Cuenca Ecuador

Back in 2010 we wrote about Cuenca luxury real estate and although the word was getting out at that point, only those who read publications like International Living were really hearing much about it. Then the bandwagon press machine started up in earnest and the city got mentioned as a retirement hotspot in magazines and newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

So retiring to Cuenca, Ecuador is no longer some obscure, rash thing to do. You can hang out with plenty of other gringos there if you want and find a home through a realtor who speaks perfect English. But does that mean it’s overdone, that it has turned into another San Miguel de Allende or Ajijic?

No, and that’s probably never going to happen because Cuenca is a much bigger, more industrial city. Counting the suburbs, close to half a million people live there. Number of expatriates? Somewhere around 4,500 right now. In other words, they make up around 1 percent of the population.

They’re a one percent with more money to spend, for sure, so there is some marginal pressure on prices at the high end. Still, as I point out in the article I wrote after spending time there and talking to locals, “higher prices” are a relative term in Ecuador. I could only find one listing priced above half a million. What you get for that is pretty astounding: a seven–bedroom, five–bath house of nearly 10,000 square feet, with an indoor swimming pool, a chef’s kitchen with high–end appliances, and two roof decks with amazing views.

Yes, prices have risen 6-10% for several years. But in general, you can get a home in great shape or a condo built to your specifications from between $80 and $120 a square foot, plus it’s very easy to get custom made furniture and cabinets. With the cost of domestic help so low, few expatriates clean their own house or do their own lawn and garden upkeep. Many investors here take the proceeds from a very average home or apartment in the U.S. or Canada and buy a real showpiece here. For many that means a large penthouse with high-end appliances and a terrific view of the Andes Mountains.

Ecuador also makes it relatively easy to get a residency permit and once you do, you get great discounts on a lot of expenses, including flights within and out of the country. So your dollars (and they do use U.S. dollars) go even further.

See our full feature story on luxury real estate in Cuenca.