Our High-Spec Ecuador Penthouse Cost $500,000 Less Than it Would in the U.S.

Ecuador had been on our radar as a potential home overseas for a while… My wife Barbara and I had read articles in International living about it, but a chance encounter with a lady who’d lived in Cuenca pushed us over the edge.

Multiple trips to Ecuador later—including an IL conference in Quito—we did some serious soul searching. We’d sold our home in the Palm Springs area, moved back to our beachfront home in California, and were ready to make that step to part-time living in another country.

We decided to focus our search for our Ecuador home in Cuenca. It’s a manageable-sized city, with good infrastructure, a friendly local population, and a well-developed cultural scene. The fact that there was a significant population of gringos meant that we could also count on a “soft landing.”

Our real estate search there covered the whole gamut of properties, but we finally fell for a condo on the southern outskirts of the city directly across the street from the Yanuncay river in a good neighborhood.

We made a final offer on the condo before returning to the U.S. which was accepted right away.

It’s a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom penthouse with a modern kitchen, large living/dining area, and an inside laundry room (a luxury in Ecuador). We also have a covered parking space. All appliances and fixtures are in good condition and top of the line. From our wraparound terrace we have views ranging from the Turi hilltop lookout, to the cathedral domes in El Centro, and down the Rio Yanuncay, with its linear park laid out below us.

We have many tiendas (small stores), larger stores, and restaurants within easy walking distance, and no problem finding taxis when we want to go to El Centro or the local malls. There’s fiber optic internet service so we can subscribe to a choice of cable or satellite TV. As the building has its own LP gas supply and hot water boiler, we don’t have to worry about exchanging propane tanks.

While the unit was “move-in” ready, we chose to make some upgrades. We removed the Pergo flooring, replacing it with the Ecuadorian equivalent of natural red oak wood flooring, upgraded sinks in the master bathroom and kitchen, and installed a storage cabinet in the laundry room. We contracted with a local company for custom-made furniture for all rooms and purchased appliances (washer, dryer, microwave, and TVs) from local suppliers at very reasonable prices.

So, what did all this cost? The real estate purchase was $150,000 plus approximately $5,000 for legal expenses, commissions, etc. The total cost for the upgrades, technology, furniture, and appliance purchases was $50,000. By Ecuadorian standards, this was an expensive transaction at a total of around $200,000. However, by comparison with where we live in Southern California, this was a bargain. Comparable properties near a green belt at the edge of a major U.S. city would cost in the range of $750,000. Our property taxes are less than $100 a year. Condo fees are approximately $100 to $125 a month. Other utilities (electricity, internet, TV service) are in the range of $80 a month.

We now split our time between Ecuador and California, renting out the Cuenca property when we are not there. The place was rented out for half the year, within two weeks of our agent showing it. At the average rental rate for this type of property, we will net at least $300 a month. We feel this will be enough to pay our basic costs of living there for six months of the year when accumulated in a bank account.

We have found our home-away-from-home in Cuenca.

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