Friday, November 30, 2012

Traditional Cuenca and Housing Options

We're written about this before, the old and new ways of Cuenca. 

It's still stunning to us that the old ways can peacefully co-exist right next door to the modern ways.  Seems to be no problem, but that's our outsider view.

Right next door to very new, modern buildings, there are pockets of the traditional life.  We hear the roosters and the cows.  We see the wonderful orchards and rows of veggies tended by the residents.  We see the candlelight in the evenings.  In these adobe houses, we've never seen any electricity, no power tools, no lights except for candlelight.  We're not sure if there is any plumbing.

We often wonder how these residents feel and think about  the modern buildings and traffic, butting up around their land. 

Cuenca has grown up all around these little pockets of tradition.  An Ecuadorian friend used to play  at the river, way out in the country.  All those fields are now new apt buildings.  His son, who also played at the river and was 'cured of an evil eye' by a shaman when he was a baby,  is now headed to medical school in the USA.  Things change.


We've gotten several questions from newcomers who are actively hunting for a place to live here in Cuenca.  All inquiries come from US Americans with US American expectations and requirements.  We are not experts on the topic, but we can share what we've learned and what we've heard from others.

Yes, you can exist here on $600/mo.  Many Cuencanos do live on this amount, even while raising their families.  The $600/mo figure is supposed to include, food, medical, entertainment, etc.  It is possible to live on that budget and may be easier if you own your home.  Finding acceptable-to-you homes to rent may take all of the $600 or more.  Yes, you will pay for those amenities you are needing, US style.  

(There are always exceptions and trade-offs which could impact your rent or purchase costs:  location, transportation options, services, etc. )

Most US Americans like 'modern' amenities.  Dishwasher and oven in the kitchen, running hot water,  inside toilets, new, working plumbing and electicity with back-up generator, security, internet, elevator, TV and cell phone access, views, good, clean water, lots of light...All those things that are common in the US. 
The topic of noise always comes up, too:  neighbors, nearby bars/nightlife, barking dogs, car and house alarms, construction.  Noise levels can change quickly.  Only you can decide how much and what kind of noise you want to deal with. 

Maybe you'll be more tolerant of the noise levels for the close-in location, maybe there is another trade-off that's worth the noise...


Here, you will find a wide variety of housing and prices, whether you choose to rent or buy.  Everything from old, ancient, dark adobes, maybe with mold and leaks and no appliances,  electricity or plumbing and  maybe dirt floors, all the way to very modern  houses/apts with lots of amenities, lots of light, maybe with a view and a porch or a garden, pet-friendly and close to everything...  and everything in between.

 Generally, the more modern and the more amenities, the more expensive.  The more centrally located, the more expensive.

As you hunt for your perfect place to live, do not make any assumptions (hard to do).  Don't assume that hot water faucet actually delivers hot or any water 24/7, or that computer on the table actually has online access, or that the toilet is functioning as you would like it to.  If appliances are included, do you care if they are working?  If so,  ask and check...don't assume.   Go to the source and double check, if it's important to you. 

Get everything in writing, including if the landlord, seller or builder will do repairs, painting or upgrades or if it's up to you and your wallet.  A couple friends were surprised when the roof leaked and the landlord had no plans to fix it.  Another couple was also surprised that their updates to the rental made the unit more valuable.  When the landlord saw what they had done, their rent went way up.  Always good to get a rental agreement and have it reviewed by knowledgable folks.  Good attorneys can help.  Double-check that the light fixtures and hot water heater and 'anything' connected to the walls and in the ground, including towel racks! and trees! and fences! light bulbs and light switches! kitchen granite and tiles! doors!  are included, don't assume.  Also, be sure the deposit information is spelled out, including how and when it will be returned. Are the gas tanks included?  Are all the old bills and taxes paid?  Is the landline included? Are your pets welcome?  Are systems and security maintained by the condo association?  Is a gardener included?  Only sign an agreement if you understand and agree with it -- get an English translation if needed.

If you're purchasing, do your homework, too.  Be clear what the builder/condo association/seller is responsible for, any additional costs and time frames.  Negotiate penalties for non-performance, get everything in writing.  Confirm that the person selling or renting to you has the authority to enter into a contract. Again, an attorney can help.  Work hard to minimize those surprises. 

Be careful, patient and be smart.  You'll find your perfect place!  If you move in and you find it's not perfect, look some more and move again.  Lots of choices.

 Many friends here have moved several times as neighbors, buildings and neighborhoods change (or they and their expectations have changed).  

Happy house hunting!


We took many pictures during a City Tour recently and another trip to the countryside.  We'll be posting more pictures later, so stay tuned.  Thanks for reading.  Happy Weekend!

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