It seems that Cuenca, and other desirable Gringo cities, are experiencing a "Gringo Stampede" and a "land rush"...
Here's the deal folks...Ecuador is now the new darling of the Ex-Pat set--people are showing up from everywhere to stake a claim, and to experience the "dream" that so many blogs are describing. Now, that's all well and good, but too much of a good thing sometimes leads to bad results...
As a new arrival, you may have been shocked to find that there are very few experienced Real Estate representatives, but there are lots of folks who will charge you $100 per day to show you all the cats and dogs that all the other agents have shown repeatedly...
And, why not? There are many more arrivals than there are good places listed for sale...period!!!
Why is this, you ask? Well, most "agents" will only show you a property that they can make a commission on (many times it is 7 percent, right out of your pocket), so many properties that might be had are simply not shown, because it is not in the financial interest of the agent.
Also, many builders only list apartments or condos with agents after they have failed to sell them themselves. This is usually when they need money to get on with the next "project", and are tired of trying to sell these "cats and dogs".
Now, you, as an astute observer, see that there are more than 100 taller red brick buildings in Cuenca--they all have lots of apartments in them, so why the shortage? Put simply, you are also in competition with affluent Ecuadoreans who wish to "move up".
OK Bob, so now that we have the bad news, what do we do now?
It is now time for you, as a self-sufficient new arrival, to take the bull by the horns and find your own place. But, you say, you don't know the city, your Spanish is non-existent, and you are scared to make a mistake...
The pros are all busy as bird dogs...so you have to do it on your own, or with help that you round up. First thing, I suggest, is to find a good taxi driver who speaks English...keep asking until you find one. Ask a taxi driver to call an English speaking friend if you have to.
So...now what? Here is the secret!!! Almost all builders are the scions of land owning families, and they are building high rise apartment buildings on family property. Since it is family property, it is not owned completely by the builder, but by parents and by siblings, also.
So, what's the big deal? Well, it is a custom that some of the family members get to stake a claim on desirable apartments in many new developments (and older ones, too). These usually are not sold when the place goes up for sale...they are considered "sold" already. Why is this? It is an investment for the family member and a "reward" for letting the builder use some of the family assets to create a new apartment building.
The apartment often is not lived in, it is just held until the prices rise a little more, so that the family member can realize a better return.
What you have to do, is scour the apartment buildings and just be a pest, or a respectable North American, and find out just which places in each building might actually be sold if the right amount of money was tendered. Believe me, almost everything is for sale for a price.
I am assuming now that you have access to cash to close on a deal, because there is very little financing.
You can do your own research on how much you wish to pay for a place, but you will at least find some that are wonderful to live in and suit you fine.
And...don't forget to introduce yourselves to Grace and Nelson, as they are great for writing up the contracts and shepherding the contract thru the minefields. It is especially important if you think of buying a property that has been passed down from parents. Heirs are always going to complicate a sale.
Now, I am just touching a few high points, but I wanted you all to know that there was "another way".
Rox and I wish you all the best of luck...and remember the old saw "The harder I work, I luckier I get!!!".