A Canadian Family Traveling & Living Abroad (in Ecuador)

Are Expats Paying Too Much for Rentals in Cuenca?

This is a guest post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007. 

From time to time I run across articles on certain web sites that advertise Cuenca, Ecuador as a:

“Top 10 retirement destination where a couple can live on as little as $600.00 per month.”

However, some expats suffer sticker shock when they arrive and realize that rentals in Cuenca are often much higher than they were expecting. What can expats reasonably expect to pay for a quality rental in Cuenca?

My wife and I recently went on an apartment hunting trip with a newly arrived expat couple who were looking for a 2 or 3 bedroom apt. in a safe, convenient neighborhood. This couple was very concerned about safety and wanted to be in an area where they could walk to shopping and have easy access to green space near a river. They also wanted a pet friendly place with an elevator and 24 hour guard.

We found a number of potential rentals that fit their criteria, some furnished and some unfurnished. We found two fully furnished apartments on Avenida Ordoñez Lasso in the Edificio Palermo which were being offered for rent in the $600 to $700.00 range. For those who don’t know, Edificio Palermo is a luxury high rise building with amenities such a gym, spa, and cinema. It has a very elegant lobby and it is located in an area of Cuenca that some call “gringolandia” due to the large number of expats who live  there. Down the street from Edificio Palermo we looked at an unfurnished 3 bedroom apt. in a nice but less elegant building renting for $475.00 (plus building maintenance fee of $75.00). We also took the couple to view a large, centrally located apartment on Avenida Remegio Crespo. This property was being offered unfurnished for $450.00 (including the building maintenance fee or alícuota). We located other apartments in the $250 to $350 range that we could have shown to this couple, but they passed on them since they were located in areas which they deemed less desirable for expats.

Ecuador Cost of Living Wake-up Call

At first glance one may think that the above mentioned rental prices were all increased because they owners were targeting “rich gringos”, but all of these rental properties were advertised in the local classifieds in Spanish, not English which leads one to believe that the owners were not necessarily looking to rent to expats but rather offering their property to the general Ecuadorian public. The point is that to find an rental that fits the normal expat criteria (modern building with a balcony, 24 hour guard, elevator, green space, convenient to SuperMaxi, walking distance to the center, close to a river, etc) one is generally going to have to pay more than what some may expect when they first arrive. After reviewing a sampling of nicer rentals in Cuenca, the idea of a couple living on a $600.00 per month budget seems rather farfetched.

How To Avoid Paying Too Much For Your Rental

Even though the nicer rentals in Cuenca may be a bit higher than one expects, it is a good idea to shop around and negotiate with the owners before signing a rental contract. A GringosAbroad reader (we will call him Dave for this article) recently asked my wife and me to help him negotiate a better price for a rental. Dave is currently paying $350.00 for a large unfurnished apartment, but he found a new apt. that better suits his needs and tastes. The only problem is that this new apartment is being offered for $600.00 per month, almost twice what Dave currently pays.

cuenca-ecuador-rental-costs

Dave had the feeling that the owner was asking too much, that perhaps this was a case of “gringo price gouging”. I told Dave that while the price did seem high that he should not expect the owner to lower the price very much. We made an appointment to meet Dave and the owner to tour the apartment and chat about pricing and contract details. After talking and negotiating for the better part of an hour the owner agreed to make some additions to the apartment to suit Dave´s needs and she even lowered her price to $550.00 in order to seal the deal. The owner realized that she had quality renters on her hands and did not want to lose the opportunity to rent to them. Although a $50.00 price reduction may not sound like much, over the course of the contract Dave will save $1,200 on this rental, so his negotiating efforts did pay off.

The apartment that Dave and his wife will be renting is one of the nicest we have seen in Cuenca and it has all of the standard features that most expats want:

  • a large balcony
  • a spacious open floor plan with a lot of natural light
  • an elevator
  • 24 hour guard
  • secure parking
  • green space
  • beautiful views of the river just across the street and
  • convenient to shopping and transportation.

Also, Dave was able to negotiate a two year contract, so he can live in comfort knowing that his rent will be stable and he will not have to move for the next two years. I think that it is worth noting that Dave and his wife have lived in Ecuador for two years. They are not starry eyed new arrivals who are willing to pay just any price for a rental. They have rented other less expensive apartments in Cuenca and have come to realize that to get what they really want in a rental they will have to pay more. However, Dave wisely did not accept the first price he was quoted, but worked to negotiate a fair contract that was within his economic means. Even though Dave will be paying $200 per month more for this new place, he admitted that his other apartment is in an area where the noise is, to quote Dave, “unbearable”. He also pointed out that his current landlord is uncooperative and hard to deal with. So while Dave will be paying more rent for this new apartment, he is apparently getting much more for his money. As we all know we get what we pay for and it is important to compare apples to apples when determining whether a certain rental is a good or bad deal. Of course there are many expats (like us, we pay $250.00) who are paying much less for rentals than Dave, but where are these cheaper rentals located, what is the age of the property, are there hidden problems with the rental, is the landlord easy to deal with, is there excessive noise in the neighborhood and is the neighborhood secure?

These are all factors that determine the amount of rent one can expect to pay in Cuenca.

In the end, Dave and his wife are happy with their new rental and the landlord is also content to have found quality renters who will take good care of her investment. Dave thanked us profusely for our negotiating help and was happy to have saved $1,200 on the two rental contract.

So, the question is: Are expats paying too much for rentals? Some probably are, but others like Dave are willing to negotiate and take their time to find the place they really want. I think that if we all do our homework and shop around we can find rentals that are priced according to market value and avoid paying special “gringo” pricing.

An article by

Bryan is a journalist, photographer, expat and dad. He writes for Gringos Abroad (Ecuador travel & living) and Blogger Abroad (run an online business abroad). He also enjoys living in Southern Ecuador (South America) with his wife and daughter. Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn. Work with Bryan & Dena

More about: Cuenca Ecuador

{ 37 comments… add one }

  • Norm Stangl June 12, 2014, 11:37 pm

    Hi Bryan and Dena,

    To echo the many respondents here, your blog is very useful and is providing a great service for those of us considering a retirement relocation. I’ve narrowed my focus to two cities, Cuenca and alternately Medellin, Colombia. Although it seems quite clear that Cuenca is a less expensive place to live and the retirement visa offers a great deal of benefit.

    I have a couple of questions.

    Do you offer a house/apartment hunting service. It appears that you may have at one time, but perhaps don’t have the schedule to accommodate such as service now. However, if you do, what is the fee that you charge? If you don’t, have you heard anything about $300cuencarentals? They have published their service fee which seems to be quite reasonable. They do a criteria search and perform all of the negotiations. The rental prices they indicate that they have negotiated seem to be in line with what a citizen of Ecuador would expect to pay. If they provide an honourable service then it would be worth working with them.

    Secondly, I have heard mixed information about theft of expensive items. I have very costly camera gear (full frame digital with L series glass) which I intend to use to generate an income. I know you have written about having a smart phone stolen from you. I am worried that I might be an open target for theft of my gear. Of course one can be a target in any city environment. Am I being overly concerned?

    Thanks,

    Norm.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines June 17, 2014, 7:20 pm

      A blog contributor used to offer house hunting but he doesn’t anymore. Dena and I don’t offer any services (aside from the free blog :) ).

      You can hire someone to walk around and find you a rental or you can do it yourself. It really isn’t that hard. Here is a post you might enjoy: 3 Ways to Find Rental Properties in Cuenca. And there are more posts on this page: Ecuador Real Estate.

      dSLRs have become a common sight in Cuenca. I don’t think you’ll have any worries during the day and in areas with other people. Of course, you should be prepared to lose anything. It can happen anywhere. We regularly shoot in the city – and in the country – without any trouble. We try to avoid being isolated.

      Reply
  • Mo Walker January 30, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Hi, just wondering if you have any suggestions for us to avoid complicity with paying high gringo rental prices;
    We will arrive in Cuenca June 2014 – and will need to have a furnished place to live – already lined up for us and rented (short term rental, 3 months). The point is: won’t have 2 weeks or so, upon arrival, to park ourselves in a hotel etc, and home hunt, negotiate, walk away, etc.
    Which means we need to rent
    a) without seeing the place first
    b) from another country
    This situation seems to imply that we must make use of online real estate companies that ‘target’ gringos – with rents for 3-bedroom apts that float between $ 700-1300+/month. As we don’t know anyone in Cuenca, I gather we have no choice but to go this route. If you happen to have any suggestions for us to explore rentals at local rates from afar, please let us know.
    Thank you by the way – for your very informative blog.

    Reply
  • Ron Allanach November 15, 2013, 7:14 pm

    Great site!

    Reply
  • Jeff Schinsky September 30, 2013, 1:37 pm

    DISABLED VET needs input…

    Howdy!

    I asked this question before, but I’m not sure how long it takes to get an answer, or if you’re just simply so busy that you can’t get to every question, but here’s the scoop:

    I’m a retired, disabled, veteran, and I live on a relatively fixed income (for now) of about USD $1,800 per month. Sometimes it’s closer to $2,100, but for now I can only count on the lesser amount. In another four years I’ll be able to tap into another retirement account to the tune of about $700 additional per month.

    I will have some medical issues paid for by the Veterans Administration (regardless of where I’m living in the world), but will probably need a bit more than my fair share of out-of-pocket medical care. Nothing drastic–more pharmacy-related costs than straight-up doctoring. I’m not so much the “train wreck” as I’m making myself out to be, but decent and somewhat-more-frequent-than-usual medical care is in my future.

    I AM physically mobile and don’t need any special accommodations regarding housing or transportation, so that’s not a consideration.

    Sooo… my question is, do you think somebody like me can “make it” in Cuenca on my $1,800 per month? (Again, it’ll go up in a few years).

    Also, am I better off to rent or buy a place? If I were to buy, I would only have about $50k that I could liquidate for such a purchase, and I understand that mortgages aren’t the norm down there. Any thoughts?

    Please, I’m at a point where I need to make a decision on moving to Cuenca, or trying to eek out an existence in my native US. I’m only 56, but I was in a bad head-on accident 5 years ago, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to hold down a full-time, traditional form of employment again. I’m too young and thirsty for adventure to simply check myself into a retirement home.

    Your help (or opinion) would be very, very, very much appreciated, and if given in a timely manner, could save me from getting locked into a situation that I don’t want to be in.

    Very kind regards from a neighbor from the South and North, respectively,

    Jeff Schinsky
    (P.S. I’m already a subscriber)
    jschinsky@comcast.net
    jschinsky@gmail.com
    Skype: jeff.schinsky
    719-964-8894

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines September 30, 2013, 2:22 pm

      Hey Jeff – we try to answer every question.

      In terms of your income, you should be fine. But this depends on the lifestyle you are looking for. I would estimate that the majority of retired expats live on less than $1800/month.

      If you are willing to learn some Spanish, you should do well here. Thousands of expats live in Cuenca and do fine. Come for a visit and see what you think.

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Jan Love September 16, 2013, 10:58 pm

    I still have a couple years before I can retire and do the move. The info I’m getting here is very helpful. I didn’t initially want to live in such a large city but if I can live a little bit outside of the area where it is quieter, would certainly make it easier. I’d also like to volunteer there. Do they have animal rescue there? I’m finding almost any country has that now and that’s my passion. Jan

    Reply
  • Casey August 3, 2013, 8:27 pm

    I just arrived this afternoon with my 10year old son and am anxious to find a place. Ive been stalking the blogs, craigslist and gringo tree searching for a place. I cant say that I am not intimidated at this moment. I am not getting responses back to emails about places and really do not want to be holed up in a hostal wasting money.

    I appreciate your site and the information is inspired us to move here. Fingers crossed I find a place without much delay

    Reply
  • Betty June 23, 2013, 10:17 am

    When my husband I retire retire to Cuenca in a couple of years, our income will be truly a level that will not allow us to stay in the US. But concerned that if rent prices are increasing in Cuenca, it maybe prohibited there also. Is one of your services rent negotiation? If so, what are your fees? Thanks much

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines June 25, 2013, 7:25 am

      Hi Betty, we don’t do rent negotiation. Sorry I can’t help.

      Reply
    • franklyn franco January 3, 2014, 12:20 am

      hi Betty, i’m a Colombian US army ret vet and Real Estate Broker now living in NYC, I;m moving to Cuenca at the end of 2015, I visit Ecuador 4 times in manta, my guest is Ecuador Real Estate is going to crash maybe this yr or next, is so much build up on new construction in Cuenca and other parts of Ecuador, so maybe by the time we get their the rentals and property sales will come down to the real price, just like we experience in the us for the last few yrs, if you thinking on moving to a Latin country is on your best interest to learn the language , than you can get with anybody at less on the basics to be able to work any details on rentals, purchase negotiations, very essay, do not be afraid, i’m thinking to get my R.E. licenses so I can help you guys in the process. and if you get their before me , do not just purchase a home going into rental a least a yr, this way you know if Ecuador is for you, I spend a 1 1/2 yrs and panama with a pensioner visa and I now few foreigners who fell in love with the country and got into buyind , few months they fiend out all the differences in culture, governments rules and people attitudes, and they end up moving back to where they came from and losing a thousands of good dollars, good luck any other question feel free , good luck and happy new year Chao Franco

      Reply
  • Cheryl Elwood May 19, 2013, 5:54 pm

    Hi there!

    I was living on a boat in Mexico last winter and have lived in Costa Rica. I know I want to retire South of the Border, but still working out where the exact location may be. I’m a young 60 now, so I still have a few years to go before retiring, but would consider purchasing a small place w/a small garden sooner than later (as long as the residence has security bars I do not need to live in a gated community, w/guards, etc.) – I’d be perfectly happy is a small place just outside of the main area(s) as long as I could feel secure in my garden. (I know I want to be near water where I can have a boat berthed nearby.) Importantly, I want to bring my African grey parrot with me as he is my “significant Other,” and a great conversationalist (his vet and the local pet store rave about his vocabulary which he uses in context; and fellow members of my boat club adore him). I’ve just started to read your website and very much like what I see. I’ve recently begun to research Ecuador and thought I would introduce myself now. Can’t hurt to make a friend or two before I take a trip down there from San Francisco, CA to check it out for myself! So, hope to hear from you and looking forward to meeting in person someday soon!

    Cheryl

    Reply
  • Dave May 1, 2013, 9:30 am

    I thought it was you and your family on the House Hunters International show. Actually that’s where I first heard about and considered coming down that way. As I am fluent in Spanish (have lived in 2 other countries down there) I would have no problems communicating (I hope)negotiating contracts etc. What about buying? Is that a big hassle? Also, I would bring down my unlocked iphone and I assume they have sim cards in the kioskos? What about a shorter term rental? Also is it possible to have a “local” negotiate for you? I mean yes I speak Spanish fluently but have a “cara de gringo” big time and have paid a bit more than I should have for some things in the past, until the locals realized I was living there.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 1, 2013, 10:45 am

      I can’t really comment about purchase as we haven’t done it. No trouble to find sim cards. We have had local friends call on rentals to see what the real price is and then we’ve called and almost always it is the same. It is true that sometimes a foreigner will get quoted a higher price, but this isn’t always the case.

      Reply
      • Dave May 11, 2013, 5:57 am

        Thanks for the comments. I am sure that Ecuador has the same services as Chile and Argentina, where I have had homes in the past. Wanted to know if anyone has info (or where to look for it) on Loja and the coastal areas (Salinas). I have seen that a block from the beach you can rent a place for $600 US per month but very quiet off season. Also, is it worth it using a local real estate agent, or just going it alone? (seeing that I speak Spanish)

        Reply
  • Shannon April 28, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Do you have a recommendation on where to stay when we first arrive…we are expecting to need to spend a few weeeks someplace while we find our new home?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines April 29, 2013, 9:48 am

      Many people book a hotel or furnished apartment while they get settled. We stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment for two weeks while we found and furnished our apartment. I don’t have any specific recommendation but there are lots of options available online.

      Reply
  • Jim December 6, 2012, 6:11 pm

    Here is my update after many more months in Ecuador, specifically the Vilcabamba area after spending 1 year in Cuenca. Knowledge is what saves one money. We moved to the Vilca area to get out of the city and into the country. The problem is, Vilcabamba is becoming overrated to a high degree much the same is Cuenca is. One realtor here, justifying the house rental at $650 month said, “but this is Vilcabamba!”. Vilcabamba is really nice but that does not justify the $650 a month in rent. What will justify it though is whether or not someone will rent it at that amount…so far it is still empty 6 weeks after we looked at it. We are paying $350 a month for our rental outside of town and that is too much, so we are looking to move. Because we don’t want to be victims anymore of paying inflated prices because of the name of a town we have decided to move to another town without the apparent glitz and glamour of Vilcabamba or Cuenca. Not trying to be cynical, it’s just the way it is. This proposed move will save us $200-$300 a month in rent and groceries combined. This is the Ecuador we moved to. We still love it here.

    Reply
  • Steve Sorkin August 8, 2012, 8:06 pm

    Wonderful information for us! We’re going back to Cuenca this fall and find a house to rent. Our adult son will be joining us. After finding a home, he’ll stay, while we return to the US and finalize things before returning by the end of the year, or early January.

    Much Thanks again.

    Steve and Teresa

    Reply
  • Mamoud Rahimi June 10, 2012, 10:19 am

    I could say in my opinion that the first country was Panama, then Costa Rica, and now Ecuador, I would like to move and live in Ecuador. Please do not let increase the prices and you are living over there, do not pay the full price, in kind of culture everything is negotiable. Thanks Bryan.

    Reply
  • David Akins June 9, 2012, 7:36 pm

    Jim,
    I probably do need to cut some of the newbies some slack, but unfortunately I have been to too many ‘sessions’ where the gringos just sit around and complain. As for the greed, I don’t like the greed either, but they didn’t force the gringos to buy either. The gringos need to take some responsibility. The landlords don’t work in a monopoly situation. There are other options. They could have just said the price was too high and walked away. To go ahead and pay too much without the research yields a negative consequence. It is way too easy to say that someone else is greedy to ‘save face’ (or distract) from taking the responsibility of a bad decision. We have all done this at one time or another. I am no exception. But some people have the guts to say: darn, that was stupid of me and work harder not to repeat the situation. Others complain (whine) about ‘being taken advantage of’. It says a whole lot about people character when they can or cannot take responsibility. Again, if it were a monopoly environment, greed would be the culprit because there would only be one option, take it or leave it.

    Reply
    • Jim June 10, 2012, 9:20 am

      I get your point clearly David. Whining and complaining to save face and make oneself feel better is just plain foolish and futile. I guess I can say I’m among those too that have been taken advantage of but I learned from it and moved on. Nice points. Yes, cut the newbies slack and try and teach them…..if they’ll let you. That’s easier said than done.

      Reply
      • David Akins June 10, 2012, 10:02 am

        Amen, Jim…I especially appreciate the ‘if they let you’ comment. lol

        Reply
  • Bruce Jolley June 9, 2012, 11:59 am

    How necessary is a 24 hour guard? I was under the assumption that Cuenca was a safe place for expats to live?

    Reply
    • Jim June 10, 2012, 9:30 am

      If I can offer my two cents Bruce? We live among Ecuadorians in an un-assuming but very nice home down a dirt road. No guards. But our windows have security gates bolted to them like our Ecuadorian neighbours which is the norm. Otherwise you will likely have a break in when you are you away or maybe when you are home(unlikely in my opinion). It really depends on what lifestyle you want when you get here and how visible will that lifestyle be. If you want to live affluently(expensive electronics etc), then maybe a guarded condo or apartment is the way to go.

      Reply
  • Peter Leeflang June 9, 2012, 10:30 am

    Saw a House Hunters International show a few days ago on the US TV-channel HGTV with you guys looking for your first home in Cuenca a few years ago and getting it at $600 a month. Great illustration how to go about it!

    Reply
  • David Akins June 9, 2012, 10:10 am

    Is the ‘paying too much’ issue a result of the sellers being greedy or the buyers being lazy? The gringos are not forced to pay rent over what they think is fair. The responsibility, in my opinion, lies primarily with the gringo. I have noticed that gringos (and I am not excluding myself) bring their ‘instant gratification’ culture with them and “when they want it, they want it!” So, don’t blame the seller for ‘maximizing profits’. Additionally, I have noticed those who are ‘less than diligent in their research of potential rental/purchase properties’ or ‘not thinking things through’ (for country boys like me from Northwest Georgia, the translation is ‘lazy’ and ‘stupid’, lol). The other tendency is to compare the prices they are seeing to market prices in the U.S. If they were moving from say New York City to Rome, Georgia, they would almost always investigate the local market price in Rome, Georgia before making an offer (as opposed to saying: “this house is half the price of my house in NYC”, paying the said price, and then discovering that they paid 2 to 4 times market price for a home in Rome, Georgia). This process of investigating local market prices in Cuenca seems to totally be skipped and comparison to US market rates ‘rules’. Finally, many, mnay of the ‘easy access’ websites enticing people to buy are what I call ‘sharks in the water’ sites, where the website host (usually a gringo) is misleading the ‘newbies’ to the area. Again, it is still the responsibilty of the ‘newby’ to perform the due diligence by taking the time to perform research needed before wasting hunderds or thousands of dollars. If one lives in a world where one expects others to ‘take care of them’ due to their own lack of diligence, then the double entendre of ‘you get what you pay for’ needs to be analyzed for both its possible meanings.

    Also, you raised many points about differences in quality of construction and location (which are excellent points. Additionally, one should visit potential property at various times of day and night to measure the noise and traffic patterns to see in they are acceptable. Noise is always a factor in Cuenca.

    Just some thoughts from a CPA, Business Broker, and Real Estate Broker. I have lived here a year and love it…with all the cultural differences and ‘mañana’ frustrations, it beats the US by far.

    Reply
    • Jim June 9, 2012, 11:09 am

      Hi Dave,
      You make some very valid points but you need to cut the gringos some slack when you mention about them coming from an instant gratification culture(which is true). Sometimes getting a bad rental is all about culture shock and not being tuned in and it may take 6 months to a year to get through that. As for the locals wanting to maximize “profits”, I certainly hold it against them for being terribly greedy. Those same people would pick your pocket if they knew how.

      Reply
  • Doug June 8, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Thanks for this post, Doug. Excellent information. We will be looking to contact you guys when we come down from the States, next year.

    Reply
  • Jim June 5, 2012, 1:06 pm

    I really like your comment about whether the landlords are easy to deal with. To me, that is near the top of the list of pre-requisites. So far we are 2 for 3. Our first landlord was a common thief. Our second was excellent as is our third. I put a fairly high cost on the stresses caused by renting from a bad landlord.

    Reply
  • Nards Barley June 5, 2012, 12:56 pm

    For what it is worth, your blog has display problems on my two different tablets running Android 2.3, using either one of the two different browsers I have installed. Either the browser crashes or the display turns all white and can’t read text. However, since I primarily use a RSS reader to read blogs it is normally not an issue.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines June 5, 2012, 1:21 pm

      Thanks Nards – I’ll check into it.

      Reply
      • Ladyslipper June 5, 2012, 5:08 pm

        Brian,

        A similar problem happens to me. The page loads, then keeps loading and everything disappears. I hadn’t been able to read your blog for a while. Then my son told me to press the little icon on the far right of the address bar to stop the page from loading after I see that it is completely loaded and before it disappears. There still must be a problem, though. I wasn’t sure if it was my computer but it’s the only web page I have trouble with.

        Reply
        • Bryan Haines June 5, 2012, 8:48 pm

          Okay – thanks for the heads up. I’m checking into it. I’ve heard from a number of readers the last couple of days.

          Bryan

          Reply
    • Shawn March 18, 2013, 1:05 pm

      yep, same problem, browsers crash when trying to view your page on Android tablet (jellybean 4.2)

      Reply

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About Bryan & Dena Haines

We are a Canadian family of 3 living in Ecuador since 2009. We blog about life and travel in Ecuador. If this is your first visit, start here. Interested to work with us? Read more about Bryan & Dena

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