We purchased a house in a suburb of Cuenca called Challuabamba where we did a large amount of renovation to bring it up to our North American standards. It is now finished and is a gorgeous 5500 square foot home with an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam room and many amenities that Americans are used to. The house is now for sale as we have moved into the city proper for the convenience of the cultural events, our friends, and a closer school for Jonny. If you have interest in seeing the house when you visit Cuenca, take a look at a previous “buying property” posting. Send us an email and we will be pleased to drive you out and show the house to you.
But no matter what house or condo you buy there are a number of differences in the purchase procedure and the renovation process compared to the US. The best advice we can give is to use a lawyer to handle a purchase transaction from the very beginning. The purchase agreement and the actual sales agreement are miles apart in what should be looked into and verified. We have friends who bought property on the coast only to find that the people they bought from did not officially own the property. Realtors here don’t do the same investigative work as realtors do in the States. This is the lawyer’s job. Also, renovation contracts with an architect/general contractor are much simpler in Ecuador and can leave out some very important issues if you don’t insist on them. Once again, we would suggest using a lawyer. Two rather obvious additions to a renovation contract are a specific end date for the project with a penalty clause if the contractor goes beyond that date. Contractors in Ecuador are notorious for not meeting your schedule and failing to finish on time. Sometimes they do not finish at all and just leave to go on to their next job. You should also make conditions for the inevitable changes in the original agreement and how to handle them. You don’t want to be surprised by a list of additional costs that you have not agreed to in advance. The general contractor/architect will normally hire the workers and actually bring them to the house each day. We had about 40 different workers in our house over a six month period. If we did it again, we would ask the architect to provide a copy of each worker’s cedula (identity card) before allowing them in the house. And, it goes without saying, that either you or the architect should be in the house whenever work is being done so that it is done properly. We are very pleased with the final result but it was a learning process all the way. “Caveat Emptor” is the byword in Ecuador as it is everywhere in the world.