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Expat Exchange - How to Buy a Home in Ecuador
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Vilcabamba, Ecuador

How to Buy a Home in Ecuador

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: Seasoned expatriates recommend a cautious approach to newcomers eager to settle down—avoid the rush to purchase property upon arrival. Instead, consider the benefits of renting in Ecuador during your initial months. This strategy allows you the flexibility to explore various neighborhoods and truly decide if the local lifestyle aligns with your long-term expectations. Once you've acclimated and are certain that Ecuador is your future home, here are tips on how to buy a home in Ecuador.

Buying a home in Ecuador can be an exciting prospect for expats, offering the opportunity to live in a country known for its rich culture, diverse landscapes, and affordable cost of living. However, navigating the real estate market in a foreign country can be challenging. This guide aims to provide essential information for expats considering buying a home in Ecuador, covering key topics such as finding properties, understanding ownership restrictions, understanding the role of brokers and lawyers, and more.

How Do I Find Houses for Sale in Ecuador?

There are several ways to find houses for sale in Ecuador. Online property portals and real estate websites are a good starting point, offering listings from across the country. Local newspapers and real estate magazines also feature property listings. Working with a local real estate agent can be beneficial as they have in-depth knowledge of the market and can help you find properties that match your criteria.

Are There Restrictions on Foreigners Owning Property in Ecuador?

Foreigners have the same rights as Ecuadorian citizens when it comes to buying and owning property in Ecuador. There are no restrictions based on nationality. However, there are restrictions on buying property in certain areas, such as those near borders and coastal zones, for security reasons. It's possible to get around these restrictions by setting up an Ecuadorian corporation to purchase the property, but this should be done with the help of a lawyer to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

Does Ecuador Have an MLS Type System?

Ecuador does not have a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) like in the United States. This means that real estate agents do not share listings with each other. Each agent or agency has its own unique listings, so it's a good idea to work with multiple agents or check various websites to get a comprehensive view of the market.

Do Brokers Have Licenses and How Do I Know if They are Licensed?

Real estate brokers in Ecuador are required to have a professional license issued by the Ecuadorian Real Estate Federation (FEDEINMO). You can ask to see their license or check their registration on the FEDEINMO website. It's important to work with a licensed broker to ensure that all transactions are conducted legally and ethically.

What Documents are Required When Buying a Home?

When buying a home in Ecuador, you will need your passport, a purchase agreement detailing the terms of the sale, a notarized deed of sale, and proof of payment. The property must also have a municipal property tax payment receipt and a certificate from the Property Registry showing that the property is free of liens and encumbrances.

Do I Need a Lawyer When Buying a Home in Ecuador?

It's highly recommended to hire a lawyer when buying a home in Ecuador. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal process, ensure all documents are in order, and protect your interests. Legal fees can vary, but typically range from 1% to 3% of the property's purchase price.

Do People Typically Buy a Property with All Cash or Take Out a Mortgage?

While some people do buy property in Ecuador with cash, mortgages are also available. However, interest rates can be high, and the process can be complex for foreigners. It's important to thoroughly research your options and consider seeking advice from a financial advisor.

Are There Inspections That Take Place, and If So What is That Process Like?

Property inspections are not as common in Ecuador as in some other countries, but they are highly recommended. An inspection can reveal potential issues with the property that may not be immediately apparent. You can hire a professional inspector or ask your real estate agent to arrange one.

What are Some of the Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying Property in Ecuador?

Some common pitfalls to avoid when buying property in Ecuador include not thoroughly researching the property, not understanding the full cost of ownership (including taxes and maintenance), and not seeking legal advice. It's also important to be aware of potential issues with property titles and to ensure that the property is free of liens and encumbrances before making a purchase.

Expats Talk about Real Estate in Ecuador

"Take your time to look around and if you find something that just jumps out at you take it. You will know if it feels right. Don't wait as if you do when you go back it will probably be gone. If you are looking and coming back to live here at a later date you can always rent it out to other expats. Rentals are in short demand for expats here in Cuenca," said one expat living in Cuenca.

"Come visit first, stay in a travelers hostel if you want to meet people, doesn't matter your age...see where you want to live, then check the local paper to find rental listings..," wrote a member in Quito.

"THis process esp with minimal Spanish is NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, trust me. I have struggled at times and have lived before out of the United States in South America. Visit, do your homework, trust that you will be taken advantage of (as I have several times with trusted Ecuadorians) and you REALLY have to WANT TO MOVE HERE sometimes to simply stay here. I am overall happy with my move/immigration to Ecuador but it is tough and challenging esp as a soltera at times, very tough," commented one expat who made the move to Quito.

"Be open minded, flexible and leave over exaggerated expectations in your mother country. You are moving into a foreign country for a reason - don't bring your bad with you," remarked one expat living in Puerto Cayo.

"Pick out 2 or 3 places and rent to live in each for 2 to 3 months. See if you really like the area, the locals, the activities, etc. Do not start looking for a house to buy until you are SURE where you want to live. We thought we wanted to live in a beach town and tried several but we found we did not like the climate nor the local vibe. We are happier living in a valley outside of Quito (did not like big city either, moving from Houston) and visiting the beach when we want," wrote one member in Ecuador.

"Try staying in an equivalent type structure you are considering. For example, if you want a condo in Bahia, stay at a condo in Bahia for a week, Minimum. A house in Cuenca? Rent one for a week. If you think the weekly rental price is too expensive, you'd better take a hard look at investing 75 to 100 times more than that. So, in actually, it pays to do it," commented one expat living in Ecuador.

"Yes, there is a MLS Service in Ecuador. Although it may show 50% of what is available. Some houses will just have a sign in the window. Just remember that a broker may know about half of what is out there and you'll need locals and natives for the other 50%," commented one expat living in Ecuador.

" Facebook local groups for house sales and rentals like Cuenca arriendo de casas or something like that. If you know what City, try googling Facebook groups + arrienda de casa + Manta, Ecuador or whatever town. The locals use social media, not mls," mentioned one expat living in Ecuador.

" We constructed some houses to sell in Tumbaco and Valle de los Chillos outside of Quito. Figuring out where to advertirse them has been a challenge. Facebook groups are where the Ecuadorians go for home rentals and sales. Also signage if you have a particular area and can drive or walk it," said an expat in Ecuador.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Vilcabamba, Ecuador

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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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