10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Searching for a Local Priced Rental in Cuenca Ecuador: A Day in the Life

We still rent this home for $250 monthly
All I want to do is rent an unfurnished house for the local price of $300 a month. That’s it.  Is that too much to ask?

It’s the threshold the local taxi driver said we should stay under when we first moved here. It’s the price the blogs were saying was the going rate at the time, only a few short months ago!  And it’s a whopping 75% of the average personal income, although it may be only 30%-40% of household income, which makes sense under the rule of 3 & 4.

Everybody knows we only pay $250 a month for a three year old house, but we’ve already pounded that nail all the way through.  So when a friend asked us to help him find a house for rent in Cuenca for the local price of under the now infamous figure of $300 a month. We agreed!

So when I called an ad in the local paper (spoken in Spanish) and asked the Ecuadorian lady the price on the vacant three bedroom house, and she said $500, of course my next question was – why?  “Why is it so high?” I wanted to know…”does it have a big yard?”. “No, it’s just average sized” she replied.  “Is the house very large?” I asked inquisitively. “Not particularly” she answered, as she described the average floor plan of kitchen living room, laundry room, downstairs, and three bedrooms upstairs w/2 baths.“Is it newly remodeled?” She finally got impatient with my questions and interrupted…”well you know, it’s by Supermaxi”.  Well lo and behold, that explains everything.  “Are you flexible on the price?” I ask.  “No”.  She says, “ok, have a nice day, good bye”.

Undaunted, I call another ad.

This one has the price clearly in the ad, it screams at me $300 DOLLARS.
Excellent.  Always looking to save money on my cell bill @ .25 cents a minute, I call that one next.  Here’s the conversation, in Spanish.

Me:  Hello? – I’m calling about the house for rent for $300 dollars.  How many bedrooms does it have?

Landlord: It has five bedrooms, but where are you from?

Me:  (a little skeptical at the question) err…I’m from here, I live here, why do you ask?

Landlord:  You sound like a gringo. For you the price will be higher.  Chuckle.

Me:  (Not laughing) uhm, oh, well, ok, have a nice day.  Good bye.

Ok, well, I’ve made a commitment to help my friend so, as if I am a glutton for punishment, I keep going.  I call the next ad:

(remember, Spanish paper, speaking in Spanish)

Me:  Hello?  I’m calling about the large house for rent.  How much is it?

Landlord:  It’s $800 a month. 

Me:   Uh, why is it so much?

Landlord:  It’s furnished and it’s for foreigners, plus it’s by Supermaxi.

Me:  Isn’t that a little high?

Landlord:  Yes, but, it’s for foreigners.

Me: Ok, thank you and have a nice day.  Good bye.

My Ecuadorian neighbor/friend decided to get in on the foreign rental action. She approached me with a super duper rental deal, I figured she got offered a commission.  Two “large” (her description) houses on one lot, with a pool for $600 a month. Sounds good so far right?
So I called the lady myself, and find out, it’s only one house, it’s only 2000 square feet, and the pool is empty.  I tell my friend, it’s too high.  She frustratingly says:  “is it for you?” as if to say, who cares if it’s too high, it’s not for you, it’s for the foreigners.

Somehow, I didn’t find it appropriate to explain to her, that I don’t appreciate gringo pricing, even if it’s not directed toward me exclusively.

When we were in Salinas, while walking the Malecon an Ecuadorian promoter approached us for boat rides, and condo rentals, etc. so we decided to talk with him and go look at a few.  All his rentals were for $1000 to $1200 a month, furnished two or three blocks back from the beach, and unfurnished waterfront, $1000-$2300.

I patiently explain I’m not a tourist; I want a long term, unfurnished rental at local prices, not tourist prices. “Ok, I’ll call you”, he says.  It’s been almost a year, still haven’t heard from him.  Apparently, there’s no money in it for him.Same thing happened when we walked in to the Spanish speaking Spanish Real Estate Company offices, again, in Salinas, because we saw some advertised houses in the $400 per month price range, on their website, in Salinas.  (We always avoid the gringo agencies as they told us themselves the prices are $800-$1200)

We find out the $400 houses have been gone for two years, and they haven’t updated their website!  But hey, we have some $800-$1200 houses over here.  “No thanks”. We practically beg them to call us when they get some more $400 dollar houses for rent. We even stretch our boundaries to $500.  Many, many moons later, we’re still waiting for the call. But without holding our breath!

This will be the last example.

The ad on Craig’s List had pictures of furniture, so it’s a furnished three bedroom right? $450, ok sounds reasonable so far.   I call the ad, and well, no, it’s not furnished.

Me:  “Why are the pictures of a furnished house then?” I ask.

Agent:  “I forgot to remove those pictures” says the Spanish Real Estate agent. The house is $450 a month.

Me: But that’s a furnished price, for that size of house.

Agent: yes, but it’s not furnished.

Me:  Yes, but that is an unfurnished house and at that price, it’s too high.

The very next day, we saw the same ad on Craig’s List and he had lowered the price by $50!  I still thought it was too high at $400.  Almost all the prices on Craig’s List are too high.  Very rarely do you see something priced properly to the local prices.  It is very skewed toward English speaking foreigners.

So why did I write all this?  Am I trying to discourage you? Absolutely not! To the contrary! We want to give you a feel for the real picture.  That is why the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide is a very necessary addition to your arsenal for living well on smaller means here in Cuenca Ecuador. Avoid the foreign hype, be ahead of the game, get the guide today.  Because you will need all the help you can get.  If you're interested in learning more about the local priced rental market click here.


  1. Great post! I've kept in contact with folks living abroad (both locals and expats we've met in our travels). Lovely Ecuador is no exception to this problem. We've seen this throughout the develoing world. I truly believe that the reason most Nortamericanos are leaving their native countries is financial...with cultural reasons trailing far behind. Consequently, they are delighted to pay $800 for a house that would cost $2,000 in the states. This is ompounded by a more serious problem. I hear from my local friends abroad that most Nortamericanos expect locals to speak English and prefer to stay in "expat communities." They're even advertised that way in real estate classifieds. So the locals see no reason to treat them the same as "their own." Add to this problem the number of expats who hurridly buy a house and decide to move back home after renting it out (for a huge profit, of course) to yet more expats and you have a nightmare of rising prices and declining friendliness towards expats. If only we could stop watching House Hunters International! Every time I see expats long for the simple life and then complain because the kitchen counters aren't marble, I want to retch!

  2. Well the high prices are for gringos, who should refuse outright to pay such heavy prices and walk away. Moving in to Ecuador and paying $800-$1200 doesn`t make any sense --rentals should be between $300 to $400 no more or else the financial figures go haywire.

  3. Hi Frank and Angie, I really look forward to your blogs every week. I just wanted to say that I feel bad for the locals that live on minimal salaries in Ecuador. If more families like yours could live there it would help the locals. I understand it helps the economy by having gringos moving there, but it's sad that some have to suffer due to the standards of a few gringos. This is only my opinion from what I see and read, and I am not trying to offend anyone. I just hope that expats can live the dream harmoniously with the locals. Hoping some day to visit, and see if the Ecuadorian life is for me!


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