The rate of increase, however, seems to be cooling off. Ecuador Correspondent David Morrill reports that appreciation is running about 5% per year currently. But there's more to the real estate picture in this city than capital gains. Some North Americans relocating to Cuenca are buying places of their own, but the majority of new expats are more interested in renting. For their getting-a-feel-for-the-place phase, they prefer to stay in furnished, fully equipped, turn-key, short-term rentals, and it's this market specifically that has blossomed over the past three or four years. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo convenient to El Centro that sells for US$75,000 would rent for about US$750 per month, fully equipped. After expenses (property taxes, which are almost negligible; utilities, which are also low because you need neither heat nor air conditioning in this city; and condo fees of, say, US$100 per month), this place could net better than 8% per year. You're not going to get rich off 8% per year, but it's a solid return... and, in this market, reliable. That same US$75,000 condo would rent for about US$500 per month on an unfurnished long-term contract. You (the owner) would still pay the taxes, but the renter would pay for furniture, the HOA fees, and utilities, leaving you, again, with a better-than-8%-per-year return... without the hassle of managing a short-term rental. The rest of the very good news here is that it's possible in this city to buy a well-located and very rentable apartment for less than US$100,000. Further, a place that you might buy for rental income would also likely be comfortable for personal use. You could invest in a property today, then rent it long term and unfurnished until you're ready for your own retirement. This would be a relatively hassle-free way to store value in the market and earn a decent return while counting down to the day you'd be able to move in yourself. Lee Harrison Editor's Note: Both Lee Harrison and David Morrill will join Lief Simon at this year's Global Property Summit, taking place March 18–20 in Panama City. This week only you can register two for the price of one for this, our only real estate-specific event of 2015. Details are here.
Continue Reading: Using Direct Debit To Pay Bills Overseas
The parade is actually a collection of hundreds of smaller parades, according to José Washington Noroña, one of the event's organizers. "Every neighborhood and nearby town will have its own parade with its own entries. Each will carry its own statue of the Christ child. This is something that communities plan for the entire year. Although most entries are from Cuenca and the surrounding area, some come from as far away as Loja in the south, as well as Otavalo and Ibarra in the north," says Noroña.Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Paseo del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing until Carnaval in February. The tradition also includes Novenas, nine consecutive nights of song, food, and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches. On Christmas Eve, the Misa del Gallo, or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches. Besides Paseo del Niño celebrations, Christmas in Cuenca also features nightly firework shows, concerts, and craft sales.Organizers say that the parade has a strong connection to the United States. Ecuadorians who live in the United States are major financial contributors, says Noroña. "Those who have done well there send money as thanks for their safe passage and future success."The U.S. influence is evident in many of the parade entries. Children wear cowboy outfits and such personalities as Bart Simpson and Richard Nixon, dressed up as Santa Claus, have made parade appearances. No matter the origin of the characters, Noroña says that the organizers try to keep the focus religious. "We don't dictate what participants can do, but we try to keep the focus on the birth of Christ. Last year, I saw a man dressed as SpongeBob and thought he was a little out of place."The centerpiece of Cuenca's parade is an 1823 sculpture of the infant Jesus that was commissioned by Cuencano Josefa Heredia from an unknown local artist. When the sculpture came into the possession of Cuenca Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo more than a century later, he took it to the Holy Land and Rome in 1961, where it was blessed by Pope John XXIII. After the journey and the anointment, the statute became known as Niño Viajero, or Traveling Child, and has been the parade's main attraction ever since.The parade begins at Iglesia Corazón de Jesus on Calle Gran Colombia at about 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve and continues well into the afternoon. It winds its way down Calle Simon Bolivar, ending a few blocks east of Parque Calderon.Along the parade route and in nearby parks and plazas, hundreds of vendors sell traditional foods, cotton candy, ice cream, and candy. There are also several distribution points for chicha, a traditional holiday beverage. It's free, but beware: The alcohol content is high.Although the sidewalks and balconies around Parque Calderon are considered prime parade-viewing areas, anywhere along Simon Bolivar will provide a good vantage point. The best looks are probably from the upper-floor balconies of homes and businesses along Bolivar.David Morrill
"Ecuador law requires a two-year minimum for rentals," Graciela pointed out. "You don't want to deal with that until you're certain of your plans." Again, the best news about the rental market in Cuenca is that rental rates remain very low on a global scale. A typical monthly rent for a standard, unfurnished, one- to two-year rental is US$300. "When trying to find a rental, don't believe everything you read on the Internet," counseled our man in Cuenca, Ecuador Correspondent David Morrill. "You can find a lot of information about apartment rentals on blogs and social media, but you really need to get in the market and see for yourself. "Tell an expat in Cuenca that you're considering renting an apartment for US$500 a month, and he's likely to say something like: 'What?! Why would you pay that much? I'm renting for just US$300 a month!' "Maybe he is, but those kinds of conversations usually don't consider differences in neighborhoods and building amenities, for example. If you were renting an apartment in New York, you'd understand that you'd pay more in downtown Manhattan than you would in Queens. The same is true everywhere in the world, including in Cuenca. Neighborhoods can be very different when it comes to rentals, both in terms of what's available and also in terms of cost." Expats in Cuenca typically prefer to be near the historical district, not in it. More than 70% of Graciela's rentals are in this area, within walking distance of the city's historical center. How do you launch a search for a rental in Cuenca? As most anywhere in the world these days, the typical place to start is the Internet. When you go online, search in Spanish. Look for arriendas or se renta. Local newspaper classifieds can also be a good place to start, especially if you are looking for something long-term. Otherwise, you can walk the streets looking for rental signs and asking around. The best deals are found through word-of-mouth. "It's important, when renting a place to live in Ecuador," Graciela explained, "to try to understand the culture. Many of my clients will say, 'In the United States, we do it this way...' "You need to remember that we are not in the United States. In Ecuador everything is different—the culture, the workers, how we work, the legal system, the bureaucracy... "'Unfurnished,' for example," Graciela continued, "may mean no appliances, no curtains, no lighting fixtures...very basic." To state the obvious, rental agreements are going to be in Spanish, so you'll want someone who speaks Spanish and English and who you trust to review your agreement before you sign. Confirm how to get your deposit back, for example, and, very important, who is responsible for what. "It is common for the tenant to be responsible for small repairs like a leaky faucet," Graciela said, "but we've had cases where the landlord has said, 'I'm not responsible for replacing the roof.' "Or there could be an old microwave that's not working," she continued, "and I mention it during the inspection. The owner might say, 'Well, the tenant needs to pay for it, because it's in their hands.'" "None of this should frighten you off the idea of renting in Cuenca," David added. "We're just trying to help you understand so you can be prepared. You want to do more due diligence here than you would back home, not less." Kathleen Peddicord P.S. Graciela and David's detailed and tell-all discussion of how to be a renter in Cuenca during last week's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference was recorded, along with every other presentation over the two-and-a-half days of this event. These audio recordings are being edited now to create our all-new Live and Invest in Ecuador Home Conference Kit. You can purchase your copy of this everything-you-need-to-know-about-Ecuador resource pre-release and save more than 50%. Do that here now.
Since moving to Cuenca in 2011, Daniel and Sally Ellis have worked part-time, via the Internet, for their old law firm back in New Jersey, advising their former partners in product liability cases. In addition, Sally has continued her sideline art career and has had several exhibitions of her work in local galleries. Daniel says he finally has time to catch up on his reading. Jan and Tom Jeffers divide their time between Cuenca and Fort Lauderdale. Jan says it's important to spend time with the grandchildren, but she also enjoys the expat lifestyle. "It's great that Florida is only four hours away," Jan says, "but we also enjoy our friends in Cuenca and all the cultural activities here." Ralph Winston, who provides computer and Internet services to Cuenca expats, says he is finally able to pursue a lifelong interest in creative writing. Ralph has joined an expat writing group and says he's halfway through his first book. "Who would have thought that, at 60, I would be writing my first novel?" David Morrill Editor's Note: Meet David Morrill and many other of our Ecuador expat friends at this year's Live and Invest in Ecuador Conference taking place in Quito Sept. 17–19. The Early Bird Discount for this event expires this Friday at midnight. That is, you have two more days to save up to US$250 when you register. Do that here now. Or reach our conference team with your questions, toll-free from the United States, at 1-888-627-8834...or, internationally, at +1-443-599-1221.
Why would a law-abiding citizen worry? Maybe, say, you own a rental apartment and your tenant is running a drug business out of the spare bedroom. He's arrested and your apartment is seized. Maybe you get it back...maybe you don't...Foreign investment would be devastated in a country where the government decided to seize private property, especially the private property of foreign investors. This has been the concern in Nicaragua since Ortega took office as that country's president in 2006. When Ortega's party, the Sandinistas, ousted the Somoza region, they confiscated and redistributed farmland and other property. When they were voted out of power in 1990, a new golden era of foreign investment, especially in real estate, began.Then, in 2006, when Ortega was re-elected, people thought he might revisit the old confiscation strategies. Foreign investment dried up. It's only slowly come back over the last eight years, as Ortega has refrained from imposing any confiscatory mandates. Still, some remain wary.Could Correa confiscate property in Ecuador? Sure. I say that because the truth is any politician anywhere in the world could get it into his head to do any stupid thing at any time.In this case, I'd say Correa has little reason to get into the business of confiscating private property from foreign investors. It'd be a disaster, and I don't think Correa's an utter idiot.Lief Simon
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
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