“What the hell am I doing here?” I thought as I sat in a cramped living room of a tiny shack-like-house on the coast in Ecuador.
I was there to talk about a small beachfront lot I found in another part of town. When, all of a sudden, the owner came into the room… an elderly, overweight man who seriously needed a shower.
He said, “That property you’re interested in has been in my family for decades.” It was beautiful too, a small vacant lot right on the beach, in a zone exploding with growth all around. And boy, was it cheap, but for reasons, one was the lot was “occupied by an invader (“invasor” as the Ecuadorians call it)”. Some elderly guy who was deeply settled in one end of the lot, living in a stick shack.
He had no legal right to be there, he just was… he was a land “invader”. The owner said, “Oh, don’t worry about him, I know ‘em, I’m sure he’ll leave once the lot sells.” “Yea right,” I thought.
Ecuador, like most Latin American countries, has a problem with land invasions or poor people with nowhere else to go who “occupy” vacant lands and call them home.
Contrary to popular belief, as I confirmed with a local lawyer before writing this piece, there are no laws in Ecuador that protect land invaders, or “squatters”, and the process to get them off your land is pretty straight forward. Go to the police in your local area with the title of your land and place a “denuncia” (charges) and the local authorities will take it from there evicting the unwanted trespassers.
Now, the reality. The police in Ecuador are not as efficient as what you may be used to, and sometimes you may even have to pay to get them to do their job (although they are getting better). And uprooting someone who has been there for years is certainly not easy.
But yes, you certainly CAN make a lot of money “land-banking” in Ecuador, and it certainly makes more sense than storing all your wealth in the American dollar or Euro these days.
So to prevent problems with invaders, walk the entire land you plan to buy before you buy and be sure it has both proper title and is unoccupied. If it is occupied, be sure to get the current owners to vacate it before handing over any deposit money! Also, if you plan to leave the lot vacant for a while, be sure to visit your lot occasionally and maybe even put a fence to show the land is spoken for.
Recently, this year, it made big news that the government evicted hundreds of “invaders” off lands in the poor areas around Guayaquil city proving property rights of lawful owners are being respected.
And in case you were wondering, I ended up not buying the lot I mentioned earlier because, besides the invader, also had title issues … there’s always next time!
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