According to local builders and real estate agents, more Cuencanos are buying apartments than ever before. Cuenca Chamber of Construction president, Diego Monsalve, says the trend is an indication that people are eager to simplify their lives by avoiding the upkeep and expense of maintaining houses. He also says that it is an indication of rising land prices, saying that lot prices are beyond the financial reach of many Ecuadorians.
Nivaldo Quinde, president of MultiCasa real estate agency, says that 50% of his sales today are apartments. “They make sense for elderly people whose children have left home,” he says. “Buyers also like the security that condominiums provide.”
Five or six years ago, say Monsalve and Quinde, about 75% of sales in Cuenca were houses.
Quinde says the most active segment of Cuenca´s real estate market are Ecuadorians who have lived overseas, primarily in the U.S. and Europe, who are returning home to buy. “This is about a third of the market,” he says.
Quinde, like other local real estate agents, maintains an office in New York, where the largest number of Ecuadorians live.
According to Quinde and other local agents, a small but of significant part of the local real estate market are foreigners. He estimates that about 2% to 2.5% of local sales are to foreigners, primarily Colombians and North Americans.
There are about 4,000 Colombians and 2,000 North American expatriates living in Cuenca.
A potentially troubling factor, according the national association of real estate agents, is the rapid appreciation in real estate prices. In Cuenca, prices have risen between 6% to 10% per year since 2008, according to the association. "We believe that there will be a correction in prices soon," said an association spokesperson.
RUSSIAN MOVIE TAKES TOP HONORS AT CUENCA FILM FESTIVAL
The Russian movie, Siberie Monamour, has been named best film at the tenth annual Cuenca International Film Festival. Tweleve films competed for top honors.
The movie, directed by Slava Ross, tells the story of an old man and his grandson living in a small Siberian town. The Cuenca prize is the third award Siberie Monamour has won.
GROUP SUES TO STOP TREE-CUTTING IN PARQUE DE LA MADRE
The Cuenca Citizen Oversight Committee has filed a lawsuit against the city to prevent work that cuts and uproots trees in the city park on Av. 12 de Abril, just south of the historic district. The park is undergoing a year-long reconstruction project to upgrade athletic facilities and to add a 240-car parking facility.
Juan Campoverde, a member of the Oversight Committee says that the work will destroy too many trees and is a violation of Ecuador´s new constitution, which assigns rights to the natural environment. “The city needs more trees than concrete,” said Campoverde, who cited a recent study that showed Cuenca has a deficit of green space.
Javier Cardenas, a spokesman for the city, said he is unaware of the lawsuit but plans to read the filing. “I think the suit is the result of misinformation. The issue of trees is very senstive to the city and the designers of the park and we are taking great care to protect as many trees as posible.”
He says that most trees will not be eliminated. “We will relocate some trees and replant those that have to be removed.”
The city says the parking garage is essential because of growing parking problems related to the new court center located two blocks away, on Av. Jose Peralta.
NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR ASSUMES HIS DUTIES IN QUITO
There´s a new U.S. ambassador in Quito. Thirteen months after the former ambassador, Heather Hodges, was expelled from the post by the Ecuadorian government, Adam Namm has resumed the duties. Namm is expected to present his credentials to President Rafael Correa sometime in June.
Hodges was expelled after she resused to repudiate statements revealed in WikiLeaks cables in which she claimed that an Ecuadorian police official was corrupt. The U.S. responded by expelling Ecuadorian Ambassador Luis Gallegos. Ecuador appointed Nathalie Cely to fill the empty spot in January.
ECUADOR CONSUMER PRICES FALL IN MAY
Ecuador's consumer price index fell 0.19% in May compared with the 0.16% increase in the previous month, led by a decrease in the costs of food and nonalcoholic beverages, the national statistics and census institute, known as INEC, said June 7.
The CPI rose 4.85% over the 12-month period through May. In May 2011, the CPI rose 4.23% on the year and 0.35% on the month.
The accumulated CPI between January and May 2012 was 2.22%, from 2.77% registered in the same period of last year.
INEC also said the cost of the basic basket of consumer goods was $584.71 in May while the cost of the so-called living basket for minimum subsistence was $423.36. The baskets are calculated on the monthly needs of an average four-person Ecuadorean family with 1.6 salary earners.
The government has said inflation would run at 5.14% this year, after reaching 5.41% in 2011. Economists said that during this year food prices may go up and down, but it is more likely inflation will be higher than 6% in 2012.