This is a guest post by an American expat living in Cuenca since 2007.
3 Ways to Find Rental Property in Cuenca, Ecuador
Food, shelter & clothing… those are our basic needs. Finding food in Cuenca is easy. Finding clothes that fit the usually taller and often more “robust” expat population can be a little more challenging in Ecuador. Finding a house here can be a real challenge at times. When searching realtor web sites and online classified ads, it sometimes seems that there just are not that many rental houses available in Cuenca. When rentals seem scarce, that is when it pays to dig deeper and beat the bushes a little.
Recently, my wife and I spent the entire day with a newly arrived expat family and went house-hunting with them. We rented a van and picked up the family at 9 a.m. and went to look at the first house we had lined up. By 6 p.m. we had made numerous phone calls to realty agencies and individual owners and visited a total of 7 houses being offered for rent. We are not realtors; we simply served as translators between the expat family and the rental owners and pointed out to our guests the pluses and minuses of the houses we found.
So, how does one go about finding a decent rental house in Cuenca when the available rentals may seem to be scarce at times? There are three methods we have used when looking for rentals:
1. Call a professional Realtor: Before we went on our house hunting expedition, we spent a couple of hours calling realtors and surfing their web sites looking for rental listings. We called or visited the web site of every realtor listed in the Cuenca phone book looking for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath rental house with a yard. Out of all the realtors we consulted, we only found two agencies who offered rentals and between the two of them they had only a couple of rental listings that fit
the criteria of the family we were helping. We found that the rental houses the realtors offered were considerably more expensive than the For Rent by Owner houses we had located. In fact, the most expensive house we look (with an asking price of $700 per month) was a realtor listing. Despite the higher price, this house turned out to be one of the most run-down and undesirable of the houses we found. By the end of the day my wife and I had come to the conclusion that it was a basically a waste of time to look for affordable, decent rentals via the realtors. Most realtors seem to be mainly interested in selling houses or renting houses at what seem to be inflated prices.
2. The second method we have used to find rentals in Cuenca is through the local newspaper and online classified ads. In Cuenca there seems to be a high demand for affordable rentals and they do not stay on the market for very long. For example, on a recent House Hunting trip we went with some fellow expats to look at a FRBO house listed in the classifieds and were surprised to find a group of people cueing up outside the same house waiting to enter to take a look. The owner was asking $250 for this particular 4 bedroom, 2 bath and that is a very a decent price for an unfurnished house of that size in Cuenca. Houses in that price range do not stay on the market for long.
3. What to do when there seem to be few rentals available? At times the number of For Rent by Owner classified ads are scarce and as I have already mentioned the realtors here don’t seem to be very interested in listing rentals and the few rentals they offer rent for considerably more money than the FRBO houses.
When there seems to be a scarcity of rental listings, there is a third method we have used with success to find rental housing for ourselves and other expats. We have found a number of nice, affordable rentals by cruising neighborhoods and taking note of the For Rent signs posted in the windows of houses and apartments. Some owners prefer not to advertise in the paper and for some reason choose not to deal with realtors. They simply put a For Rent sign in the window and wait for the fish to bite. It takes time and effort to pound the pavement looking for rentals, but we found the house we are currently renting by doing a random search of neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs. Our current rental house is twice as large as our last house, less expensive and in a more convenient location. Doing a “manual” door to door search looking for rentals may not be the quickest or most orthodox way to find a house or apartment, but it does work when rental listing are few.
While at first glance it may appear that affordable, decent rentals are scarce in Cuenca, the fact is that with a little leg work and, if needed, a little translation help from someone with experience in house hunting, expats can find a nice place to rent in Cuenca without having to pay the sometimes exaggerated rental prices that one often finds when surfing certain realtor web sites. Happy house (or apartment) hunting!