Okay, let’s say you’ve fallen in love with the big-city convenience of Quito, the colonial charm of Cuenca, the relaxing Pacific coast town of Salinas, or one of the other many interesting and distinct cities in Ecuador.
And now you’re itching to buy a house or an apartment and begin your expat life. Great decision! Ecuador is a beautiful country with diverse climates and friendly people. Affordable, too.
But don’t be too hasty with that new home purchase, because buying property in Ecuador, as in most Latin American countries, is not the same as in Canada or the U.S.
It’s not fraught with peril or undue risk, either, as long as you know what to expect and you’re armed with a little knowledge before you make such a major purchase.
You want your dream home to be a dream – not a nightmare!
What follows is a basic overview of how an expat can make a relatively stress-free purchase of a home in this enchanting country. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive, step-by-step guide, but something to prepare you upfront for some of what you’ll encounter.
First, and most importantly, hire an attorney, especially if you don’t speak fluent Spanish. A good real estate attorney will cost you a little, but what they might save you in money and anguish is worth it.
Working with a Real Estate Agent in Ecuador
“Couldn’t I just use a real estate agent?” you ask – that’s who takes care of the buying or selling of a property we’ve closed on back home. Yes, it’s possible to do that, but even the real estate agents I spoke with recommended getting legal help. Especially for expats.
Where a real estate agent proves his or her worth is in helping you to not overpay for your house or apartment. Overpay?
What about the MLS, doesn’t that database give you comps of similar, nearby property to arrive at FMV (fair market value)?
“Unfortunately, there is no MLS in Ecuador,” says Edgar Gonzales, owner and broker of Inmobiliaria Austro Ventas in Cuenca.
How then does one arrive at the value of a house or apartment in that country?
“A good agent must know the different areas and what property has sold for there recently,” says Sr. Gonzales. “It comes from experience.” He added, “The real estate companies all keep their sales and information escondido (hidden) so there is nothing cooperative like the MLS database. We are trying to form one, but it is not here yet.”
You’ll want to ask native citizens and other expats for recommendations for a good realtor that they have worked with personally. Once you’ve settled on an agent, they can recommend two or three attorneys for your consideration.
Working with an Attorney in Ecuador
Once you have your dream home picked out, your real estate attorney goes to work for you.
“The attorney takes care of all necessary processes,” says Sara Chaca, attorney and owner of Ecuador Visas in Cuenca. “They will do a search to see that the title is clear, check for any debt in the municipalities (utilities), provide translation, pay the alcabala (transfer fee), pay the notario (public notary) fee, and all other steps in the closing.”
Ms. Chaca says, the major documents in the purchase transaction are:
- Certificado de Gravamenes (checks for any liens on the property in question)
- Certificado del Historial de la Propiedad (details all past transactions with the property)
- Certificado de Registro de Propiedad Actualizado (certifies that the property is correctly registered with the local municipality)
- Notario de Compraventa – (pays the notary public)
For completing all the above, an attorney will charge a flat fee, which can differ. So check around to see what a customary fee range is in the specific area where you want to live.
Finally, a bonus of buying a property (for $25,000 or more) in Ecuador is that you instantly satisfy the requirements for a residency visa. Once you have the visa and your dream home, you’ll be able to kick back and enjoy your new life as a homeowner and expat in Ecuador.
I invite you to share any experiences – good or (hopefully, not!) bad – you’ve had in purchasing a property in Ecuador or share what is the dream home you are looking for in your expat destination.
by: Bruce Peterson