Should you rent an apartment or a house when you move to Cuenca? It really just depends on your personal preference and needs, Below we outline some issues that may make sense to some people.
Some retirees find it challenging to climb stairs, which most houses in Cuenca are constructed with two stories and sometimes three stories. A lot of the apartment buildings in Ecuadorian neighborhoods are also built without elevators in contrast to the condo buildings marketed to foreigners, which will have elevators.
However, it has been our experience that apartment units with elevators and 24-hour security have more expensive rents, plus on top of that there are maintenance fees that need to be paid each month which also tend to be higher in the gringo occupied buildings, or wherever gringos are present.
Is 24-Hour Security Guard Necessary in Cuenca?
Many new-comers to Cuenca think it is a good idea to rent a condo with a 24 hour security guard and this may be necessary for some people. After all, some people may not be accustomed to taking responsibility for their safety. What does that mean? It means that some people think nothing of doing things that are unsafe in and of themselves, especially in a third world country, such as:
Opening the door to strangers. There are many instances of people becoming victims of crime just because they opened the door to someone they had never had a previous contact with before.
Answering the ringer every time a stranger calls or rings your doorbell. Sometimes we think it’s OK to answer the ringer and see what the stranger wants, not realizing that we are communicating subtle bits of information that could harm us later. Such as: the fact that we may not speak Spanish communicates that we are a foreigner. And, letting people know we’re home, and then it becomes obvious when we’re not home, etc,etc.
Appearing well off. Some people just don’t want to be bothered with the idea of keeping a visual low profile. Expensive cars in the yard, high profile looking jewelry and/or clothing, hairstyles, etc.
Non conservative habits. Some people don’t want to make the effort to change their schedules, such as not going out at night, or just after dark, not going out during problematic holidays, being visibly intoxicated, etc.
If this sounds like you, you’re probably better off in a 24hr security complex. But is it really necessary?
Well, for the short term traveler (1-6 months) you can’t beat the convenience of a turnkey condo building. However, if you’re a more long term sojourner in Ecuador, consider that being in a 24 hrs security condo building is not a panacea to your safety. It may actually give one a false sense of security. How? By making one feel that they don’t need to take any personal responsibility for their personal safety. Thinking such as: “I’m in a security building, therefore I’m secure”. Consider the expat lady that was stabbed in broad daylight while walking by the river.
All homes in Cuenca have tall gated walls, and some of the homes have the electrical wire on top of that and almost all recently built homes have an alarm system.
Cuenca has some petty crime but armed robberies and home invasions (while you are in your home) happen but are not as common here. In cases where they do happen, reportedly the above listed scenarios were prevalent. There is some violent crime in Cuenca Ecuador, but the chances of it affecting you are low if you don’t engage in behaviors outlined above.
Update 2015: Cuenca is seeing an up rise in home invasions and robberies and we now totally recommend electric fencing for the foreigner.
Living in a typical Ecuadorian house like your next door neighbor, with tall barred gate, alarm system, electric fencing, etc can be just as safe as if you had a guard around the clock. A recurring theme on this subject is: IT’S UP TO YOU. When you leave your home to go shopping and do other errands it is wise to make sure you turn your alarm on. Therefore it follows that taking more responsibility for your overall awareness and safety goes a long way.
What Cuenca Neighborhood Should I Live In?
WE often get asked about where the good neighborhoods of Cuenca are. And our response is always the same. All areas of Cuenca can be fairly safe areas. It really does not matter what area of Cuenca you rent a home in, generally speaking, except for areas outlined in our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide, and other crime and safety articles on this website, as long as you take certain precautions you will be just as safe and secure as your Ecuadorian neighbors.
It is to your advantage to introduce yourself to your new neighbors. What this means for you is added security because your Ecuadorian neighbors will watch out for your home when you leave it. But only if they like you, and aren’t generally envious of your North American superiority. Clearly, a little Spanish goes a long way.
Some expats that we have helped, such as Alice from Ohio, live right next door to the Landlord. This is the way it is with many of the rentals in Cuenca. It makes it VERY convenient come time to pay the rent, and it is reassuring to know that someone is watching out for your home while you travel or visit family back in the states.
More Objective Reasons to Rent an Apartment/Condo
1. Cannot manage stairs or do not want to manage stairs
2. Need to have an elevator for health reasons
3. You do not want to take care of a house and a yard
4. It makes you feel safer to be in a condo with a guard on duty, ahem…
5. You will be traveling often
Elderly expats may have more reasons on their checklist for wanting to rent a unit in a condo building, however you will have maintenance fees and the condos marketed to expats in Cuenca are about 20% to 50% higher than renting a house.
Why You Would Want to Rent a House
1. You have a dog or cat that needs a yard
2. You want to grow a garden
3. You have small children that need a yard
4. You like having an outside area for playing lawn games and barbecuing
5. You get claustrophobic in a condo
6. You do not like heights
Clearly there are advantages and disadvantages to renting either an apartment or house depending on a person’s specific needs and wants. The main advantage to renting an apartment is usually, but not always, the living space is all on one floor.
This situation would be advantageous to those folks who have trouble walking up steps. The main advantage to renting a house is they usually, but not always, have a green space for animals; even if that green space is postage stamp small it still comes in handy for the pet owner who does not feel like walking their doggie.
The main disadvantage to renting a condo with elevator and around the clock security guard is they are pricier, but if this is what you require to make your life easier and happier then by all means, rent a condo unit.
As we remarked earlier in this post, the real disadvantage to renting a house vs. a condo for some is there will most-likely be a flight of stairs, or sometimes two flights of stairs to climb, depending on the size of the home.
Clearly, home renting is a good idea for those expats with pets, and or bigger families and for those who like to garden. However, some condos do have balconies and or patios for potted plants.
The bottom line is, if you choose a home, be sure to be wise and mimic your neighbors. Do they have dogs? Then get a guard dog. Do they have electric wire fencing? Then you get one too…you get the point…
I myself could never live in a condo, as they feel like a high end jail cell and in almost all cases are surely overpriced to the local rental market. But hey, as I get more gray hairs, I might change my mind…but even if I did, which is not likely, I’d be bargaining like a bulldog…