At International Living, we always recommend that you rent before you buy. Before you plunk down money on a house or condo in a new place, stay awhile and see if it suits your needs.

You can start your search for a rental on the Internet. You’ll find plenty of websites out there; but most promote short-term vacation rentals in touristy locations, so prices can be high.

Sometimes, real estate agents offer rental properties. But not often. Rental management is a time-consuming and low-commission business.

The classified section of the websites of local newspapers is also a good source (especially to get a feel for prices). But unless you speak the language fluently, we wouldn’t recommend a lot of email back and forth until just before your visit. Never send money to reserve an unseen rental site—too many things can go wrong.

It’s better to start your search once you’ve arrived. Book a hotel or guesthouse for a few days, then explore. Decide what neighborhood you want to live in and what type of accommodation you need (house or apartment, number of bedrooms, swimming pool, or other specifications).

One of the most effective strategies for finding a good rental (and most adventurous, depending on your level of Spanish) is simply to stroll the area you find most attractive and look for Se Renta or Se Arrienda (“for rent”) signs and call the telephone numbers on them.

That’s how Edd and Cynthia Staton found their gorgeous 3,000-square-foot penthouse apartment. Edd says, “We were struggling to find a suitable residence when one day we spotted a hand-written sign taped in the window of a nondescript building. When the landlord showed us the place we were blown away and immediately signed a long term lease. Five years later we still love our wonderful home!”

Be sure to network with expats and locals and ask them if they know of places for rent. Most sizeable cities have well-known expat meeting places where you’ll often find community bulletin boards posted with real estate ads, ride-share notes, and more.

Once you’ve found the place you want, it’s important to do a thorough inspection. Make sure you’re not stuck with any and all problems with floors, doors, windows, electrical fixtures, or appliances. Keep in mind that most rentals come unfurnished, which not only means no furniture, but no kitchen appliances, so plan this extra expense item into your budget.

Then talk price, and never be afraid to negotiate. You’ll probably be asked for a deposit and first and/or last month’s rent payment. This can be negotiated, too – especially payment terms, if you can’t come up with all of it at once. Getting a written contract for the length of your stay is recommended. Have the document translated if you don’t speak fluent Spanish. It’s a good idea to have an attorney (independent from the landlord’s attorney) look it over on your behalf. Understand your rights and obligations and voice any concerns. (Make sure you know who is responsible for paying utility, phone, internet, and cable TV bills—usually that burden falls to the renter.)

Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, move in, unpack, and start enjoying your new home!

Here are some examples of rentals available around Ecuador

  • Cotacachi: A two-bedroom brick house in a small private gated community. The house includes amenities such as fireplaces, wood-beamed ceilings, and an expertly landscaped yard. The center of town is just a 10-minute walk away. Rent: $600 a month.
  • Quito: A fully furnished, one-bedroom studio on the coveted Amazonas Avenue. The apartment comes with internet and cable TV and is close to shopping centers, restaurants, banks, and other commercial ventures. Rent: $750 a month.
  • Cuenca: A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo located near the Coliseum and Avenida de las Americas. Views include the nearby Caja Mountains. The secure building comes with elevator, parking space, and lots of storage. Rent: $450 a month.
  • Manta: A one-bedroom suite in a condo building located right on the beach. The property comes with pool and gym access along with internet and cable. There’s a private balcony, elevator, and sweeping ocean views are included. It’s close to dining and shopping and round-the-clock public transportation. Rent: $730 a month..