Cuenca, Ecuador. It wasn’t that long ago that almost no one had ever heard of this colonial city nested in the Andes mountain range. Today Cuenca is one of the hottest expat destinations on the planet.
It is amazing this hidden gem stayed under the radar for so long. A UNESCO World Heritage city with over a half million residents, Cuenca boasts beautifully preserved architecture and cobblestone streets along with a low cost of living, temperate climate, excellent medical facilities, and a kaleidoscope of cultural activities.
Many would-be expats dream from afar of living in the downtown historic district in a restored apartment with high ceilings and old wood floors. Perhaps enjoying a morning coffee from a plant-filled terrace overlooking Parque Calderon, Cuenca’s central square.
Such ”dream” residences are extremely scarce as most downtown apartments aren’t in good condition and need massive remodeling. The noise, traffic, and pollution have also sent many a potential dweller searching elsewhere.
So where do expats live in Cuenca? Not in gated communities like those found in other parts of Ecuador and beyond. Expats indeed are scattered everywhere throughout the city, although more are clustered in specific neighborhoods (barrios in Spanish) of New Town, the modern area outside the historic district.
By far the greatest concentration of expats lives in the mid- to high-rise condo towers flanking Ordonez Lasso Avenue. So many, in fact, that the area is nicknamed ”Gringolandia.” Why here? Two major reasons: The sheer number of units mean there is always more inventory available. And many seek the security of being around people of their own nationality, especially when first getting settled.
Another popular area is El Vergel/Stadium. This was Cuenca‘s first suburb, and today it offers an appealing mixture of stately old homes and brand new mid-rise condos. While only a 20-minute walk to Parque Calderon in the middle of downtown, the neighborhood has two small malls, a multiplex, modern supermarket, shopping, and a dazzling array of dining options.
An increasingly up and coming part of town is Primero de Mayo. Many new condo buildings line the Yanuncay River and expats enjoy the combination of the tranquil setting and proximity to the city’s major mall and other conveniences.
If Cuenca appeals to you, then it’s worth your while to plan a visit because now is a terrific time to consider a real estate investment there. After seven years of steady appreciation, real estate throughout Ecuador has entered a ”cooling off” period. No one believes the current situation is a long-term concern so it’s now a buyer’s market.
Just a few blocks from Parque Calderon and a half block from the nearly completed light rail line, you’ll find a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. It’s a ground floor unit with almost 1,400 square feet of well-distributed floor space and the price is $85,000.
Right outside El Vergel is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo across from the Yanuncay River with heated floors in the bedrooms and living room plus parking and storage. It’s on the market for $98,000.
Looking for more room? How about this 1,800 square foot condo with three bedrooms and three bathrooms that’s close to malls, a supermarket, and the bus line. The unit has a small terrace and the building features 24 hour security. The asking price is $118,000.
If the sky’s the limit, I found a three-story penthouse. Four bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths, almost 4,300 square feet. Six terraces and a greenhouse—360 degree views of the city, rivers, and mountains—high-end everything. This residence, priced at $495,000, is the definition of ”living large!”
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