I’m addicted to House Hunters International. I used to spend hours watching people pick out their dream homes in exotic locations at a fraction of the cost of living in the States, never realizing that one day I would be one of them.
Now, as I sip coffee while sitting by my fireplace, in my new home overlooking downtown Cuenca, I wonder how I could be so lucky to live in this attractive, 2,200-square-foot, wood-beamed home nestled in the Andes mountains, where I can curl up by a warm fire at night, but still wear short sleeves during the day.
After living and renting in Cuenca for three years, my husband, Rowland, and I decided to sell our Florida house near the Gulf of Mexico and buy in our new homeland. We purchased the house for $148,000 (the list price was reduced by $20,000 for paying cash) because it checked virtually every box of our dream home wishes: majestic mountain views, a lengthy nature trail on the river to walk our four dogs, and walking distance to stores and restaurants.
Located in the upscale neighborhood of Remigio Crespo, our house was a great investment which could be easily rented if we ever want to pull up roots. But I doubt it’s something we’ll do. As Rowland, who loves our new home says, “The only way I’ll ever leave this house is in a body bag.”
Our three-bedroom, three-bathroom home has two living rooms (one with a fireplace), both with stunning downtown views, a large loft overlooking the Yanuncay River walking trail, two sun porches, a maid’s quarter, and a large garden with rose bushes, blue mums, and lilies as tall as Jack’s beanstalk. Our Spanish-colonial infused home has baked red-clay tiles downstairs and floor-to-ceiling picture windows with views of El Centro’s New Cathedral and its signature mosaic blue domes. The tongue and groove hardwood floors cover the rest of the three-stories, with original wood beams giving the house a feel of an old hunting lodge.
We pay $87 in property taxes, $1,000 a year for property insurance (including furnishings), but the best thing is the house came with a gardener ($20 twice a month) and a maid ($20 weekly for four hours). The house is big enough so we don’t get in each other’s way but small enough to be manageable. We don’t need air conditioning or heat, except for the occasional fire, so we pay $30 a month for our electric…as opposed to the costly $300 electric bills we had in Florida.
Because we work from home and end up being inside during working hours, our environment needed to not only fit our business needs (office space/internet/privacy) but be a place we actually wanted to spend the day. Our Cuenca home has double the living space of the Florida house…for the same amount of money. We also can walk out the door and catch a $3 taxi ride to virtually anywhere in town, or walk to a plethora of trendy restaurants, alleviating the need for a car.
Buying our house gave us a feeling of permanency…having roots made us feel more of a part of the community. Because of the low cost of labor, we’ve been able to invest in renovations we could have never afforded in the States. When we needed to replace the old steel pipes with newer PVC ones, the estimate came in at only $1,000 to totally replace our plumbing. It cost us $10,000 in the U.S. for the same renovation. We simply don’t have to worry that repairs will wipe out our savings.
We’re bad savers and undisciplined spenders, so we needed to diversify our cash into assets that couldn’t be spent at a checkout line. With our personal financial goal of being able to live on $1,700 a month total, we felt we had secured our financial future when we bought the house by freezing the most costly retirement expense…housing.
We no longer worry about counting pennies. No rent, no car, and no excessive electric bills have left us feeling something everyone in retirement should feel…at home and secure.