Name your price
But we spent
most of the trip looking at real estate. The depression here is compounded
by high interest rates (75 percent to borrow sucres and 20 percent on
dollar loans), so anyone with cash can just about name his price. Brokers
told us you can expect to reduce the asking price by 40 percent to 50 percent
if you have a little time to spend negotiating and offer cash. The Villa
Balsamaragua villas, overlooking the sea, are the ones I referred to in
the first paragraph.
Built on a
hilltop, they have a panoramic view of the nearby fishing village of Crucita,
miles of empty beach below, and the great Pacific Ocean out to the horizon.
Unlike many oceanfront projects, where the infrastructure is spare and
the utilities primitive, this one is well-suited to our Western needs.
The developer, Jorge Loor (who lived for a year in Seattle as an exchange
student) has put in modern utilities. Twenty-four lots (15 of them
sold) have underground electricity, phone and water services, and paved
roads. Plans are drawn for 72 more lots plus a hotel and restaurant. This
infrastructure has raised prices a bit, but the villas still sell for as
low as $35,000.
are available (all white Moroccan style and all freestanding). The
is about 1,300 square feet and lists for $35,000; the “Venturi” is 1,600
square feet and lists for $38,000; and the “Marrakesh” is over 2,000
square feet and lists for $50,000. These prices include the land. Asking
prices for lots sold separately run from $3,800 (about 2,700 square
feet) to $5,200 (for about 3,300 square feet). Eating well and
living cheap Crucita, the nearby town, is a rustic settlement spread along
the beach. (One reader in our group said it reminded her of Puerta Vallarta,
Mexico, 40 years ago.) This area will appeal to those who want a simple,
fairly remote (the nearest city of any size, Manta, is 30 minutes away),
natural life with an easygoing pace. You can fly daily from Quito to Manta
for $46 (a 20-minute flight). Prices in town are low. For example,
I picked up the menu from Restaurant Las Gaviotas. Fishermen supply fresh-caught
seafood each day. You’ll find nothing fancy here, just lots of plain, fresh
food. The fried-fish dinner is $1.27, the stuffed-shrimp dinner $2.27,
lobster with garlic $4.54, and grilled chicken $1.54. A hearty breakfast
of eggs, toast, juice, and coffee or tea is $1.18. This menu is for the
locals. You can be sure you’ll have rice, fried bananas, or potatoes and
beans and plentiful portions.
of the Villa Balsamaragua project admits he is in financial trouble
has missed a loan payment) and has reduced his prices by 50 percent
to create cash flow. I talked to his banker, who assured me that the developer
is well-known and a reputable member of the community. The bank is
not foreclosing. Buyers should, however, proceed with caution. Be sure
the lot you buy is freed from the loan before you pay for it. In addition,
I suggest you engage a real-estate broker and an attorney to make sure
you get clear title and to assure that the closing does not take months.
So many Ecuadorians are having financial difficulties right now that you
need to take extra precautions. Even the banks are unstable. Twenty minutes
north of Villa Balsamaragua, we visited a more primitive village on the
coast and found beachfront lots with no infrastructure selling for practically
nothing. Much of the land is on offer for as little as 15 cents a square
foot. One 10-acre property with a large beach (and a hill offering sea
views) is for sale by a government ministry for less than $50,000.
Several small, 4,000- and 5,000-square-foot beachfront lots are selling
for between $2,500 and $4,000. We found a very special, 1-acre lot full
of coconut palms on a large, completely private beach with a primitive
house - on offer for only $16,000. (It sold for $14,000.)
This area will appeal to the person who really wants to get away, doesn’t
mind sandy roads, likes to spend time with the natives, and isn’t too upset
when the electricity doesn’t work for a few days at a time.
in developed Manta
If you’re looking
for more infrastructure, consider the city of Manta, a major seaport with
a population of about 100,000. Manta is well-situated at the middle of
the Ecuadorian coast, and a new American military base is being built there.
This base could stimulate the economy and create rental possibilities for
investors. The city has many First World facilities. Our group stayed
at the five-star Oro Verde Hotel, which is the finest on the coast. In
Manta, we looked at more refined properties than those we saw elsewhere
on the coast - but found higher asking prices. One condo in a dramatic
Mediterranean building hung out over the beach and had a swimming pool
with a beautiful sea view. (It would be a perfect place to enjoy a barbecue
and a fabulous sunset.) You could walk along the broad beach back to
the hotel. This three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath condo has excellent water panoramas
and is accessed by a glass sea-view elevator. The asking price was $70,000,
but the broker came down to $59,000 almost immediately. We also looked
at a one-bedroom studio next to our hotel, in the center of town. This
small apartment had a large, marble-floored, glassed-in front porch with
wrap-around ocean views. In need of decorating, but with good fundamentals,
this fixer-upper has a $15,000 price tag.
the Oro Verde Hotel are luxury ocean-view apartments. These brand-new,
top-of-the-line properties come with access to all of the hotel amenities,
including a swimming pool, a complete gym, a steam room, and a sauna. Fully
furnished, one-bedroom, two-bath suites of about 1,200 square feet are
on offer for $140,000. In the same complex are magnificent upper-story
condos measuring nearly 3,000 square feet with three bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms,
and maid’s quarters, listed for $244,000. When the broker and I showed
our astonishment at the high prices, the sales manager dropped them 20
percent on the spot. The broker told me later it looked as if no apartments
had been sold since they were first offered for sale in June. He thought
you could shave at least another 20 percent off the price to pay about
$84,000 for the studios and $146,000 for the condos.
spring, affordable buys
Back in Quito,
discovered all sorts of attractive, well-equipped properties ideal if you
prefer city life. A modern, four-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath house in Quito’s
most popular suburban valley has a large porch with mountain views and
a small creek at the back of the sizable, terraced yard. This house comes
with an alarm system, a modern kitchen with views, a large dining room,
a tiled roof, post and beam construction, and charming architectural details.
The owner was asking $69,000 when we first arrived in Ecua-dor, but he
dropped the price by $10,000 before we left.
numerous brand-new condos, all with outstanding views, hardwood floors,
and lots of tile, marble, and exquisite woodwork. Prices range from
$40,000 (asking) for an attractive one-bedroom unit to $73,000 (asking)
for a three-bedroom one with 2 1/2-baths near the largest, most modern
shopping mall/cinema/restaurant complex in town. Expect to buy them for
for $15 a square foot
If you’re in
the market for something uniquely Ecuadorian, you’ll love the all-natural
homes designed and built by a group of architects based in Quito. (They’ll
build this style home for you anywhere in the country.) The building
(including the design) is only about $15 per square foot.
I was so impressed that I hired the architects myself to build a 2,000-square-foot,
three-bedroom house with three step-down fireplace areas, a Turkish bath
and a pool at our plantation. “You are remote,” they told me, “so
this might cost a little more than $30,000, but not much more!” Clearly,
Ecuador is a contrarian pick right now. But depressions don’t last forever.
So if you’re not averse to the risk...and the wait...the time to act (and
to buy) is now.
Get in touch
with any of these contacts who met with our IL readers in Ecuador on our
recent Discovery Tour. They will be pleased to help you take advantage
of opportunities on offer throughout the country.
Loor, Villa Balsamaragua, P.O. Box 220, Portoviejo, Manabi, Ecuador;
tel. (593)9-946941, fax 5-635-633, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jorge (George) is the developer of this project.
Haugan, Leonidas Plaza #353 y Roca, Quito, Ecuador; tel. (593)2-504977,
Fax 2-504977, E-mail: email@example.com.
Look for the real-estate or relocation service. Kjetil is a Norwegian who
has lived in Ecuador for the past five years. He is a real-estate broker
who helped us inspect most of the property we saw and has extensive listings.
He recently placed an ad to list locals’ properties, expecting about 40
replies. He received over 400 calls! He can help you buy property in the
Andes or on the sea, including at Villa Balsamaragua. He has been one of
the most responsive contacts I have found in Ecuador.
Pilar Endara and Cecilia Manciati, Calle 14, no. 1106 y Av. 11, Manta,
Ecuador; tel. (593)5-623603, cell 9-872148, fax 5-626110. These are
two real-estate brokers with extensive listings in Manta, including the
Mediterranean condo overlooking the sea. (They speak very little English.)
Baca, Hosteria San Mateo, Km. 75 Via Latacinga, Ecuador; tel. (593)3-719471,
fax 2-465504, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sr. Baca is the owner of a charming hosteria about 40 miles south of Quito.
He is looking for a partner so he can expand. This offers a business opportunity
with very interesting U.S. tax consequences.
Felipe, Nagel & Goldstein, 2601 S. Bayshore Drive., Suite 1136,
Miami, FL 33133; tel. (305)860-3868, fax 860-3867, E-mail: email@example.com.
Marcell is a U.S. tax attorney who spoke to our IL group about the tax
benefits of having an active business not based in the United States, especially
one with a non-U.S. partner.
• Dr. Andres
Cordova, Estudio Juridicio Cordova y Asociados, La Pradera 412 y San
Salvador, P.O. Box 17-01-3170, Quito, Ecuador; tel. (593)2-500-343 or 552-920
or 548-632, fax (593)2-524-225. Dr. Cordova is a well-connected attorney
(his grandfather was President of Ecuador) who can help in the conveyance
of land. He is handling several closings at Villa Balsamaragua on the coast
and consequently offers a lowered price for closing on this project.
Acosta, Barro Viejo, Arquitectura en Tierra, Via a Cununyacu, 7ma Tranev,
Tumbaco, Ecuador; tel. (593)2-374-258. The architects do beautiful work,
but they speak little English.