EcuadorVisas.com

How to Choose an Ecuador Real Estate Agent

Posted in: Ecuador Real Estate, Everything Expat, Living in Ecuador

ecuador real estate agentAre you looking for real estate in Ecuador?

How can you sort out all the variables and choose an agent who will represent your interests?

In this post, I share tips and observations from five years in Ecuador – and from running the largest English language travel and expat site in the country.

10 Steps to Choosing a Great Agent

While you can always choose based on an online ad, it is better to make an informed decision based on the following suggestions:

  1. Meet at an open house
  2. Take a recommendation of a close friend
  3. Check their references
  4. Hire a real estate lawyer
  5. Interview multiple agents
  6. Don’t hire on language alone
  7. Don’t hire on their fee alone
  8. Choose a full time agent
  9. Check their business registration
  10. Look at their current listings

8 Questions to Ask A Prospective Agent

Make sure you really interview the agent before you hire them. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. How long have you been in the business? Real estate careers are surprisingly short among expat agents. Make sure that they have been selling real estate in Ecuador for a while before hiring them.
  2. Will you provide references? Every good agent has references. Confirm that they are unbiased.
  3. What documents will I be asked to sign? Can I see them now? Make sure of what you are getting into before you begin the process. This applies to rentals and purchase.
  4. How will you search for my home? Find out if you will be offered options from their current list or if they will go looking for properties that meet your criteria.
  5. How much do you charge? Some agents charge a flat fee ($300) while others charge a percentage of purchase price. Be careful of agents that sell on agent markup. More on this below.
  6. Will you help me find other professionals? An established agent should have contacts with bankers, lawyers, notaries, translators, repairmen and home inspectors.
  7. What area do you live in? Make sure that they know the area and city that you are planning on living in.
  8. Watch this video. Then quiz them about specific legal issues and see if they know more than you do.

Here are some Salinas and Cuenca real estate agents.

The Necessary Disclaimer

Please note: I am not an agent, nor do I have any financial relationship with the sites we are recommending. We are not promoting any specific real estate service. There is no hidden agenda in this post (or any other that we publish). This post is not meant to harm individuals reputations or businesses. If you feel that our point of view is mistaken, please share your comments below. Also, if you have a bilingual real estate site (English/Spanish) or a Spanish site with some English, please share it below.

Language can be a barrier, as can legal issues – but people are people. People are dishonest in every country, but people are generally reasonable and honest. Rely on your lawyer not your real estate agent. This stands true in your home country and it’s true here.

Be aware of the legal issues when buying real estate in Ecuador.

ecuador real estate agent

I recently spent some time looking for a furnished rental for some friends. A Google search returned a number of the English sites along with many Spanish ones. The local English agents that I spoke with were unhelpful and unprofessional. Obviously, I didn’t speak with every agent and I’m confident that there are good, honest agents that are also foreigners. But the premise is a bit unusual.

Why Many Expats Become Real Estate Agents

In every area with a developing expat community, there are English real estate agents. Why would these expats choose to sell real estate – when there are so many other fields they could go into?

  1. English as a skill set. Back in your home state or province, would you consider hiring an agent just because he spoke the same language as you? Absurd, isn’t it? There are so many other factors, like experience, credentials, and reputation. When new expats are looking for real estate abroad, often speaking English is the only requirement for hiring an agent. It seems like weak criteria for a six digit investment.
  2. Niche exploitation. In many expat areas, expats tend to congregate for “gringos nights” and other events. And Cuenca is no different. I haven’t attended these events (I also don’t find “speaking the same language” as a reason for friendship) but we’ve heard from many who have attended. According to them, these events are little more than an opportunity for expat-targeted businesses to pitch their services.

English Listings? Yay! Wait… What?! Only in English!?

Remember where you are looking for real estate. It is a SPANISH country. Latin America doesn’t have bilingual countries (like Canada: English & French). While there are a few countries that speak Portuguese (Brazil) or English (Belize, Guyana) almost all of them are Spanish (Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, etc). Not Spanish with English sectors – all Spanish. Central and South America are Spanish. So when looking for real estate, expect to do so in Spanish.

When you find a real estate site with English listings, a good question to ask is:

“Who are these properties being marketed  to?”

If the company’s site is only in English (and they are in a Spanish country) the question should be: “Why?”.

Obviously, they could move more inventory if they marketed in Spanish as well. Could it be that they only market in English, because the local Spanish-speaking population would never pay their prices? If that is the case, why should an expat pay their asking prices?

I’ve heard from many sources that real estate transactions don’t only work on percentage commission. They also work on agent markup. Let me explain:

Beware of Agent Markup

Lets say that a home owner has a nice house that they want to sell for $85,000. The agent promises that price, with anything above that price going to the agent. Imagine the agent adding a healthy $35,000 to the price, listing at $120,000. This gives the agent more than 29% of the sale price as a fee or commission. In Canada, the standard rate was 6% – often split between buying and selling agents. Things seem much less regulated here. In fact, I’ve seen the identical property listed on English real estate sites and Spanish ones. Well, identical except for the price…

But If You Have The Money…

For some new expats, the ease of purchase is obviously worth the higher price. When basic condos might go for $300,000+ in your home city, the difference between $100,000 and $140,000 might seem negligible – especially when located in a brand-new luxury building.

How can you find property to rent or buy in Ecuador?

Alternatives to Expat Real Estate Agents

Even if you choose to purchase with an English speaking expat agent, you do well to confirm similar property values before you purchase. And you need to do that by looking at locally marketed properties. You can check with one or both of the following:

  1. an agency that markets primarily to Ecuadorian buyers, in Spanish
  2. a classified sites that market properties, primarily in Spanish

Now I know what you’re thinking: What use is a Spanish site, if I don’t speak Spanish?

There are two reasons to use Spanish classifieds and real estate listings:

  1. Many Spanish sites contain English listings: It isn’t uncommon to find postings both in English and Spanish or just in English although the majority of the listings will be just in Spanish
  2. Hire a translator: In many cases, it is cheaper to hire a translator who you pay by the hour to help you find a rental or even a property to purchase than to pay for an overpriced property. I recently spoke with a gringo who had signed contracts with Ecuadorian property owners to rent their properties. He would get them the price they wanted and he would get whatever the overage was. One two bedroom apartment was going to rent to gringos at $900 per month. It might have been worth $300-400. If you hired a translator at $15/hr to help work out the specifics on your rental, you could hire them for more than 30 hours and still come out ahead on your first months rental!

There is a lot said about gringo inflation on some blogs. From our perspective, the inflation is primarily caused by foreigners taking advantage of fellow foreigners, and specifically in regards to higher priced real estate.

There is another issue that needs to be address.

Why Buy a Property in a Place You’ve Never Lived?

While there is a certain romantic flare to owning property abroad, you should ask: Why?

If you haven’t lived there, how do you know you will want to live there? Visiting for a few weeks/months doesn’t properly define a place. There isn’t a better anchor than a piece of real estate (especially an overpriced one).

Are You Buying For Ecuadorian ResidencyThe current investment rules for permanent residency are $25,000 for the principal and $500 for each dependent. In our family’s case, we had to invest $26,000.

What we recommend. Buying a property is a great idea – but why not move to your new town and rent for 6 months to 2 years? If you still love it after that time frame, start looking to buy. After that time frame you will speak Spanish (at least to some degree) and you’ll know the area better. You’ll know if you want to live in the center or out of town. You’ll have contacts that you can evaluate based on criteria other than the language that they speak. As a result of all of this, not only will you pay less for your property, you’ll likely make a better decision because:

  1. you can be confident that you actually want to live in that city
  2. you can choose both the area of the city and the type of housing (apartment, condo, house with land) that will make you happy

Be Careful of Scare Tactics

Likely you have found the set of English real estate sites – some of which use scare tactics to try to push you into their services. Renting or buying? “Neither is safe without a skillful guide”, according to some agents. “While they appear kind and friendly, the typical Ecuadorian will try to rip you off at every opportunity”, some claim. These are actual quotes from English agencies in Cuenca.

These are outright lies with the sole purpose of pushing new expats straight into often-overpriced properties.

While an experienced, full time agent can be a solid asset to buying real estate, be careful of the high number of first-time expat-agents who are just experimenting with a new career and marketing English as their top skill.

You would do better with a translator and a local Spanish agent. Or maybe just a translator and a good lawyer.

6 Sources for Ecuador Real Estate

Your Turn:

What has been your experience with Ecuador real estate? Success or horror stories?

Disagree with my opinions? Great! Please share your comments below.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutubeFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutube

Recommended For You

Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

20 comments… add one
  • steve hofsaess Sep 3, 2016, 12:08 am

    I have just completed a very nice 4 plex in one of the best guard gated communities on the coast of Manta, Ecuador,, The homes were on the show Beach Front Bargains, last February, After the show came out, we had a big earthquake and all the potential customers got scared,,
    I need a good RE agent to help sell my beautiful estate homes,
    Above is the Facebook link for you to view

  • Sarah Smith May 31, 2016, 8:20 pm

    My husband and I are trying to find housing in Ecuador so that we can live there for a few years. Thanks for the advice about being careful of scare tactics. Hopefully, we can find a home in Ecuador to buy.

  • Erick Oct 1, 2015, 4:29 pm

    HI there,

    Great reading and lots of ideas. This is my situation, I live in Canada and I am looking to rent in the Cumbaya area (valley close to Quito, Ecuador) but I am not familiar with any real estate agent that would help me with renting options. I hope this blog could give me some leads about contact information.

    Any help will be great.

    Thanks,

    Erick

  • Emilyb Aug 21, 2014, 5:42 pm

    Absolutely happy to share our agent’s name – Hector G. Quintana [hgq@zen-global.com]. He does not post listings on a website. Instead, he discussed our ideal property features, reviewed his current inventory and showed us some properties. When we said no to all of them, he searched until he found exactly what we were seeking. In all, it took several months but we were very happy when we purchased our property.

  • Stanley Neil Aug 16, 2014, 2:15 pm

    My wife and I (both retired from Cnada)
    Expect to be in Ecuadoer for a couple of months starting mid January. We hope to see as much of Educador as time permets, wi are thinking of possibly spending Canada`s cpld winters there. From that visit we are in hopes of being well enough informed to decide if we would eventually be buying or just rent. Our first challenge,will be to find inexpensive places where we can spent short periods,(say 3 days to a week) allowing us to get a good appreciation of where and what those locations have to offer and would we consider spening wintersthere. anyone with suggestions, send them along to us.
    Stanley.e.neil”gmail.com.
    Bryan, I have read your letter regarding the Ecuador insider, we are considering it, however we are still not convinced that that is the best way for us to get informed.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 2:56 pm

      Hey Stanley, I think you might be confusing us with another site. We are InsideEcuador (produced by GringosAbroad – that’s us 🙂 ) – and all of our content is free.

  • Gregory Aug 16, 2014, 1:03 pm

    Hello Bryan,

    I read you outline of how to choose a real estate agent ? In reality anyone that uses some good common sense can purchase a property on the coast or anywhere in Ecuador.

    I have been in Ecuador for over 3 years and have observed many ‘so called real estate agents’ similar to many that
    sell property in the USA. Most agents know very little about how to select areas that will increase in value …………

    I am currently developing 8 superb villas in Ballenita and with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean coast and the skyline of Salinas. I have villas priced for $75,000. to $89,200. The villas are located with many up market residences in the area and close to the resort of ‘Farallon Dillon’ which I personally recommend for your stay in the Salinas area.

    The villas are of highest quality and as an American you will treated as a friend and with confidence that you will receive a fully completed villa and on time. If you would like to contact me you may at: apsalliance1@myfairpoint.net

    My best to you …

    Gregory

  • Sher. Karix Aug 16, 2014, 10:56 am

    Never has ” buyer beware ” meant so much! I am a Canadian looking to buy in Ecuador. Everything you have said is quite true. There is a gringo,grandmotherly looking agent in Cotacachi that not only has the price listed on a house at $10,000 more than all the other sites, but when I asked her the closing costs she told me $12-15,000 . When I asked how could it be so high, she gave a brief explanation, but did not change the price. After I responded on the absurdity of it THEN she said,” Oh, the office was busy, I got distracted and made a mistake.” If it was a mistake, why didn’t she correct it the first time I brought attention to it? How busy could her office be that all of her numbers are ” off “? How sad that people from our own countries are trying to exploit us. I’m assuming they are doing the same to Ecuadorians also. I have been traveling to Ecuador for 25 years and have found the people the biggest draw. I hope these slick agents do not change how the Ecuadorians see us.

  • John Thompson Aug 16, 2014, 10:15 am

    Good article. We just came back to the USA from a months stay in Cuenca. We looked for homes to buy with a local Ecuadorian agent. Though we didn’t find the ideal property, our agent showed us four or five properties per day. Our agent had a large clean SUV, was always on time picking us up, and always had property to show us in our price range.
    After two weeks of looking, we decided to rent an upper floor apartment for now.. But, when we do get to know the city better, we will call the same agent again.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 12:13 pm

      That’s great. I’ve heard many good things about both the local and expat agents.

  • Jakob Aug 16, 2014, 9:31 am

    I agree that it is a bad idea to buy before you really know the place. The Ecuadorian real estate market isn’t as nimble as North America’s and you might find that it is a hassle to sell a house you don’t want anymore. Especially if the buyer finances through BIESS you might wait a year after the sales transaction to see most of your money.
    A few years ago before the entire expat hype started there were no real estate agents in Ecuador and it was an unknown profession. The idea of a real estate agents was imported with the people moving in from abroad (also Ecuadorians moving back). The sector is fairly young. Most people still do not understand why you would need an agent. The prevalent way to buy is to walk the streets in the desired sector and note the “se vende” signs, quite old fashioned. You can also have a look at Spanish language classifieds online and call a few of the phone numbers there. You WILL pay a premium if the ad is in English only. The transaction then happens directly with the seller and a notary in between. My family certainly does not use real estate agents nor lawyers, just a notary. You then finalize the purchase by personally doing the triangular run around between the notary, the municipality (municipio), and the property registry (Registro de la Propiedad) for a few days. There are different fees to pay which you can pay or have the seller pay depending on the agreement. There are also ways to eliminate large parts of the fees which would go beyond the scope of this post. The title investigation (whether the title is clear) can be done for you by the property registry for a few dollars. In Guayaquil the registry is digitized and it takes 15 minutes to do, rural areas may take a few days to push paper around.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 12:32 pm

      It is surprising how many expats buy upon arrival – or even before arriving. There seems to be an urgency to purchase real estate.

      Thanks for the info on the buying process. We are still renting… 🙂

      • Jakob Aug 17, 2014, 8:29 pm

        I know! When I bought land on the coast the sellers told me that some Americans who had never set foot in Ecuador had inquired about closing the entire transaction from the US without even seeing the property. Beside the fact that there is no legal way to do it some people just have large amounts of cash to burn. Madness!
        It took me dozens of trips and many years to crystallize what I really wanted.

  • Joel Aug 16, 2014, 9:22 am

    Bryan, I usually find your articles extremely well balanced and objective. This one however should have been titled “How To Avoid Hiring An Expat Real Estate Agent”. I am not an agent and I have never been one. I do however shoot video of properties for a lot of Expats and Expat agents. I also bought my home from an Expat agent and my experience was excellent (Cotacachi area). This article has some good precautionary tips for any real estate transaction, but it seems to have more to do with discrediting English speaking agents. I don’t agree with a lot of the conclusions drawn here. There are crooks in all walks of life, both English and Spanish speakers. Just because an Expat chooses to sell real estate doesn’t automatically make them dishonest. Actually, in a lot of cases, Expat agents have a much better understanding of an another Expats needs than an Ecuadorian could ever have. A good portion of the agents I’ve met were licensed agents in the US. They were TRAINED AND LICENSED to sell real estate. Ecuador has no such system. There are no governing bodies, licensing or real estate boards here.

    I agree, language alone is no reason to hire an agent. Doing your homework is the only way to find out what’s going on, and even then, it’s a crap shoot. That goes for any country you are trying to buy or rent property in.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 12:09 pm

      I agree with you. As mentioned in the article, we don’t have it out for expat agents. But I have seen many expats (at least wannabe agents) try to exploit other foreigners. The article is meant to call them out. I know of agencies that market their inventory in both English and Spanish – that makes economic sense. Speaking English neither qualifies or disqualifies someone as a good agent.

      A couple of years ago we published a a couple of posts for other expats to share their experience with Salinas and Cuenca real estate agents. Some of the feedback was very positive. There are a few English agents on the coast that expats rave about. We want to give the platform for buyers and agents to connect. We have more posts planned to share specific agents and agencies (including both locals and expats).

  • Gerald & Laurie Brokate Aug 16, 2014, 7:29 am

    Hello Brian,
    My wife and I both love your site and posts. We are both Professional Real Estate agents here in Ecuador. We have sold real estate for 13 years in the USA and we were very surprised at how many agents there are here who know nothing about real estate. They think what’s the big deal you show a few homes or condos and make a few extra bucks. There is so much more involved and as a buyer or seller I would agree with you that you need to do your homework. Ask your agent if they abide by the Real Estate Code of Ethics. I bet you will see a puzzled look on their face. You really need to interview your agents and make sure they have your best interest in mind. My wife and I are not retired and this is our full time job. We would love to help you in anyway we can with you posts on Real Estate Agents. We are in the Salinas Area and market property from Salinas up the coast to Puerto Lopez.
    Thank you,
    Gerald & Laurie Brokate
    Island Estates International
    Your Ecuador Coastal Connection

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 12:39 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Great to hear about your company. Please feel free to share your site link here in the comment section.

  • Emilyb Aug 15, 2014, 9:37 pm

    Good article Bryan as always. We found an agent that we trust after talking to several. We did not ask the agent for references; instead we asked around and found others who recommended the agent. The reasoning was that if we ask for references, they would only provide references who were happy with their service. We wanted to hear “the word on the street” about the agent.

    An example of how widely prices can vary for the same property: We were shown a property by our agent who said the sellers were asking $100K but were anxious to sell so would probably accept much less. We asked another agent about it and also found a website featuring the property. The other agent told us they were asking $130K firm. The website quoted $140K, negotiation possible. I assume the second agent was an example of agent markup. AND that agent wanted the buyers to pay his commission too – we ran away quickly from them. We never contacted the website. At that point, we knew we had found “our” agent.

    We bought property several months ago and were quite happy with the services provided. When we told our agent what we were willing to pay, they managed to get the property for us for even less.

    Our agent has been working in global real estate for around 30 years and has lived full time in coastal Ecuador (where we were looking) for around 4 years.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 16, 2014, 12:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It does seem that many homes are advertised with many different prices – often depending on who is marketing them.

      Glad to hear that it worked out well for you. Would you be willing to share the name/site of the agent you used?

      Thanks again!

Leave a Comment

What Other Expats Are Buying (Before Moving to Ecuador)


Easy Spanish Phrase Book NEW EDITION: Over 700 Phrases for Everyday Use (Dover Language Guides Spanish)
$3.00