Most expats first come to Cuenca on a visit, then rent an apartment if they wish to stay, and ultimately, when apartment rental costs begin to eat into their savings, choose to purchase a condo or a home. Like everywhere, ownership is less expensive than renting especially as you will pay cash here and probably not have a mortgage. Loans are not easily available and when they are they carry a very high interest rate often as high as 12%. There is no such thing as MLS listings in Ecuador so each real estate agent has a group of homes which they will show you. Therefore, it pays to contact a few different realtors. They normally find homes or condos for sale by word of mouth, or just keep their eyes open for a moving truck, or knock on doors if there is a rumor floating around. It is a very informal system yet seems to work. One of the oddities you will encounter is that all appliances such as stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer go with the owner. So, you will almost never see these appliances remain with the sale of the house or condo. They will have to be purchased by you. Water heaters will stay and they are, once again, not like in the US. Water heaters hang on the wall and, using a demand system, heat the water as you need it. They are more effective than the inefficient American, 80 gallon water heaters that waste so much energy. Almost all water heaters and stoves in Ecuador are run by propane gas. You will have a gas cylinder near the heater or stove with a hose connecting the two. The cylinders cost approximately $55 and have a refill cost of $2. Depending on your needs, a cylinder will last from a week to a month. This represents a significant cost savings compared to energy costs in the US. You get refills by exchanging an empty tank for a full cylinder that is purchased from trucks that roam the neighborhood honking their horn to get your attention. Transferring money from the US for the purchase of a home or condo is not a problem as large sums can be easily sent by wire from a US bank to an Ecuadorian bank or to a local lawyer. The purchase process requires visits to a notary with formal papers to sign but it is quite a simple transaction compared to what you are used to in the States. It would be nice if Ecuador had a HUD statement that summarized all the costs and expenses but that may be years down the road. You just have to keep track of each procedure as it occurs.
Our experience in purchasing a home was somewhat slower than we were accustomed to but our lawyer made the transaction as smooth as possible and walked us through each step one at a time. Utilities such as electric, water, telephone and internet are transferred to you but often keep the originators name. We have not looked into it yet but there are discounts as high as 50% for utilities for those over 65, however, this will not amount to significant savings because utility costs are quite low in Ecuador. All in all, purchasing our home here went quite well even though each step was a new and different experience for us. As we now live in the city, our home in the suburb of Challuabamba is up for sale. Let us know if you are interested and we will send you photos and particulars.