Latin America

Cuenca Ecuador Real Estate Update: Still a Great Value

We launched the Luxury Latin America blog way back in 2007. A few years later we published an article on an up-and-coming city in South America that we kept hearing a lot about in living abroad publications: Cuenca, Ecuador. Real Estate in Cuenca seemed like an unbelievably good value and retirees from the USA and Canada were arriving in a steady stream, thrilled with what they were getting for their money.

Cuenca Ecuador real estate

Usually a great bargain doesn’t last, especially for real estate. Opportunists swoop in, wealthier buyers start driving up prices, and the whole market goes more upscale every year. We’ve seen this pattern in Latin America plenty of times, from San Miguel de Allende to Placencia to Cartagena. A place where retirees went to stretch their dollars turns into a playground for the wealthy, with the difference in prices compared to the USA narrowing over time.

That’s not always a bad thing since the potential for appreciation goes up as prices do, as long as you have enough money to get in the door in the first place. With Cuenca, however, the city has defied the trend and remained a very affordable place to buy property. Many years later we wrote a follow-up article, basically saying, “This city is certainly not a secret anymore, but there are still terrific real estate deals.”

Sure, prices have gone up from the times when you could buy a big house in the historic center for less than $100K, but they haven’t gone up nearly as much as the corresponding rises in the USA and Canada. If the price per square foot ratio was 1 to 4 compared to the U.S. average two decades ago, it may even be be 1 to 5 now, more if you compare it to cities in California.

When one of our correspondents turned in our recent story on luxury living in Cuenca, I had to do extra fact-checking to make sure the numbers I was seeing were correct. They looked too low to be real. Then the story got even better. Right after the story posted, my writer sent me this note:

Liliana shared that they ended up selling the house in Challuabamba for $250k, so it looks like there’s a fair amount of wiggle room regarding the price for motivated sellers.

This was a house that was listed for $299K and it was certainly not small. It had 390.5 square meters of land and 281.5 square meters of built area (that’s more than 3,000 square feet of living space). The house had three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and ample parking for multiple cars.

real estate cuenca ecuador

What can you get in your city these days for that sale price? A lot with nothing on it maybe? A studio condo?

Why Live in Cuenca?

If you’re looking to retire to a nice year-round climate, downsize and slow down, or invest in a location that’s stable, Cuenca, Ecuador ticks off a lot of the right boxes. Its high elevation means that it never gets very hot and you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes.

This is a real city of more than a half million though, so you’ve got good health care options, plenty of culture, and good restaurants. The city tram system has made it much easier to get around without facing traffic. This city presents another aspect that’s rare in many countries too: drinkable tap water.

In other words, a civilized place where the infrastructure is good and you don’t have much to worry about. If you do start to feel some stress, you can head into the mountains and go exploring the countryside. Or drive a longer distance and warm up at the beach.

Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, so you never need to worry about what the exchange rate it and the price of what you’re buying won’t go up because or some obscure macroeconomic changes. Budgeting is easy and no conversions necessary on taxes or HOA fees. (Those taxes and fees are universally low, by the way, once you’re living there and paying regular expenses.)

real estate in Cuenca

Great House and Apartment Deals in Cuenca

We write about luxury real estate opportunities in Latin America, so we’re not covering the low end of the market. You’d think we were by looking at the prices though from properties we used as examples in our story.

Our correspondent interviewed agents at two companies and went out to look at several properties. They ranged from $223,000 to $750,000. That last one was about as high as it goes currently. When checking multiple real estate sites, I couldn’t find any single-family property topping a million dollars. Compare that to many cities in the USA—or even Los Cabos—where that’s now a starting point for something in a prime area.

The closest I could find to a million on the Remax  Destiny Cuenca site was a listing of 8,000 square feet with just shy of that with six bedrooms and parking for 10 on nearly an acre of land. One architect’s home going for $600,000 looks like something that should be on the cover of a design magazine.

You can go full-on Spanish Colonial in the center if you’d like and be able to walk to everything. Or you can go full-on minimalist modern in a penthouse condo that wouldn’t be out of place in Toronto or New York.

If you’re downsizing and just want a great apartment with a view in a building with 24/7 security, a pool, a gym, and more, then you probably only need a fraction of the equity you’d get from selling what you have now. Use the rest for vacations. If you’re retirement age, you even get a big discount on flights!

We’ve been covering real estate in Latin America for 17 years now and I can’t think of another city that offers so much for so little. If you’re retiring, working remotely, or looking for good investment opportunities, put this city in Ecuador on your list.

See the full feature story in our online magazine. Luxury Living in Cuenca, Ecuador: Real Estate for Expats and Investors

Article by Timothy

Timothy Scott is the founder and editor of Luxury Latin America and has been covering the region as a travel journalist since the mid-2000s. He has visited each country we cover multiple times and is based in a UNESCO World Heritage city in central Mexico, where he owns a home. See contact information here.

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