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. I would like to install a new fence in my yard, so I’m going to hire these contractors for help.  I also visited bubdesk for lot of help. Talk to the neighbors to confirm before buying if possible.

Fence costs are calculated as a cost per linear foot. The easiest way to estimate the cost is to determine the cost of a single fence panel and then multiply that cost times the number of panels required to achieve the total length of the fence. First, measure the perimeter of the area to be enclosed – while doing this make note of any special situations that will influence to cost such as gate(s) or difficult terrain. If a fence already exists that will be replaced with new materials then simply count the number of fence panels that are present. Wood privacy fences are almost always spaced with posts 8 foot apart on center (this means the measurement from the center of one post to the center of an adjacent post is 8 feet) but always measure to confirm. Lumber is available in standard 8 foot lengths and offers a balanced solution of cost and strength. Spans longer than 8 feet will likely have problems with sagging unless the 2×4 cross beams are upgraded to 2×6 dimension – this also changes the appearance of the fence panel. The fence rails should be 2×4 lumber from pressure treated pine or cedar wood. The style of privacy fence and the choice of wood used on the pickets will have the biggest impact to the aesthetics of the wood privacy fence installation.

If there is a need to set the posts at some other length, be sure to choose an increment of 2 feet (i.e. 6 foot, 8 foot, 10 foot, 12 foot etc… ) otherwise installation will require every cross beam to be cut to length. What about the premade panels available at the local home improvement store? These premade panels are often made from pressure treated pine with three cross beams that are 1.5×2.25 inches and frequently sag after installation. The cheap fence panels can be suitable for urgent repair purposes but are not recommended for use when installing a new or replacement fence.

Wood fence posts must be pressure treated and rated for ground contact. Galvanized steel fence posts offer longer life after a higher initial cost for the post and the post rail brackets that are required. Many homeowners dislike the appearance of the steel posts but this can be overcome by a simple coat of paint or wrapping the steel post in a wood enclosure.

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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