This week I had the pleasure to interview Olga Plavidal, one of the most knowledgable people I know on the Cotacachi real estate market.
Cotacachi is a small mountainous community a few hours north of Quito, and 15 minutes from Otavalo, which has experienced quite an influx of North American expats in recent years due to many factors like its healthy lifestyle, low costs and mild, comfortably warm year-round climate. For me, its one of those few places in the world, and even in Ecuador, where you really don´t need heat or AC in your home and you re still comfortable. Rare.
So lets turn to the local expert on the ground to get the dirt on whats really going on in early 2014…
1. Why did you choose Cotacachi?
– I came to Ecuador 3 years ago, stayed in Quito for a month and was making short trips to various destinations. When I came to Cotacachi for a day trip, my soul whispered me: ‘That’s it, darling, that’s your home…’ Some places looked like from the fairy tales to me!
I’ve been captured by the beauty and the cleanness of the town. Every morning the owners of the stores wash the pavement in front of her/his business with soap (!) They beautify their exteriors with flowers. People are very friendly and they greet you on the streets even if they don’t know you. Gorgeous views of 2 volcanoes of Cotacachi and Imbabura and the stable climate, like May time all year round. Even at the rainy season we have just occasional showers in the afternoon and over the night. Hardly ever until the afternoon.
2. What do some expats complain about in Cotacachi? Or why some folks decide not to stay in the area?
– Some foods are not available that you’ve used to – but use your creative juices and find the alternatives, lots of them! Probably, not too many things to do, as they might think. However, we have lots of activities here now; new businesses are popping up and many volunteer activities as well. But it’s everybody’s choice if they just want to stroll from one restaurant to another and gossip on everything, or to get pro-active in many new opportunities that we have to offer now. Many business opportunities are still not here. You chose this country to live in. Get creative and go for your dream! Turn your hobby into a new venture and create the lifestyle that you desire!
3. What are current market prices like in the different areas of the town and for different types of property and the per meter price of vacant land in the area?
– Depends on the area. Closer to the center, the higher the price, of course. The typical Ecuadorean house, not the new one, can be around $250-300 per m2, while the new construction in the gated community can run up to $750 per m2. You pay for what you get – quality of construction and finishing materials, security of the gated community, etc.
The land is the same – the closer to the center – the higher the price. $40-50 per m2 closer to the center and smaller lots, and can be $15-17 per m2 just outside the town for the bigger acreage. Again, it all depends on the location, neighborhood, views, size, and many other aspects to consider.
4. How has the market performed over the last year? over the last 3 yrs? over the last 5 yrs?
– It’s steady growth of about 15% a year, the more people get to learn about Ecuador, the more they come here. The property prices have tripled here in the last 3-5 years. They will be still growing, but there’s still a great chance to get them cheaper than in the US or Canada. Also, please consider that you don’t have to pay cooling or heating humongous prices, property taxes for most of the properties are under $100 a year (!). Also, what you pay for food, services and some other things are incomparably cheaper that in the US and Canada. You have to weigh all this on your scale and don’t just look at the property prices, but rather the whole picture of your monthly spending here. You know it yourself that you can live here comfortably under $1,000 a month, even renting a modest property, or under $500 if you own it.
5. Do you see any notable tendencies in the local real estate market?
– I sure do. More people are looking now into income producing properties, businesses to support them in case there will be some political changes, affecting their lifestyles. They are looking mostly for B&B’s, restaurants, farms and agricultural land. However, there are still quite a few folks who’ve built their nest-egg, sold their property back at home and want a nice comfortable home to live here peacefully.
6. Where in the city is best for an expat to invest and where are some areas to avoid?
– To avoid is definitely the areas out of the city, where the Indigenous communities are occupying. If you decide to live in one of those communities, you should be really adaptable to their lifestyle and culture. Otherwise, the whole city of Cotacachi is not so big, let me know your desires and I’ll do my best to assist you in finding the best place for you!
7. For someone looking to invest in a rental property, what would you advise them and what type if property should they buy and where to keep it rented?
– Most of the folks are looking to rent in the center of Cotacachi, a few minutes walk to the center. It’s easier to rent it out. Inexpensive, maybe Ecuadorean style home with all the basic furniture. Many renters want it for a short period of time, up to a month or a bit more, so that accommodate them, as it’s cheaper then hotel and gives them more privacy.
8. What are the prices of nearby farm land and what types of crops are most common in the region?
– The most common crops here are corn and beans, avocado trees are abundant as well, lemons and oranges grow well here, tree tomatoes (it’s a local fruit), potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage – so many things, this soil is so rich, I think that whatever you stick in it, will start popping up J
Prices can be very different, depending on the location and the size of the land. $1-10 per m2.
9. What other opportunities do you see for investors in your area? In other words, what would you do with $100-200k in your area right now?
– I’d buy some good rental property that will bring some good ROI. Also, land for development or a good inexpensive land for agriculture. No matter what the future holds for us, people will always need the place to live and the food to eat.
10. For renters, what are the average rental prices looking like? What are the normal rental terms?
– Depends on where and what you rent. Gated communities can be $600-1,000 a month, all furnished and really nice. But you can find a small local Ecuadoreans apartments for $100 unfurnished, or a bit more furnished. All depends on your choice of lifestyle and budget. My friend rents now a 1 bedroom furnished apartment with a good size kitchen, full bathroom for $200 a month. Please, don’t ask me for rentals, I usually don’t do them.
11. What’s one thing most people don’t know about Cotacachi?
Gee, Dom! That’s a big one! Please don’t limit me on that one! Let me list some of them, at least:
– You’ll pay for anywhere going in taxi in Cotacachi just $1, don’t even ask the driver ‘how much’, it’s just a buck, wherever you go. Can be $1.25 or even $1.50 if this is 5-10 minutes to the properties that are a bit out of town, Like Yana Pamba, El Batan, Jahua Pacha.
– You can have a really nice lunch in a local restaurant, if you ask for ‘almuerza’, not going for ‘a la carte’, which is from the menu. Just from $1.75 in many little local places, at the food court/bus terminal as well, to a fancy ‘La Tourista’ on Bolivar street for $3.50 – awesome! Just don’t forget the magic word ‘almuerza’, write it down now, or they will bring you ‘Menu del Dia’ and will charge you twice for a little bitty added to it.
– Do you know that you can drink the water from the tap? Yes, it’s safe! It comes from the Cotacachi volcano and goes through the purifying facility here in Cota, and straight to our homes.
Thank you, Dom for interviewing me, hope that will help some nice folks to get some better ideas about living here.
Welcome to Ecuador! And, please check my website for the best properties in Imbabura area: http://chantal-realty-ecuador.com
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