Archive | Investor News/Analysis

Black-listed real estate agents in Ecuador – Background checks

Come on, man

Were you actually expecting a list of names here?

I’m not about to start mud-slinging.

But I will show you how to let the facts speak for themselves and how you can do a FREE background check on anyone you like in Ecuador.

Especially helpful before you do a bigger business deal with someone from or in Ecuador.

Within seconds you can freely see their entire criminal record (if they have one), specifically what they have been convicted of and even some legal matters they were involved in yet not necessarily convicted (as Ecuador isnt necessarily an ‘innocent-until-proven-guilty’ country).  You can even see things like if they’ve gotten seriously behind on child support payments or if they’ve been involved in any kind of fraud in the past.

In fact, it’s commonplace for businesses in Ecuador to check someone out in this manner before hiring them.

All you need to do the background check is their “cedula” number (thats the official, mandatory ID card in Ecuador).

Then go to the site  http://www.ministeriointerior.gob.ec/certificado-de-antecedentes-penales/

Once on the site under “datos del solicitante” you’ll need to put your information.

Then under “datos de la persona a consultar” you’ll need to input the full names and cedula number of the person youd like to check out and click CONSULTAR.  Thats it, on the next screen their criminal history will appear or a message will state they have no criminal history!

Now, no one can hide from you.

Especially helpful in real estate purchases where before the deal goes through the seller and buyer have to exhange copies of their IDs to write up the new deed (escritura).

Now, how to find the best-priced properties in Ecuador? For that and more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Macadamia farming in Ecuador – really?

China, India, Egypt, Jordan, Dubai… I can say one thing after living or visiting those places… what a barren wasteland!  At least the parts I saw.  

But Ecuador is different.  

Truly gifted.  

The green here in the Andes is a special color green, really.  So much water.  The dark black top soil runs so deep.  

All you have to do is find the right altitude and it will have a steady year round climate to grow whatever you like.  

So it shouldn’t surprise that a few innovative farmers have done just that, now profiting from Macadamia.  

Precisely, 3 with significant plantations in Ecuador.  And this week I was hanging out with one of the big three on his lot near the town of Los Bancos in Ecuador in the coastal lowlands  but still a ways from the ocean.  

He began… 

You need to find a place that has plenty of water, yet a lengthy dry season for the harvest time, which in this area is from March to July.  

Preferibly between 300-500 meters above sea level.  The Macadamia trees like 25-30 degrees C.

The Mac farmer continued, “you need at least 3000 trees to have a legit, profitable operation.”  

The trees are planted 9 meters apart so you can get about 150 trees on one hectare.  So 20 hectares is all you need to get in 3000 trees.  

Initial investment

Land in this area of Ecuador is alreayd a bit pricey compaatively to other farm areas of Ecuador because it is already great for Cacao (Chocolate bean) and Palm oil and the locals know it.  The going rate for good, yet vacant, farm land around here is $5,000 per hectare.  So for a minimum of 20 hectares that’s $100k.  

You’ll also need about $50k to prepare raw land ready for planting and to build yourself a small plantation home.  

Then comes the trees.  You can buy the seedlings from someone in Ecuador already growing Macadamia for $8 per tree.  For 3000 that would be $24,000.  

You’ll also need a tractor for Macadamia farming.  He says you can find a used one in good condition in Ecuador for around $15k.  

Production and profits
 
On the high end you can expect 18 kilos of brute, whole nut with shell and all per year per tree… and 15% of that is the inner nut ready for consumption.  Thats about 3 kilos from a top producing tree.  On the low end a tree in this part of Ecuador produces 12 kilos of brute nut shell which provides about 2 kilos of nut ready to eat per year.  

The local wholesale price for Macadamia in Ecuador now is $22 per kilo.  

So thats a per tree annual revenue of $66 (on the high end) which for 3000 trees equates to $198,000 per year.  On the low end that figure would be $132,000.  

Variable costs

The farmer I spoke with says he has 5 full time employees for his 50 hectare plantation.  Each worker makes around $400 a month.  

No electricity is needed on the farm and there is no irrigation system, the trees are fine with the natural rainfall.  He himself drives from Quito every weekend to manage the farm himself.  On the way back to Quito he fills the back of his pick up truck with the weeks output of Mac Nuts.  (He has a processing plant and oven in Quito he says cost him around $200k.)  But he said the plant is not necessary, most growers just sell wholesale, he said he’d buy your nuts at the wholesale price if you produced them.  

Also, during harvest time the farmer hires seasonal workers by the day (around $15 per day is the going rate in Ecuador) and for occasional weed cleanings and things too.  

Benefits of Macadamia

The biggest benefit to growing Macadamia in Ecuador is that it is an uncommon product that most locals don’t even recognize, thus, repelling the common thieves.  Plus, the product can not be consumed until processed by expensive machinery which few have, further repelling the thieves that often snatch the Cocoa beans which can be bought and sold at any streetside wholesaler on any given corner in the Cocoa producing areas.  

Also, obviously, the value-added possibilities of this product are endless.  

You can process your own nuts, package them, add flavors and sell to the bakeries and grocery chains locally, or even export them.  Mac Nuts don’t go bad for over a year after processed according to the farmer.  

Plus, the farmer said local demand for Macadamia is growing significantly and he doesn’t export.

“The local demand has been plenty for me.” 

He continued, “With a farm this size, all you need is one bakery chain to buy your nuts on contract, and you won’t have to look for buyers anymore.” 

The drawbacks…

Of course, there are reasons why everyone is not growing Macadamia.  

Macadamia in Ecuador requires a VERY specific climate, not too humid, not too dry, like the one here near Los Bancos.  

Also, you won’t see any production for the first four years.  And the peak production I mentioned above won’t happen until around year eight.  But the trees live and continue to produce for 50-60 years if well maintained.  

But as a farmer with expenses and payroll there are ways to meet your daily costs for the first few years.  The trees are planted 9 meters apart and are small at first, so you can grow short-sycle crops in between until the Macadamia trees start producing.  

Where I’m at, the farmer grows Maracuya (Passion Fruit) which grows like weeds and can be sold quickly as well.  Also, most macadamia farmers have part of their farm growing Cacao (Chocolate) which is a shorter term crop which reaches peak production at 3 years of age.  

You’ll see ‘Buonamici’s Mac Nuts’ on a shelve near you soon.  :)

And for more off-the-grid crops with huge potential in Ecuador subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Beachfront or oceanview in Ecuador?

Good question. 

Well, obviously if you can get your hands on a cheap beachfront property, you should go for it. 

By “cheap” for Ecuador standards, I mean anything less than $50 a square meter ($4.65 per sq. ft).  On the high end, I’ve seen folks ask (and get) as much as $200 per square meter for beachfront land.

But I think entering 2015 the real opportunity is in the oceanVIEW properties along the coast.  

You see, the Ecuador coast is lined with oceanfront mountains like the California coastline providing many properties with a spectacular view.  

And you can still find many of these oceanview properties CHEAP.  

By cheap, I mean for instance, a 400 m2 (4300 ft2) lot with a 180 degree oceanview in Ecuador you could probably find starting around $8,000-$15,000.

Maybe less.  

Us gringos love a view.  

Ecuadorians don’t care much, but that’s what kept the price down so long on these properties.  

In fact Ecuadorians build homes with bedrooms with no windows then when you comment on it they look at you like you’re the crazy one for saying something. 

Buy some oceanview cheap from locals, build something (or not), flip it to a foreigner is exactly the strategy Id suggest for someone just getting into Ecuador real estate.  

And its the strategy I’ve followed and plan to follow again entering the new year.  More on that in updates to come.  

How do I find the best priced properties?  Its a bit more complicated in Ecuador, I answer that and more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The golden fruit of Ecuador – Papaya

 

When you move to a new country and try to sell a product to the locals, there are two ways to do things.

The right way.

And the wrong way.

Especially when it comes to food.

The wrong way, at least if you dont have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, is imposing your “superior” foods on the local population.

For instance, pizza.

Maybe you can make a much better pizza than they have available locally according to your North American or European standards.

But maybe the pizza in Ecuador is the way it is for a reason.. with its more liquidity and almost sweet tomato sauce… cause thats how the locals like it.

Its hard to know as a new-comer.

So all you can do is observe.

And to sell the locals something they already eat like crazy.

Its simply much easier.

Enter Papaya.

But there are two types of Papaya that grow in Ecuador.  The Hawaiian breed and the Criolla breed.  The Hawaiian is smaller and for export primarily, cause the locals don’t eat it.  (Actually, some consider it pig food.)

The Criolla is the gigantic rugby-ball-looking Papaya that is for local consumption only, not export, and boy do the locals love it.

Its truly one of those products where if you grow it they will come.

Papaya Criolla likes a dryer climate, while it can and does grow in the Amazon region its better grown in the coastal region of Ecuador.  Specifically in the areas of Santo Domingo to Independencia or on down to Quevedo.

In these ideal areas, the Papaya can grow without any formal irrigation system in place, its fine with just the natural rainfall in this area.

The Papaya is also best grown on flat or almost flat land.

In these areas land apt for Papaya production usually can be found starting around $3-6000 USD per hectare.  According to my local Papaya expert, 30-40 hcts is the minimum for a worthwhile, highly-profitable Papaya farm.

For today, lets take a closer look at the Papaya Criolla (lets give the locals what they already want).

The Papaya tree has a lifespan of 2 years.  It begins to give fruit at the 8 month mark.

And harvests from there are weekly.

The Costs

The initial costs of planting the crop and preparing the soil average around $4-5k per hectare.

After that, costs are minimal with this crop as for a farm of 40 hectares, all you need is one live-on full-time employee (who makes about $500 a month).  And about 5 part-time employees that from the time the plant begins to give fruit at the 8 month mark, you will need to hire them about 2 days a week paying each $15 a day to harvest, weed and fertilize the crop as needed.

It may also be a good idea, especially starting up, to hire a technician or agro-engineer with experience in the crop, to help manage the technical aspects of the farm.  For a full-time agro-engineer you are looking at minimum $1000 a month, but you could also hire one on a part-time basis.

The Production

Each hectare fits about 1100 Papaya trees.  About 100 of those are masculine and dont bear fruit and are used for future breeding purposes only.

Each tree during its lifespan gives at least 20 fruits, some can give as many as 30 if the care has been good.

Thats 20,000 fruits per hectare per each 2 year cycle.

The Sale and The Profit

The fruit sells wholesale at about $1 per fruit.

The fruit is an easy-sell and is often sold to the retail sellers at open-markets or directly to top-end restaurants.

Thinking in ballpark figures for busy people like yourself, thats $20k per hectare in brute sales over the course of a 2 year period.  According to my expert, the grower can expect about 40% of that is usually the profit for the farm owner.  Thats $8k per hect, every two years… so for a 40 hectare producing Papaya farm, that would be about $320k over a two year period or $160k per year, however youd like to look at it.

ROI

So even if you bought the land at the more conservative $6000 per hct for a 40 hct farm… for a total of $240,000 youd be able to realistically make that money back within a bit over 1 and 1/2 years.  Not bad.

This is certainly a product Im considering for my upcoming agro-investment here in Ecuador.

For much bout Papaya and other profitable products in Ecuador subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Is Chicken farming in Ecuador really that profitable?

Ecuador is closing its borders.

To many imported products that is.

I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it is what it is.

Like it or not, with policies like this there are always a few “winners” and often a lot of “losers” (like the end consumer who now has to pay more for inferior products).

But why not take advantage of the opportunity and start producing one of the products that has now become more restricted to import?

Like Chickens.

Already, one of Ecuadors most popular short-cycle “cash crops” among locals.

It’s great because every 6-7 weeks you “cash out” recouping everything you’ve invested and the take-home-profit.

And its one of those produce it and someone will buy it things.

Everyone eats chicken in Ecuador.

This week I had the chance to sit down with a veteran chicken farm manager at his place during my research.

Here’s the skinny… 

Start up costs, Investment

One of the great things about chicken farming is the small amount of land comparatively you need to get started.  Plus, the land itself can be in the boonies and CHEAP because thats ideal for a chicken farm.  You want to distance yourself from any sizable populations or neighbors cause they may not be fond of the smell.

You’ll need a lot with at least space for one farm house big enough for a sizable population of chickens.  Most chicken farm houses are 20 meters by 120 meters to be precise.  Thats 2400 m squared of land.  Not much.

The lot has to be flat and have a water source.

But many chicken farmers have more than one farm house, for instance 7, with a batch of chickens each, so they can be harvesting a new batch each week providing a steady income so this business pays for itself.

Each farm house this size holds 20,000 chickens.

You can chicken farm about anywhere in Ecuador, but it is ideal in the warmer regions of Ecuador like the coastal lowlands.

In warmer weather the growth cycle shortens to 40-42 days, while in colder highland areas the cycle can be more around 50 days.

Costs

This business is also nice because its not labor-intensive.

You’ll have to pay one farm house keeper per farm house.  They usually make the basic wage in Ecuador ($340/ month PLUS incentives totaling around $800/month).

Every 6 weeks you’ll have to pay about 10 guys $10 a day each for three days to round up the chickens for sale.  Total $300.

The food can run around $7000 per cycle (6 cycle).

Basic services like water and electricity aren’t much in Ecuador but could also cost a few hundred dollars.

The chickens themselves are bought young and little at $.40-.50 cents each.

In total, budget $70,000 USD to raise 20,000 chickens my expert explains.

Income and Production

After 6 weeks the chickens are sold (alive) for $.80 cents per pound. Each chicken weighs around 5.5 pounds.  Total= $4.40 per chicken roughly.

$4.40 x 20,000 chickens = $88,000.

Profit 

Talking in ballpark figures per farm house which holds 20,000 chickens over a lot of 2,400m2 the profit would be roughly $88,000-$70,000 TOTAL $18,000 every 6-7 weeks.

Then depending on personal preference anywhere from 5-15 days will be needed for farm house cleaning and disinfecting between cycles.

Risks

Of course, diseases are the biggest risk, thats why if you have multiple farm houses you want to spread them out and be sure to have only one farm worker exclusively per farm house.  He could carry a disease on his clothes from one house to the other.

But now a days the chickens come vaccinated and this is not a huge problem at all in Ecuador.

Selling the crop is not a problem, just make it and finding a buyer is relatively trivial.  What does vary a bit is the market price like most commodities.

Want more?

Like but what about the technical aspects of the actual chicken-growing, how to get started, buy the best chickens, find the best workers and more?

For that and more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

A sneak peek into the rose business in Ecuador


Roses are big money here in the Andes.  

Both Ecuador and neighboring Colombia are deep in the business while flowers are chief exports.  

This week I had the chance to sit down with a 14-year vet rose farmer at his place during my research for my soon-to-be-released Insiders Guide to Agro-businesses in Ecuador.  

I’m also planning a little agro-investment of my own.  

Ecuador roses are considered higher quality than the ones grown in most countries because they were grown at a higher altitude giving them a natural longer-lasting shelf life.  

Grabbing his cup of tea, my friend began, “to start its much more profitable to buy comparable land and build your own farm from scratch.”

As most producing flower farms, if you can find one for sale, often go for a half million or more.  

Start up costs, Investment

But thats the kicker, if you know where (and how) to look, my friend states, you can find land ideal for flower growing for around $15-20k per hectare.  

And you’d need at least 3 hectares for the farm to be really profitable.  

Once you acquire the land, my friend continues, you’d need to invest about $60-70k per hectare to prepare the soil and build the greenhouses.

$15k x 3 = $45k PLUS $60k x 3 = $180k TOTAL $225k on the low end.

Income and Production

You’d then be able to fit 80,000 plants per hectare.  

And each plant gives one rose per every 3 months.  

The roses sell to importers in the USA for around $.25 cents per rose FOB wholesale.  Europe pays more, often offering around .35-.38 cents per rose.  

My friend continues, “but you have to time your production right to hit the predictable demand surges (and price upticks) around western holidays like Valentines Day.” 

Costs

My friend explains that organic fertilizers and other irrigation costs total about $1000 per hectare per month.  

Plus you need about 8 pickers per hectare making the basic Ecuador wage ($340/month each) and you’ll need one sales manager ($1200/month), one production/farm manager like him for ($1500/month), one secretary (minimum wage $340/month) and one export coordinator ($5-600/month)who is in charge of filing all the paperwork needing during exporting and getting the permits.

Profit 

3 hectare farm= 240,000 plants= 240,000 roses every three months = 80,000 roses monthly sold at the lower USA importer price of $.25 a rose = $20,000 net income.  

Land and general production variable costs 3 hectares ($1000 per hectare per month) total=$3000 PLUS labor costs $1500+$1200+$600+$8500= $14,800

But with time as your retain the best pickers you can greatly reduce the number of pickers you need and reduce the labor cost even more if you manage your own sales.  

Total (conservative) estimated monthly profit projection of 3 hectare flower farm = $5200.  

Risks

There aren’t many risks to flower growing in Ecuador, that’s why its such a big industry.  

If there is a frost, it would only kill the flowers, not the plant, but this obviously isnt common in Ecuador where here on the equator you can bank on the climate being the same and predictable all year round.  

But unlike other crops in Ecuador where all you have to do is produce it and drop it off at the processor at the corner, and they’re guaranteed to take it, with roses you actually have to get out there and sell and hire a full-time sales manager or you could be left with unsold flowers on your hands.  

What about the technical aspect of the actual flower-growing part (which you know nothing about)?  

That’s what you hire a farm manager to do.  

So where’s best to find land ideal for flower farming and the best farm managers?  

For that and much more subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The ONLY type of hotel I’d put in Cuenca

I get it all the time.

People know I’m in the hotel biz…

…and they tell me they have a property and are thinking about putting a hotel in Cuenca.

But truth is, I would NOT put a hotel in Cuenca, except for one type.

You see, Cuenca is already loaded with good hotels, and they’re cheap!

An acceptable option at $10-15 per person per night can be found quite quickly.

The type of hotel I’d put in Cuenca is an apart-hotel.

The difference is the rooms will often be mini-apartments with at least two different ambiances, a living/cooking area and the bedroom.

Unlike normal hotels the rooms have a kitchen or place to cook as most people would get tired of eating in the street for weeks on end.

And they are meant for longer stays.

Usually a few weeks, maybe a few months at a time with of course special weekly and monthly rates.

And they often serve as a “half-way” home for folks who recently arrive in Cuenca and begin the search for their permanent home.

An apart-hotel is a great option for people because agreeing to rent something long-term before they arrive and see it is a big mistake.

Best to look around once here.

And at least initially its nice to take advantage of a few of the services of a hotel like an attentive, knowledgable front desk staff, laundry service and WIFI Internet from day one yet still be able to cook for yourself and enjoy the privacy of your own place as you get your feet wet in a new country.

You could even sell off the individual suites to private owners and continue to manage them and rent them out in a property-manager-type role.

The really neat thing is you could promote it as both a hotel and a condo rental.

There are already a few of these type hotels that exist in Cuenca, but I’ve seen the demand in the area to justify another well-located good one.

More so by far than anywhere else in Ecuador, a lot of expats are moving to Cuenca.

That’s the hospitality niche I’d attack in Cuenca.

Any takers?

You can count me in.

And to learn how to find the unpublished property deals no one else knows about, subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Sold! Montanita beach house: from $15 to $45k

“There it is.” I said as I signed the sales deed this week.

I sold my 4 bedroom, 3 bath beach house near Montanita for $45k.

The same one I bought entering 2012 for $15k.

Once I bought the property I put about $2k into it to clean it out and lightly furnish it with the basics being a stove and a few plates, a mini-fridge and a few beds.

The idea was to rent it as a budget short term rental and keep it as my own weekend getaway when I lived in hot, humid, muggy Guayaquil.

After 3 months or so of owning the property someone who had rented the property offered me $40k to buy it.

I mistakingly turned it down.

Meanwhile, I quickly discovered there was a huge demand in that area of the coast for inexpensive rentals in the $300-450 a month range.

In 2012 I kept it rented about 90% of time.

So much so in late 2012 I decided to build two one-bedroom one-bath beach bungalows on the same property, all with a nice oceanview and a 30 minute walk from the center of Montanita.  A pre-fabricated wooden one for a total with furnishings of around $4500, and a brick/bamboo bungalow for around $6500.  They both rented well, the brick/bamboo one more so, for around $230 a month each.

Both were done building in about a month.

Then in early 2013 I decided to put the property for sale for $60k because a friend of mine in the area said the area was hot and that I could get $80k.

I did start to notice the influx of foreigners in my tiny little town next to Montanita (Manglaralto) and the building going on all around me.

Plus, the towns streets had just been paved.

I chose not to work with any realtors, just post it online myself.

And after a few months I didn’t get any bites, so I decided to take the property off the market as I didn’t really want to sell it at the time anyway.

But after moving to Quito, as my business grew in 2013, I had less and less time to manage the rental from a distance.

The property deteriorated and became harder to rent.

Often 6-8 months would pass between visits from myself.

Then in December of 2013, i decided to repost the property online for sale, this time for $45k.

And within two days I had several interested folks, one foreigner that lived in aother part of Ecuador called so worried I would sell it he gave me a deposit of $250 just to hold it til the weekend so he could make it over to see the place.

I believe the increased interest this time around had to do with both the lesser price and the time of year, right at the beginning of high season on the coast when most other folks take their properties offline.

But when he actually saw the place he wasn’t impressed.

You see, it is an Ecuadorian-made very simple dwelling, needs work, and certainly not up to most Americans standards.

He passed.

But I continued to get a lot of interest and several people a week wrote and visited the property with my caretaker.

In the meantime, I got a few low-ball offers but finally in the third month I had the property for sale (March 2014) I got a call from a real estate agent in Montanita saying he had an interested buyer.

He worked as a buyers agent and was charging the buyer 5% commission but not charging me.

The person from the US visited the property several times over the next few days and made the offer for my full asking price.  I took it, he deposited $1500 as an earnest deposit.

I then went to the coast after he had already left back to the States to sign the deed to close the sale.  His agent took care of the rest and paid the necessary taxes.

The buyer then wired the rest to my account.

The closing took about two weeks.

Done deal.

Besides what i made renting the property, I made roughly $15-16k off the sale.

Not bad, but I could have made more if I wouldn’t have made the following mistakes…

1. Understand properties in Ecuador (a cash economy), especially higher priced ones, usually (but not always) take a long time to sell.

2. I should not have added the bungalows to the property as they didnt do much for the property value.

3. Don’t get emotionally attached to a property, it should always be for sale from the moment you acquire it for the right price.

4. I should have used local real estate agents from the beginning as it pays to have a salesmen showing the house instead of my older caretaker.

5. Don’t try to do too much with a basic coastal-Ecuadorian (boxy) construction, it is what it is, the only way to make it really nice is to level it and start new.

Other interesting things I learned from owning this property…

– A lot of people like sleeping near a tourist hot spot like Montanita but not right in it.

– As mentioned previously, there is A LOT of demand from foreigners for cheaper rentals on the coast as the properties available go from really cheap and generally unacceptable for foreigners to expensive places over $800 a month.

– There is a MUCH higher demand for rentals on the coast of Ecuador in the North American winter months from late December to early April compared to the rent of the year.

– You can charge a lot more than usual during long weekends and holidays in Ecuador if you market to Ecuadorians.

– Ecuadorians look for rentals with caretakers for security, TVs and Air Conditioning while foreign renters prefer privacy (no onsite caretaker) and NEED WIFI Internet while a TV and AC are not so important.

– It would have paid to have a caretaker that speaks English to help the tenants settle in.

– If possible, it pays to market to foreigners already living somewhere in Ecuador, as most foreigners still in their home countries are generally tire kickers.

– The best way to market your property to Ecuadorians is still the areas Sundaypaper.

So, what’s next?

Another property purchase i’m sure, but probably on the coast of Ecuador as I still think the best deals for flipping are there.

Stay tuned!

And to learn how to find the unpublished property deals no one else knows about, subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Who pays what in an Ecuador real estate transaction

 

This week I was involved in an Ecuador real estate transaction.

More on that in my next email.

But it reminded me of something very important to know before you buy property in Ecuador.

To know who typically pays what in a standard Ecuador real property transaction as it may differ from your home country.

Often a foreign buyer will get stuck with paying the whole damn thang because they just didn´t know otherwise.

Typically in Ecuador, unless previously negotiated, the buyer pays all the fees associated with drawing up the new deed and getting it notarized, then registered in the property registrar (escritura y registro en el registro de la propiedad).

The buyer will also pay the tax to the municipal called ALCABALAS.

The seller is expected to pay all past due annual property taxes (PREDIOS) and get the property current.

The seller is also expected to pay the capital gains tax called PLUSVALIA which is calculated based on the official assessed value from when the seller bought the property to when he sells it (not based on actual purchase price).

The seller is also expected to provide proof all the energy and water bills are current.

This is how most local Ecuadorians do it.

Now you know so you don´t get stuck footing the whole bill as the buyer, cause they will lay it to you if they see you don´t know!

And to learn how to find the unpublished property deals no one else knows about, subscribe to my weekly Ecuador Insiders Newsletter below, you can unsubscribe at any time:

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

An Insiders take of the restaurant biz in Ecuador

Something about Ecuador ignites the entrepreneur in all of us.

As my Ecuadorian mentor once told me, “people in Ecuador are more entrepreneurial than in a country like the US because they have to be, there are less decent employment options so you got to employ yourself. ”

I´d agree.

And this week, I´m going to interview my good friend Amir, who moved to Ecuador last year from Canada, and has since started a pizzeria in the Quito (Cumbaya) area.

I met him when he was a new arrival “right off the boat”, if you will.

Enter Amir… 

Amir, tell us about your restaurant?

Sure, the name is MegaPizza and we serve top-notch Italian-Canadian cuisine like pizza, putin, salads, subs, wings and more at reasonable Ecuadorian-style prices.  Specifically, we’ve got the best subs and pizza in all of Ecuador (Note from Domenick: I’d agree.).  The restaurant is right between the main park of Cumbaya and the San Francisco University in one of the top restaurant districts of Quito.

So Amir, why’d you choose Ecuador for living and your business?

Well, its warmer than Montreal, residency is pretty easy, taxes and rent are low comparatively and so are most of the costs of living.  In Canada it was too pricey to start my own place.  A restaurant like mine would rent for $4000 or more per month, utility bills would be several hundred dollars a month and employee costs would be several thousand a month.  In Ecuador, rent, utilities and employee costs are dirt cheap and you don’t have to worry so much about peripheal costs like insurance while at the same time I’m still charging about the same as i would in Canada for my product.

Why’d you choose Cumbaya for your pizzeria?

I like the warmer climate when compared to nearby Quito (30 minutes away) and it is an affluent neighborhood and lots of residences ideal for delivery.

What were your biggest challenges when starting and running the business?  

The biggest challenge was finding a good place to rent for the business.  It took several months of checking the Internet ads in Spanish, the newspaper and driving around scouting out areas.  A lot of decent places that were available were offered not by the land owner but by the restaurant owner who wished to sell you their business, furniture and lease, often for upwards of $60k or more.  When I already knew the business and knew what I wanted to do i was not interested in buying someone elses know-how and used equipment and furniture.

Finally, we found a large empty locale and inquired with the caretaker and found out it was available, it had no sign, thats how you can often find the best deals in Ecuador.

Also, obviously communication was an issue cause I don’t speak Spanish well.  I took a one-on-one class in Quito for about two months when I first arrived for $6 an hour and that has helped a lot.

What are the lease terms like for your restaurant in Ecuador?

Well, my lease is for one year only with a security deposit equal to one months rent.  The rent is $1500 a month.  The locale has about 6 parking spaces and 90m2 of dining area plus an outdoor patio with capacity for about 50 people (about 15 tables).

Where’d you find your kitchen equipment and furniture needed for the restaurant at the best value?  

Honestly, searching on the Internet in Spanish helped a lot. I knew what I needed cause I worked for many years as an employee of top restaurants in Montreal.  I found one distributor online in Ecuador where I bought most of my kitchen equipment PROMAINEC.  For instance, we bought all new stuff… a 2 door industrial fridge was $2200, the pizza oven $1700, the dough maker $1200, and the stove-grill-hotplate all in one from the LOZADA store in Quito was $1200.

The wooden tables and chairs were ordered custom maid by a local carpenter, they came to $36 for each table and $40 for each chair with a seat cushion built in.  Those were the best prices we could find, it was much better than buying ready made tables and chairs from a place like Megamaxi or Mi Comisariato.

What was the total investment to get your restaurant up and running from scratch?  

Including the security deposit for the lease, about $20,000 USD.

Where the permits difficult to attain?  What permits are needed for us newbies to the business in Ecuador?  

Actually, this part was very easy in Ecuador.  It all starts with the SRI (the IRS tax agency in Ecuador).  You need to get a RUC or tax ID number (free).  Once you have that you need to go to the IEPI or Institute that copyrights Intellectual property in Ecuador to register your company name and logo ($115).  Then you have to go the Municipal and apply for your LUAE or license to operate.  After application they will send inspectors to pass your business, first the firemen (bomberos) and then the health department (salud) and Secretary of Tourism.  After passing the inspections you can pay your annual Municipal patent (patente municipal) (varies by business type and location, around $100-250 annually).  A special license to sell liquor does not seem to be necessary in Ecuador from what we have gathered (we’re still confirming this one).

Where do you source your ingredients and food?  Whats cheaper and whats more expensive compared to Canada?

This part was more tricky in Ecuador than in Canada where one phone call can get you everything you need within a few hours.  The big things like flour and cheese we buy in bulk from distributors we found online.  We had to test the quality of several before we found ones we like.  The prices of things like pizza boxes varied greatly so shop around before you commit.  We often would take the phone numbers of the distributors off the labels of the products in the supermarket chains.  We’d stop the trucks delivering supplies and drinks to stores in the street.  The little things like jalapenos can only be found in the top-end supermarkets like Supermaxi, so we buy those there.

Chicken and fresh produce vegetables are much cheaper in Ecuador than in Canada.

Some things are more expensive in Ecuador, like pepperoni which is $5/kg in Canada while $13/kg in Ecuador.  Some things are cheaper like cheese which is $22/kg in Canada while $7/kg in Ecuador.

What are some interesting things you’ve learned about selling food to Ecuadorians?

Ecuadorians don’t drink much coffee compared to North Americans.  They love hot sauce.  And they’re surprised by all the different pasta options we offer like tomato, pesto and alfredo sauces, but in a pizza shop they usually ignore our fringe offerings and go right for the pizza.

How did you find your staff?  

Well, my friend and I started the business, we are the cooks for now, and my friends brother moved to Ecuador as well to help out.  We hired one waitress to attend the clients and answer the phones (since we dont speak much Spanish).  We pay her $400 a month plus tips which is a bit over the minimum wage in Ecuador for a full-time 40 hour a week employee.  We found her quickly by placing a classfied ad in the Quito Sunday newspaper.

What are your profit margins like for the food you sell?  

Well, if you don’t count the fixed costs like rent and so forth , just taking into the account what we pay for the food itself and what we sell it for the profit is about 70%.  That number can get higher if we sell more and are able to buy in bigger bulk.

How much do you sell on a good day?

Our goal based on our price level, roughly $8 a meal, and restaurant capacity is to sell $40 per table for a total of $1000 of sales per day.  That is a good day for us.

Any other tips for a new restaurant owner wannabe in Ecuador?  

Sure, the cost of living and rent in Ecuador is cheap compared to a place like Canada so take your time to find a good location, it could take several months of searching, don’t kid yourself with an average location, you win before you begin.

How can we learn more about your restaurant or give it a shot ourselves?

Check our our Facebook page MegaPizza Cumbaya to see pics of our food, we are right on the corner of Orellana y Chimborazo in Cumbaya or call 02-603-9983 for more on how to arrive, obviously, we speak English, open 7 days a week.  And on Monday nights we have EXPAT NIGHT from 6-10PM where if you show a foreign passport you get a free beer or beverage of your choice with any meal purchase.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The dirt on Cotacachi, Ecuador: March 2014 Market Report

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…

Enter Olga.

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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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Where to bank (safely) in Ecuador

 

Do you want the long or the short answer?

The short answer is … no where.

Keep your money in your home country except for what you need.  Remember, this is a country where from one day to the next a bank could close shop, put a lock on the door and say “adios” with your money.

Kind of funny hearing this from a supposed “Ecuador expert”.

But it is what it is.

It happens.

In fact, to two differnet banking institutions in the last year (2013-2014).

However, I know if you are going to live or invest here it sure is convenient to have a local bank account.

One you can withdraw from anytime without fees or hefty exchange fees.

So in this case I offer you the long answer

There are only two banks in Ecuador where I suggest you have your money.

1. Banco Pichincha.  Its the biggest bank in Ecuador (the yellow one) and has branches everywhere you want to be.  It’s where all the locals have their money in Ecuador.  Its the institution everyone uses to do business.  If this bank closed up there would be major riots in the street, in other words, the government would not let it happen.

One thing I’ve learned when living abroad, if all the locals are jumping off a bridge, damn it, you better follow suit!  There is a reason for everything all though we may not see it at first and think, “huh, that’s stupid, I’m so much smarter than they are. (not true!)”

2. Banco del Pacifico.  This bank is the other decent option, albeit with far fewer branches, this is also one of the safest places to stash your cash in Ecuador because it is owned and managed by the government.

It’s like making friends with the bully in grade school so they don’t pick on you.

Heck, I know I did it, this is the same difference when the government seems to be the one going around ordering banks and credit unions (cooperas) in Ecuador to close these days.

Extra tip:  Be sure to keep no more than $25000 in any one bank account in Ecuador, that is the amount your money is insured to and in the event of a bank closing you’d be one of the first people to get your money refunded.

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The unknown under-belly of Montanita: Manglaralto, the top rental opp on the coast?

manglaralto beach
Manglaralto Beach, Ecuador

Everyone loves Montanita.

But nobody actually wants to live there.  Unless you’re a 20 year old hippy.

It’s a neat mix of a traditional bohemian-Ecuadorian surf village turned mega-tourist attraction.

And its a great place to meet people, eat, drink or party.

But to live, for most, it’s just too noisy, too scandalous, too touristy.

There’s restaurants, heaps of hotels for every budget, travel agencies, surf shops, discos, bars… in a word, it’s fun.

And since 2009, when the local Ecuadorians started to discover the town, it’s absolutely exploded.

All year every weekend the place is packed, and during the high seasons (Jan-Apr and Jul-Aug) its got loads of travelers midweek too.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is there is a sleepy little town right next to Montanita that actually shares the same beach head.

And yes, it means you can walk between the two in a little under a half hour.

Yet most people just skip it.

They don’t even realize its there.

Its 4 km away from the center of Montanita, in fact, it is a 5 minute drive or 30 minute walk along the nice, wide, sandy beach.

Welcome to the town of Manglaralto, the town next to and just south of Montanita.

Manglaralto is still as local as it gets, like Montanita was maybe 10 years ago.

Theres one guy that sells chicken (for cooking), another street shop tucked away that sells the beef, another little nook sells the vegetables, and there’s one guy that come out in the mornings and sells the fresh fish.

You learn as you go.

It’s real quiet, the streets actually look quite empty or dead most days and there’s only 3 or 4 streets that run parellel to the ocean, a little park with a church and a landromat, a hardware store and 2 or 3 small hotels, thats it.

But it does sport the only hospital along this stretch of the coast, and its free to all (public).

Also, a little less than a year ago in early 2013 the streets of this tiny town were paved, which is HUGE.

But the reason I mention this town is the opportunity.

I discovered this town by accident 2 years ago when I bought a little dinker house there.

Not many foreigners live here full time yet, but there are certainly more than when I first bought 2 years ago.

And I can tell you first hand that the demand for rentals in the area is HUGE, being a quiet place to sleep near the action but not right in it as most prefer, and its the ONLY town that shares a beach with Montanita (one of the biggest tourist destinations on the coast of Ecuador).

So like most, eat or party in Montanita, then catch the $1.50 5-minute cab ride to sleep in peaceful Manglaralto.

Specifically over the last year or two, developers have started to move in to the southern end of town starting a few small subdivisions, but deals can still be found like the $15,000 4 bedroom house I found and bought 2 years ago.

Small 250 m2 lots in and near town can be found in the $10,000 range.

Oceanview lots go for anywhere from $30-60 per m2.  A lot a block or two back from the beach with no view can go for half that.

But you have to look, cause prices are all across the board.

It’s still one of those neat opportunity areas where prices have already risen a bit but you can still find a deal.

But mostly know that Manglaralto is not only a cool, peaceful place to live, but also one of the best places (at least top 5) to put a rental property on the coast of Ecuador.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Sold! How I sold my beach lot in Ecuador. Part 10 Property search series

 
I know what you’re thinking.

Where’s part 1-9 of this series?

Well, they were released about this time last year and tell the story from step one of how I found an undervalued beachfront lot near Salinas, Ecuador, legalized and resold it.

Well, about a year later, it’s now sold.

First, the specifics… 

In October of 2012 I bought a 500m2 lot right on the beach in a small fishing village 30 minutes south of Salinas near the town of Chanduy for $4000.   The lot was cheap for a number of reasons, the lot was located in a rather impoverished, completely undiscovered area of the coast, the papers of the lot were out of date and needed to be legalized (or attained for the first time), and the previous owner didn’t know much about marketing and sales.  The lot took about one month to legalize and cost around $500.  (No lawyer fees except for the notary.)

Then, in November of 2013, after negotiating I came to an agreement to sell the lot and sold it for $8000, a price where I still made money and the buyer still got a great deal (even for Ecuador) on a front-line beachfront lot.

How I sold it?

Due to time constraints and other priorities, I didn’t spend much time or money marketing it, all I did was post it on my own blog ecuadorealestate.org as well as on viviun.com .  Nothing else!  I didn’t list it in Spanish, or in the local paper (like I planned), or with any real estate agents.  Then I left it be.  And after a lot longer than I thought I had a buyer, a year later.

What I learned from the experience?

– That contrary to popular belief in Ecuador it is possible to take publicly owned “communal” land and privatize it and legally deed and register it in the notary, municipal and property registrar just like any other privately-owned property if you get some knowledge on your side.  But it can be a process and is a bit risky cause you never know.

– That if you buy property in an undiscovered, out-of-the-way location it is NOT a short-term play and will take you a lot longer to turn than you thought, even if the property is nice and right on the ocean (ideal).

– That the quality of the beach and proximity to a legit city with shopping and other services is important.

– That it will be a harder sell if NO other foreigners are in the area.

– That simply being beachfront is not quite enough to ask what other beachfront lots in more discovered, developed places on the coast are asking ($80-$100 per m2) .  If I would have got that I would have sold for around $40-50,000!  I started by asking $20k then I lowered to $16k but I didn’t start seeing any real interest until I lowered the asking price after several months to $12k.  Albeit I didn’t do a whole lot of marketing.

– That stating publicly on my blog how much I paid for the lot doesn’t help to sell it for a profit (duh).

– That using an agent probably would have been a good idea, it’s just that I had a bad experience with an agent previously.

– That there are a lot of areas on the Ecuador coast that are actually pretty stagnant while other areas are moving quickly.  Best find the areas moving quickly (which Ill cover on future newsletters).  For instance, this lot had a ‘for sale’ sign when I bought it that had been there 6 years!

– Not to waste time with all the (dozens) of tire-kickers online, the person who is actually going to buy your lot is probably someone already in Ecuador beit foreiger or local.
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The forgotten beach party town in Ecuador

Even if you don’t like to party, party towns are good places to base yourself as you explore the nearby areas of the Ecuador coast.

There’s more places to eat.

A larger variety of places to stay at a much lower average cost.

It’s easier to meet more people.

And you have access to services that you wouldn’t have in more remote locations, like laundry, internet, organized activities, etc.

Everyday I ask other foreigners where they plan to travel on the coast of Ecuador.

And they always tell me the same damn thing, “Salinas, Montanita, Manta, Canoa”.

Yet theres one popular party town on the coast that is completely overlooked by foreigners.

Atacames.

For me, Atacames arguably has the nicest beach of all the locations mentioned above.

It certainly has one of the widest beaches of the country, and one of the few white sand beaches lined with coconut palms in Ecuador.

Beaches with good surf are nearby.

And beaches that are coves with flat water great for swimming are just a short Tuk Tuk ride away (in neighboring Sua).

Plus, when the other beaches mentioned above are likely overcast, you can usually count on Atacames to have sun.

Nightlife. Check, Ecuadorians know how to party, trust me on that one.

Accommodations. Cheap and plentiful with budget places starting around $10 per person and the nicer places around $20 per person.

Food. You bet. Each region of the Ecuadorian coast has their own unique blend of seafood gastronomy. But the north coast has the best cuisine out there! Try the seafood in coconut curry (encocados) or the seafood in nut based curry (cazuela) and you won’t be dissappointed!

Foreigners. Almost none to date yet the area has been popular with Ecuadorian tourists for weekend getaways (particularly from Quito) for decades.

Airport/Hospitals. Yes and yes. Atacames is one of the few beaches within just 20 minutes or so from an airport reachable by commercial flights (Esmeraldas). Plus, being just 15 minutes or so from Esmeraldas there are plentiful private health clinics and free public hospitals available.

Safety. This has been the knock on Atacames as most folks think its too close to Colombia for comfort, but actually its still several hours from the border (like a place called Quito), and with the added police force I believe safety has improved greatly over recent years.

The locals. Different from the rest of the Ecuador coast, the locals are mulatos by ancestry. And by far the friendliest and best looking people on the Ecuador coast.

Real Estate. Cheap! The best deal I see this week in the area is a finished and FURNISHED 20 room, 20 bathroom hotel one block from the beach right in the center of town built just 8 years ago complete with reception, oceanview terrace, and cistern asking $170,000 negotiable.

But the owner sounded like he’d go down even lower, I’d try for around $150,000. Its possible, and it would be a steal.

Im a hotelier myself, and I can tell you, to furnish a 20 room place (well) you’re looking at easily $45,000. And depending on the state of the building (which looks good in the photos) at this price it could pay for itself in 2 years if you market it right.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Property holding costs in Ecuador: Not what you’d expect

I get it all the time…

“Well nowadays I can also buy a $40,000 property in Waco, Texas, what’the big deal about Ecuador?”

OK, well, one thing is the holding costs.

Lets take a look at my 4 bedroom, 3 bath house on the coast near Montanita. I currently rent it out.

I pay…

$0 for insurance (with so much concrete construction home insurance is not common).
$0 for condo or association fees (not in gated community)
$102 a year in property taxes
$7 electric bill last month (with one single person living on the property full time.)
$4 water bill last month
$2.50 gas (bought one tank of gas, this is also subsidized by the government)

Now lets compare this to a 2 bedroom condo in my home state of Montana, USA currently valued around $180,000…

$1200 annual property taxes
$583 every 3 months association fees.
electricity $80 a month (varies)
water $125 every 3 months
$180 annual insurance
gas $250 (varies)

How about a 2 bedroom house in Montana valued around $350-400k…

$3400 annual property taxes
$1200 annual homeowners insurance
$0 association fees (not in gated community)
electricity/gas $300 a month in winter
$25/month garbage collection

Now, lets throw in the extra cost of my Ecuador ‘property management’ because I do not live nearby (I live in Quito) and I rent it out short term as a vacation rental.

$20 a month to caretaker who visits property twice a week and lets me know if there are any problems, waters grass once a week and takes out the garbage.
$5 each time the caretaker has to go and turn in key or recover key from an entering or exiting guest.
$10 for each cleaning between guests.

The caretaker also is in charge for paying the energy bills, and does NOT live on the property. All guests prepay online, I do all the marketing myself.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Cocoa farms in Ecuador: An inside look into the Biz

Forget about exporting handicrafts a minute.

Ecuador has some VERY rich people, but they export different things, for instance, the product I’m going to mention today is one of Ecuador’s chief exports… cacao (or cocoa, the seed chocolate is made from).

As the breeze off the plantation whisked past my forehead I sat in a hammock across from a friend of mine who is the plantation owner of a 100 hectare cacao producing farm near the border town of Huaquillas in the South of Ecuador.

I was picking his brain. The business really interests me… here’s what I learned:

Cacao needs a tropical climate and a lot of moisture in order to grow effectively.

Rarely will you find folks with farms in full production willing to sell, because it’s a cash machine. But sometimes we can get lucky.

Cacao requires two full years after planting the seeds to begin to deliver fruit, but once it begins to deliver fruit, it will continue to for a long time as long as you take care of the trees.

When looking at listings for already-producing cacao farms for sale you’ll notice a big difference in prices… right now in the south of Ecuador cacao farms in full production are costing around $20,000 per hectare if they have CCN51 type cacao, and around $9,000 per hectare if they have the local, national type cacao.

Why the difference? The purple colored CCN51 produces a little over twice the fruit as the green colored national type cacao, and both fetch the same prices at market. So if you think you found a bargain, be sure to ask which type cacao is being produced!

For every 3 hectares of cacao farm in full production you’ll need one employee, to whom you’ll have to pay about $300 a month or $3,600 a year. Those same 3 hectares in full production will produce around $15,000 a year in sales, which is a low-ball figure, according to the plantation owner, who was my friend and wasn’t trying to sell me anything.

He said after water, fertilizer and irrigation costs as well as subtracting the above cost for the employee, each 3 hectares will leave around $9,000 in annual profit.

Once in production, you will harvest different sections every 15 days, giving you a constant stream of income, for the rest of your foreseeable life! People love Chocolate. I believe my mom’s actually addicted.

One big benefit to working with Cacao instead of Banana is that if you don’t sell the Cacao for whatever reason, you can store it, dry it, and it becomes even more desirable to the exporters, whereas banana, if you don’t sell it immediately, you lose the whole crop.

It’s actually a much more hands off business than most assume. Most plantation owners have a “Jefe” or farm manager who runs the farm for them, the owner I spoke to rarely visits his farm (maybe once every week or 2).

And as for selling your production, it’s easy, most just sell it directly to an intermediary in their town, who then turns around and sells it to an exporter in one of the ports in Ecuador (like Guayaquil), who then sell it to an importer in the destination country, who then sell it to a distributor who then sells it to the final production plants.

Why don’t the producers try to skip the supply chain and export themselves for higher profits?

Volume.

The importers require a certain, large amount of the product delivered to them regularly, and most farmers can’t guarantee such a large amount with frequency… so that’s why they use an exporter who gathers the product from various farmers and intermediaries to ensure they always have product on a steady basis for the importers.

You can find cacao farms along the coast and lowland areas of Ecuador, as well as in the eastern Amazon third of the country. To make good money, consider farms only of at least 20 producing hectares or more.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

The Galapagos: off-limits to retirees, or is there a loophole?

There’s only one place in Ecuador with Caribbean-like, snow-white sand beaches and emerald green water…it’s a little bit of the South Pacific, and a little bit of Ecuador….

… and it’s the only place in Ecuador that attracts the high-rollers…

…you know, the ones that spend $10,000 for a week-long cruise.

And you’ve never heard it mentioned as a possible retirement destination, until now…

The Galapagos Islands.

Problem is that the whole area is considered a National Park, making immigration and foreign investment laws tight.

Foreigners (not even Ecuadorians who aren´t from the Galapagos) can not buy property in their own name, or spend more than 3 months a year in the Galapagos.

But I think I found a loop hole.

And I’ll share it with you.

Recently, I discovered this loop-hole right from the source, talking to the current manager of the Property Registry Office while I was in the Galapagos.

With at least one local from the Galapagos as a minority partner, foreigners can start a business in the Galapagos.

The local partner can own a small, almost symbolic percentage of the shares, they don’t have to be the majority owner (I asked).

And then you can buy a property in the Galapagos under the name of the Galapagos-founded company.

Foreign companies can NOT buy property in the Galapagos in this manner.

And then the easiest way to become a legal resident is to get a work permit, as investor and retiree visas are not given.

One way to do so would be for your Galapagos company to hire you. Yes, in essence, you’d be hiring yourself.

But that’s the only way I’ve found for foreigners to live and invest in the Galapagos.

Buying in the Galapagos can be a complicated, risky venture. But it just may be worth the risk.

Of course, this theory still has to be proven, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

Pay off your next flight to Ecuador with micro-importing

I know you’ve probably heard how Ecuador is cheap, cheap, cheap.

Actually, for many things, it’s not.

In fact, many things in Ecuador are way more expensive than in North America.

It’s due to the ever tighter restrictions on importing many consumer goods.

And with the current administration, its only getting worse.

But of course this leaves the door open to business opportunity. Opportunity that even the casual traveler can cash in on.

For instance, an iPad Mini 16GB was for sale on special in Best Buy (USA) over the Black Friday weekend for $200. It normally sells around $250-300.

In Ecuador, the same 16GB iPad Mini was for sale in the mall I visited for $807.

On Mercadolibre, the eBay of Ecuador, new, sealed iPad Minis are going for around $400-450.

Thats just one example.

Other products that are historically more expensive in Ecuador are usually electronics, name brand clothes, shoes and perfumes.

Other random things like certain brands of spices and pepper sauces, perfumes, body creams, liquors, sugar cubes (I know its ramdom but they’re really hard to find here), large size clothing and shoes are simply not found in Ecuador.

So if you have a business that deals with people constantly coming and going from Ecuador (like in the travel industry), or if you yourself are constantly going back and forth, its quite easy to tap into this and become the go-to guy in your area of Ecuador bringing down things for people and charging to do it.

Why don’t resident expats in Ecuador just order online and have stuff mailed to them?

They do, but there’s a risk in that like what happened to me recently when I had a package mailed to me and it got stuck in customs and generated a steep tax that I had to pay and it was way more than the goods were even worth. It was just random stuff like a few books and clothes. I decided not to pay the tax and I never got the package.

Other items like cell phones have strict import restrictions and may not be released from customs, period. Never know.

Other times, it just doesnt make sense to pay $40-50 to get something like a pepper sauce you like mailed down when you could pay someone else $10-20 to bring it down for you.

Welcome to the concept of micro-importing. And its a real opportunity for some in Ecuador.

Micro-importing is under-the-radar-style importing where travelers take advantage of un-used space in their bags to bring down items that are for personal use only that folks living in Ecuador don’t have easy access to.

At the very least, its something that could help pay off your next airfare to Ecuador.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

High-season’s coming: Leaving money on the table on the coast of Ecuador

As we enter November here in Ecuador.

And all the leaves on the trees are exactly the same color as they were the rest of the year…

As the owner of vacation rentals on the coast of Ecuador I’m being constantly reminded of one fact as the email requests start to flood in.

That the demand for home rentals on the coast of Ecuador really spikes upward from late December to early April when all the folks from the northern hemisphere try to escape the winter.

The difference in demand is huge and shouldn’t be overlooked if you own a rental on the coast of Ecuador.

You really can charge double, maybe even triple the rent that you could during the rest of the year.

And you’ll get it! Just be patient.

Especially if you market to both Ecuadorians (who also want to be on the coast more in those months due to the nicer weather) and English-speakers (escaping the winter up north).

A lot of renters will want to enter starting in November and drag into the high season paying the same low-season prices, or pay you months in advance for the whole high season at a discounted rate.

Don’t let them, or you will be leaving serious mu-la on the table.

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Posted in Ecuador for Investors, Investor News/Analysis

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