It was the perfect bolthole. A penthouse condo on the edge of Cotacachi, Ecuador.
It had stunning views of the volcano. The sun was always warm and the air fresh. There was space for a big open fire if the nights ever turned chilly. The best part was it came with a price tag of just of $38,500 for over 1,000 square feet.
This was where I planned to hole up if the 2008 financial crisis sent the world into complete disarray. If bank runs became commonplace. If the ATMs stopped working.
In Ecuador, the fresh produce was so inexpensive it was almost free. I could live simply. Self-sustained. Waiting for the dust to settle.
But things settled faster than I expected. My bolthole in Ecuador wasn’t needed—and I got to keep the fond memories I had of the place.
Ecuador is full of sweet little getaways like this…particularly in the country’s small mountain towns. Inexpensive and in stunning locations among the soaring Andes…as my research team found below.
They found bargain homes in three of the country’s small towns where life is tranquil, everyone knows their neighbor, and the weather is just right.
Malacatos is a small town about a 40-minute drive from its more well-known neighbor of Loja. Lush and green, this part of southern Ecuador has a temperate climate and is a popular second-home destination in the province of Loja. Malacatos very much has a small-town vibe, with family owned stores, the town square (with a pretty blue and white church) as the popular meeting spot, and not a lot of foreign residents.
Just outside Malacatos is this 3-bed, 1-bath home in a private complex. It has an open-plan kitchen/dining/living area with an open fireplace (a rarity in these parts) and upstairs there’s a common area with views of the surrounding mountains that could be turned into a reading nook. Outside is a garden planted with fruit trees and the complex has a shared pool, jacuzzi, and volleyball court.
The area around Vilcabamba is known as “the Valley of Longevity.” Residents here are said to live well into their 100s! It’s a tranquil place that up until just a couple of decades ago was only known to adventure travelers and hardy backpackers. Today, it’s got a diverse and thriving expat community that is scattered around the valley. At an altitude of 5,000, Vilcabamba has one of the best climates in Ecuador and with its stunning location among the jagged peaks of the surrounding mountains and it’s crystal-clear streams from the nearby cloud forest, it’s no surprise that it’s residents live so long.
About 15 minutes from the center of town, in a quiet rural area, is this 1-bed, 1-bath home on a lot of just over half an acre. There’s a large loft with access to a balcony that gives views of the surrounding countryside. There’s also an open-plan kitchen and living area. The garden is planed with mature fruit trees and there also a gazebo for siting out and enjoying the view.
The town of Cotacachi, in northern Ecuador, is one of the country’s famed artisan towns. They specialise in leather here and the main street is lined with shops where you can buy all things leather…shoes, bags, even upholstered furniture. It’s a clean and peaceful kind of place where families gather on street corners for evening catch ups and the quaint plazas are the perfect place to watch life unfold in the Ecuadorian highlands.
This 4-bed, 2-bath home has stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It has 1,500 square feet of living space and also features a kitchen and a large living room, a storage room and a balcony on the upper floor that give panoramic views of the town.
Wishing you good real estate investing,
P.S. If you’re interested in any of these listings you should hire an attorney and do your own due diligence. I haven’t visited these properties in person or done any due diligence on them.
Your Comments and Questions
Akka says: Hello Ronan. I read your reports mostly on Europe and the Americas. Do you have plans for Asian countries? Especially the Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. When may you consider those opportunities?
Ronan says: Hi Akka. There’s a very simple reason why I don’t spend much time covering Southeast Asia. While it’s a stunning part of the world, it’s not a welcoming place to foreign real estate investors.
First, in places like Vietnam and Thailand the laws prohibit foreigners from owning property outright. You can own the house or structure but not the land its built on, which puts you on very shaky ground, so to speak.
You’re also competing with a flood of Chinese money. And these are buyers who see real estate primarily as a store of value, not as a way to generate profits.
When I scouted Vietnam 10 years ago, the Chinese, happy to operate in opaque or murky regulatory environments, had it all sewn up. And I figured it was a terrible idea to try and circumvent the system with any of the hacks peddled by opportunistic middle-men. Some lawyers were offering to create structures that they claim give ownership rights. They establish a local entity on your behalf. You are the minority shareholder but retain an option to buy out the silent appointees (nominated by your lawyer) for a nominal amount at any time in the future. It’s a terrible idea.
Western buyers are much better off where we can play to our advantage, in places like Panama and the Riviera Maya where we can lock in yields upward of 10%…15%…even 20%.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing Southeast Asia entirely. It is one of the most exciting regions in the world right now, and with the right play, you can find great deals. But you need to be very clear on what you’re buying.