Cuenca is quickly becoming the retirement haven of choice for those who want to enjoy everything that life has to offer.
Cuenca's size, around 500,000 inhabitants, is just about perfect. It has a warm close-knit small town feel while at the same time providing you with amenities found in a big city. A common misconception among those who first hear about Cuenca is that all it has to offer is colonial style historic buildings, rivers, and parks. In reality Cuenca is very much a modern city with Malls, Theaters, Discotecs, an Airport, Supermarkets, and clean modern Hospitals. It also has Cable TV & Direct TV services with lots of English channels as well as high-speed DSL and Cable Internet. Due to its rich cultural heritage there are plenty of interesting things to see and do every day in Cuenca. There are many free symphonies, art shows, and cultural events occurring every week. There are also many outdoor activities such as Golf, fly-fishing, and horseback riding just to name a few. Local markets feature handmade arts, crafts, and jewelry in endless varieties.
One of the things that often surprises new arrivals is the cleanliness of the city. The municipality has hired cleaning crews to go around every day picking up trash and sweeping the streets and sidewalks. Cuenca is a very clean city even by western standards and has the added benefit of being smog free.
Cuenca's Ex-pat CommunityThose of us in the local Ex-Pat community are a diverse and eclectic group. We are retirees, middle aged, a few families with children, and even some young single folks. Among our ranks we have many people from the United States, Canada, England, Germany, and Australia. Some of us are adventurers, some are non-conformists, some are dreamers, some are explorers, some are trendsetters, some are investors, and some are entrepreneurs. We own some of the finest Restaurants, Bars, Internet cafes, Real Estate agencies, Shipping companies, Audio production businesses, Website and Graphic design firms, Mortgage Financing companies, Hotels, Construction companies, Coffee plantations, Whiskey distilleries, Bakeries, and Bookstores that Cuenca has to offer.
Over the last few years most of the people relocating to Cuenca have been from the United States but the word about Cuenca is starting to get out in Canada and we are now seeing more Canadian's arriving. Part of the reason for that is because the weather here in Cuenca is virtually irresistible to those Canadians who never want to see another winter again. Unlike American Ex-Pats who normally live here year round, Canadians are more likely to come to Cuenca to buy a vacation home or a "Vacation Condo" which they can use for several months out of the year to avoid the winter in Canada and also receive rental income during the months that they are not using the property. The Cuencano culture is similar to that of the Canadian culture in many ways; the people are calm, civilized, peaceful, and respectful of others. Those Canadians who are in favor of less visible, less intrusive government enjoy the breathing room provided by a society with less government oversight.
During the last four to five years about 3,000 Americans have expatriated to Ecuador and many more have visited. After seeing places along the coast and a maybe a quick stop in Vilcabamba most have decided to settle down in Cuenca for obvious reasons. Many who have visited will be coming back within the next few years when they retire finally retire.
As the United States continues its gradual slide downhill even the most optimistic of Americans are starting to be troubled about what they see in America's future. With AAA credit ratings one day and bankruptcies the next, even so called blue chip stocks are often a huge gamble. Many have decided to cash in their chips and are trading in their paper money for real physical assets. Some are even taking early retirement and some are cashing out their IRA's. Sophisticated investors are hedging their bets against a possible collapse of the U.S. banking system by investing in offshore Real Estate. Sometimes the smartest thing is knowing when its time to walk away from the table.
Although Ecuador currently uses the Dollar as its currency, the country has smoothly transitioned through currency changes in the past. Even as recently as the year 2000 Ecuador switched from the Sucre to the Dollar and it could easily adopt or create a new currency again. Cuenca's food and energy independence combined with the peaceful attitude of the locals ensures that there will be minimal inconveniences in the event that it becomes necessary to change currencies again.
We already know the problemThe skyrocketing cost of living all over the world combined with the ever diminishing buying power of pension funds and retirement accounts has crushed the hopes and dreams of millions of people. After a lifetime of hard work and following the advice of so called financial experts many people are realizing that they have been dealt an unfair hand. They may not understand the intricacies of the various wealth transfer mechanisms arrayed against them, nevertheless they feel the effects. All over the world inflation and other hidden forces have been secretly draining the wealth out of the middle class and redistributing it to the welfare class and to the rich. The truth, which most people know but are afraid to admit, is that the middle class is being phased out.
Right now we are living in an artificial reality where years of hard work and toil are stored as magnetic bits of information on computer hard drives. Only the first few people who disconnect from the Matrix will be able to transfer their virtual wealth into real tangible assets.
Many people have wasted precious time analyzing the train that's coming down the tracks towards them. As the train gets closer and closer they are able to read the numbers on the train and even start to make out the face of the conductor. Many of the people standing on the tracks have started arguing amongst themselves about which company owns the train and which entities control it. They have gotten stuck in a permanent state of analysis paralysis rather than taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and their families. Many with better vision can see the expression on the conductor's face and realize that it does not intend to stop but they still remain on the tracks as the train picks up speed.
Cuenca is a key part of the solutionThe prices in Cuenca are excellent. Brand new condominium units with breathtaking views are running from $70 to $90 per square foot in Cuenca's most desirable neighborhoods. The average condo fee is around $120.00 per month which includes elevator maintenance, 24 hour security guard service and insurance coverage. The cost of quality locally made furniture is so low that a two bedroom apartment can be elegantly furnished with everything brand new for as little as $6,000. Property taxes are also very low. We have not heard of anybody paying more than $300 in yearly property taxes and most people pay considerably less. In Cuenca clean reliable Electricity costs about 9 cents per Kilowatt-hour whereas the U.S. average is 12 cents.
For the average Ex-pat, moving to Cuenca has the same effect as if their income were instantly doubled; allowing them to live much better than they ever thought they could.
A small but ever increasing percentage of retirees are no longer willing to accept the level of so called "living" that their pensions and meager Social Security benefits afford them. They refuse to lower their standard of living just because government and big business have mismanaged their funds and they are not willing to continue slaving away in some job during their golden years. There are millions of people who are spinning their wheels and all the while just sinking further and further down financially. It is only a tiny fraction who have found the courage to forcefully take hold of the steering wheel of destiny and move towards a brighter future. Most people are masters of procrastination not masters of getting anything done; they talk and talk but never take decisive action. They don't even buy an airplane ticket!
The early bird gets the wormAlthough it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, Cuenca has only been heavily promoted by online travel magazines for the last 3-5 years. The good news is that it is not too late for you to be one of the first ones to get to Cuenca before its popularity explodes. Many people who have heard about Cuenca over the last few years but have been slow to take action, as a result the number of foreign retirees is still less than 5% of the population. If Cuenca does becomes overrun by retirees in the future, as has happened to retirement havens in Panama and Costa Rica, then those who get in now are the ones who will get the greatest returns on their investments and be able to live in the most desirable places.
Even for those who are not yet ready to retire overseas there is every reason to make preparations now as currencies around the globe appear less stable and restrictions on travel and the free movement of persons are increasing worldwide. Over the last few years new construction prices in Cuenca have been going up 10 to 15 percent every year. Meanwhile tighter building restrictions for areas within easy walking distance from downtown are reducing the availability of Condos in the coveted University of Cuenca neighborhood. Soon there will not be any more units available at any price.
One good reason to make your move sooner rather than later is the concern over the minimum investment required to obtain a visa allowing you to stay in Ecuador indefinitely. In 2004 a property only had to have a tax assessed value of $1,400 to qualify for an investment visa whereas today a property with a tax assessed value of $25,000 is required to qualify. With the wide gap between tax assessed values and actual purchase prices, in order to qualify for a visa today from the purchase of a property in Cuenca you would have to buy a property for at least $50,000 to $60,000. Other countries such as Columbia and Panama require a much higher minimum investment of $200,000 and the Ecuadorian government could raise this limit again at any time.
Maybe you are one of those people who have been dreaming of coming to Cuenca but just aren't ready yet. You may have even visited here a long time ago and then went back to get everything in ready for the move. You will never be ready to come down if you insist on taking all your friends and family members with you. It's up to you whether you are going to let them hold you back verses moving onwards and upwards to the next phase of your life. If you wait until all of the lights a green before pulling out of the driveway then you'll never get anywhere. Amongst our close-knit group of English-speaking Ex-Pats one thing that we almost all agree on is that we wish that we had gotten down here sooner. Most of us did not feel ready to relocate to Cuenca but forced ourselves to move forward anyway and it was one of the best decisions that we ever made.
Cuenca is not for everybodyCuenca may not be right for you. In fact there are some people who should not even come here for a visit.
If you are one of those people who cares more about the negative opinions of uniformed friends and family members than your own personal well being then its best that you never find out what you are missing. If your spouse is too scared to step out on to the rescue boat and wants to go down with the ship then it may be best for you never set foot in this beautiful city. If you won't be able to maintain the firm resolve to see your way through all obstacles standing between you and getting what you want then you might as well throw in the towel now and raise the white flag of surrender. If you are one of those people who do not have the courage to begin again in a new land then a visit to Cuenca is likely ruin whatever meager enjoyment you might be able to squeeze out of your remaining years where you are.
On the other hand if you are not yet ready to settle for a mediocre retirement of I Love Lucy re-runs and microwave TV dinners then Cuenca may be exactly what you're looking for. If you are one of the brave few who are willing to ignore the cowardly objections of some of the people nearest you and strike out in search of something better then you owe it to yourself to experience Cuenca firsthand. There is no reason to stay behind with the masses when the promise of a new and better life is calling.
With Ecuador's minimum wage of $260.00 a month you will be able to hire a full time maid to cook and clean for you at a tiny fraction of what most of your fellow countrymen will have to pay just to rot away in a nursing home.
After spending a few days walking down the cobblestone streets of downtown Cuenca and enjoying yourself in the finest restaurants with your fellow Ex-Pats laughing and sharing stories, you will likely feel more at home than you do where you live now. There is a sense of community here that is very warm and inviting, a welcome change for most of us.
Cuenca Real EstateIt is best for you to make an appointment with us in advance as soon as have your plane ticket and know your exact arrival date. We do not work like traditional Realtors who run around frantically juggling incoming calls and barely listening to a word you say. We will listen to what you have to say and try to understand where you are coming from so that we can help you find what you need and want. Our goal is for you to end up with several good options to choose from each one of which you would be proud to call home.
If you do not contact us at least two or three days in advance then we may not be able to get to you right away. We are extremely busy even during the slowest parts of the year and rarely have any time to take drop-ins. By scheduling our time in advance you ensure that we will be able to help you find your new home. If for any reason you cannot make an appointment then please contact us right away to cancel the appointment so that somebody else can take your spot.
What to do nextIf you are in the process of finishing up all the final preparations that you need to do before leaving than try to take some time out of your busy schedule to learn as much as you can about Cuenca so that you are a little more prepared when you get here. The articles on this website are a great resource for those seeking specific and accurate information about Real Estate in Cuenca. A summary of the most important information regarding buying property in Ecuador is located here.
If you have not yet been to Cuenca then the next step for you to take is come down to Cuenca and experience it for yourself. Years from now, when you take a moment to reflect on the choices you have made in your life, the decision to buy a plane ticket to Cuenca will probably stand out as one of the best decisions that you will have made in your entire life!