Until 2008, Salinas and this country’s coast were part of Guayaquil Province.
As a result, the coast was largely overlooked. We received no government attention or funding.
Former President Rafael Correa was the first to recognize the opportunities presented by Ecuador’s coast, and he led a campaign to make a plan to explore and develop these opportunities in a strategic way.
The first step was to break Salinas and the coast away from Guayaquil and make it its own province. In 2008, this region became Santa Elena Province, the country’s 24th, and government money began flowing in… specifically and especially into infrastructure, which, to this point, had been seriously underdeveloped.
Salinas is known as “Little Miami.” We do have a malecón and in some ways resemble Miami, but we are much more than that.
In recent years, Salinas has become a top destination among expats in Ecuador, but this was a key tourist destination among Ecuadorians long before we expats discovered it.
Expats typically know the center of town—the malecón—but Salinas is home to 60,000 people. It is spread out, with many different neighborhoods and many different beaches. If you haven’t been to Salinas but are interested in being on the beach in Ecuador, the first step is an area tour.
Before you begin shopping for a place to live and certainly before you begin shopping for a home to buy, you should take time to explore neighborhood by neighborhood and beach by beach.
Salinas is a seasonal location. Our season is December through May. That’s when the weather is best and the kids are off from school and families take vacations. The population of the area can double this time of year. New Year’s week we see 100,000 visitors. It’s a crazy fun time of year… but not for you if you don’t like crowds.
The expat population is 700 to 800 year-round and maybe 1,200 in season and a 50-50 mix of Americans and Canadians.
I’m a single female who has been living in Salinas for a long time. I feel very safe. I’m comfortable going out and walking around at any hour day or night.
We have a service called “Tía Poli.” If you are a resident of Salinas, you can register with the local police. They take details of where you live and assign a special button on your cell phone. If you have any problem at home, you can press that button and the police come right to your house to help. For me, as a woman living alone, this is a comforting idea.
Thanks to Correa’s initiatives, it’s quite a different story in this part of the country 2008 to now in terms of infrastructure. Now we have police, fire, and ambulance services. We have both private and public hospital care. We have bilingual schools for kindergarten through 12th grade. We have more public transportation and many more paved roads.
The mayoral election is coming up… and so a lot of road work has been completed recently. Funny how that works…
We used to have two stop lights… now we have five more.
Now, in addition to the open-air markets, we have an American-style mall with a movie theater. We have fiber-optic internet.
What Is Life In Salinas Like?
Today, life in Salinas can be very comfortable.
Life in this part of Ecuador can also be very welcoming. The expat community goes out of its way to make new expats feel at home. You won’t have to try to find expats to make friends with. Take a walk along the malecón, and, within a few minutes, other expats will find you and engage with you. They’ll ask about your interests and tell you all the ways you can connect…
We have coffee and cocktail klatches. We have book clubs. We have art and jewelry-making classes… yoga or dance lessons. You can study Spanish with fellow expats or join them for poker matches or Scrabble games. Whatever your interest, you’ll find others to share it with you.
Most of us expats in Salinas feel strongly about finding ways to give back to our local community. We have Rotary and Lions Club, and there are two handicapped schools that would love to have you as a volunteer.
One expat has organized English-teaching groups for the fire and police departments.
Fine, too, of course, if you just want to show up and hang out on your own at the beach!
There’s only so much coastline in Salinas, and it has been developed, therefore, with condos to make maximum use of the space. You aren’t going to find a beach house on the ocean in Salinas. If you want a house, you’ll have to look outside the city and off the water.
Most of the condos have been designed for big Ecuadorian families who use them for vacation. Finding a one- or two-bedroom condo can be tough… though some developers have caught on to the demand among expats for smaller (100 square meters and less) properties.
If you’re interested in buying a condo as a place to live or as a rental investment, this is an excellent time to be shopping. Prices are low… down over the past few years. This is in part a result of the generally down economic climate in this country in recent years. It’s also in part because of changes in the capital appreciation laws under Correa.
The increased capital gains taxes led to a dramatic slowdown in the property market. Fortunately, these have been repealed, and we are beginning to see a resurgence in interest among local buyers.
So, again, this is a window of opportunity to buy in Salinas. The returning demand will lead to rising prices… but, right now, you can buy well starting for as little as US$100,000.
A few things to keep in mind when shopping for a property to buy:
- Not all buildings have elevators, and almost no buildings are accessible for people with mobility issues. If you don’t want stairs, make that known to your real estate agent from the start…
- Not all buildings have balconies. Again, if a balcony is important, tell your real estate agent before you begin scheduling viewings…
- Listings are not exclusive, and properties almost certainly will be listed with more than one agent, sometimes at different prices…
- Listings online are not up-to-date. Searching online can be dangerous and misleading…
- There’s no lock-box system, and scheduling viewings takes time. You can’t show up and ask to see properties on the same day…
- Be prepared to take possession of a resale as-is. Locals don’t take care of their properties the way we expats typically do. When you take possession, the kitchen cabinets might be broken and the bathroom faucet might leak. That’s just how it goes. The seller won’t make those kinds of repairs before closing…
- Some buildings impose restrictions—no pets, for example… or no rentals. Check these things before committing to a purchase…
However, the most important thing to keep in mind when shopping for property in Salinas is who the builder is.
There is a lot of new construction along the coast right now in response to renewed market demand. But I don’t know who many of the developers are behind these projects.
There are three proven developers in Salinas… guys with track records. I recommend sticking with them if possible. One of these guys is right now finishing his 15th building. That gives you some confidence that the building will, in fact, be finished.