This is disgusting. The greed is colossal. Is there a picture on the offering? Please send the link? Thanks, we may make a post about this...

Below is the ad in its original form…everything they advertise is WAY up there in price. And of course it’s nicely presented in English!!!  They do advertise many expat social events and such that are helpful for newcomers, but the real estate they advertise is out of this world for Ecuadorian prices!   

But we’re not picking on GringoTree.  From our perspective we would not recommend subscribing to any of the English only online periodicals if you are looking for a rental or home to purchase, but if you want to know about the expat social scene then you may want to subscribe.  

We do not want to have any part of “raising real estate prices to foreigners” and this is a big reason why we turned down the HHI offer.

House for Sale or Rent
For sale or rent: furnished 2,800-square-foot custom stone-and-log home located in the southwest part of Cuenca near Avenida de las Americas. Featuring four bedrooms and four bathrooms, a large custom kitchen, separate dining room, three separate sitting areas (one with a custom fireplace), a large porch with views of the city and the mountains all surrounded by a half-acre landscaped garden. This home needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. Rent for $850 per month or buy for $550,000.

FYI: We rent in the same area as this house, our home is a little over 2000 sq ft featuring three bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and an office, a custom kitchen (all kitchens in the brand new homes are custom here), separate dining room, sun room, living room, a back and front yard, the front yard with views of the mountains. Hardwood floors in living room and three bedrooms, plus tile in kitchen, dining room and baths, plus granite counter tops and wonderful tiled back splash in kitchen. And we rent for $250!!

The only difference in the two homes is we are not on a half acre and this home does not boast a fireplace or 4th bedroom, but the above house does not have an office or sun room either. Knowing the market like we do, we would venture to say this home we are now renting would sell for 70-80K in today's Cuenca market.

Just today we were walking in the main square, Park Calderon, and there it was a big white sign in large black lettering, about three feet long and two feet wide, COMPLETELY IN ENGLISH, pinned to the outside door of an expat restaurant, a for sale sign, advertising a “luxury” condo.  No price listed but you can be sure it will be a North American price.  Not one word was in Spanish.
  
So, what do you think?  Who is that targeting? And who is going to be the greater fool that buys and then can’t get out of it, like the foreigners in Panama that are now stuck upside down in their real estate that they over paid for? So do you really want to take a chance on being in the greater fool chain?  Of course every foreigner that buys at foreigner prices thinks he’ll be able to get out by selling to the next foreigner.  Where do you fit in?

Read Part two of this commentary .... “Can You Still Find $250 Rents in Cuenca?”  Part 2