Through the first four months of 2009, real estate construction and sales continue to be a strong point of Cuenca’s economy. During that period, more than 250 building projects were permitted in the city’s central area and thousands of sales were recorded.
Xavier Sanchez, president of the Azuay Real Estate Brokers Association believes construction will continue at a brisk pace for the foreseeable future. The 6,000 real estate transactions recorded at the Land Registry office since January 2009, he says, equal the pace of sales for 2008, Cuenca’s busiest year on record.
Sanchez and others in the real estate business continue to credit Ecuadorians living overseas with keeping the local market active. “Returning Ecuadorians who are buying property want to live in Cuenca. We are not just talking about people who are natives of Cuenca who are coming home. We’re also talking about those from other parts of Ecuador who have decided they want to live here too.” He adds, “For many Ecuadorians, living in Cuenca is their dream.”
According to Sanchez, almost 30% of all local real estate transactions are sales to Ecuadorians returning to the country or, who still live overseas.
“We keep waiting for the rate of activity to slow down like it has in Quito and Guayaquil,” says Sanchez, “but I don’t think it will. Ecuadorians from overseas are keeping us busy.” He adds that prices remain strong in Cuenca, particularly for condominiums. "In most of the country there has been in a 5% to 8% drop in prices, but not here. Condo sales are very strong."
Sylvan Hardy, editor of the English-language Ecuador Real Estate News, says that non-Ecuadorian North Americans, make up a relatively small percentage of local buyers and have little affect on the Cuenca market. “The best guess is that there are between seven and 10 sales per month to the expats and foreign investors. This doesn’t sound like much but, outside of Quito, it’s the highest number of any community in Ecuador.”
Hardy expects the numbers to increase. “There have been several newspaper and magazine articles that promote Cuenca as one of the best places to live in Latin America and this is generating a lot of interest — and a lot of visitors.” Cuenca was the cover story in the latest edition of the Overseas Retirement Letter, published by Live and Invest Overseas. The article’s author, Christian Macdonald, maintains that the city is the best place to retire in Ecuador and one of the best in South America.
According to Hardy, the most popular cities for foreign, non-Ecuadorian buyers are 1) Quito; 2) Cuenca; and 3) Manta. Among smaller communities, he says, Vilcabamba, Bahia de Caraquez, Yunguilla and Cotacachi are the biggest draw.
Photo caption: This condominium project on the Tomebamba River is almost sold out 18 months before completion.