Dodging a shark: The dangers of buying vacant land in Ecuador

“Oh, man, here he comes again.” I said to an Ecuadorian friend as I saw my neighbors big black pick up pull up to my property near Salinas on the coast.

The car stopped, he got out and walked up.

I had previously explained to my friend that my neighbor used to be the owner of the whole hill I was on overlooking the ocean, and that he had sold a lot to the person that sold to the person that sold to me.

But now he was hassleing me because he said on my deed is only 500m2 yet in actuality my lot is closer to 700m2 if you count the downward slope onto the main road from my main lot.

Now, he was bothering me to pay him for the extra 200m2 I was occupying or he would sell that to someone else.

Yet, most of that space is un-usable anyway because it was too close to the main road.

But consulting in the municipal of Santa Elena where the deeds are registered, they told me actually mis-measurements of lots are quite common and don’t mean much.

So, this time as my neighbor walked up once again to hassle me, he was intercepted by my Ecuadorian friend who got in his face and told him to get lost and stop trying to take advantage of a naive foreigner (me, at the time).

That’s all it took.

He never bothered me again.

I learned something from that about how things work down here. Ecuadorians respect force or threat of force, and that’s about it.

Strength, in other words, not necessarily the “oh it’s the right thing to do” ethics that may be enough in places like North America where you can rely a bit more on the legal system and the police to help you out.

So, how can you prevent situations like this?

Buy lots that have CONFIRMED time-tested boundaries marked by older looking fences, GPS coordinates specified in deed, or landmarks outlined in deed. Talk to the neighbors to confirm before buying if possible.

And it sure helps to have some local friends.

Hasta pronto, if you liked this you’d love my Insider’s newsletter on living and investing in Ecuador,

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