3 Ways to Find Rental Property in Cuenca, Ecuador
Food, shelter & clothing… those are our basic needs. Finding food in Cuenca is easy. Finding clothes that fit the usually taller and often more “robust” expat population can be a little more challenging in Ecuador.
Finding a house here can be a real challenge at times. When searching realtor websites and online classified ads, it sometimes seems that there just are not that many rental houses available in Cuenca. When rentals seem scarce, that is when it pays to dig deeper and beat the bushes a little.
Recently, my wife and I spent the entire day with a newly arrived expat family and went house-hunting with them.
We rented a van and picked up the family at 9 a.m. and went to look at the first house we had lined up.
By 6 p.m. we had made numerous phone calls to realty agencies and individual owners and visited a total of 7 houses being offered for rent.
We are not realtors; we simply served as translators between the expat family and the rental owners and pointed out to our guests the pluses and minuses of the houses we found.
So, how does one go about finding a decent rental house in Cuenca when the available rentals may seem to be scarce at times?
There are three methods we have used when looking for rentals:
1. Call a Professional Realtor
Before we went on our house hunting expedition, we spent a couple of hours calling realtors and surfing their websites looking for rental listings.
We called or visited the website of every realtor listed in the Cuenca phone book looking for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath rental house with a yard.
Out of all the realtors we consulted, we only found two agencies who offered rentals and between the two of them they had only a couple of rental listings that fit the criteria of the family we were helping.
We found that the rental houses the realtors offered were considerably more expensive than the For Rent by Owner houses we had located.
In fact, the most expensive house we look (with an asking price of $700 per month) was a realtor listing.
Despite the higher price, this house turned out to be one of the most run-down and undesirable of the houses we found.
By the end of the day, my wife and I had come to the conclusion that it was basically a waste of time to look for affordable, decent rentals via the realtors.
Most realtors seem to be mainly interested in selling houses or renting houses at what seem to be inflated prices.
2. Local Classifieds Ads
The second method we have used to find rentals in Cuenca is through the local newspaper and online classified ads.
In Cuenca, there seems to be a high demand for affordable rentals and they do not stay on the market for very long.
For example, on a recent House Hunting trip, we went with some fellow expats to look at a FRBO house listed in the classifieds and were surprised to find a group of people queuing up outside the same house waiting to enter to take a look.
The owner was asking $250 for this particular 4 bedroom, 2 bath and that is a very decent price for an unfurnished house of that size in Cuenca. Houses in that price range do not stay on the market for long.
3. Walking and Searching for Rentals
What to do when there seem to be few rentals available? At times the number of For Rent by Owner classified ads are scarce.
And as I have already mentioned the realtors here don’t seem to be very interested in listing rentals and the few rentals they offer rent for considerably more money than the FRBO houses.
When there seems to be a scarcity of rental listings, there is a third method we have used with success to find rental housing for ourselves and other expats.
We have found a number of nice, affordable rentals by cruising neighborhoods and taking note of the For Rent signs posted in the windows of houses and apartments.
Some owners prefer not to advertise in the paper and for some reason choose not to deal with realtors. They simply put a For Rent sign in the window and wait for the fish to bite.
It takes time and effort to pound the pavement looking for rentals, but we found the house we are currently renting by doing a random search of neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs.
Our current rental house is twice as large as our last house, less expensive and in a more convenient location.
Doing a “manual” door to door search looking for rentals may not be the quickest or most orthodox way to find a house or apartment, but it does work when rental listing are few.
While at first glance it may appear that affordable, decent rentals are scarce in Cuenca, the fact is that with a little leg work and, if needed, a little translation help from someone with experience in house hunting, expats can find a nice place to rent in Cuenca without having to pay the sometimes exaggerated rental prices that one often finds when surfing certain realtor websites.
Happy house (or apartment) hunting!
What to expect when renting a house in Ecuador:
It’s moving day (week)….again. Since moving to Cuenca in 2007 we have lived in 5 different houses.
It is not that we like to move, just that there have always seemed to arise some compelling reasons to move.
For example, we have moved twice due to noisy neighbors who kept us from sleeping.
Keep in mind that many houses in Cuenca are similar to townhomes and they share walls with other dwellings. Therefore, you can often hear sounds from next door and that can be a little irritating if you are used to more privacy.
We moved from a house in the country on 10 acres in Georgia, so living in close proximity with other people took a little getting used to. On another occasion, we moved because the house we were renting became infested with black mold.
Our most recent move was motivated by a desire to live in a neighborhood that is more convenient to public transportation and shopping.
Learn more about real estate in Ecuador.
So, how's our new house?
We were fortunate to find a very spacious 4 bedroom with two and a half baths that is very convenient to public transportation and shopping.
Something we really appreciate about this house is the nice sized front and back yard with plenty of room for two kids, a cat and a dog.
All of the other houses we have rented have only had a cement parking space and a small patio out back, so to have a large yard with grass is a luxury for us.
Another plus to this house is the price. We are paying $260.00 a month, which is very reasonable considering its size and location. And, this house has something that no other house has had that we have rented….a sink with a double basin. My wife is very happy about that.
Things you only thought were necessary in a house:
When we first rented a house in Ecuador, we were surprised to find that rental houses, and new houses for that matter, do not come with some amenities that one may consider standard.
For example, we have yet to rent a house here equipped with a stove and refrigerator. And you can forget about finding a house with a built-in dishwasher.
We had to purchase our own appliances and have moved them with us every time. A water heater is also an option that not all houses or apartments have. The majority of stoves and water heaters in use here run on propane so be prepared to buy your own gas cylinders. Gas tanks also are not standard issue in houses or apartments.
Some luxury apartment buildings have central gas, but if you choose to rent a house you will have to get used to changing out gas tanks every couple of weeks or so. A full gas cylinder is quite heavy, so be prepared for a little workout when you have to change out tanks.
When we first walked into this house we noticed that there were no curtain rods, only a few hooks that the previous occupants had left up.
The lack of curtain rods and other hardware normally used for hanging curtains is also something that is common in rental houses here.
We decided that we wanted to properly hang our curtains, so we splurged and spent over $100.00 on curtain rods and hardware. When we leave this house we will give the owner the option of reimbursing us for our purchase or simply take the rods with us to use in our next rental.
Optional kitchen and bathroom accessories:
Four of the five houses we have rented featured bathrooms that were lacking the normal accessories one would expect to find installed such as mirrors, toilet paper holders, towel hooks, and toothbrush holders. These are details that are often overlooked by many landlords.
If you like to take a nice warm bath in a tub you may be disappointed because only two out of the 5 houses we have rented here have been equipped with a tub. Most houses only have showers. The lack of a tub is not the end of the world, but sometimes it is nice to soak aching muscles in a warm bath, especially if you have just endured a 5 day move into a new house.
Another feature that is sometimes missing in houses here is a range hood. Two houses we have rented mysteriously were missing vent hoods that would normally be standard equipment in a house in the States. It was not a deal-breaker for us, but it was unhandy not to have a light over the stove.
Also, we have found that upper kitchen cabinets are sometimes viewed as optional and we have even seen some houses and apartments that did not have any kitchen cabinets at all; just an open space under the counter to place pots and pans. That was a deal breaker for us and we turned down those houses.
Do you really need paint on the walls?
We once considered renting a huge 6 bedroom, three-story house with a nice yard. I really liked the house and it was being offered for a very reasonable price.
The deal-breaker was the new paint that the owner had just applied: dark blue and red throughout the entire house. The landlord was finishing up the painting when we arrived to look at the house and proudly pointed out the new paint as a selling point. I did not have the heart to tell him that his dazzling taste in colors was making me dizzy and depressed. We passed on that rental.
When shopping for rentals we have often found some interior decorating that did not exactly match our style or tastes, but when you are renting you can often overlook such issues.
This current house we are renting has been painted light yellow throughout and is not too bad as colors go. But since the wall in the stairwell is rather tall and the painters apparently did not have a ladder on hand, a large part of that wall was left unpainted.
Our new landlord dropped by with some yellow paint the other day and has left the rest of the painting up to us. In 4 of the 5 houses we have rented we have had to do some painting. That seems to be the norm here, at least in our experience.
Dangling light bulbs, missing keys and windows that don’t seal too well:
Practically every house we have entered here in Ecuador has one thing in common: there are no light fixtures, only bare light bulbs dangling from the ceiling.
The lack of light fixtures seems somewhat paradoxical to us since in many houses you will find intricate tile work and decorative ceiling tiles. We have grown accustomed to the hanging bulbs and don’t give them a second thought, but at first it did strike us as odd.
Also, be prepared to visit the local locksmith when you move into a rental here. Some landlords apparently don’t keep a duplicate set of keys, especially to the keyed bedroom doors. I have had to replace or have re-keyed a number of locks due to the missing key issue or broken doorknobs.
As a general rule, houses in Ecuador are not what you would call air-tight. We often feel wind enter through the windows and eaves of the house and there is a space under the exterior doors of a half-inch or more which also allows cool air to enter.
Despite the cool mountain climate, houses here do not have any sort of built-in heating system, so if you decide to live in Cuenca or in another part of the sierra, a small electric or gas heater comes in handy at times because it does get quite chilly at night.
I’m not complaining, just explaining….
Please keep in mind that I am not at all complaining about landlords or trying to imply that housing in Ecuador is substandard as compared with the U.S. or other so-called “developed” countries.
I’m merely pointing out a few of the differences that we have noted in the houses and apartments we have rented. It is good to be aware of those differences before moving to Ecuador so as not to be disappointed.
We love living in Ecuador and are quite comfortable with our current house and really appreciate the landlord and his willingness to negotiate with us.
Every Ecuadorian landlord we have had has treated us fairly and has made us feel very welcome. Our first landlord took us furniture shopping and helped us to get over the first few months of transition to our new life in Ecuador.
The above mentioned issues such as missing bathroom accessories and paint issues are things that many landlords will fix if you ask them to. Whenever we have encountered problems with plumbing or leaky roofs the landlords have always taken care of those matters.
I personally enjoy getting my hands dirty and don’t mind doing a little manual labor to replace a doorknob, paint a wall or fix a broken latch when necessary. Being willing to take care of such minor issues creates goodwill with the landlord and will certainly make it easier to renegotiate a more favorable rental contract down the road.
When shopping for rentals it is good to keep an open mind and not judge everything by standards in other countries. I recently accompanied a newly arrived Canadian expat couple on a house-hunting expedition and they found an almost new house for rent that they liked.
However, the tile in the kitchen was, to be honest, a little on the hideous side. Other than that, the house had everything else they wanted. It had plenty of space, a large yard, was in a good neighborhood and was being offered for $280.00 per month, which is a great price considering the size of the house.
I pointed out to them that when renting you have to weigh the pros and cons and realize that there is no perfect house. The big issues such as size, security and convenience always trump minor interior decorating quirks when deciding whether or not to rent a particular house or apartment.
The bottom line is that there are some very nice houses and apartments here for rent and with a little effort you can find a comfortable place for a reasonable price. We have always rented nice houses and have never paid over $300.00 per month.
With a little help, you can deal directly with the owners and negotiate a price within your budget. You don’t have to fall into the trap of inflated rental prices just because you are a foreigner.
Not every expat can afford a $700.00 luxury apartment. So, if you are contemplating renting in Ecuador, don’t forget to pack your tool bag and be sure to bring along a positive attitude and an open mind. It will make renting here much more enjoyable.
The Joys of Renting in Ecuador
A question I am often asked by my Ecuadorian friends is: “When are you going to buy a house and stop throwing your money away on rent?”
My answer: “Never – if I can help it!”
The common belief here is that if you rent a house you are just making your landlord rich and that homeownership is the only way to go.
I must admit that I also at one time shared that same view of renting. Before moving to Ecuador, I had been a proud homeowner for some 20 years.
After all, everyone knows that only poor, transient people rent houses and that stable, upstanding people own their homes. Well, I must be the poor, transient type because since moving to Ecuador in 2007 I have been a happy renter and have no intention of returning to the homeowner camp.
Living in a rented house has brought me a level of freedom and peace of mind that I had never experienced before.
4 Reasons to Rent
- I do not have to pay property taxes, mortgage payments, insurance premiums nor maintenance expenses.
- If something breaks or springs a leak, I just call the landlord and let him worry about the repairs.
- If there is something that is a little imperfect about the house, it does not bother me because, after all, it's not my house and I don´t plan on staying in the same rented house forever.
- If noisy neighbors move in next door and I can't put up with it anymore or if the house develops a serious problem, such as a mold infestation (which actually happened in one house we rented here) we just pack up and move.
When the house starts shaking due to tremors, which occur here on a fairly regular basis, I don't worry about the little cracks that form in the ceiling or walls nor do I lie awake at night wondering what to do if the “big one” hits and destroys the house.
The other day during a particularly strong thunderstorm, the window in my office began to leak. Was I worried? Did I climb up on the roof to find the source of the leak? I barely gave the pooling water on the floor in my office a second thought.
It's not that I don't care, I just don't fret about such things because, you know, it is not my house. I pay my rent, electricity and water bills on time every month and let the owner know about any problems that arise with the property and with that, I have fulfilled my responsibility toward this house.
A couple of years ago something happened that reaffirmed in my mind the wisdom of renting a house versus buying one: an expat couple we knew proudly gave us a tour of their new house that they had built north of Quito. It was their dream retirement home, built just to their specifications.
However, a few months after our visit with them, we received word that they were desperately trying to sell their dream home due to a family problem in the States that required them to move back.
At that moment I realized how much better it would have been for that couple if they had simply rented a house instead of investing so much money in a house here.
They would have still had their money safely in the bank back in the U.S. and available for immediate use. Had they chosen to be renters instead of homeowners, they could have easily moved back to the States without having the added anxiety of trying to unload a custom-built house in a foreign country.
Since we are renters, we can pick up and move in one day and be set up in another house within a week. I don't like moving, but the freedom of not being tied down to a particular house or neighborhood as well as not having the financial and mental burden of taxes, insurance and maintenance is well worth the time it takes to move and set up housekeeping.
I'm not saying that owning a home is all bad, just that renting has its merits and is worth considering if you are trying to simplify your life and reduce financial and mental stress.
Homeownership has been called the “American dream”, but as they say… been there, done that. I am now quite happy to let others live the homeownership dream while I enjoy the benefits and freedom of being a renter.
Are Expats Paying Too Much for Rentals in Cuenca?
From time to time I run across articles on certain websites that advertise Cuenca, Ecuador as a: “Top 10 retirement destination where a couple can live on as little as $600.00 per month.”
However, some expats suffer sticker shock when they arrive and realize that rentals in Cuenca are often much higher than they were expecting. What can expats reasonably expect to pay for a quality rental in Cuenca?
My wife and I recently went on an apartment hunting trip with a newly arrived expat couple who were looking for a 2 or 3 bedroom apt. in a safe, convenient neighborhood.
This couple was very concerned about safety and wanted to be in an area where they could walk to shopping and have easy access to green space near a river. They also wanted a pet-friendly place with an elevator and 24-hour guard.
We found a number of potential rentals that fit their criteria, some furnished and some unfurnished.
We found two fully furnished apartments on Avenida Ordoñez Lasso in the Edificio Palermo which were being offered for rent in the $600 to $700.00 range.
For those who don't know, Edificio Palermo is a luxury high-rise building with amenities such a gym, spa, and cinema. It has a very elegant lobby and it is located in an area of Cuenca that some call “gringolandia” due to the large number of expats who live there.
Down the street from Edificio Palermo we looked at an unfurnished 3 bedroom apt. in a nice but less elegant building renting for $475.00 (plus building maintenance fee of $75.00).
We also took the couple to view a large, centrally located apartment on Avenida Remigio Crespo. This property was being offered unfurnished for $450.00 (including the building maintenance fee or alícuota).
We located other apartments in the $250 to $350 range that we could have shown to this couple, but they passed on them since they were located in areas which they deemed less desirable for expats.
Ecuador Cost of Living Wake-up Call
At first glance one may think that the above mentioned rental prices were all increased because the owners were targeting “rich gringos”, but all of these rental properties were advertised in the local classifieds in Spanish, not English which leads one to believe that the owners were not necessarily looking to rent to expats but rather offering their property to the general Ecuadorian public.
The point is that to find a rental that fits the normal expat criteria (modern building with a balcony, 24-hour guard, elevator, green space, convenient to SuperMaxi, walking distance to the center, close to a river, etc) one is generally going to have to pay more than what some may expect when they first arrive.
After reviewing a sampling of nicer rentals in Cuenca, the idea of a couple living on a $600.00 per month budget seems rather far fetched.
How to Avoid Paying Too Much For Your Rental
Even though the nicer rentals in Cuenca may be a bit higher than one expects, it is a good idea to shop around and negotiate with the owners before signing a rental contract.
A reader (we will call him Dave for this article) recently asked my wife and me to help him negotiate a better price for a rental.
Dave is currently paying $350.00 for a large unfurnished apartment, but he found a new apt. that better suits his needs and tastes.
The only problem is that this new apartment is being offered for $600.00 per month, almost twice what Dave currently pays.
Dave had the feeling that the owner was asking too much, that perhaps this was a case of “gringo price gouging”. I told Dave that while the price did seem high that he should not expect the owner to lower the price very much.
We made an appointment to meet Dave and the owner to tour the apartment and chat about pricing and contract details.
After talking and negotiating for the better part of an hour the owner agreed to make some additions to the apartment to suit Dave´s needs and she even lowered her price to $550.00 in order to seal the deal.
The owner realized that she had quality renters on her hands and did not want to lose the opportunity to rent to them. Although a $50.00 price reduction may not sound like much, over the course of the contract Dave will save $1,200 on this rental, so his negotiating efforts did pay off.
The apartment that Dave and his wife will be renting is one of the nicest we have seen in Cuenca and it has all of the standard features that most expats want:
- a large balcony
- a spacious open floor plan with a lot of natural light
- an elevator
- 24 hour guard
- secure parking
- green space
- beautiful views of the river just across the street and
- convenient to shopping and transportation.
Also, Dave was able to negotiate a two-year contract, so he can live in comfort knowing that his rent will be stable and he will not have to move for the next two years. I think that it is worth noting that Dave and his wife have lived in Ecuador for two years.
They are not starry-eyed new arrivals who are willing to pay just any price for a rental. They have rented other less expensive apartments in Cuenca and have come to realize that to get what they really want in a rental they will have to pay more.
However, Dave wisely did not accept the first price he was quoted but worked to negotiate a fair contract that was within his economic means. Even though Dave will be paying $200 per month more for this new place, he admitted that his other apartment is in an area where the noise is, to quote Dave, “unbearable”.
He also pointed out that his current landlord is uncooperative and hard to deal with. So while Dave will be paying more rent for this new apartment, he is apparently getting much more for his money.
As we all know we get what we pay for and it is important to compare apples to apples when determining whether a certain rental is a good or bad deal.
Of course, there are many expats (like us, we pay $250.00) who are paying much less for rentals than Dave, but where are these cheaper rentals located, what is the age of the property, are there hidden problems with the rental, is the landlord easy to deal with, is there excessive noise in the neighborhood and is the neighborhood secure?
These are all factors that determine the amount of rent one can expect to pay in Cuenca.
In the end, Dave and his wife are happy with their new rental and the landlord is also content to have found quality renters who will take good care of her investment. Dave thanked us profusely for our negotiating help and was happy to have saved $1,200 on the two rental contract.
So, the question is: Are expats paying too much for rentals? Some probably are, but others like Dave are willing to negotiate and take their time to find the place they really want. I think that if we all do our homework and shop around we can find rentals that are priced according to market value and avoid paying special “gringo” pricing.
This is a post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
How Easy is it to Rent Apartments / Houses With Pets?
A reader recently asked: We have 3 small dogs terriers and 2 cats. How easy is it to rent apartments and houses in Ecuador with pets?
It's a great question. When we bought our daughter her dog, we were a little concerned if the landlord would allow it in the apartment.
Well, he didn't care. Neither did our second apartment landlord or our third house landlord. They loved to pet the dog – at least the second landlady – but they weren't concerned in the least.
In fact, we have friends who were renting an apartment, and their upstairs neighbor's dogs were dropping bombs all over the common parking area – and the landlady didn't even mind that. It got bad enough that they had to break the contract and move somewhere else.
So, it seems that, if anything, the landlords here in Cuenca border on being too lenient about pets – certainly not too strict. We have friends with pets who rent, and who've lived in a number of different homes and never had any trouble with the landlords.
In Canada, that's a common landlord question: Any pets? But we've never been asked. The culture is much more laid back, much less up-tight than Canada.
Our experience has been with unfurnished homes. If I was renting a furnished place, I wouldn't allow pets, but I don't have experience here with furnished rentals. I'm sure that there are always exceptions, but if you have pets, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a great place to live here in Cuenca.
Learn more about Ecuador real estate.