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Due Diligence: “Research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction’ (Merriam-Webster) ” Due diligence is the process of systematically researching and verifying the accuracy of a statement.”(WhatIs.techtarget)
I love a good fixer-upper, and I’ve also learned that the best part of a property might be the gnarled tree that guards the entrance! I’ve learned to spot potential problems, and I’ve also learned how to see past the neglect and find an ugly duckling waiting to transform into a swan. With a dozen years of living in second and third-world countries, I’ve learned from trial and error and have also learned by watching others. We applaud anyone who embraces a new life, but when things go wrong, often times those new transplants find they’re playing David against Goliath. Over the past several years, I’ve watched many people invest small fortunes only to find serpents in Paradise. Others I have never met, but their stories find their way through the jungle grapevine. A few people have contacted me through email and asked if I could be their eyes and ears and check out a ‘too good to be true’ deal. Some of those deals were truly outstanding, and I applauded them for their find. Others were swooned by creative photography that only showed the best views of a property but didn’t show the faulty foundation, the crumbling cement or the rotten lumber!
Over the past few months I’ve traveled through part of the country and met many people who have moved to Ecuador. Some have businesses, some bought homes, others built homes or had them built. Many are getting visas through their pensions and are happy renting without owning property. Through emails and in person, I asked for advice they could pass on to others. Some tossed a few nuggets of wisdom and some shared volumes!
I heard this often: Due Diligence!
Never assume; get all details in writing. Ask for official receipts. Just because someone shakes his/her head does not mean that they understand!
People continue to be divided regarding the use of beach sand for construction. (Beach Sand? Yes, beach sand!) Even when not used for structural purposes, beach sand is often used for the final layer of cement on walls and floors. Yay or nay? Other problems are leaky roofs and peeling paint. Could the salt in the beach sand be partly responsible for the peeling paint?
What follows are nuggets of advice from a wide range of people who have relocated to Central and South America. Some people are uneasy sharing specifics for fear of libel or slander charges. Even with unpleasant dealings with professionals, most people love living in Latin America. Hopefully their advice will help others who are considering a change in latitude!
People should come for a long visit and check out the areas they are interested in. Get involved with the community, check out the shopping etc etc. We only were in EC 11 days and knew we wanted to live here, but that was after 2 years of research and then another 2 years before we moved.
Ask OLD TIMERS about the history of flooding during El Nino years.
Understand septic systems and how they work!
Find out the source and reliability for drinking water.
A large majority of deeds to property are tied up in complex families , though the seller will tell you “no problemo”, and then you’re out thousands of dollars because the sale falls through.
What people really need to know is that (and I’m going to be blunt) info and references from the two leading resources are far from perfect and can be very misleading. In fact most people can get their pensioner visas on their own in Ecuador and save $2000.
Many info sites are outdated and you can certainly rent a car and do your own “real estate tour.” You cannot live on the coast for $600 month. We live on $1200 and are quite satisfied with our simple life style. A person must have a lawyer for buying real estate.
Banks, people need to remember that Ecuador is a developing country and different from the US.
* Due diligence* !! Talk to others, ask what they miss the most etc etc..lol. Our paradise may not be theirs.
A crash course on how they can “arm” themselves against the two faced, dishonest real estate system. This is not an anti Ecuadorian problem and it shouldn’t be construed that way because many of the developers are not Ecuadorian, but extranjeros themselves (even if they have married into Ecuadorian families, they are still expats themselves in Ecuador.) These are the people who gain the trust of innocents… Beware of some people who market real estate in English, who imply that they will handle any problems which may arise while ignoring the basics of human safety and honesty for the sake of greed. Too many new homeowners in developments have been abandoned by developers as soon as the sale of property is completed and their checks have cleared.
They have been seduced with lies their ears are eager to absorb and their minds do not analyze, nor take the precautions they would in their own countries. It’s just plain wrong!
Don’t be bullied into making a down payment: “Better act fast, this won’t be on the market long!” If it’s too good to be true, there’s probably a reason to be extra careful and proceed slowly.
Be sure there’s a clear title; be sure there were proper building permits; ask about warranties and be sure that the warranty protects you in case the windows leak or the plumbing overhead bursts or even if the concrete crumbles!
Always be cautious of naming names of individuals here in Ecuador which can easily result in law suits and many times becomes the central legal issue instead of the original thievery. I am unclear as to whether corporations or foundation or associations have this same protection with libel suits as individuals, but it is wise to check it out before throwing stones.
There are some organizations responsible for many real estate lies which we have encountered and hold partly responsible for many unhappy expat experiences throughout every country we have lived in in Latin America. I applaud your caring heart and whatever brave attempt you make to correct this totally unfair situation.
Just because they speak English does not mean they are honorable or should be trusted. Because they speak English and are perhaps from the States or studied in the States simply makes it “easier” for you to buy or build… it does not mean that they won’t rip you off along the way…. you trust them because they speak English not because you’ve done a thorough check on them.
If nothing else google them or at the very least do your due diligence and talk to everyone you can about them. If every one they suggest you talk to gives them nothing but glowing references QUESTION IT… possible red flag.
Ask why the gringo developer or construction manager is in Latin America instead of prospering in their own country… don’t buy the line “I want to build paradise”…or “lower taxes here”… first one means they failed in their own country and are looking for a quick buck, second one seems to mean I am evading taxes. QUESTION IT… possible red flag.
Talk to people they have sold to or built for and REALLY LISTEN… Read the blog by Ecuador George http://www.ecuadorgeorge.com/ecuador-real-estate/becauseIjust reallywant it. If the transactions are being made anywhere but Ecuador… you’re likely supporting illegal tax evasion. QUESTION IT… possible red flag
Rent before you buy or build… no you CANNOT build from another continent. If they say, You can trust us, no problem,’ QUESTION IT… possible red flag
Another one to add is If you think it will never happen to you QUESTION IT definite red flag! In Ecuador you will likely NOT get American standards… if they promise American standards…here good enough seems to be good enough – QUESTION IT… possible red flag.
Don’t listen to the “expert opinions” and sales pitches from organizations or web sites that are paid advertisements… they have no liability and frankly don’t care if their information is accurate… it’s a business. QUESTION IT… possible red flag
If you buy, research the process. Read http://www.southamericaliving.com/living-in-ecuador-how-to-buy-real-estate/ If the people or person giving you advice or telling you what it’s like to live in Ecuador does not or has never lived here… QUESTION IT possible red flag
If you are going to build, KNOW what a factura and RUC are… if your builder isn’t giving you either of them, QUESTION IT… possible red flag
How do you know they are honorable and trustworthy? Because they said so? QUESTION IT… possible red flag
If you are seeking any type of service don’t ask, “Can you do this job?” because they will all say, “Yes”. Many workers will say they can do it all -anything and everything from tiling, to cement work to electrical. Very different skills so QUESTION IT — possible red flag
Always, always ask for a detailed estimate of the work, including material and labour. Write a contract and even with all that sometimes they will get 90% of the work done and then not come back. Always hold back sufficient funds to make it worth their while to return. If that is not acceptable, QUESTION IT… possible red flag.
You will meet lots of people that seem to be nice, honest people. If you are building in a foreign country remember business is business and money is money. As the saying goes , Don’t mix business and pleasure…. if they try the buddy thing like they’re your pal, QUESTION IT… possible red flag and finally even in Ecuador wrong is wrong – even if everyone seems to be doing it; right is right even if no one seems to be doing it.
Be prepared for bad wiring or for fixtures to be placed in strange locations.
One must be there during all stages of building.
It’s better to speak up or have to forever hold your peace!
No down payments without proof of building permits!!
Title – No final payment until title is registered.
Roof – Be sure the builder guarantees a leak-proof roof.
What would you do differently? (Laughter or chuckles often preceded the reply) Do not trust ANYONE.
Do not expect North American Standards.
Do not make assumptions.
Ask if closets are included… or shower walls included!
“You have to be there during construction, and even then, YOU HAVE TO BE THERE.”
As soon as they say, ‘Trust me,” you’re in trouble. If they failed in their own country, why would they do any better here? Don’t buy into the story that they bought it so they could share with others their good fortune.
There are plenty of good guys out there with good business ethics; this post addressed when things go wrong. Now that the red flags have been waved, I welcome testimonials of what can go right in Latin America!