If you are planning on living in Ecuador you are going to need a place to live.
While some new expats jump right in and buy a property (sometimes sight-unseen) most take a more relaxed approach and rent for a while. There are some definite joys to renting…
While Ecuador might be just right for you, it is hard to pick the city, or even the part of the city, that you would be most happy in. For example, within just the canton of Cuenca there are 36 different parroquias (or parishes).
It is even harder in a large city like Quito or Guayaquil to determine just where you should rent (or buy) your new place.
How to Find Real Estate in Ecuador (6 Sources)
How will you find your new place to live? While there are classifieds, the market isn't as well organized as we are used to in North America.
There is no central place to find all the rentals – and many of the good deals never get advertised any more than a paper in the window. Agents often have leads on a few rentals but they are limited and (almost always) more expense.
In this section, you'll find 6 sources of Ecuador real estate – that don't involve individual real estate companies.
Even if you decide to use a real estate agent, it is important that you know the market.
- What are other properties selling for?
- What's the price difference between downtown and just out-of-town?
- What features are standard? Extra?
- Is there a difference in English and Spanish real estate listings?
These sites will help.
Here are six sites that you can use to find real estate across Ecuador. They are listed because they publish both private and agency listings.
They are all searchable by city, province, type of property and price. There are more than 30,000 unique listings available across these six sites.
Are we missing one? Please share it in the comments below.
6 Sites For Real Estate in Ecuador
Fair warning: These sites are like going down the rabbit hole. It is very easy to lose hours (even days) looking at all the options and dreaming about your new place.
In preparing this post, I spent hours just looking and dreaming – and we aren't even in the market for a place. There are some amazing places available.
Ready to get started? Lets go!
1. Craigslist – Quito (Covers all of Ecuador)
This strong classifieds site has one version for all of Ecuador. The Quito sub-domain covers the whole country. In the top right corner you can choose from either English or Spanish.
This is a good site for seeing the latest properties available. You can check new listings every day – and know that they are still available. Some real estate sites keep expired ads up just to have something to show.
Along with the typical classifieds categories (community, services, for sale and jobs) there is a strong housing category. Housing covers the following sub-categories:
- apts / housing
- housing swap
- housing wanted
- office / commercial
- parking / storage
- real estate for sale
- rooms / shared
- sublets / temporary
- vacation rentals
So while it does cover the whole country, and will require some sorting, it is very active. Today there were 19 new listings just under the housing category, with many of them in English (or translated into English).
One of the stronger real estate sites in Ecuador with 22,000+ listings. The search feature is strong and easy to sort.
There are just four search fields on the homepage: location (zone, city, province or project), type of property (house, apartment, land, commercial or other), type (rent, sell, transfer or vacation) and price (with a sliding scale). As each variable is chosen, the number of matching properties automatically adjusts.
This is one of my favorites for searching and dreaming…
This is second only to PlusValia in selection of real estate in Ecuador. When this post published, the site listed almost 6,000 Ecuador real estate listings. Vive1.com covers all sectors and cities in the country.
The following is a partial list of the cities/regions represented on the site (and the number of real estate listings in brackets). The first number are properties for sale. The second number are rentals available.
- Ambato (41) (2)
- Atacames (20) (6)
- Atuntáqui (9) (1)
- Bahia Caraquez (16) (3)
- Cotacachi (2) (0)
- Cuenca (800) (66)
- Guayaquil (386) (120)
- Loja (34) (0)
- Manta (45) (14)
- Mindo (4) (0)
- Playas (3) (1)
- Quito (2687) (958)
- Riobamba (13) (1)
- Salinas (26) (7)
- Santa Elena (5) (2)
- Vilcabamba (1) 1)
- Yunguilla Valley (7) (0)
Total Listings on Vive1.com: 5,844 (For Sale: 4,579) (For Rent: 1,265)
The categories are divided as follow:
- Residential [Vivienda]
- Land [Terrenos]
- Commercial [Comercial]
- Rural [Rurales]
- Buildings [Edificio]
- Industrial [Industrial]
- Tourism [Turismo]
This general classifieds site includes a real estate section. You can also find furniture, home furnishings, and automobiles here. Covers all of Ecuador.
This site seems to be more private sellers – which means you might find better deals. It is almost exclusively Spanish. The search feature is very good. I like this site because of the great photos provided by most vendors.
Each major city has at least one daily paper. By checking the local classifieds of the area you are interested in, you can save lots of time in searching. Find homes in the area of Ecuador where you want to live.
This option is going to take a little more time. There are 30+ daily papers in Ecuador. To help, we've created this listing of all the daily papers. To find real estate listings, visit the specific newspaper, click on “Clasificados” and then search for either “bienes raíces” or “inmuebles”. From there, you can sort based on province, type of real estate and and sale or rental.
Find Ecuador real estate in local newspapers.
InmoEcuador.com is one of 13 country-based real estate sites run by InmoMundo.com. Other countries include Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, España (Spain), Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Túnez (Tunisia – North Africa).
While the whole country is covered, it has fewer properties than some of the other sites. As I write this post, it has 62 listings for Ecuador. I included this in the list with the hope that it will grow over time.
Another site that I have played with is El Portal. As I wrote this post, it had just 9 listings (which is kind of useless). The majority of listings are for sale, but there are some rentals. Covers all of Ecuador.
There you have it. Six huge resources for finding real estate in Ecuador.
Here's how to get started:
How to Choose an Ecuador Real Estate Agent
Are you looking for real estate in Ecuador? How can you sort out all the variables and choose an agent who will represent your interests?
In this post, I share tips and observations from five years in Ecuador – and from running the largest English language travel and expat site in the country.
While you can always choose based on an online ad, it is better to make an informed decision based on the following suggestions:
10 Steps to Choosing a Great Agent
- Meet at an open house
- Take a recommendation of a close friend
- Check their references
- Hire a real estate lawyer
- Interview multiple agents
- Don't hire on language alone
- Don't hire on their fee alone
- Choose a full time agent
- Check their business registration
- Look at their current listings
8 Questions to Ask a Prospective Agent
Make sure you really interview the agent before you hire them. Here are some questions to get you started:
- How long have you been in the business? Real estate careers are surprisingly short among expat agents. Make sure that they have been selling real estate in Ecuador for a while before hiring them.
- Will you provide references? Every good agent has references. Confirm that they are unbiased.
- What documents will I be asked to sign? Can I see them now? Make sure of what you are getting into before you begin the process. This applies to rentals and purchase.
- How will you search for my home? Find out if you will be offered options from their current list or if they will go looking for properties that meet your criteria.
- How much do you charge? Some agents charge a flat fee ($300) while others charge a percentage of purchase price. Be careful of agents that sell on agent markup. More on this below.
- Will you help me find other professionals? An established agent should have contacts with bankers, lawyers, notaries, translators, repairmen and home inspectors.
- What area do you live in? Make sure that they know the area and city that you are planning on living in.
- Quiz them about specific legal issues and see if they know more than you do.
The Necessary Disclaimer
Please note: I am not an agent, nor do I have any financial relationship with the sites we are recommending. We are not promoting any specific real estate service. There is no hidden agenda in this post (or any other that we publish).
This post is not meant to harm individual's reputations or businesses. If you feel that our point of view is mistaken, please share your comments below. Also, if you have a bilingual real estate site (English/Spanish) or a Spanish site with some English, please share it below.
Language can be a barrier, as can legal issues – but people are people. People are dishonest in every country, but people are generally reasonable and honest.
Rely on your lawyer not your real estate agent. This stands true in your home country and it's true here.
I recently spent some time looking for a furnished rental for some friends. A Google search returned a number of the English sites along with many Spanish ones.
The local English agents that I spoke with were unhelpful and unprofessional. Obviously, I didn't speak with every agent and I'm confident that there are good, honest agents that are also foreigners. But the premise is a bit unusual.
Why Many Expats Become Real Estate Agents
In every area with a developing expat community, there are English real estate agents. Why would these expats choose to sell real estate – when there are so many other fields they could go into?
- English as a skill set. Back in your home state or province, would you consider hiring an agent just because he spoke the same language as you? Absurd, isn't it? There are so many other factors, like experience, credentials, and reputation. When new expats are looking for real estate abroad, often speaking English is the only requirement for hiring an agent. It seems like weak criteria for a six digit investment.
- Niche exploitation. In many expat areas, expats tend to congregate for “gringos nights” and other events. And Cuenca is no different. I haven't attended these events (I also don't find “speaking the same language” as a reason for friendship) but we've heard from many who have attended. According to them, these events are little more than an opportunity for expat-targeted businesses to pitch their services.
English Listings? Yay! Wait… What?! Only in English!?
Remember where you are looking for real estate. It is a SPANISH country. Latin America doesn't have bilingual countries (like Canada: English & French).
While there are a few countries that speak Portuguese (Brazil) or English (Belize, Guyana) almost all of them are Spanish (Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, etc). Not Spanish with English sectors – all Spanish. Central and South America are Spanish. So when looking for real estate, expect to do so in Spanish.
When you find a real estate site with English listings, a good question to ask is:
“Who are these properties being marketed to?”
If the company's site is only in English (and they are in a Spanish country) the question should be: “Why?”.
Obviously, they could move more inventory if they marketed in Spanish as well. Could it be that they only market in English, because the local Spanish-speaking population would never pay their prices? If that is the case, why should an expat pay their asking prices?
I've heard from many sources that real estate transactions don't only work on percentage commission. They also work on agent markup. Let me explain:
Beware of Agent Markup
Let's say that a homeowner has a nice house that they want to sell for $85,000. The agent promises that price, with anything above that price going to the agent. Imagine the agent adding a healthy $35,000 to the price, listing at $120,000. This gives the agent more than 29% of the sale price as a fee or commission. In Canada, the standard rate was 6% – often split between buying and selling agents. Things seem much less regulated here. In fact, I've seen the identical property listed on English real estate sites and Spanish ones. Well, identical except for the price…
But If You Have The Money…
For some new expats, the ease of purchase is obviously worth the higher price.
When basic condos might go for $300,000+ in your home city, the difference between $100,000 and $140,000 might seem negligible – especially when located in a brand-new luxury building.
Alternatives to Expat Real Estate Agents
Even if you choose to purchase with an English speaking expat agent, you do well to confirm similar property values before you purchase. And you need to do that by looking at locally marketed properties. You can check with one or both of the following:
- an agency that markets primarily to Ecuadorian buyers, in Spanish
- a classified sites that market properties, primarily in Spanish
Now I know what you're thinking: What use is a Spanish site, if I don't speak Spanish?
There are two reasons to use Spanish classifieds and real estate listings:
- Many Spanish sites contain English listings: It isn't uncommon to find postings both in English and Spanish or just in English although the majority of the listings will be just in Spanish
- Hire a translator: In many cases, it is cheaper to hire a translator who you pay by the hour to help you find a rental or even a property to purchase than to pay for an overpriced property. I recently spoke with a gringo who had signed contracts with Ecuadorian property owners to rent their properties. He would get them the price they wanted and he would get whatever the overage was. One two bedroom apartment was going to rent to gringos at $900 per month. It might have been worth $300-400. If you hired a translator at $15/hr to help work out the specifics on your rental, you could hire them for more than 30 hours and still come out ahead on your first months rental!
There is a lot said about gringo inflation on some blogs. From our perspective, inflation is primarily caused by foreigners taking advantage of fellow foreigners, and specifically in regards to higher-priced real estate.
There is another issue that needs to be addressed.
Why Buy a Property in a Place You've Never Lived?
While there is a certain romantic flare to owning property abroad, you should ask: Why?
If you haven't lived there, how do you know you will want to live there? Visiting for a few weeks/months doesn't properly define a place. There isn't a better anchor than a piece of real estate (especially an overpriced one).
Are You Buying For Ecuadorian Residency? The current investment rules for permanent residency are $25,000 for the principal and $500 for each dependent. In our family's case, we had to invest $26,000.
What we recommend. Buying a property is a great idea – but why not move to your new town and rent for 6 months to 2 years? If you still love it after that time frame, start looking to buy.
After that time frame, you will speak Spanish (at least to some degree) and you'll know the area better. You'll know if you want to live in the center or out of town. You'll have contacts that you can evaluate based on criteria other than the language that they speak. As a result of all of this, not only will you pay less for your property, you'll likely make a better decision because:
- you can be confident that you actually want to live in that city
- you can choose both the area of the city and the type of housing (apartment, condo, house with land) that will make you happy
Be Careful of Scare Tactics
Likely you have found the set of English real estate sites – some of which use scare tactics to try to push you into their services.
Renting or buying? “Neither is safe without a skillful guide”, according to some agents. “While they appear kind and friendly, the typical Ecuadorian will try to rip you off at every opportunity”, some claim. These are actual quotes from English agencies in Cuenca.
These are outright lies with the sole purpose of pushing new expats straight into often-overpriced properties.
While an experienced, full time agent can be a solid asset to buying real estate, be careful of the high number of first-time expat-agents who are just experimenting with a new career and marketing English as their top skill.
You would do better with a translator and a local Spanish agent. Or maybe just a translator and a good lawyer.
What has been your experience with Ecuador real estate? Success or horror stories?
Disagree with my opinions? Great! Please share your comments below.
What Are the Homes Like in Ecuador?
The homes in Ecuador are beautiful and the workmanship is often superior to what we used to see in Canada.
But there are some big differences in how homes are built and finished. Some are good surprises while other differences are just plain surprises.
Here's what you need to know about the homes in our guide to Ecuador rentals.
Price / Value of Real Estate in Ecuador
What is the “normal” price of real estate in Ecuador? Great question.
It is a largely unregulated market with prices varying widely. Here are a few articles to give you an overview of how things work and just what to expect.
Ecuador Real Estate Legal Concerns
Many expats moving to Ecuador use property purchase for the basis for their residency visas.
As with most things, there are some specifics to keep in mind.
The rules and nuances of real estate in Ecuador are likely very different from your home country.
In this video interview, Grace Velastegui, an immigration lawyer in Cuenca Ecuador, discusses some of the common issues encountered with buy real estate in Ecuador and how to avoid them.
(complete transcript below the video)
Video Transcript: Ecuador Real Estate Legal Issues
Our specialty is also helping with real estate law. We can assist you with the purchase of a property. Although it is understood that the purchase of property in Ecuador is a very straightforward process, there are some special things that need to be covered. A good title search might be necessary, especially in certain cases for your peace of mind.
The process of purchasing property can be done in one or two stages, depending on the property that you are going to be buying.
If it is going to be a single owned house (owned by an individual) a good title search might be a good idea. You want to make sure that there are no implications in regards to inheritance law or in regard to an ex-wife or ex-husband (for a divorced person) that might be involved in the title. You also want to make sure that the title is free of liens or encumbrances, that there are no mortgages against the building or pending debts with the municipal taxes that have not been paid or paperwork that was not completed or not in order.
So if you buy purchase that is under construction normally (in a condominium for example) the title of ownership is not available yet. Therefore you want to do an agreement to purchase and sell first.
This is advisable to be notarized – and not by a private one – unless you pay a very low deposit. If it is a big deposit you want to be insured by a legal instrument that needs to be notarized. In order to have a good, binding document you want to use your own attorney and not use the standard form that the developers might have.
Some people go directly to the notary and legalize the sale or the purchase and they pay the price of the property. Later on they find out that there were some liens or that their title was not possible to be registered in their names or the change of name was not covered or that they had a hidden defects in the title that is not possible to cure.
So in order to ensure the recording of your title, once you have already completed the payment it is a good idea to have an attorney help you do an exhaustive title investigation.
If you purchase a property in Ecuador, you can use the title of ownership to apply for a residency visa as an investor in real estate. You should use a title that covers the requirements in order to apply for a residency visa. So make sure that the paperwork is done correctly for this purpose.
Reality Check: Housing in Cuenca, Ecuador
Housing in Cuenca is likely going to be different than what you're used to. There are lots of great options – many beautiful apartments and homes. This post gives a reality check for what you should expect.
Many expats come to Ecuador looking for a new way of life and envision themselves living in their dream home perched in a lush valley alongside a mountain stream. That is certainly an attractive vision but not necessarily in touch with reality.
Many new expats have had to settle for housing that is different from what they were expecting. It is often difficult to find that perfect mountain villa on 20 acres that everyone seems to want.
For some expats, the only affordable and practical housing option is to be found in high rise apartment buildings or in working class neighborhoods, far from that peaceful valley that they had been dreaming about.
If you do happen to find your country dream home with acreage, it will no doubt come with a price tag that is more than what you were expecting. Many expats are often shocked at the prices that some realtors are asking for rentals and properties for sale here.
For example: a recent visitor from the U.S. came looking for a house with land where he could settle down with his family. A realtor took him to an area just outside of Cuenca to look an older house in need of repairs.
He was dismayed when he learned that this property was being offered for $175,000, a price which is much higher than one might expect to pay for a rundown property.
That is just one example of the disappointment that some expats suffer when faced with realities that are often different from their expectations.
There are affordable rentals and properties for sale to be found here, but it takes some investigation to locate them and one must have an open mind and be willing to accept housing options that are sometimes very different from what was initially envisioned.
How to Rent or Buy Property in Cuenca Ecuador
In this section, you'll learn how to rent and buy property in Cuenca Ecuador.
How can you find property to rent or buy in Cuenca?
Before we moved to Ecuador, one dilemma we faced had to do with housing. How do you go about finding a house or apartment if you don’t know anyone here or speak the language?
The first thing that comes to mind is to use a realtor. There are a number of realtors who target expats with nice web sites and testimonials from “satisfied customers”.
That is one way to find housing, but there are alternatives to using a realtor that one would do well to consider.
There are some things to keep in mind when house hunting in Ecuador or any other country for that matter. According to what we have been told and experienced ourselves, not all “professional” realtors have your best interest at heart.
And don’t think that just because a realtor is a fellow expat who speaks your language that he or she won’t take advantage of you. They may try to steer you to a certain area or price range, thus limiting your options and forcing you to pay more than you have to.
I recently received an email from a person interested in moving to Ecuador who related a story detailing the underhanded tactics of one realtor who was artificially elevating the prices he charged to unsuspecting expats in the north of Ecuador.
He was skimming thousands of dollars and inventing fees that are not legal. Fortunately the buyer contacted a reliable Ecuadorian real estate attorney who blew the whistle on the realtor.
The idea that some locals and fellow expats have is that all retirees are rich and therefore can afford to pay more. No one wants to be a victim of unscrupulous realtors or pay more than they have to.
The majority of retired expats are not rich. They have to watch what they spend and cannot afford to be ripped off.
Limited Real Estate Listings in Cuenca
Another issue I have noticed with the realtors here is that they just don’t seem to have very many listings to offer.
If you are looking to rent or buy, most realtor websites seem to have only a handful of listings and many of those are offered for prices that are somewhat higher than what we have paid for rentals.
or example, we know some expats who rent very nice centrally located apartments with garages and guards for $350.00 a month, but we have seen the same type of “luxury” apartments on some realtor web sites that are offered for $500-$600 a month.
What is the difference? I have been in those more expensive apartments and I can see no real difference between the more expensive apartments and the ones offered for less.
When you surf the different realty web sites you may come away with the impression that there are not that many rentals available here and that you have to pay $500.00 or more to rent a decent place. However, we have found that the reality is somewhat different.
When I check the local classified ads here in Cuenca and take a tour of different areas, I find that there are many rentals and for sale by owner properties available here.
It seems that most people who have properties for rent or for sale prefer to market them on their own and bypass the realtors. They simply stick a sign in the window or put a small ad in the paper.
Some realtors will have you believe that the locals will rip you off and that you have to have the “expert” care of a fellow expat realtor to avoid being taken advantage of, but our experience has been the opposite.
The majority of property owners want foreigners as renters because of our reputation as trustworthy and responsible folks who will take care of their property and not destroy it.
If you are a foreigner looking to rent, you have an automatic advantage over natives who are looking to rent the same property. However, you have to be willing to negotiate and not pay the asking price.
If the owner won’t negotiate, just walk away. We had one owner try to gouge us for $550 on a house that would normally rent for $300 and we just said “thanks but no thanks” and walked away after realizing that they were not going to negotiate a reasonable price.
So, how can you find housing without being taken to the cleaners? First of all, I personally would avoid the realtors who specifically target foreigners, or at least proceed with caution when dealing with them.
You can be certain that there has been some inflating of prices since they are marketing to foreigners. I’m not trying to trash all realtors and I’m sure that there are some good guys out there, but in a market where there is little or no regulation you have to be careful.
How To Find Rentals in Ecuador
Here is what we have done to find rentals: When we rented for the first time here, we used an Ecuadorian friend, whom we had met on our initial visit to Ecuador, to help us scout out potential rentals.
We called him a couple of weeks before our move from the U.S. to Cuenca and he got to work looking for houses for rent in the area.
On our arrival in Cuenca, he picked us up at the airport in and immediately took us to check out rental houses that he had found. We dealt directly with the owners and rented a brand new 4 bedroom 2 ½ bath house the very first day for $260.00 a month.
We did not use a realtor and knew that the price we were paying was fair and in line with what the locals would pay for the same house.
Our friend did not skim off money or inflate the price of the house, in fact he helped us to negotiate a lower price than what was being asked and he did an inspection of the house and pointed out a couple of things that the owners needed to do before we moved in.
Since that initial experience, we have successfully rented on our own 4 other houses and helped a number of other expats find and rent apartments and houses and we did it without using a realtor. We have dealt directly with the owners on every rental and almost always have been able to negotiate a better price than advertised.
When someone contacts us and asks us for help finding a house or apartment, we check the classifieds and cruise through neighborhoods that look promising. Sometimes we ask neighbors or store keepers if there are any rentals in the area.
The last house we rented was vacant, but did not have a for rent sign posted. We asked a neighbor if the house was for rent and she said that she believed it was. We left a note in the door with our phone number explaining that we are foreigners looking to rent and the owner called us a few days later.
We rented the house and were able to negotiate a better price using the fact that we are foreigners as a bargaining tool. The owner dropped the price by about 15% off the original decent asking price of $300.00. Why pay more if you don’t have to?
What if you are looking to buy a house? First, I would strongly advise anyone to rent first. That way you can make contacts and know whom to trust and you can get a better idea of where you want to live. You can find a property to purchase using the same process we use to find rentals and negotiate directly with the owner and then hire a lawyer to do the rest.
Why pay a realtor thousands of dollars if you don’t have to? The lawyer is the one who does the real work and has the expertise to guide you through the buying process and assure that you are not being ripped off or purchasing a property with problems.
Renting or buying a house in a foreign country can seem daunting or scary, but by using some common sense and doing your home work, and with a little help from trustworthy locals, you can work through the process without suffering the pain of paying too much or being taken advantage of, at least that has been our experience. Happy house hunting!
This is a post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
House Hunters International in Cuenca, Ecuador
House Hunters International has been in Ecuador many times. Here is an overview of our experience as the subjects for one episode.
- House Hunters International Ecuador: All 14 Episodes
- Behind the Scenes: House Hunters International in Cuenca Ecuador
Real Estate Questions?
What's your question about real estate in Ecuador?
Please check out the posts above and ask your questions on the related posts. If your question doesn't seem to fit anywhere, please ask it below.