Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting my Ecuador Residency Paperwork started and finding an apartment!

For assistance with Ecuadorian residency visas (cedulas) and all types! And assist with container shipping! Apartment rentals, Real Estate and general information!

Contact Marianela via e-mail for visa requirements and information on starting the process from your country.


from Ecuador: cell: 0993309682

Now that Cuenca has an Immigration office using a facilitator is much more affordable and faster!  

Contact Marianela for rates, usual cost between $400-$500 depending on type of visa.

I e-mailed her for a list of all my paperwork from the US just to make sure I had everything correct before I got here.
There are four ways to become a resident of Ecuador:
1)  Put $25,000 in the Bank here
2) Buy property worth $25,000
3) Open a business

4) Retirement Visa

I chose to apply for the retirement visa! Which requires that you provide proof of at least $800 a month income.

So the paperwork I had to provide was my SS Income letter, Income from my Edward Jones Investments and a letter from the Sheriff's Office stating that I am not a criminal!

All this paperwork had to be Notarized and mailed off to the Secretary of State for Apostile stamp! Which is the 1st time I ever heard this word: Apostile! Anyway it is a State Seal put on each document assuring that the Notary is licensed to notarize in the State of CA. It cost me $40 for the Notary and $60 for the Apostle stamps. I mailed the paperwork along with a check and stamped addressed envelope. it just took three weeks to get it all back. 

Next step I took all the stamped paperwork to the Ecuador Consulate in Beverly Hills to get a letter in Spanish from them stating that I have proof of the necessary income to apply for Residency. Cost $40!

Usually it should take 3 months to receive residency, but I have been reading from other Expats it can take up to 11 months. Anyway the tourist visa is good for 90-days, but if your paperwork to become a resident is in you can stay until you get your Cedula. (residency Card)
Now that I got all this taken care of I had to get an Airline Ticket! Now this is something else to deal with now days, going on-line to search for airfares can take hours, days, and when you finally find the one you want it is gone! Now try calling one of them: Expedia, Cheap-O-tickets, Price-line and guess what they will get you a ticket for 1/3 more than what it shows on line!
The cheapest tickets had 13 hour layovers in NYC, Houston or Miami and then another 13 hour layover in Lima, Peru or Quito or Costa Rica! So much for the cheap airfare!
I decided to try the search late at night on my cousin Pam's suggestion and finally I found the perfect airfare from Cheap-O-Air. Leaving from LAX at 1 am with 1 1/2 hour layover in San Jose, Costa Rica and 4 hours in Quito, then on to Cuenca! Of course the cost of the ticket would almost equal 2 nights in hotels, meals and taxi fares! They really have this airfare thing figured out. Ha!
I really only needed a one-way ticket, but that is almost the same cost as a round trip, plus I was coming into Ecuador as a tourist.
A few days after I arrived to Cuenca I gave my Attorney's a $500 deposit and $145 more for the paper translations into Spanish. I should hear from them in 3 months after they file the paperwork, then I give another $350 for filing the paperwork and when it is all done another $500 for the Attorney fee! Best part is once I have my residency I don't have to leave the country and don't have to pay anymore money.

Now there is an immigration office in Cuenca with a couple of English speaking receptionists so you can do the paperwork with them and save the Attorney's fee, but it is time consuming and requires many visits to the office.

I had considered moving back to Puerto Vallarta, where I lived for 10 years. But after a visit last year I found that the place has grown so much and the cost of living is so high now that it just did not have the appeal as when I lived there. Also to retire in Mexico now you must go to Immigration once a year and provide proof of a $1600 a month income and pay $100 for another years retirement visa. 

My friend Jodi, who I knew for 35 years is the one who talked me into moving to Puerto Vallarta in 1984 from Hawaii. I met Jodi in Hawaii at the Beverly Hills Art Gallery where I was working in 1976 and we became friends then and until her death November 30, 2011! I was on my way to the Airport when her daughter called me with the news. Jodi was 80 years old and she lived somewhat of an exciting life! She sure was a major support for me over the years.

Jodi moved to Puerto Vallarta in 1982 and remained friends with people she met since then. I was unable to go for her wake, but as with so many of our friends her ashes were taken to Los Arcos  rocks on a canoe along with several friends and a Mariachi Band. Then several of her friends met at her house to celebrate her life! Jodi will be missed!

Well with my residency paperwork underway Bryan led the way to search for an apartment! Of course I wanted a furnished place with a great view for a very low amount of rent! Ha! We started our search by taking a taxi ride past all the condos in good residential areas and looking for En Renta signs.

I read a blog from this single guy James from Chicago, who rented a 1700 sq. foot 3 bedroom / 3 bathroom + maid quarters at the Palermo Condo, with a great view, unfurnished for $500 a month. This is the highest condo in Cuenca with 17 floors and now nothing can be over 12 floors. With a new building going up next to it looks like some people are going to lose their views.

                    And lots of new construction going on!

 We did stop by a new building and had a tour by the owner! Unreal! Some of these building owners have our number! These apartments had three very small bedrooms and bathrooms, no terrace or pool or gym! And this guy is renting them unfurnished for $500 a month and asking $170,000 to purchase + he has meters on the water, hot water, gas and building electricity use and $150 a month for Security. And he says he has already rented 5 units on-line to Gringos!
Unfortunately when Expats are willing to pay more money for rent then they really need to, it tends to run up the cost for everyone.
Anyway looking for signs in the windows was not that successful so I decided to call this guy who advertises great condos on-line for very reasonable prices. I did e-mail him before I came down here as he had requested earlier. I was hoping he would send me a list of available apartments, but all I got was a request for a $500 deposit now? And when I said no, he replied, well when you get here call me and you can come to my office and we can go over what is available. So I called him on a Saturday but unfortunately I could not understand anything he said on the phone and he is a Gringo! Guess he was partying for the weekend and asked me to call him on Monday.
When I called on Monday I figured out he really had no office and all those great listings on-line were not available and he offered me an apartment off a house outside of town. I told him that was not what I was looking for and he said he would call me the next day. Well he called and offered me the same apartment! So of course I did not use his services.
People planning on moving here should beware of what you see on-line and don't send anyone money! Unfortunately there are several Expats here starting rental services and offering apartments at unreasonable prices. I read about this before on!
There are even Real Estate developers on the coast building condos and offering them for sale at very high prices! 
Besides Ecuador being a great place to live most Expats move here for the low cost of living! Guess there will always be the dishonest gold diggers where ever they can make a profit.
Unfortunately Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Belize and even Nicaragua among other places are no longer affordable places to retire thanks to these kind of people! And of course the locals start doing the same.
We did look at a couple of apartments in small building that just were not nice at all for $500 a month. So we decided to call a rental agent. We met this women at an apartment next to the Oro Verde Hotel in a good part of the city. She showed us a 3 bedroom / 2 bathroom with a small maid's quarters partly furnished, beat up furniture and warn out carpets with a view of peoples feet walking by in front and level with the parking lot in the back! Later we found out the real price was $300 a month, but even at that I could not live in it.
So Bryan said lets wait until Sunday and look in the paper! And we found a great 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom on the 11th floor unfurnished for $260 a month! This is what I was looking for even though I would have to purchase furniture. So we called about the ad and made an appointment to see the apartment and when we showed up we found out the owner was in the hospital. But then we received a call from the rental lady who just happened to have a place on the 11th floor for $280 a month. When we showed up to see it we figured out it was the same place and she did not have the key to show it so she showed us a furnished one for $550 a month. It was small and I was not impressed and she said well the other one might be smaller.
So we kept calling the owner until he answered his phone and he made an appointment to show us the apartment the next day. Well guess our loyal agent found out he was out of the hospital and was going to show the apartment that day so she called us and said she had the key. While we were at the condo waiting for her in walks the owner, who is a Doctor. We approached him and told him we had talked to him on the phone. And then here comes the agent, she talked to him for along time and suddenly the rent went from $260 to $280! I told her we saw the ad and called the Doctor and the rent was $260! Ha! She says $260-$280 whats the difference!
As soon as I saw the apartment it was just what I wanted so I handed over some cash and had to go back to Marcia's house for more cash while they waited for me in the lobby. Guess while I was gone this American women showed up, seems she had an appointment with the Doctor to see the apartment and of course our wonderful agent told her it was rented! This did not go over well with the American women, she wanted it site unseen and it almost turned into a rumble with our agent who told the Doctor to look in his pocket, that he had my money!
Guess the old Doctor wanted to make some points with this Americana! Ha! Anyway I got the apartment and the agent got her $280 from the Doctor!
                                           My building

                      Lobby - always security present 24/7

                                 And of course elevators!

                                   And here is the view!

                         I even have cows across the street

                                           Living room


                                   One of the bathrooms

                                         Master Bedroom

And next time more on furnishing a condo in Cuenca!


  1. Well, at long last I saw "my" apartment LOL. Actually, I first recognized you, from your picture, today. This is nearly 10 months later!! To check my memory, I have read through your first posts.

    Yes, I had an appointment with that doctor. The appointment was 4 times confirmed, the last time 30 minutes before it. If I recall it correctly, the price was $300, as advertised around a week before that appointment date,by that doctor.

    The RE agent was simply a terror, and a liar of course. TG!!, have not met another Ecuadorian like her in nearly 2 years here.

    Well, glad you like your apartment :) Still think it would have been nice, if you talked to me then. GL!

  2. Hi Gary, we are the texans you meet in the supermax. jim and maxine gribble . wanted you to know we are checking up on you.

  3. I love your condo in Cuenca! I’ve been torn between relocating to Mexico (in Merida or Lake Chapala) or Ecuador. Have to decide by July so I can buy my tickets.

    Thanks for some real thoughts.

    1. I lived in Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Cabo for 10 years. Merida is a great old city but gets pretty hot! Lake Chapala has been a haven for expats for years but not so much now days. I hear lots of expats are moving to San Miguel De Juento. I decided on Ecuador because it is easy to get residents here and the cost of living is affordable to me. Also Cuenca is not a hugh city and the weather is cool all year long. If you come here let me know so we can have coffee!

  4. Hello Gary,
    I've just run across your blog and wanted to thank you for all the valuable and frank information you are providing - I hope you will continue. After years of research on where to retire (Costa Rica, Uruguay, Panama, etc.) I've come to the conclusion that Cuenca, Ecuador has just about everything I'm looking for. Like you, and everyone else moving there, I would like to find a reasonable place but see the rents are getting higher and prices to buy are climbing. It makes me think I should perhaps buy a place and rent it until I actually move there. Would you recommend this? Could you tell me how long I should plan for a visit so that I can get familiar with the city and Ecuador in general? And, what time of year would you suggest? Thanks again!

    1. Elizabeth,

      I don't know where you live now but Canadians and gringos from the Northern states seem to like Cuenca's weather just fine. For me it is great except for July-September, and it is chilly for me then. I use a heater in my room at night during these months.
      I have noticed several furnished condos on and with rents from $600 to $1200 a month which is high for me. There are many new condo buildings going up and if you would like to buy you can check them out while you are here. If you like warmer weather and humidity, which we don't have here you might want to check out the coastal town. Perhaps I will spend the cool months here at the beach which is around 75 degrees that time of year. Did you read my blog of Galapagos and our drive around Ecuador? If you want to travel around here 2 weeks might be good, if just in Cuenca one week is good. My food cost here is about 1/3 less than the US and rents here for 2-3 bedrooms unfurnished are $400-$500 in nice buildings. Hope this helps you.

      Gracias, Gary

  5. Gary,

    I live in the midwest - heat and humidity in the summer, very cold and lots of snow in the winter. My favorite seasons, Spring and Fall - love temps in the 60's.

    The rents you mentioned are also out of my price range, I've looked at many on those websites. I am looking for something in an established, secure neighborhood with no more new construction going on to obstruct nice views. Your place looks great by the way. I've been advised against looking at any new buildings as they may not be up to code. Since I'll be living there alone, I am definitely looking for convenience and security. I know there are areas of Cuenca which are more secure than others and where a number of expats live, just not sure which ones or what they're called - East side vs. West side, etc.

    I will definitely check out your blog of the Galapagos and tour of Ecuador. I appreciate the advice on how long to plan a visit.

    Thanks again!


    1. If you like 60's you will like Cuenca! I lived in Branson for a couple of years, to cold to humid and to much pollen for me. I have seen furnished 1bd for $350 on check out to get an idea of whats for sale.
      Let me know when you are here and we can have coffee.