Seeing how Curtis is 38 and I am 29, we will still need to make a living to have income so that we can have money to live in Ecuador. Thankfully, after spending the last 6 weeks here we have determined that about $1200 is very comfortable budge per month. We figure $600 for rent maximum (probably less) and $600 for all other expenses including food, cell phone, internet, bus fare and dining out 2-3 times a week. I have seen first hand what $20 can buy from the fresh markets in Bahia de Caraquez (Two Markets Saturday) and San Vicente (Monday).
After talking to every expat that we have had the chance to talk to during our visit we have heard two things over and over. These come from two types of people that have different goals and financial aspects as well.
Type 1: The expat that has retired in Ecudor
This type of person strongly believes you should buy property here and get your piece of oceanfront land before the price skyrockets to a million dollars. The increased property value sounds like a great investment, if I had money to invest but I am hesitant to invest in property in a foreign country because I’ve heard it can be hard to sell if you change your mind. I also heard an interesting statistic from the developer of the 3 condo complexes near Canoa, Ecuador: Over 40% of expats can’t make it in a third world country and will move back. That statistic is enough for me to rent for while, commitment free regardless if it will cost me an arm and a leg in 5 years to buy waterfront property.
I met some great people in the condo we were staying at, I believe they will be lifetime friends. So I do not think that all people in condos are bad by any means; however, we have noted the condo concerns that we are now aware of before buying one.
We paid a lot of attention to the common ‘issues’ that arise in condo complexes full of retired gringos. Currently, in Canada we live in a duplex and have a bunch of lovely neighbors on every side of us. But my neighbor,s at home, do not create rules for me to follow within my own home or the outside area of my house. Living in a condo will mean you have to abide to rules set up by a the property board (strata council or whatever it is called in your country). For example, if the rules committee vote to have only 1 pet or no pets, you have to comply. Or if enough people agree that they want to spend an extra $10,000 on some sort of project for the property; whether you agree or not, majority will rule. The owners will form alliances to try to pass votes (kind of like a reality tv show, haha).
The biggest problem of all is that you are stuck in very close proximity to a bunch of people that you do not know until you live there, they come from all walks of life and some will have a pile of free time that they choose to use by thinking of all sorts of strange rules or things to complain about to. If you choose the condo complex, you will have a new group of people that you will be spending your time with, especially if you are not fluent in Spanish.
The benefit is definitely less isolation, resulting in being part of a (gringo) community immediately. When there are more people around it will increase security. As much as it may be tempting for a thief to break into a condo complex full of rich gringos, there are a lot of neighbors within very close proximity which makes it a difficult job. It will be very difficult for you to ‘pick up Spanish by exposure’ if you live in a gringo community.
2. The Expat that has moved here and is still working
This type of expat has an entirely different attitude and I believe they are embracing the culture, the way of life and are integrating into the country in a different way. The #1 piece of advice they give is ‘Don’t Wait, just commit to it and make it happen’.
After I explained that I would have to wait a couple years but I would probably be able to earn about $600/month from rental income if I was not living in the upstairs portion of my house in Canada, the two expat fellows said, “That’s almost enough actually. And there are ways of making money down here too”. The first guy pays just $100 for his rent and the other pays $200 for his place.
Another couple that I met that are closer to my age are only a few months away from residency. She makes money to by offering kite surfing lessons and taking people on tandem paragliding rides off the high cliffs around Canoa. He is an tradesman and manages to pick up enough random jobs. They met each other by exchanging services and ended up getting together and now have a toddler. Both of them came to Ecuador and didn’t want to leave, so they made it happen with the skills they had.
This group of people have either learned Spanish fluently or are on their way. They are way beyond playing charades at the market to get what they need. Most of them have Ecuadorian friends and are well know in the community of expats as well.
I haven’t really met anyone who lives in a house rather than a condo complex but I imagine they are either happy with the isolation and keep to themselves or they are part of the community out of necessity. A person who has built their house rather than buying the finished product will have many more local connections established. I found it interesting that every service is found by a referral here. For example, if you need a couch for your living room, you just ask around to see if there is anyone that they can recommend to build it custom for you. It seems that everything can be done custom for very reasonable prices.