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Investing In Cuenca Real Estate

Your Turn-Key Retirement Plan For The World’s Most Affordable Place To Retire Well

“You’ve heard about Cuenca before, I’m sure,” David Morrill, an American living in Ecuador’s most famous city for more than seven years, said to the group in Ecuador last week. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time selling you on Cuenca. The city sells itself.

“Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The weather is great, as is the infrastructure. The available health care is the best and least expensive in the country and globally competitive. Plus, you have lots of choices for how to spend your time. This is a cultural capital, with art galleries, an orchestra, museums, indigenous crafts, food festivals, even a biennale.

“Cuenca is big enough to feel like a real city but small enough that you don’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated. It is home to the biggest expat community in Ecuador, which is growing all the time. But you aren’t limited to interacting only with your fellow foreigners. The local community is welcoming, and many of the locals in Cuenca, especially local professionals, speak English.

“My focus today, however,” David continued, “is to show you why this city is not only a great place to live in retirement, but also a great place to think about investing in a piece of real estate. I’d say it’s the most interesting market in this country.

“Unlike in some parts of Ecuador, in Cuenca, there’s a good selection of property, including more than 40 new condo projects. Prices have risen about 10% a year since 2006. New condos today are selling for US$900 to US$1,150 per square meter. You can buy a resale condo for US$650 to US$1,000 per square meter.

“And that’s the product I’d target if you’re buying for investment as well as lifestyle—a condo in a good location for rental. The demand for turn-key rentals is growing rapidly.

“I see this as a big opportunity for someone not planning to retire immediately but a few years down the road. Buy a condo in Cuenca today, rent it out to cover all expenses (which is a realistic goal), and then move in to your turn-key retirement digs whenever you’re ready.

“The rental demand in Cuenca right now is big, specifically for furnished condos where the rent includes all utilities.

“Rental rates in this city are a fraction of those in North America and Europe, but don’t believe everything you read about rental costs. As anywhere, you get what you pay for, and turn-key, furnished units rent for double or so what an unfurnished place might rent for. You have to balance comfort and convenience against your budget.

“When shopping for a rental, think about the location. Is it walkable to shopping, restaurants, and transportation? Is it in the English-speaking area? Is it in a resort area where other visitors are only for short periods?

“How do you find a good deal on a rental in Cuenca? Through the local papers, Craigslist, flyers, and word-of-mouth. The best strategy, as in all markets like this one, is to pound the pavement. Walk the streets looking for ‘Se Renta’ signs.

“You can also search on Google but in Spanish. Search for ‘arriendos en cuenca,’ ‘se renta,’ or ‘alquiler.’ If you search in English, results will be few and rental rates will be higher.

“What can you expect to find? Here’s a sample,” David explained as he flipped to show a photo on the screen at the front of the meeting room.

“This is a one-bedroom, one-bath condo of about 60 square meters two blocks from the historic zone. The place has nice views and is renting turn-key for US$550 a month or US$300 a month unfurnished. This would be ideal for a single retiree or even a couple, certainly a great first step.

“Here’s another example,” David continued, flipping his slide show forward. “This is a three-bedroom, three-bath townhouse of about 200 square meters. Living here you’d enjoy great views and clean mountain air. The rent is US$950 a month turn-key or US$550 a month unfurnished with a one-year lease.

“If you’re looking for more space, here’s a four-bedroom, three-bath country house of about 200 square meters on 3 acres. You could rent this turn-key for US$850 a month…”

Kat Kalashian

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