July 07, 2012

260K Penthouse Suite in Salinas: Would You Buy This Apartment?

Salinas, at least on the beach is VERY touristy. Prices have skyrocketed in the last two years. Restaurants along the Malecon are expensive! Condos are expensive! We'll be talking more about Salinas rentals and what you get for the money in an upcoming post and video. The problem we see with Salinas is once you walk one or two streets back from the Malecon it is quite shabby looking and lots of garbage and there's nothing there. However, in La Libertad there is a shopping mall.  
This video is of a 260K penthouse suite that we checked out for the fun of it, which Frank and I both thought was nothing special when considering the price tag. According to our rule of 3 and 4 this condo is waaaaay overpriced for Ecuador!


July 06, 2012

One Year in Cuenca, What Has Changed

One year ago we arrived in Cuenca. It is almost hard to believe that we have lived in Cuenca for a year now. It seems like we only arrived three months ago. It has been a great year working on the language and integrating ourselves into the Ecuadorian culture.  We have made some wonderful friendships within the community. And since living here we have noticed a few changes about Cuenca that we're going to talk about.
Higher Food Prices
Some food prices are higher! In just the one year we have lived here we have noticed higher prices on many food items. An example is: when we first got here you could buy a five pound bag of onions for $2, well, gone is the day for $2 bag of purple onions; try $4 a bag now! The price has doubled. So what has happened? More and more people are paying the “whatever price” they quote, that’s what happened. Do we pay that? No way…more on that in our up and coming bargaining ebook.
It’s not just North Americans raising the prices either. Wealthier Ecuadorians are coming home to Cuenca and after living in New York City for ten or twenty years, coming home to a five pound bag of purple onions for $4 is refreshing, indeed.
Two Rental Markets: Only One Keeps Going Up!
Rentals that are targeted to gringos have gone up and they continue to go up. Thank goodness we stay away from the over-priced gringo gouging rentals and real estate. The good news is rentals in Cuenca in the $200 to $300 price range, still come up all the time. We know because we see them listed in the resources we list in the DIY Cuenca Guide, and from people we know in the local Ecuadorian circles.
We’ll do a bit of footwork for you today…in just one of the resources we list in the Cuenca guide (I noticed it a few days ago) there is a big 4 bedroom 3 bath villa for rent for $300 in a good Ecuadorian neighborhood…was listed on July 2, 2012. Better hurry, it might be gone by now.
This is why it is important to continue checking out the resources in the DIY Cuenca Guide a couple of times a week. Today I saw in the Cuencanos.com classifieds online, a 3 bedroom apartment with hardwood floors for just $120 a month! The photo looks like the apartment is nice! That’s the unfurnished price, but it is worth a call or email for sure. Click here to see it.
Basically, you have to go to the resources we list in the guide a couple times a week, at least, and when you see a local-priced rental that you like, snap it up.
When good deals in the local rental price range come up they do not last long! It's important to know that in this price range you are competing with the locals—they too are seeking the local priced rentals and this is the price range the average Ecuadorian is willing to pay, or lower. This is bargain hunting territory.
The other way to find the local-priced rental is to make friends with the locals, of course, and tell them you’re looking for a house or apartment in the local rental price range. We found our friend Karina a 3 bedroom 2 baths, nice apartment for $200, so we know they are out there but it takes due diligence and the Do-it-yourself-mindset.
So what’s making the rental market go up for the gringo market? I think it is fair to say that it is not just gringos that are raising rental prices. As we mentioned earlier, Ecuadorians are coming here with their retirement savings from North America and are now ready to enjoy their country.  
But still we all must understand that if we come here and demand a river view, 24 hour security, and furnishings to boot, we’re going to be escorted to the higher priced rentals...that's the other rental market. But sometimes, in the case with Karina, she got the beautiful river and city view but still only pays the local-priced rental rate. So sometimes demanding may be a disadvantage.
Taxi Service
Taxi service for gringos has gone up. In just the one year we have lived here taxis have gone up $1 to $1.50. So if the fare was $2.50 to go downtown from Super maxi on Ave Las Americas, it now is $3.50 to $4. But the price gouging is mostly given to the gringos. Again, do we pay that? Sometimes we do, like if it's at night, but most of the time, no we don't. We have experienced this as a fact, and more than once. Our son goes with a local friend in a taxi downtown and only paid $2! Two dollars! We have never yet paid two dollars! The least we’ve ever paid for cab fare to go downtown was $2.50 and we thought that was good, and that was when we first got here in summer 2011.
We Love Cuenca Even More
Being more familiar with how everything works truly makes living here that much easier and convenient for us. I think you begin to value where you live a lot more when you are more familiar with the people, the language, and your surroundings. Living within the city of Cuenca, near shops, restaurants and malls, makes daily living quite expedient. When we need to go somewhere we know exactly what bus to take and exactly where to go. What has changed from when we first got here and now, one year later is the fact that we are much more comfortable with Cuenca and its friendly people and that makes Cuenca that much more livable and loveable!

July 05, 2012

Sick Bird on Ballenita Beach Ecuador Can't Fly Away!

When Frank and I were walking along the Ballenita coastline we came upon this helpless bird that wouldn't budge an itch, literally, even if its life depended on it. We weren't sure what was wrong with the poor thing as we didn't really see any oil on its wings, so we're guessing that perhaps it was ill. 


July 04, 2012

Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment: In Search of Mold in Cuenca! (8 of 8)

For those of you who have been following along with our Cuenca Weather Humidity/Mold experiment you should have a much better understanding of the climate conditions here in Cuenca.  

The Cuenca futbol stadium weather report online says that in the month of June and July Cuenca's average humidity is 73%.  We confirm this as we have been recording humidity readings inside and outside our home in our experiment in the first part of June. This last video is of moldy buildings in Cuenca Ecuador.


Most people do not realize that Cuenca has this high of humidity and that is because it is not hot here; therefore you do not sweat like you would if you lived in Florida or Texas with 73% humidity. But if you walk around in Cuenca, even with 70 degree weather you will sweat. 

Health Affects to Mold

We started experiencing mild cold like symptoms before we knew that our home had hidden mold.  Fortunately, we now have control of the mold growth through opening of the windows every day, even on chiller days. The mold still comes back but not as fast. Below we offer more solutions to the growth of mold in Cuenca.
Is there a health risk to moving to Cuenca?  Perhaps for those people who are sensitive to mold and have allergies or respiratory health issues. This assessment comes from not just our personal experience but also the experience of other expat friends and other information gathered from other sources.

It's not something that's talked about much, but after living here for a period of time it becomes evident. Well, one thing you notice is that the construction of the homes and apartments of friends, although, it is to a high standard in other respects, is faulty in one thing. The homes and building do not have proper ventilation. 

Mold Quickly Comes Back Without Proper Ventilation

You clean it, and you clean it, but it keeps coming back after a few weeks. Why is this happening? After several conversations with landlords, the solution that keeps cropping up is "open the windows". 

And that’s exactly what we do now! Even with the windows open the mold grows back, just not as fast, so having the windows open does help to keep the mold at bay a bit longer. In the winter our home is a constant 62 to maybe 64 degrees and we still open the windows.

Why is There Mold in Cuenca Ecuador?

Two major reasons for mold are:
1) moist / chilly conditions
2) no ventilation system built into the homes

After a bit of reflection it is apparent that the issue is in the construction plan.  And here is where it is faulty. There is no allowance for a natural ventilation of the homes.  If you don't open the windows, you're stuck in a vacuum.  No airflow, at least, not enough to curtail the spread of mold.  And this is the source, we believe, of the beginning of health issues.

Here in Cuenca, weather conditions being more rainy and over cast days than sunny and dry days is a perfect breeding ground for mold. Cuenca is moist and chilly inside the homes without a source of heat.

Again, if it was just us we wouldn't write about it.  But it's our friends too.  They also notice the constant nasal irritation, and the throaty irritation that just won't go away. None of this ever happened on a chronic basis before moving to Cuenca. Actually it didn't occur at all with us as we're very careful about our health.  It's a Cuenca thing at this point, since we've lived here. 

However, we have read that respiratory ailments are also an issue at some southern coastal points of Ecuador where apparently it rains all the time.

We're guessing that under very wet conditions and no proper ventilation, the  mold issue is too strong to conquer and that's how it causes chronic irritation. This is potentially a very big health risk, especially for older folks and very young children.  If you're healthy and strong it's just a chronic small "cold symptom" type of irritation.  But for the above mentioned groups it could spread to other parts of the body such as your lungs and become pneumonia. This can potentially become fatal.

It's an important issue that people need to be aware of when considering moving to Cuenca or other parts of Ecuador. See it for yourself, when you come even just to visit, take a look at the construction.  See any vents in the ceilings, or any attic areas with vents in the walls?  Nope and nope. 

We understand every one's situation is different, and we think that simple solutions would be very effective, such as:

1. having a wood stove
2. having a fireplace
3. having lots of gas heat
4. having an industrial sized de-humidifier
5. open the windows even though you're cold

This would have the effect of drying out conditions so as to prevent mold coming back again, so soon, it's our experience, not an opinion or a guess. Thank you for following along with us on our Cuenca Ecuador Weather Humidity and Mold Experiment. Feed back and questions are welcome.

We have had some very helpful feedback and comments from our readers since talking about the mold issue and weather in Cuenca; here's one of them. 

Hi Frank, Angie, and Sons,
Your post about mold caught my attention, as I had pondered this about a month ago (before your post) as I was reading your posts about the weather and the home being a tad chilly. I work in construction (27yrs), with an emphasis on water and moisture issues - run into it all the time, albeit in Canada.

One concern I have with EC (highlands) construction technology is the use of the concrete pad on ground. I don't know how they separate the concrete from the earth - do they use gravel? I have not seen any decent gravel aggregates in EC in all the reading I have done yet. Concrete is extremely porous, and will tend to wick up moisture from very wet ground very easily. 
During your rainy season it is quite cool also, and the concrete pads may be wicking up moisture and expelling some of that into living space above the pad. You won't be able to see it happening. Further I have noticed countless homes where the roof runoff splashes down on the ground at the base of the concrete pad and sometimes even splashes back at the base of the exterior wall soaking up to 24 inches of the wall (evident in countless home photos I have seen). Prolonged and/or frequent rain exposures will result in large amounts of moisture migrating thru the concrete wall and into the home.

The more likely source of moisture for you may be related to showers and cooking without proper ventilation to outside. On the coolest of mornings it is less likely that one would open the window for ventilation while showering, when it is most needed. (our note:We leave our bathroom windows open 24/7)  One may tend to open the door to the bathroom instead, resulting in the moisture entering living space and finding the coolest locations on which to congregate. It doesn't always have to condense there, though it may. This is the perfect environment for mold to grow.

The moisture in the home will tend to build up on the (relatively) cooler surfaces of the inside, especially inside cupboards or closets or in corners of walls to ceilings etc. (Our note: yep!)

The idea of a woodstove makes a lot of sense. Or some other source of heat, albeit at a cost. Air circulation may help some too; eg. keep cupboard doors open during lengthy rainy and cool times, run a fan once in a while. Best may be to see about getting a fan installed in the bathroom(s). 

July 03, 2012

Walking Around and Checking out the La Libertad Beach Areas

We took a bus from Salinas to La Libertad (15 minute bus ride) and then walked around for a couple of hours checking out the coastline of the city. Some spots were quite picturesque, while others were not. We spotted some small little inlet beaches and a Malecon in La Libertad. We found that when walking away from the touristy beach areas, however, in both La Libertad and Salinas it seemed rundown with accumulations of garbage on the streets, especially around the commercial districts.Coming from Cuenca, where the streets are always clean it certainly was an eye-sore.


July 02, 2012

Frank Gets a Shoe Shine from a Very Talkative Fellow

You never know what to expect when going to Park Calderon in the historical center of Cuenca. Some days there are festivals and music, other days there are artisans selling their creative projects; today there was a fellow who shine shoes for a living and who likes to talk up a storm. He charges $0.50 for a really good shoe shine; Frank gave him a $1 because he let us take photos and video tape him. 


July 01, 2012

What You Get for 120K, Ocean View in La Libertad Ecuador

While walking around in La Libertad, an outlying area of Salinas we came upon a couple of ocean view lots for sale and we called one of them. Granted this lot is located in a commercial district, with ocean view, but for Ecuador we feel they are still asking too much according to the Rule of 3 and 4.  Watch the video and tell us what you think.


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