Wednesday, February 13, 2013

International Living..


Dear International Living Reader,
In Ecuador, you can have it all...but it doesn't come without sacrifice.
At times, International Living is accused of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses... of overlooking the bad and omitting the blemishes. If you've been here in Quito the past few days, you surely would not agree with that.
Because the expats who live here have come out into the open and are telling it like it is. No holds barred. The unvarnished truth and then some...
I'm Suzan Haskins and I've been reporting to you these past three days from Quito.
To say it's been eye-opening is an understatement. I live in Ecuador and have been doing so on-and-off for the last 12 years. But even I learned so mucho mas from the speakers at this event about Ecuador that I didn't know before.
This is one of the most hospitable countries on the planet where, we learned, everyone from the president and the government on down are welcoming foreign retirees and expat families with open arms. But there are some surprises beyond the welcome mat...
The final panel discussion was particularly telling, with the audience throwing random questions at the panel. They were asking about the challenges to living in Ecuador, the up-and-coming destinations no one talks about, personal safety issues, importation rules, and more—like...can you drink the water... can you bring or own firearms... what will be the effect of any possible future inflation rates on retirement nest eggs... what if you have asthma or allergies... is Ecuador for you?
In another session, we even learned about how to import your household goods. Like when to start the process and how long it takes. (And importantly, how much it costs.) What can you bring? What must you leave at home?
You can learn what we've learned. Should you want to listen in to any and all of the presentations, introductions, or panel discussions from this conference, you can. I've sent you details about how to do just that and I'll do that again here, at the end of this report.
How Patrick Found his Paradise...
But first... I want to tell you about one of the most inspiring speakers on the roster today...
Patrick Robinson has a Burl Ives countenance, down to the deep, distinctive voice. (The problem is, he says, "I’m starting to look like him!")
Living on the island of Maui in Hawaii (the most expensive and overtaxed state in the union, according to Patrick) he made a snapshot list of what the perfect society might look like: Plenty of water, good weather, mostly agrarian, enough exports to support the population, but not to be dependent on those exports, a stable non-dictatorial political environment, and sweet-natured people that were welcoming of foreign immigrants.
The more research he did, the more convinced he became that that place was Ecuador. One part of Ecuador in particular jumped out at him. But still, he wasn't sure he should go off on this adventure. After all, he was more than 80 years old at the time. And that was six years ago!
"Did you ever wonder why people are so afraid of change?" he asked. He weighed the risks versus the rewards, the challenges against the benefits... At his age, could he do it? Uproot and start fresh?
He struggled with the idea, he admits, but he knew he had to make a change. Hawaii was just too expensive...and Patrick plans to live for many, many more years.
After a gentle push from a young friend, he found himself in Ecuador's lush, green Vilcabamba, also known as the Valley of Longevity.
"And I knew I had found my home," he said. "Most importantly, my expenses are now one-fourth what they were in the U.S."
Today, Patrick Robinson is living happily in Vilcabamba where he writes about the secrets to healthy, happy living. ("Vilcabamba has the best water in the world," Patrick says, "Just Google it and see if I’m not right.")
From his office window he enjoys a bucolic view of sleek stallions grazing an emerald-green pasture, a quintessential babbling brook and wildflower-strewn mountains in the background.
"The rewards far outweighed any possible risks," said Patrick. If he can do it at 80+, so can you...
Nothing to Fear (and Much to Gain), But Proceed with Eyes Open...
Some of the presentations over the last three days have been about real estate. And nope, no one is trying to sell anything. Local experts (attorneys, real estate analysts and more) have explained how to go about properly and safely buying property in Ecuador.
(By the way, everyone noted that real estate prices in Ecuador have been rising in the past year or two, but they’re still among the lowest in the world—especially for beachfront property.)
International Living correspondents and expats from all around the country have profiled their favorite places in Ecuador (Cuenca, Cotatcachi, Vilcabamba, Loja, Quito, Salinas and many coastal locations, in case you're wondering) where living is carefree and costs are low.
They’ve shared some extraordinary property picks, too—like a popular beach town where you can buy a seven-bedroom home for little more than $100,000. Bed-and-breakfast, anyone? Or a pretty three-bedroom/ three-bath home across the street from the ocean on a huge lot with room for expansion of land...with a Jacuzzi...for just $179,000.
You can easily build a home in Ecuador for $30 to $50 per square foot. And of course, you can spend more—it totally depends on your tastes, needs, and the level of style you’re after.
If beach living is more your style and you prefer to rent instead of buy, you're in luck. Amy Pinoargote offered an in-depth tutorial on renting in Ecuador: How to find rental properties, how to determine the amenities included, what renters typically pay for and what they don't (utilities, homeowners fees, etc.).
Step-by-step, she and others explained your obligations, responsibilities, carrying costs, fiscal benefits, and more...as either a purchaser or renter of real estate in Ecuador. Thinking of buying a property you can rent when you're not there? We learned all the pros, cons, and details of that, too.