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The Joys of Renting . . . in Ecuador

Posted in: Ecuador Real Estate, Expats in Ecuador, Living in Ecuador, My Life in Ecuador, Our Perspective

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

A question I am often asked by my Ecuadorian friends is: “When are you going to buy a house and stop throwing your money away on rent?”

My answer: “Never –  if I can help it!”

The common belief here is that if you rent a house you are just making your landlord rich and that home ownership is the only way to go.

I must admit that I also at one time shared that same view of renting.  Before moving to Ecuador, I had been a proud home owner for some 20 years.  After all, everyone knows that only poor, transient people rent houses and that stable, upstanding people own their homes.  Well, I must be the poor, transient type because since moving to Ecuador in 2007 I have been a happy renter and have no intention of returning to the home owner camp.

The Joys of Renting . . . in Ecuador

Living in a rented house has brought me a level of freedom and a peace of mind that I had never experienced before.

Consider these facts:

  • I do not have to pay property taxes, mortgage payments, insurance premiums nor maintenance expenses.
  • If something breaks or springs a leak, I just call the landlord and let him worry about the repairs.
  • If there is something that is a little imperfect about the house, it does not bother me because, after all, it’s not my house and I don´t plan on staying in the same rented house forever.
  • If noisy neighbors move in next door and I can’t put up with it any more or if the house develops a serious problem, such as a mold infestation (which actually happened in one house we rented here) we just pack up and move.

When the house starts shaking due to tremors, which occur here on a fairly regular basis, I don’t worry about the little cracks that form in the ceiling or walls nor do I lie awake at night wondering what to do if the “big one” hits and destroys the house.

The other day during a particularly strong thunder storm, the window in my office began to leak.  Was I worried?  Did I climb up on the roof to find the source of the leak?  I barely gave the pooling water on the floor in my office a second thought.  It’s not that I don’t care, I just don’t fret about such things because, you know, it is not my house.  I pay my rent, electricity and water bills on time every month and let the owner know about any problems that arise with the property and with that, I have fulfilled my responsibility toward this house.

A couple of years ago something happened that reaffirmed in my mind the wisdom of renting a house verses buying one:  an expat couple we knew proudly gave us a tour of their new house that they had built north of Quito.  It was their dream retirement home, built just to their specifications.

However, a few months after our visit with them, we received word that they were desperately trying to sell their dream home due to a family problem in the States that required them to move back.  At that moment I realized how much better it would have been for that couple if they had simply rented a house instead of investing so much money in a house here.  They would have still had their money safely in the bank back in the U.S. and available for immediate use.  Had they chosen to be renters instead of home owners, they could have easily moved back to the States without having the added anxiety of trying to unload a custom built house in a foreign country.

Since we are renters, we can pick up and move in one day and be set up in another house within a week.  I don’t like moving, but the freedom of not being tied down to a particular house or neighborhood as well as not having the financial and mental burden of taxes, insurance and maintenance  is well worth the time it takes to move and set up housekeeping.

I’m not saying that owning a home is all bad, just that renting has its merits and is worth considering if you are trying to simplify your life and reduce financial and mental stress.

Home ownership has been called the “American dream”, but as they say… been there, done that.  I am now quite happy to let others live the home ownership dream while I enjoy the benefits and freedom of being a renter.

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Meet the Author

Since moving to Ecuador in 2009, Dena and Bryan have made their living as bloggers. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. She is a contributor to Bryan Haines and is co-founder of Click Like This - a photo tutorial blog.

20 comments… add one
  • Kay Rodrigues Dec 26, 2016, 7:14 pm

    Re buying or renting, you’ve given me a new way to look at things. I hope to become an ex-U.S. homeowner sometime this next year and consider my options — perhaps in Ecuador.
    I appreciate your blog.

  • carol Oct 10, 2015, 5:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on rentals. I’m on the states, but feel the same way. I agree, home ownership can be a pain, but renting can be also. However, I would do much like you all do, rent and travel, love the freedom.

  • Nancy Feb 24, 2015, 9:46 am

    How much do u need a month to retire Also where do I go to to make friends there online Thanks

  • Lori Dec 4, 2014, 7:29 pm

    A very enjoyable article. You sound like a very intelligent free spirit…. and there is a lot to be said for freedom.
    I am also thinking of living in Ecuador for a while at least.
    Is there a particular website (s) where I could obtain information on long term monthly rentals?

  • Ken Aug 20, 2014, 12:30 pm

    There are always two sides to every story. If you choose to rent instead of buying, the calculator assumes that you’ll spend your would-be down payment on stocks or another investment. Property ownership could be a piece of a well diversified package of investments. Real Estate Taxes are so low in Ecuador to the point of being non-existent. Your package of utilities is the same for renting as for owning. The big questions are appreciation of the property – (heavily dependent on the location) – and you must plan to own the property for a minimum of 5 years. Freedom of movement is the big big plus of renting certainly. I’ve become addicted to Home Exchanging – and owning a nice place is extremely helpful if you’d like to use that method to travel extensively ‘on the cheap’. Home exchangers treat your home far better than any renter. So far I’ve used that ‘system’ to visit Amsterdam, Madrid, Prague, Quebec City, Manhattan, Philadelphia & Paris. Can’t wait to get fresh photos up on the Homeexchange.com site of my new Cuenca Apartment to Keep On Truckin’! It’s had to do this whole calculation accurately up front. It’s a little easier on the back end. Everybody has a slightly different list of priorities.

  • Amalia Bartoli Aug 11, 2014, 2:35 pm

    I enjoyed reading your article and my husband couldn’agree more about the freedom of renting, especially now that we’re retired and plan to travel more. We wanted to retire a year ago and couldn’t do it ’cause it took more thn a year to sell our beautiful home. That experience showed us not to buy ever. I have a question about renting in Ecuador. According to the article it seems like there is no need for contracts, for one year, six months, etc, you just leave the place if you don’t like something.? Also does anyone know which are the best parts of metro Quito, meaning away from the big city: north, east, west.I’ve heard that the south is not good. Is it more expensive? Less safe?. Thank you for your help. We’re in the process of getting the non-inmigrant visas to Ecuador, but don’t know exactly where. I prefer the north because is closer to my country Colomia. My husband is American. I feel blessed to be ablle to ask these questions. Thanks again Dena.

    • Bryan Haines Aug 11, 2014, 3:12 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the article. If the landlord uses a contract, you can break it with 30 days notice.

  • Craig Gardner May 20, 2014, 6:50 am

    Did you say ” STILL HAD THEIR MONEY SAFELY IN A BANK IN THE UNITED STATES”? You are kidding of course. You forgot to say WORTHLESS MONEY. Just a question of time that that worthless paper money will dry up and blow away and you will have nothing. I recently bought 4,000 m2 in fhe beautiful Yunguilla Valley and am currently building a 130m2 house on it. I will be planting a large fruit and vegetable garden as well as have chickens for meat and eggs and a few goats for delicious milk. I will also have plently of fruit and avocado trees. Total investment is around $100,000-$120,000. I’ll have some cash on hand but will also invest in gold and silver. LAND FOOD GOLD AND SILVER. We’ll see, but for me I’ll take that any day over CASH SAFELY IN A US BANK.

  • Don Jun 6, 2012, 8:12 pm

    I like renting also. I was a land developer/ home builder for 40 years in California, so I have always had a conciderable home. My rational here is that most all of us, including me, are retired, probably on fixed incomes and some with a nice savings account to facilitate travels and other luxuries. Why buy a house expecting appreciation when you would draw down your savings. Appreciation is only good when you sell and take advantage of the capital gain. At my age I dont see any advantage of trying to make money on a house when I do not feel that I have that many more years to live. I find it quite nice to receive 10.5 percent on my money at Coopera. So I, with my Columbian wife am happy renting a beautiful 2 BR apartment for $350 a month with all our own designed custom built ins and furniture in “gringoville” with 24 hour guards and no maintenance worries. So I say “good for those of you who rent” enjoy your retirement in beautiful Cuenca!

    • Craig Gardner May 20, 2014, 6:56 am

      Hows your 10.5 % doing in Coopera?

      Actually Columbia is Colombia.

  • Peter May 16, 2012, 5:26 am

    You will like this very advance calculator I found in the NYT. It will make it very clear to most potential buyers that RENT is almost always better.

    Remember that lovely family with 3 screaming kids (the 4th on the way) who moved into the next-door apartment? Or that ‘guy’ with his 2 bulldogs in the garden next to yours?
    Well, I do. I cancelled the rent and moved out.
    What are you going to do when you bought the place?

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/buy-rent-calculator.html

    • Bryan Haines May 16, 2012, 6:26 am

      Good points Peter. We love renting for the same reasons. And that calculator is excellent.

      Thanks for sharing the link!

  • Dena Jo Apr 7, 2012, 11:04 pm

    Well, I’m late to this party, but I am definitely of the camp that renting is the way to go, for all the reasons you stated in your post, but also because owning a home makes me feel… well… tethered. Once the American housing market picks up and I can sell my house, I will NEVER AGAIN own a home. And I particularly see no benefit in owning a home in a foreign country when there’s not even a tax benefit to owing it…

  • Doug Jan 2, 2011, 2:28 pm

    Mike, it does seem that most Ecuadorians are more prone to put money in a house rather than banking their money. That appears to be one reason why there are so many new houses sitting empty here. The owners are in the U.S. working and sending money back and instead of putting the money in the bank, they put it into a house. I guess it has something to do with the mistrust of banks. In the year 2000, Ecuador abandoned the Ecuadorian currency, the Sucre, and adopted the U.S. dollar and those with Sucres in the bank lost all kinds of money, so real estate seems to be a safer investment. Considering that fact, I can appreciate the desire to own vs. renting, but for us renting is the way to go at this point. Thanks for your comment.

  • jakbeau Jan 1, 2011, 10:44 am

    I come from a renting culture. By that I mean, I was born in New York city. My grandparents rented an elegant apartment in the then toney section of Flatbush in Brooklyn. My parents rented a basement apartment in a brownstone before we moved "upstairs" for a larger space. Most of the people we knew and know rent in New York., without giving it a second thought. Many are now in co-ops or rent controlled apartments. So much for the "poor, transient" mentality.

    I've lived in major cities across the U.S. including Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. I never made enough money to buy in those places and, like my grandmother before me, kept charming flats in each place.

    I will definitely rent in Ecuador.

    • Doug Jan 2, 2011, 2:20 pm

      Thanks for your comment. It is nice to know that I'm not the only "crazy" person who views renting as a better option when compared to owning, at least it seems to be a better option here in Ecuador.

  • Mike Dec 31, 2010, 5:50 pm

    When we were getting ready to retire in Cuenca, all my Ecuadorian friends told me that I had to buy. To them renting is out of the question. I think it has a lot to do with seeing the house as the bank. Plus some landlords are nothing to write home about and we did have to spend some money on things (or live with cardboard boxes and no mirrors) that we will never get back. We are renting in a small community right across from the Rio Tomebamba. The people are very friendly and helpful. Being fluent helps a lot. On the other hand, my neighborhood turns into the meth lab/biker gang capital of Cuenca – bubba, I'm gone so fast that … So, as a former homeowner – I'm with you Doug. Renting is the way to go. Maybe some time we can meet for a cup of coffee.

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