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How to Rent or Buy Housing in Cuenca

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Ecuador Real Estate, Living in Ecuador

In this post, you’ll learn how to rent and buy housing in Cuenca Ecuador. This is a guest post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007. 

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How to Rent or Buy Housing in Cuenca

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

Before we moved to Ecuador, one dilemma we faced had to do with housing.  How do you go about finding a house or apartment if you don’t know anyone here or speak the language? The first thing that comes to mind is to use a realtor.  There are a number of realtors who target expats with nice web sites and testimonials from “satisfied customers”.

That is one way to find housing, but there are alternatives to using a realtor that one would do well to consider.

how-to-buy-rent-house-cuencaThere are some things to keep in mind when house hunting in Ecuador or any other country for that matter.  According to what we have been told and experienced ourselves, not all “professional” realtors have your best interest at heart.

And don’t think that just because a realtor is a fellow expat who speaks your language that he or she won’t take advantage of you. They may try to steer you to a certain area or price range, thus limiting your options and forcing you to pay more than you have to.

I recently received an email from a person interested in moving to Ecuador who related a story detailing the underhanded tactics of one realtor who was artificially elevating the prices he charged to unsuspecting expats in the north of Ecuador. He was skimming thousands of dollars and inventing fees that are not legal.  Fortunately the buyer contacted a reliable Ecuadorian real estate attorney who blew the whistle on the realtor.  The idea that some locals and fellow expats have is that all retirees are rich and therefore can afford to pay more.  No one wants to be a victim of unscrupulous realtors or pay more than they have to.  The majority of retired expats are not rich. They have to watch what they spend and cannot afford to be ripped off.

Learn more about Ecuador real estate.

Another issue I have noticed with the realtors here is that they just don’t seem to have very many listings to offer.  If you are looking to rent or buy, most realtor web sites seem to have only a handful of listings and many of those are offered for prices that are somewhat higher than what we have paid for rentals.  F

or example, we know some expats who rent very nice centrally located apartments with garages and guards for $350.00 a month, but we have seen the same type of “luxury” apartments on some realtor web sites that are offered for $500-$600 a month.  What is the difference? I have been in those more expensive apartments and I can see no real difference between the more expensive apartments and the ones offered for less.

When you surf the different realty web sites you may come away with the impression that there are not that many rentals available here and that you have to pay $500.00 or more to rent a decent place.  However, we have found that the reality is somewhat different.  When I check the local classified ads here in Cuenca and take a tour of different areas, I find that there are many rentals and for sale by owner properties available here.  It seems that most people who have properties for rent or for sale prefer to market them on their own and bypass the realtors. They simply stick a sign in the window or put a small ad in the paper.

Some realtors will have you believe that the locals will rip you off and that you have to have the “expert” care of a fellow expat realtor to avoid being taken advantage of, but our experience has been the opposite.  The majority of property owners want foreigners as renters because of our reputation as trustworthy and responsible folks who will take care of their property and not destroy it.

If you are a foreigner looking to rent, you have an automatic advantage over natives who are looking to rent the same property.  However, you have to be willing to negotiate and not pay the asking price.  If the owner won’t negotiate, just walk away.  We had one owner try to gouge us for $550 on a house that would normally rent for $300 and we just said “thanks but no thanks” and walked away after realizing that they were not going to negotiate a reasonable price.

So, how can you find housing without being taken to the cleaners? First of all, I personally would avoid the realtors who specifically target foreigners, or at least proceed with caution when dealing with them. You can be certain that there has been some inflating of prices since they are marketing to foreigners. I’m not trying to trash all realtors and I’m sure that there are some good guys out there, but in a market where there is little or no regulation you have to be careful.

How To Find Rentals in Ecuador

how-to-buy-rent-house-cuencaHere is what we have done to find rentals: When we rented for the first time here, we used an Ecuadorian friend, whom we had met on our initial visit to Ecuador, to help us scout out potential rentals.

We called him a couple of weeks before our move from the U.S.  to Cuenca and he got to work to work looking for houses for rent in the area.

On our arrival in Cuenca, he picked us up at the airport in and immediately took us to check out rental houses that he had found.  We dealt directly with the owners and rented a brand new 4 bedroom 2 ½ bath house the very first day for $260.00 a month.  We did not use a realtor and knew that the price we were paying was fair and in line with what the locals would pay for the same house.   Our friend did not skim off money or inflate the price of the house, in fact he helped us to negotiate a lower price than what was being asked and he did an inspection of the house and pointed out a couple of things that the owners needed to do before we moved in.

Since that initial experience, we have successfully rented on our own 4 other houses and helped a number of other expats find and rent apartments and houses and we did it without using a realtor.  We have dealt directly with the owners on every rental and almost always have been able to negotiate a better price than advertised.

When someone contacts us and asks us for help finding a house or apartment, we check the classifieds and cruise through neighborhoods that look promising.  Sometimes we ask neighbors or store keepers if there are any rentals in the area.

The last house we rented was vacant, but did not have a for rent sign posted.  We asked a neighbor if the house was for rent and she said that she believed it was.  We left a note in the door with our phone number explaining that we are foreigners looking to rent and the owner called us a few days later. We rented the house and were able to negotiate a better price using the fact that we are foreigners as a bargaining tool.  The owner dropped the price by about 15% off the original decent asking price of $300.00. Why pay more if you don’t have to?

What if you are looking to buy a house? First, I would strongly advise anyone to rent first.  That way you can make contacts and know whom to trust and you can get a better idea of where you want to live.  You can find a property to purchase using the same process we use to find rentals and negotiate directly with the owner and then hire a lawyer to do the rest.  Why pay a realtor thousands of dollars if you don’t have to? The lawyer is the one who does the real work and has the expertise to guide you through the  buying process and assure that you are not being ripped off or purchasing a property with problems.

Renting or buying a house in a foreign country can seem daunting or scary, but by using some common sense and doing your home work, and with a little help from trustworthy locals, you can work through the process without suffering the pain of paying too much or being taken advantage of, at least that has been our experience.  Happy house hunting!

Your Turn

What’s your experience shopping for real estate in Ecuador? How is your house hunting going?

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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).

32 comments… add one
  • Thomas Condon Apr 26, 2013, 2:47 pm

    Hi and thank you for offering this blog to advise travelers. I’ve lived around the world in many, many places but this move I’m considering is something new for me and there are lots of questions, many of which you’re already answering.

    I am, however, sad to read about the wonderful local person who helped in your initial finding of a rental property but who no longer offers that as a service. It’s very frustrating to read the answer to my most important question is “right THERE”, but WHOOPS! It’s unavailable to anyone else.

    Y’know…it would be a nice service-for-pay to offer the apartment/condo locator job with a “finder’s fee”. The agreement could be something like, e.g., I will commit to paying $350 and will pay YOU a flat fee with incentive bonus for how close you get to that price. I mean, I would pay a one-time fee for a 2-year agreement that saves me hundreds each month.

  • RON & SUSAN VOORHEIS Feb 8, 2013, 11:31 pm

    Hello All-My Husband & I are planning our FIRST visit to Ecuador in March…we will landing in Quito & would be interested in renting a vehicle; @ the Airport or nearby, if you could assist us in finding such a rental car company & what costs we should expect. Also we would be interested in any non-realtor persons we could contact on renting an inexpensive house/condo in any of the following cities; Cuenca, Cotacachi, Manta, Otavalo, Guataquil, Cumbaya or Salinas. We VERY MUCH APPRECIATE any & all help you may give us; we are planning to retire to Ecuador in the very near future, and since we are making our first venture to Ecuador we are interested in any other info you could pass our way…Thank You SOOOOOOOOO very much-Ron & Susan Voorheis

  • Bryan Haines Jan 8, 2013, 7:51 pm

    Hi Bryan – thanks so much for your feedback. Doug has decided to no longer provide relocation assistance.

    Bryan

  • Angela Sep 26, 2012, 12:26 pm

    Hey Guys!
    I have to give you kudos… this is an excellent resource site. It’s well designed & easy to navigate! But I do have a question. I’m really looking for Spanish Colonial properties in Cuenca or in other colonial towns in Ecuador. I know there are strick laws & permits involved with restoring an colonial in the Cuenca World Heritage site but I’d love to rent a refurbished one while I get to know the area. And eventually purchase one (fixer or renovated). Can you direct me to someone who can assist me in navigating this market of colonial rentals & properties?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 27, 2012, 11:31 am

      Hi Angela – thanks for your feedback, we love it!

      I really don’t know the answer to your question. Sorry.

      Bryan

  • Bill Aug 27, 2012, 8:04 am

    Doug,
    Great info! I currently live in the Caribbean and have learned that, more often than not, I can live less frustrated if I have some tools in the closet. Things always get fixed correctly and definitely quicker if I just do it myself. I really don’t mind. I have quality hand tools and would like to get them to Cuenca.(screw gun, hammer drill, circular & jig saw, misc. pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers etc, etc.) In your opinion, what would my best option for shipping them or would I be better off just replacing them locally. Are there quality brands available?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 3, 2012, 6:44 am

      Hi Bill – you can buy good quality brands here. There is a store named Kywi near the airport that is kind of like Cuenca’s version of Home Depot. I don’t know what to recommend in terms of shipping – we never shipped anything like that. Lightweight things like screwdrivers might be worth shipping or bringing in your luggage. I’m not sure if it would be worth shipping the heavy things.

  • Michael Waggoner Jul 2, 2012, 8:13 pm

    Having a very difficult time finding a safe way to move our 2 lovable dogs to Cuenca…we decided we will NOT put them in the cargo hold of a commercial airline flight. any suggestions?

    • MARIA Feb 7, 2013, 5:25 pm

      Hello, I just moved my dog down to Ecuador; I had hired worldwide animal travel and had the WORST, most stressing experience in a long long time. Everything was good until we left the country ( our dog was being shipped later on), day after leaving Canada they were asking me for a lot more $$, due to unforeseen changed in routing by the airline. I was so upset!! their options to ship my dog where very limited and long stressing hours of travelling. I called the airline my self and found out this company was lying to me to get more $ at my dog’s expense. My best advice is to not used them if you come across them, and to deal directly with the airline. Many airlines have a “pet program” completely safe, they do comfort stops for walks, water and cleaning. My dog arrived safe and happy a week ago I would be happy to give you more info or tips on how to ease this stressing process, since I don’t wish to anyone what I had to go through! and from the distance! I hope you get reunited with your pets soon 🙂

      • Susan Lomelin May 8, 2013, 2:42 pm

        We would apreciate any concrete info you could give us on dog shipping to Ecuador. Thank you.

  • pablo carpio May 29, 2012, 10:57 am

    I have seen that many people is scared of foreing realtors, if anyone is interested i have an apartment for sale (by owner)in a nice area of Cuenca, it has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, nice view and close to major interests points as university, supermarket, high school, etc, price 55000,00 total area 110 sqm
    for further information call pablo 095100509 or evenings 2883062

  • dave Feb 14, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Hi can a guy live fairly well on a 12k pension? in Ecuador? thanks any feed back would be helpful Dave

    • Bryan Haines Feb 15, 2012, 8:23 pm

      Hi Dave, really depends on your lifestyle. Here is our Ecuador cost of living from just over a year ago. There are three people in our family, and we live well – at least we think so…

      Hope this helps.

  • laura Feb 13, 2012, 8:08 pm

    Hi Dena and Bryan. Would you be able to mention a couple of areas in Cuenca that we might be able to look into to rent a house? We have 3 young ones and one older daughter, we have a small dog and are looking for what you found…a safe and clean place for our children to run around and play in. We love Cuenca, speak spanish…but are not familiar with the safer areas and also where we could look for a nice house. Any info would be helpful.

    Thank you…laura

    • Bryan Haines Feb 15, 2012, 8:34 pm

      Hi Laura – there are lots of great places. Between the Oro Verde Sector south west to Via a Baños is nice (the section above Avenida de las Americas) – not every street of course, but there are many great areas. This is the area I know the best – its close to the downtown, but very quiet for the most part. We aren’t agents and don’t claim to know the city like one, but that area is our favorite. Hope you can locate it on a map.

  • Ron Musich Nov 21, 2011, 2:23 pm

    This is great information. Any suggestions on who to contact for the rentals while we look for permanent housing.

    • Bryan Haines Nov 21, 2011, 8:40 pm

      My recommendation is to get here, book a hotel (or anywhere) for 2 weeks. In that time you should be able to get your bearings and find either a short term furnished place, or even find a permanent place. We stayed in a temporary place for two weeks, during this time we found a great apartment.

      Bryan

  • Rob Aug 5, 2011, 1:28 pm

    Thanks for the article; it confirmed many suspicions I had about realtors and expat websites. I am with a couple of other commenter’s regarding Salinas, we love the ocean and would like the weather to be a little warmer than the average temps in Cuenca.

  • Roberto May 3, 2011, 12:37 pm

    Hi Bryan

    I’d like to know if you know anything about Salinas, Ecuador.
    My wife and I are planning to visit Salinas, Ecuador this fall around September.
    I read some of your literature and I like the fact that you dealt with a local who helped you find a rental.

    I am also looking for a rental and when We visit I’m also looking at Real Estate Property. I have been emailing Amy Pinoargote. She seems to be very nice and the properties I have been looking at don’t seem to be to expensive.

    Here is her site:
    Here is one house which we might be interested in buying
    http://www.youtube.com/user/SpondylusEcuador?feature=mhum#p/a/u/0/W4KLzp4U0Pk
    I would appreciate if you can give me some of your feedback.

    Kind regards
    Roberto

  • George to Ecuador Apr 18, 2011, 9:38 am

    Salinas or Cuenca??? I have read that Salinas weather is 65 to 75 in the winter and 75 to 85 in the summer. Even with the humidity it sounds like heaven. Cuenca sounds like heaven to but we love the ocean… Wonder about the pros and cons of both cities>>???

    • Bryan Haines Apr 26, 2011, 2:21 pm

      Hi George,Salinas is an amazing city. On the weekends, and especially on holidays, it becomes a party city. Cuenca is stable and beautiful, but no beach or waves. In my opinion, Cuenca is more livable, but Salinas has a beach. It would be best to check them both out and see what you think. One other difference: in Cuenca, there is lots of mud and in Salinas, its mostly asphalt and concrete. Both are beautiful – we chose the sierra to live and Salinas to vacation. But there are gringos families that do this in reverse.

  • John P Apr 10, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Looks like I'm heading back there in June. I'd love to benefit from your rental advice when I arrive! Thank you for the helpful article.

  • David Akins Jan 30, 2011, 5:52 am

    I hope to see you and Bryan on the next trip. Thirty days goes by fast (and I was supervising, via the internet, some audits in Jacksonville….the good news is that I can work remotely) and my friends kept me very busy.
    Keep the good articles coming.
    Hasta pronto!
    David Akins

    • Doug Jan 30, 2011, 12:59 pm

      David,
      Thanks for your comments and for the information on your experience with the Realtors who target Gringos. The price you paid for the furnished condo is about 1/3 to 1/2 the price that I have seen advertised on line for furnished rentals offered to expats. The saying "buyer beware" certainly applies when shopping for rentals via the internet. Hope all goes well with your move to Ecuador.

      Doug

  • David Akins Jan 30, 2011, 5:50 am

    We are planning another exploratory trip to Cuenca later this year (no firm date established yet) in the process of deciding whether to move down there. Our first experience was good. I was down there for about a week before my wife joined me. After the first couple of days, she said: "Why the hell did you bring me down here" (primarily drivien by the lack of selections in the stores compared to the US….after all, she is a 'shopper' lol). By the second week, the charm of the people was bringing her around. By the last week, she was aksing: "When are we coming back". It is not for everybody, but I believe if you make the effort and don't have "US cultural expectations", your visit/stay will be much blessed. Of course, our new friends (my CPA friend, her CPA husband and her CPA sisterl) adopted us and made us feel like part of the family…which truly helped.

    (continued in the next comment)

  • David Akins Jan 30, 2011, 5:49 am

    My friend found me a small furnished codo for $350 for the month (the websites I visited and the realtors I spoke with all wanted from $500 to $1,000 per month). I paid another $50 for the utilities and security for this condo close to the hotel Oro Verde. It was not one of the newer buildings, but it was just fine for us in our exploratory search of Cuenca.

    (continued in the next comment)

    • Andy Jul 12, 2014, 2:22 pm

      Hi David,

      My wife and I are planning to stay in Cuenca for up to 3 months.
      We are therefore looking for a furnished condo which I can stay in during our stay in Cuenca.
      The condo you mentioned you rented for $350 per months sounds appealing.
      Would you be able to let me know where I can find the condo and how I would have to go about renting one of the units? I do not speak Spanish – would that be an absolute problem when trying to rent the condo?

      Thanks in advance for your help.

      Andy

  • David Akins Jan 30, 2011, 5:48 am

    Doug, thanks for the excellent article. My wife and I were in Cuenca this past Nov-Dec for 30 days. Before going down, I performed much Internet research (including exchanging some e-mails with you and Bryan…you may remember, I am the guy who grew up in Rome, GA and now live in Jacksonville, FL). During my Internet travels, I made friends with an Ecuadorian CPA (I am also a CPA) who volunteered to help me find a place to rent while I was down there. As I did not know her personally and did not want to impose on her time, I read all the web real estate brokerage sites I could and even called/email several in order to perform some comparative shopping.

    My experiences is that most of the websites (probably over 90% in my estimation) were the slick "Gringo taking advantage of Gringo sites" and/or the Ecuadorian sites who had the opinion that every Gringo is rich. Like you, the Gringos I met while in Cuenca were not rich…most were just retirees trying to make there retirement dollars go farther than they would in the US.

    (continued in the next comment)

  • Jim S Jan 25, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Thank you for your post on Rentals. We are currently in the process of making preparation to move to Cuenca in April. My one real concern has been that we are able to find suitable housing and have had very little response from the web based realtors. Having read the various Blogs and Expat postings we were a little wiery of using the realtor firms but not having any friends to help us have little options. I will be arriving in Cuenca on March 11th for 17 days in order to locate and set up a new home for my wife and two dogs. Do you feel that I can complete this task in this time frame? Also do you know of anyone who may be able to help me while I am there? Any additional information you may provide would be greatfully appriciated. Again thank you for your valuable postings, I look forward to each new posting.
    Regards,
    Jim S.

  • Doug Jan 25, 2011, 12:44 pm

    Ok, thanks for your comment. We look forward to meeting you.

  • T Tillman Jan 25, 2011, 11:20 am

    Excellent information. Yes, many of us look at the same web sites as you described and have no way of knowing about the other means. Of course, we look forward to your help when we arrive.
    The Tillman's

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