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Guide to Renting Apartments in Cuenca

Renting an apartment in Cuenca can be a confusing and frustrating process. But, most of this comes down to little differences in our expectations. We sat down with one of our experienced real estate brokers, Esteban Velez, to get his thoughts on apartment rentals in Cuenca.

Once you’ve finished reading this renters’ guide you’ll have more confidence to secure a rental property on your own or through a broker such as Esteban.

Let’s get to it!

Table of Contents

Have you met Esteban?

Esteban Velez is a licensed real estate agent with over 12 years of experience as a full-time broker in Cuenca. This is after he spent 29 years in the US, which included university-level education and 11 years of experience as a real estate agent.

Our first interaction with Esteban was as a potential tenant. We’d had some pretty terrible experiences with agents before we met him. Most agents only cared about their short-term profits, often at the expense of long-term client relationships. This is where Esteban’s ethics and long-term thinking really stood out.

Esteban actually put our short-term needs ahead of his own by providing us with advice that was straight to the point & ultimately saved us from a potential nightmare lease. He didn’t make a cent from the hours (& days) of effort he put into the deal.

But, he did win our respect and trust which is why we’re very happy to partner with him as one of YapaTree’s key real estate brokers.

Ok, now to the interview.

1. How much does location affect prices?

Like most rental markets, the location has the most influence on the price. There are desirable and not-so-desirable neighborhoods and this is reflected in the market price.

Be careful if you’re watching YouTube videos that portray super cheap rents in Cuenca as these may be located in areas you won’t be comfortable living in. The risk here is that your expectations of finding a cheap apartment are very high, but in reality, you may need to pay a few hundred dollars more in rent every month to find a suitable place.

Our Rental Agent says: 

To help with expectations, you can find unfurnished 2-bedroom apartments in good (but not the most expensive) neighborhoods for $300-$400 per month.

In less desirable neighborhoods, similar apartments can be found for $250 – $300. 

2. General price guidelines for a 2 bedroom unfurnished apartment in a convenient location?

Our Rental Agent says: 

To help with expectations, you can find unfurnished 2-bedroom apartments in good (but not the most expensive) neighborhoods for $300-$500 per month. 

In less desirable neighborhoods, similar apartments can be found for $250 – $300.

3. How much extra for a furnished apartment? 

Furnished apartments are very popular with expats that are in the process of moving to Ecuador. Whilst this makes a lot of sense from the practical perspective that you don’t need to spend time & money furnishing your apartment, the downside can be finding an appropriate furnished apartment can be significantly more difficult. 

You’ll also find a wide range in the quality of furnishings. Sometimes the poor quality of furnishings can actually detract from the overall quality of the apartment. 

Our Rental Agent says: 

Furnished apartment prices are generally not that much more than unfurnished. Most of the time, it should be around $100 or $150 more. 

Now, there are some landlords that think that by furnishing the apartment they are going to increase the price by $200 or more. These are the apartments that are usually sitting empty for years.

Some landlords decide that furnished apartments don’t make financial sense because of the damage or general wear and tear on the furniture. 

4. Is Spanish necessary to find an apartment? 

Knowing some Spanish is always going to be helpful whilst living in Ecuador. Finding a property is no different. It may open up more opportunities for you and make the process less stressful. 

Our Rental Agent says: 

I don’t think knowing Spanish helps that much when negotiating prices. Why is this? Because if a landlord is going to attempt to increase the rental price because you are a foreigner, they’ll most likely do so based on hearing your accent alone.

So, unless you speak Spanish with an obvious Cuencano accent, the landlord will still try to raise the price.

I can attest to this. My partner handles all of our conversations when we need to find a new property. Even though Michelle speaks native Ecuadorian Spanish, she is from Quito and all Cuencanos immediately understand this from her accent. And yes, some landlords have tried to rent us apartments which are obviously overpriced in an attempt to take advantage of her not being a Cuencana. 

5. How to avoid being ‘gringo-gouged’ when negotiating a property rental?

Some expats do move to Cuenca with an ingrained fear of being overcharged or ‘ripped off’ by locals that see them as a walking ATM machine. I personally think this fear is often over-exaggerated and normally comes down to gringos simply not knowing how to negotiate like Cuencanos. Especially when it comes to property, I don’t see this as gringo-gouging, it’s straight-up negotiating. The same as you would in your home country, but with local flair that can be hard for outsiders to easily understand. 

Our Rental Agent says: 

I think the best way to avoid paying a higher price because you’re somebody from outside of Cuenca is to get help from somebody that’s actually living in Cuenca. This can be a friend, facilitator or rental broker.

6. How to ensure your rental contract is fair and not in favor of the landlord?

This can be very difficult if you have limited Spanish. Google Translate can get you most of the way, but it can still be pretty easy to miss an important term that you’re not looking for because you don’t know the rental laws here. 

We’ve come across some absolutely terrible lease agreements in Ecuador. But, our general experience is that landlords are generally reasonable and willing to negotiate the terms of the contract. 

Often when you come across a one-sided agreement, it’s more of an oversight than the landlord really trying to put one over on you. For example, they may be using a poorly drafted agreement provided to them by their family or an inexperienced broker. It’s rare for Ecuadorians to engage a lawyer for these types of agreements. 

Our Rental Agent says: 

It’s not uncommon to come across rental agreements that are written to favor the landlord. They are often written in a way that pushes all of the responsibilities onto the tenant – including some items that you may normally consider to come underneath the umbrella of general maintenance. 

If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s very important to have someone look over the contract who does. At the very least I’d suggest having a friend review it, but you might also be better served by a notary or lawyer if you have any doubts. 

I always try to reach agreements that are genuine 50:50 propositions. If both parties are not willing to make compromises, then there’s a good chance the contract will not be agreed and the lease will not happen. So, it’s in my interest to try and ensure a fair contract for all parties so the lease is signed (and I get paid). 

7. How to ensure the landlord actually completes required maintenance?

It can be super frustrating to find what looks to be the perfect apartment on paper, but then you find out later things don’t work or they end up breaking and the landlord is super slow to fix, or they don’t fix at all.

I’ve been in this situation several times and we’ve moved out of one property earlier than we wanted to specifically because the landlord doesn’t handle their maintenance obligations. For this reason, we now pay a lot of attention to the landlord, their motivations for renting and their general financial situation.

You don’t want to be in a position where your landlord is relying on your rent money to get by every month because there’s a good chance your maintenance will be pushed to the back of the priority list.

Our Rental Agent says: 

The best way to ensure the landlord takes care of the property is to explicitly include their responsibilities in the rental agreement and make sure you keep a copy.

This way, if the landlord doesn’t complete their maintenance you can pressure them to do so because you have their responsibilities in black and white. If they still don’t comply, then you have a legal remedy.

8. Recommended methods to find a rental property?

There’s no MLS or similar service in Ecuador that provides a centralized repository of rental properties. So, you will need to do some searching until your find an appropriate rental apartment or condo.

Of course, we suggest checking out the apartments for rent on YapaTree. You can also try other channels such as Facebook Marketplace, Facebook Groups, broker websites and even local newspapers. But, if there’s an area that you’re particularly interested in, it may be worthwhile physically walking around the neighborhood to try and find some for lease signs.

Short term accommodation (ie less than 1 year) can be tricky to find in Cuenca. Especially so around the numerous holiday periods as the quality options tend to book up well in advance. View our current short term rentals in Cuenca

Our Rental Agent says: 

I would recommend checking out agent websites, newspapers and personal referrals from friends and sometimes neighborhood WhatsApp chat groups can be great resources too. Of course, I’m also going to recommend asking experienced real estate brokers as they often have a good network of landlords that they can use to surface properties that may not be advertised yet.

9. Why do some expats decide to rent before buying?

Hopefully, you’ve already come across this advice whilst researching your move to Ecuador. Rent first, buy later. There are so many reasons why we endorse this approach. Perhaps the most important is the reality that you may find it difficult to sell your property quickly should you need to. This is particularly important if you’ve paid above market price as you’ll potentially be waiting for years until a suitable buyer comes along. 

Our Rental Agent says: 

Depending on the clients’ needs, I do sometimes recommend clients rent first because it takes some of the emotion out of the decision. I do see people that move because they’ve seen a nice picture on a website and they say “I want to live here or I want to be next to that river or whatever the emotional pull is”. But, the thing is, until you actually get to Cuenca, you’re not going to know the city well and you may find there are areas much better suited to your lifestyle.

I’ve seen other times where the buyers were very set on a house with a yard, but they didn’t really factor in the additional security requirements that may be required with a yard and they end up feeling more comfortable in an apartment complex that has with better security.

All of these only come with experience and buying is a much bigger commitment than renting.

One other advantage of renting is that you get the opportunity to really know that apartment. This gives you the opportunity to assess all of its strengths and weaknesses. Then, if you want to buy it, you are in a good position to understand its true market value. I have helped out numerous tenants that have gone on to purchase the apartment from their landlord.

Of course, I’m also going to recommend asking experienced real estate brokers as they often have a good network of landlords that they can use to surface properties that may not be advertised yet.

10. Are furnished apartments easy to find?

Our Rental Agent says: 

I don’t think furnished apartments are easy to find anymore. You can still find them, but they’ve reduced in numbers quite a bit now because of two main reasons.

Firstly, many landlords used to rent furnished apartments to business people from Guayaquil. Think company CEOs, VPs and other employees that needed to spend a lot of time in Cuenca. Many of these companies have had to decrease this because of the impact COVID has had on their business and the economy in general.

Secondly, many expats also left during COVID and a good proportion of these were renting furnished apartments.

As these two sections of the furnished rental market have become smaller, some landlords have decided to either sell their apartments or rent them unfurnished for a lower price.

So, there simply aren’t as many furnished apartments to go around now. And, as expats are now coming back to Cuenca, supply remains limited until the market decides that more furnished apartments are again needed.

11. Are there many pet-friendly apartments available?

Renting with pets can be a challenge anywhere. Cuenca is no different. You will be cutting down your options significantly if you’re needing a ‘pet-friendly’ apartment. However, you can find them and the trend is gradually increasing toward pet-friendly rentals.

One way to entice an unwilling landlord is to offer a slightly higher deposit to cover any potential damage by your pet.

Our Rental Agent says: 

In my experience, 9 out of 10 landlords do not want pets inside the apartment or house. It doesn’t matter if you’re an expat or Ecuadorian, the expectation is that the pet belongs outside.

Yes, you can still find pet-friendly apartments, but they are very much in the minority and this will reduce your options.

12. What is an ‘aliquota’ and does it always apply?

Our Rental Agent says: 

Usually, if you’re gonna rent an apartment in a building or a private community, you’ll have an aliquota.

This is an additional fee that covers maintenance and other expenses like the guards, cutting the grass, and maintaining the gym. The more expenses your building has, the greater the aliquota.

As a general rule, you can expect to pay around 70 or 80 cents per square meter. So, if you’re renting an apartment that is 100 square meters, you’ll be looking at an additional $70 – $80 for the aliquota.

The aliquota is generally quoted as a separate price to the monthly rental amount, but some landlords include it in the rental price.

13. Main differences to renting in the US?

Our Rental Agent says: 

There are some significant differences between renting in Ecuador and the US. Perhaps the most obvious is the standard contract duration. The standard lease duration in Ecuador is 2 years. However, you can negotiate shorter leases.

Other adjustments include the lack of pet-friendly apartments compared to what you may find in the US and the tenant obligations when it comes to damages.

One other difference is that it’s still common to find multigenerational family units living in the same house here in Cuenca. Large houses for single-family units are considered a luxury by many. So, if you do require a large apartment or house for your family, just know that you will be paying a significant premium.

Many of the processes are similar to the US. This includes the deposit which is generally one month’s rent. Landlords in Ecuador also like to do due diligence on their tenants to ensure they have enough money to pay rent on time each month. These checks include credit & police records. It may be harder for landlords to check the history of foreigners, but they may still try as landlords are getting stricter on performing these types of checks.

14. Any last words of advice for renting an apartment in Cuenca?

Our Rental Agent says: 

I think it’s worth reiterating the variability of property prices in Cuenca. I often come across expats that have based their research on articles or videos that tout Cuenca as a very cheap place to live.

Sure, you can find apartments for $150-$200, but they are not in the type of neighborhoods that expats want to live in. These areas may not be safe or they may just not be convenient.

For this reason, I always like to remind expats that much like their own city in the US or wherever they’re from, there are neighborhoods in Cuenca that are simply less desirable to live in and have a price tag to match.

Some of the more desirable (and expensive) neighborhoods that expats generally like to target have been featured in our Best Neighborhoods for Renting in Cuenca article.

Final Words

Renting an apartment in Cuenca can be challenging for many people. The cultural, language, legal & process differences can be quite frustrating. We hope that the above tips from our Property Agent will help make the process easier for you.

Looking for rental assistance? We’re happy to help you find a place. Either check out our available houses & apartments for rent. Or let us find you an apartment by providing your preferences and our agent will help find a place for you.

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