Cotacachi / Cotacachi / Cotacachi Real Estate / Ecuador Cost of Living / Ecuador Economy / Ecuador Tours / Living in Ecuador / View from the Roof

A View From the Roof: An Overview for Our 1,000 New Readers!!

By Gary Phillips

March and April have been stellar months for   In March, we had 258,000 page views on our website and we have signed up more than 1,000 new subscribers since March 1.

So my column this issue is devoted to familiarizing our new readers with a little background about Linda and me, and an up-date about what’s happening in Ecuador from our perspective.

Some of you have written exclaiming that you signed up for your newsletter and haven’t received one yet.  Well, Linda and I are not like a lot of blog writers who post daily or even weekly. We moved to Ecuador to enjoy the good life it offers.  For us this means creating a life that is relatively free from stress, strict deadlines and heavy schedules.

We are thinking of ourselves more and more as retirees; hence, we don’t really write much unless something truly motivates us. Fortunately, this past week we had a most wonderful bus trip to Ecuador’s coast, and yesterday, Linda felt inspired to write about our trip after a hiatus of several months.  So now, you’ll be receiving the benefits of our travels.

I love it when Linda gets inspired, as she is a wonderful writer, and I love to read her musings and often wry observations. I hope you do as well.

Later this week Linda is having a birthday, so we are going to Vilcabamba in the south of Ecuador.  It was our first introduction to Ecuador in 2002.

We hung out there for 5 months teaching an international meditation teacher’s training program that started in Peru.  We both fell absolutely in love with Ecuador and decided that someday it would become our home.

That someday arrived in November of 2006.  We have lived in Cotacachi in the northern Andes since that time.
Vilcabamba, like much of Ecuador, has changed dramatically since ’02, when it was not much more than a stop on the backpacker’s trail. Today it is a destination and home to a mixed group of expats, many who have coming seeking an alternative way of life.  There are several hundred retirees, aging hippies, healers, practitioners of alternative medicine and back-to-the-land folks.

We love Vilcabamba.  The climate is wonderful, the scenery incredible.  The music, the numerous life-enhancement/consciousness workshops, massage  and various alternative lifestyle opportunities generate a special kind of energy that both of us resonate with.   It’s the land of raw foodists, permaculturists, vegetarians and organic farmers.  Creativity abounds. We are excited about our visit, and I’m excited to see what Linda is going to write about it.

All of the activity our site has been receiving recently is simply an indication that more and more people, especially baby boomers like us, consider Ecuador a very desirable retirement destination. The four most popular destinations are Cuenca, Cotacachi, Vilcabamba, and of course, all along the coast.

Cuenca has been voted the number one retirement destination in the world for at least two years running by International Living and several other rating agencies.   International House Hunters has had several programs on Ecuador. Each time they re-run an episode about Cotacachi, we experience a flurry of activity on our website.

A writer from Reuters interviewed me 3 weeks ago for an article that appeared on Yahoo.  U.S. News and World Report published an article about retirement in Ecuador.  These two articles created a huge buzz on our site.

This focused attention is attracting more and more potential expats to explore the possibility of living in Ecuador.   Of course, all of the goings on in the U.S. such as the NDAA act giving the president the authority to imprison/kill American citizens without trial, the continual decline in the housing market, the high unemployment numbers, the U.S. debt load and the militarization of the police forces in most American cities, are giving many people the idea that the good ol’ U.S.of A isn’t the place to be when the lights go out.

Recent news out of Fukushima about the potential for a radiation disaster in the northern hemisphere is also causing people to look for destinations in the southern hemisphere for their families.

Recently a 26-year veteran of the U.S. army who was on one of our real estate tours declared, “This is no longer the country I fought for.  I’ve got to get out of here.” He also said that the guns are pouring out of the large big box sporting goods stores as fast as they can get them stocked.

He and his wife have now received their permanent Ecuador residency visas, sold their properties, and will be down here to live in a couple of months.  This kind of response is very common.

So what are the implications of all this interest in Cotacachi?  For one, rentals which used to be readily available are no longer easy to find.   A friend of ours who has five rental houses, says all of his rentals are booked for two years and he has a waiting list of 180 people.

This does not mean that rentals are not available.  It just means that they are harder to find.  It also means that people who want to buy a property now and rent it out until they are ready to retire, are in pretty good shape.  no longer handles rentals, nor do we have the time to answer emails regarding rentals, except to periodically address the issue in a general overview.

But we are in the real estate  business and certainly help people find properties to purchase. Our team has extensive experience in helping people easily transition to the good life in Ecuador.

We are a pretty laid-back bunch when it comes to selling.  Our mission is to help buyers and sellers come together to conclude a deal that will make all of us happy.  We’ve done  this quite well more than a 100 times.  But it is a big deal to make a move to Ecuador. A lot more is required of an agent here than in the states, just in explaining the differences in the laws, culture and mind set.

If we suspect that you may not be suited to life in a developing country, we will not hesitate to tell you so. The last thing we want down here are unhappy expats.  It simply makes it more difficult for all  the rest of us who have adapted.  I would much rather lose a sale than try to sell to someone who doesn’t fit.

Sometimes the lack of fit has to do with an inability to let go of pre-conceived notions about Ecuador.  Repeated complaints of “Why don’t they do it like we do?’ are a sure sign that a client needs to do radical surgery on his or her expectations.

Sometimes the lack of fit has to do with a medical problem that can’t be treated as well in Ecuador as in the U.S.  Or the inability to find the drugs or medications one is used to taking.

Those who exhibit a sense of humor, a delight in difference, a moderate level of flexibility and an ability to surrender usually have fewer difficulties finding happiness in Ecuador.

Land prices and construction costs in Cotacachi are going up.   The fact that Cotacachi is becoming an expat destination is having a decided impact on property costs.   Just a couple of weeks ago, the largest and glossiest architectural magazine in Ecuador, “Clave,” had an 8- page spread on the expat boom in Cotacachi. This is the second article they have published on Cotacachi in the past three months.

As a result, wealthy local Ecuadorians are buying land and houses at high prices in anticipation of future appreciation and also for development.  New housing, businesses, even parking lots are being built.  A well-to-do Ecuadorian paid $145,000 for a 1/3 acre lot in Cotacachi.  He turned it into a parking lot.  I’m not kidding!

This, coupled with significant price increases in construction materials like rebar and cement, and two increases in the minimum wage in the past year, is making construction more expensive.

I received a quote on a house about 18 months ago at $37/sq. ft.  Now, about the best one can find is around $47/sq.ft.  It’s still inexpensive by American standards, but the land and house bargains that were around three years ago are mostly a thing of the past.

I caught myself yesterday when I was showing a client a 3/4 acre lot about 5 blocks from downtown which is for sale for  “$80,000, negotiable.” I started thinking to myself that this is a pretty good price.  Actually, it was not bad considering the location, the incredible views and the fact that there are not many lots this size remaining in Cotacachi.   But it’s still a lot of money to pay for ¾ acre, no matter how you cut it.

But as I said, the cost of living here is still dramatically lower than in the U.S. Health care is excellent and is about 1/10th the cost of equivalent care in the U.S.

Linda and I still buy a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables for around $15.  Last Sunday at the local market, Linda bought five Hawaiian papayas for one dollar.    When we were in the states, my jaw dropped when I had to pay $4.50 for one papaya that didn’t taste anything like the ones we buy here.

We can still get a good lunch at one of the local “comedors” for $2.50, including soup, appetizer, main plate, dessert and drink. I smile every time I get my hair cut at the local barber for $2, even though he still cuts it shorter than I want it.

And I can’t help grinning when my brother tells me that gas is $3.79 in Minnesota while I only pay $1.48 in Ecuador.  Even after 5 years here, I rejoice in the fact that living in Ecuador is still a bargain.

For all of you who are searching for real estate to purchase, we will soon be updating our real estate section.  It’s been a chore as we got off on the wrong track technically a few months back, and we are finding it difficult to fix.  But we are working on it.  Click here to see some listings not on the regular website.

We have many more properties listed that are not shown on our site, from colonials to condos, vacant lots and rural parcels, and many investment properties. We have an Ecuadorian agent who knows Cotacachi like the back of his hand since he has lived here all his life.  So if you are serious about purchasing property in the Cotacachi area, give us your criteria.  Then Fernando will get his mojo working and come up with a list of properties that may meet your requirements.

We highly recommend our Introduction to Ecuador and Real Estate tours for those who feel a strong pull to Ecuador.  These tours are one of the best ways to get a thorough, inexpensive overview of life in Ecuador and the ins and outs of the real estate buying process.

So for those who are new to, welcome to our Pro-Ecuador family.  For the old timers, we are very grateful for your continued loyalty.  By the way, the view from the roof of our new residence isn’t as good as the one I had from our penthouse.   But I think you will continue to get some observations about Ecuador you will not get anywhere else.

And that’s today’s View from the Roof!



  1. Pingback: Morning Update – Monday, April 30, 2012 « South of Zero

  2. Gary, thanks for the update and frank appraisal.