Cuenca housing market remains strong despite economic strains; Ecuadorians living overseas are a major factor
Although real estate sales have fallen in some areas of Ecuador, the market remains strong in Cuenca according to local officials.
Eduardo Garces, vice president of the Association of Real Estate Brokers of Azuay, says that the local housing sector is experiencing a surge in property sales. “The number of sales is up 5% from January and more than 10% from a year ago,” he says. He adds that prices continue to appreciate although the rate of growth has slowed in recent months.
In other areas of Ecuador including Quito, Guayaquil and the coast, the numbers of real estate sales have shown a modest decline since fall 2008. Economists say prices have also inched lower in many markets.
Garces cited several factors he believes are keeping the market healthy, including a new government program backed by Social Security funds that provides mortgages to those who have paid into the system. Most of the sales from the Social Security mortgages, he says, are in the $60,000 to $80,000 price range although the program provides mortgages of up to $100,000.
The largest factor influencing the Cuenca real estate market, say Garces and others, are Ecuadorians living outside of the country, particularly in the U.S. and Spain. The foreign Ecuadorians are buying real estate, he says. On a per capita basis, there are more residents of Cuenca and Azuay Province living overseas than from any other area of Ecuador.
Cuenca real estate agent Juan Estaban believes real estate is a logical place for foreign nationals to put their money. “The people working in New York and Spain plan to return to Ecuador one day and they know that real estate is one of the best investments they can make in their country.”
Estaban says it is not just Cuencanos investing in the local market. “Ask almost anyone in Ecuador and they will tell you that Cuenca is the most beautiful city. Many people want to live in Cuenca, even those who did not grow up here, and I see many people from other areas of the country moving here and buying houses.”
Photo caption: Larger homes have been big sellers in the Cuenca real estate market in 2009.