Cuenca Real Estate Dark Side

The Dark Side of Cuenca Real Estate: A Cautionary Tale with Susan

Cuenca is a city of allure, drawing expats with its colonial charm, cultural vibrancy, and affordable living. Yet, beneath this surface lies a cautionary tale, epitomized by Susan’s journey- a stark reminder of the pitfalls that await those navigating the local real estate market without thorough preparation and reliable guidance.

The Allure of Cuenca

Susan and her husband arrived in 2008 amidst a global financial crisis, seeking both adventure and a secure investment for an Ecuadorian visa. They opted to invest in local real estate, a decision that initially seemed promising. Their purchase – a purported 14-hectare property with a house – was not only an investment but also a place to call home. However, reality soon diverged from expectation.

“We didn’t have Social Security, so in order to get the visa that we wanted, we needed an investment visa,” Susan recalls. “Rather than have a CD in the bank, and of course, this was at the end of the stock market crash in the States, so not really wanting to put the money into a bank and feeling like the land was safer, plus we needed a place to live anyway, we started with looking for property that we could live in.”

Their optimism faded as they discovered significant discrepancies. The property was smaller than advertised – closer to 8 hectares – and they had drastically overpaid due to inflated prices orchestrated by unscrupulous brokers.

Overpaying for Property

One of Susan’s first lessons learned was about the significant discrepancies in property valuation and pricing practices. “When we bought our property, they told us it was about 14 hectares, but we had no way to verify this claim without a proper survey. It wasn’t until years later, when we considered selling part of the land, that we found out the actual size was closer to 8 hectares.”

Their troubles were compounded by misleading deed practices. The listed price on the deed was $31,000, but they had paid substantially more, much of which lined the pockets of dishonest intermediaries.

“We never were even… if we were with the sellers in different situations, they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish and no one ever translated for us,” Susan reveals. “At that time, they would just put anything in the deed. I remember saying, ‘Well, why don’t you put what we paid’ but they go, ‘Oh, we don’t do that here.’”

Navigating Real Estate Practices

Susan’s experience underscores the importance of understanding local real estate practices. Deceptive tactics like underreporting sale prices on deeds to evade taxes are prevalent, severely impacting buyers’ ability to assess property values accurately.

“This issue was compounded by the fact that the valuation on the deed did not reflect the market reality,” Susan elaborates. “When we had the property appraised years later, it was valued at ten times the amount listed on the deed.”

The Role of Trustworthy Advisors

The need for reliable advisors is crucial in navigating foreign real estate markets. Susan and her husband relied on what they believed were reputable brokers, only to discover their misplaced trust.

“When we moved here, my dad had passed away, and then my mom. They were in their nineties so, then my mom passed away and I knew that I would be getting some money from their estate,” Susan shares. “I didn’t want, especially again after 2008, I wasn’t trusting real estate in the US. I thought, OK, I have some money to invest and it’s a beautiful country and I’d get people to help me. We bought the house to attach to the visa.”

This situation led to substantial financial losses and protracted legal battles, highlighting the necessity for due diligence in choosing advisors who prioritize the client’s best interests.

The Real Estate Trap

Susan’s narrative unfolds with the harsh reality of deceptive practices within the local real estate market. What began as an exciting venture soon devolved into frustration and financial strain.

“We really wanted to buy this one house in town,” she recalls. “But the realtor told us the owners weren’t ready to sell. So we bought the house next door. The next day, the house we wanted was for sale.”

This bait-and-switch tactic left Susan and her husband feeling exploited. They were misled into purchasing a less desirable property at an inflated price, a move orchestrated solely for the realtor’s gain.

Trusting the Wrong People

Throughout their ordeal, Susan and her husband relied on information provided by their real estate agent and legal counsel, only to discover a web of deceit.

“The agent had different people, including attorneys, who would then tell me things,” she explains. But they were all in on it. The attorney even signed off on deals that were completely fraudulent.

Such betrayals left Susan grappling with immense emotional and financial burdens, compounded by the realization that their investments were based on falsified information.

Lessons Learned

Susan’s journey serves as a cautionary tale for prospective expats eyeing Cuenca’s real estate market. Her experiences underscore the importance of thorough research, skepticism towards inflated claims, and the critical need for trustworthy, bilingual advisors.

Looking ahead, Susan advocates for education and transparency in navigating Ecuador’s legal and investment landscape. She would love to see more seminars to empower newcomers with practical insights into real estate, legal nuances, and community integration.

Wrapping Up

While Cuenca remains an appealing destination for expats seeking a new chapter abroad, Susan’s story resonates as a sobering reminder of the potential challenges lurking within the local real estate sector. Her journey reflects resilience and the quest for a secure place to call home amidst unexpected adversities.

For those considering a move to Cuenca, Susan’s insights are invaluable. They underscore the importance of vigilance, due diligence, and the necessity to seek out trustworthy, knowledgeable support when navigating the complexities of a foreign real estate market. 

By learning from her experience, future expats can better protect themselves and make more informed decisions.

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One Response

  1. Hi Jason,
    I liked your conversation with Susan. I had a similar situation in Cuenca when I bought my home and the remodeling of it. Unfortunately, I am still going through the process 5 years later. As with Susan, I didn’t know the processes or my “rights” in this country, basically what questions to ask my attorney. Usually, the Ecuadorians tell me what they think I want to hear, and sometimes it is not the truth but some version of it. I like that she still has a positive attitude, you have to have one to survive here in Ecuador.

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