A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Purchasing property in Cuenca

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.

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