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Friday, July 27, 2012

Rentals in Cuenca

Before I begin, I want to answer many of you who wrote in after my last column.  The garlic chicken was juicy and AWESOME!!!   It's another perk of being single...I don't have to give a rip what my breath is like!!!

A few weeks ago, I sold my house.   A few more days and the deal will be closed.  Obviously, I need a new place to live.  This time, I've decided to rent.   Many of the challenges I mentioned in my last article apply as well to the rental market here.   There is no one central 'go to' spot to find all the available rentals on the market which is no different than the country I came from.  It's a matter of scouring neighborhoods for signs in windows, scanning newspaper ads, perusing a multitude of websites, as well as networking by word of mouth in social settings and social media (ie; Facebook, online forums, etc).

One of the beefs I had in the real estate sales arena is the same as in the rental world...so many websites do not keep their listings current.   They show rentals as if they're available when, in fact, they're not.  Or, they're so out of date they still have a banner across the ad stating 'available March, 2012'.   Last I checked the calendar, we're almost to August now!

Prices are all over the board.  There are a lot of opportunists out there who crank up the rent because, from a foreigners perspective, the price seems low compared to what they are used to back in the country from whence they came.  They think they're getting a good deal, but in Ecuador terms...they're paying too much.   If foreigners don't do their homework, they end up being a part of driving prices up.  This is true in both real estate sales as well as the rental market.

A couple of examples:
    • I looked at a 3 year old, 2-level, 950 sqft, furnished, 1 bedroom/1.5 bath loft apartment in a very desirable, popular area.   Price?  $80K.  It works out to be approximately $784 a square meter which is pretty standard here.  Oh, it also has underground parking.  Comparatively, I looked at a 1-level, 645 sqft, UNfurnished, 1 bedroom/1.5 bath apartment in an old building next to a well-known noisy plaza, but located in the old town which is also very popular.  This unit had been remodeled with average-to-nice finishings and does NOT have parking.  Price?  $75K.  It works out to almost $1,250 a square meter!!!  Why the difference?  The latter apartment is being marketed by people who's target is foreigners moving here with retirement money, who'll think $75K is a drop in the bucket.  
    • A single man moved to Cuenca to retire and made a few Ecuadorian friends very quickly.  They helped him search for an apartment.  He landed in a modern 2BR/2BA unfurnished condo on the 11th floor, near the river, with great views.  Price?  $280
    • I've  been looking at houses similar in size to mine that I just sold.  Two levels, 3BR, 2BA, maybe an extra office space, a small yard and off street parking.  The rental prices I found ranged between $350 - $500 per month being the norm....with some in the $600 - $700 range.   Of course, there's variations in finishes, age, location, etc that influence the price.  I posted an annoucement in an online forum stating what I was looking for.  One of the respondees told me they were renting out their 4BR/3BA furnished house because she and her husband had downsized to an apartment.   Price?  $1,300!!!  That's 3 times the average salary of a teacher here!!!
    • I have 2 Ecuadorian friends, cousins, who live in a nice 2BR apartment at the top of a 4-floor building.  Granted, they have to walk up stairs to get to their unit, but that's VERY common here.  Price?  $200 (total)
    • I was also considering living out of town, maybe down in Yunguilla (YOON-GEE-YUH) valley where it's a bit warmer.   I spotted a house that looked perfect, so I drove over an hour to go see it.   It was located on a hillside with drop dead views into the valley below, situated on an acre of perfectly landscaped lawn, palm trees, several fruit trees, and PRIVATE!!  The house looked like it was lifted out of Palm Springs....all white, tile, two levels, 3BR/2BA, rooftop deck and the icing on the cake....A POOL!!!   Price?  $600
One of the reasons for the fairly low rent here, aside from incomes being low, is that the vast majority of properties don't have mortgages.  Mortgages are VERY expensive here with interest rates in the double digits.  Since many property owners own their property outright, they don't have to worry about collecting a rent to cover their mortgage.

I've mentioned furnished/unfurnished a few times.  The definitions are different here.
  • Furnished can mean:
    • Furniture (bed, sofa, dining table, etc), appliances, AND fully stocked kitchen (pots/pans/utensils, etc)....or....
    • Furniture (bed, sofa, dining table, etc), appliances...or...
    • Just appliances
  • Unfurnished can mean:
    • No appliances...you bring your own as well as your furniture...or...
    • No furniture...but appliances are provided
Like real estate sales, anyone and everyone can get in the game of makinng $$$ matching renters with landlord/property owners.   Usually (but not always) the property owner pays a commission to the person who brings them a successful renter.   Some tricksters, however, have their hand greased by the renter as well...quite frequently unbeknownst by the other paying party.  Many agencies who advertise available rentals also act as property managers, charging a percentage (15% I believe) of the rent for their monthly service.  Again, like my issue with real estate sales commissions, paying by percentage doesn't make sense.  Why should an agency get paid $150 a month based on a $1,000 rental when they perform the exact same functions for a $500 rental for $75???  The $500 rental could be an old property and the $1,000 rental brand new...but they're likely to do more work on the older property.    IDOHNGITIT

Speaking of...ahem....cough...cough...#s*h+y@s&t$e"r^s...I fell for one the other day.   She responded to my post stating she had a nice house in a country location I really like.  I drove out to it and immediately loved the location.  The access was right out of a hallmark card as I had to drive across an old wooden, covered bridge and up a lane passing a horse and pony to the house backdropped by a large forest-covered hill.  The house had large open rooms, the bedrooms were gigantic, and it had a REAL working fireplace!  It was being rented furnished for $550 which seemed reasonable.  She reduced the rent to $500 because I have my own furniture.  We chatted for awhile with her telling me about 'her' house and the wonderful things about living there. 

Here comes the good part....she said the utilities would cost an additional $200 a month!!  GET OUT!!!   I only pay about $75 for my existing house (which is larger)!!   What I haven't told you yet is....there are 3 dwellings on this property that all share ONE electric meter, ONE water, ONE internet, ONE cable TV.    Therefore, one would think each ONE bill would be divided 3 ways, right?   If I had to pay $200 a month and I were to presume the others did as well, they would be collecting some big bucks over what is really owed and making a barrow-o-money on the side!

Like an idiot, I agreed to it.   I may have my head on straight MOST of the time, but I'm just as fallible as the next person and doing the house sale and rental searching and searching and....well....I just didn't have my wits about me.   After paying her $800 in cash (the way things are done here) as a deposit, I went home and started thinking about it...over and over....getting hotter and hotter under my collar.  I started talking about this to others.   Others told me what they paid, which mirrored what I currently pay.  Then, I started running into others who knew, or knew of, Macrina Serrano and started telling me their horror stories.   I Googled her name.   UH OH.  

I wrote her a nasty email (big surprise) informing her I was canceling our verbal agreement (there was no contract yet) to rent the house because of what I believed to be 'gringo gouging'.  I challenged her with a set of facts, including the most costly internet and TV cable packages from various companies with which it would still be impossible to substantiate charging $200 a month...times 3.  I demanded my money back.

Of course, I heard back from her screaming (in large font) PROVE IT!!!  PROVE IT!!!  She said it was NOT HER HOUSE!!!   She went on and on about how wonderful the house was, the view, the stars at night, the trees, the river, blah blah blah...that the rent was very fair.  I never had an issue with the RENT...it was the UTILITY GOUGING!!   She didn't address the utility issue (big surprise).  The next day I got another rant email from her...this time she wrote to me entirely in Spanish "BECAUSE IS MY MOTHER TONGE" (even though she spoke English fluently).  I had a friend translate it for me.   In it, she claimed the property cost $4 million dollars.  BWWWWAAAHAAAHAAAHAAA!!!   That cinched it for me, ella es muy loco.   Maybe it cost $40,000 when it was built years ago.   Again, she went on and on about the beauty of the location and not one word in defense of her utility charges.

She told me to not come to the house for my refund.  She said 'an employee' would come to my house to give me the cash.  NO WAY JOSE!!   I didn't want anyone affiliated with her knowing where I lived.  When they called me to arrange a location, I suggested the front entrance to a restaurant I like to frequent, where I also knew an armed security guard would be standing nearby.   At the stated time, I sat at a table front row and center so, in case anything happened, there'd be plenty of witnesses!!  As I sat there doodling on a tablet, I wondered if a car might pull up, gun me down, and speed away.   Ok...so I watch too many of those TV shows.   Or, maybe it's because there's so much gun violence, drive-by shootings, etc in the USA that it's close to the forefront of our minds.  I digress.  

Right on time, a big burly over-six-foot guy wearing articles of black leather and a pouch on his hip (likely with mace in it), walked up to my table, sat down, and handed me a fat envelope held together with rubber bands.   I counted out $800 in 20's and 10's right there at the front entrance to the restaurant with people pouring in at the height of lunch hour.  I wondered if the money was counterfeit and she would get her revenge when I'd be arrested the next day when I tried to buy something with it.   Again....too many cops and robbers TV shows.

Whew...that saga is over.

I still needed a house to rent, though.   I responded to another ad and met the man representing the landlord at the house.   I wasn't thrilled with it, but he had a few others he wanted to show me the next day.  In the morning, I met him on a corner near me and hopped in his truck.   As he drove down the street, he slowed and pointed down a narrow street and said 'See that yellow house?  That's my uncles!'  I said, 'no it's not...it's MINE!!'.    Well, his UNCLE is the guy I bought the house from a year and a half ago!!!  We chatted about his uncle and his wife and their farm where they make cheese, etc etc.   SMALL WORLD.

Anyway, he took me to a brand new never-lived-in house, 2 stories, 3BR, 2.5BA, plus office, across the street from the river, in a quiet non-commercial neighborhood....for $500 a month.   There are two houses, the owners' and mine, behind a remote controlled driveway gate as well as a concrete volleyball/tennis/basketball court.   The owners, who live next door, have dogs and cats which my Gracie should have fun playing with.  I rented it.   No application, no credit check, no references required, no proof of income.   Just....'I like it', 'You want it?', 'You got it'.

I guess all is well in Cuenca.

Hey, guess what?   I even have photos that relate to the subject matter!  WHO KNEW??


The $600 a month Yunguilla house...if it weren't so far away and mosquitos like me too much!

View from the house.

Nice big yard and great landscaping!!  (and my infamous Grand Vitara)

The $80K bi-level 950 sqft loft apartment building

Up to the loft.

Living room of the $80K loft apartment.

Remodeled $75K, 645 sqft apartment in old building

Both bathrooms in the remodeled unit require step up/down.  They built a false, raised floor so new plumbing could pass underneath.   WATCH YOUR STEP!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Real Estate

July 19, 2012. 

That didn't take long.  Within hours of publishing the following article, my 'nemisis', who's posted several comments in the past, sent me a message accusing me of doing what he/she has complained about before...that I am writing as if things in the USA are superior than here in EC.  I also got the following comment from someone..."Ugly American"....which I deleted as I will not tolerate disrespect in this column.

If you're looking for a bit of entertainment, check out the comments that follow at the bottom of this post.

PS...thank you to many of you who've sent me positive comments, noting you appreciate my reality writing style.  Many of you have stated you prefer hearing the good, the bad, and the inbetween so, if you should visit, you will arrive with an eyes-wide-open, informed mindset versus visions of rose-lined streets, rainbows, and busses that spew nothing but lavender-scented butterflies.

July 18, 2012

Well, I have a chicken in the oven with garlic and black pepper and a VOJ (vodka orange juice) at my side.  I'm ready to write about my next subject matter....real estate.  Or, 'real state' as they seem to call it here.

In my last entry where I blurted out a bunch of miscellaneous observations about life here in Cuenca, I focused a bit (a BIT) on real estate listings.   This time, I'm going to FOCUS on the whole matter of buying and selling real estate here in Ecuador...well....at least Cuenca.

As I've mentioned before, there is no such thing as an MLS here.  In the USA, the MLS is a single database where all properties for sale, unless For Sale By Owner (FSBO), are listed.   As a result, people buying or selling have access to everything available on the market.   Not here and, apparently, not in many countries either.

Let's say there are 500 properties for sale in Cuenca.   If a person wants to buy a property, they are faced with:
  • Going from agency to agency, website to website, to piecemeal a very small percentage of properties together to find what they want.
    • Website XYZ who has 11 listings, though it is common the websites are not kept current, therefore some of the listings could have been sold a year ago.
    • Website ABC who has 59 listings.
      • As I mentioned last time, the listings are very often sorely lacking in information, too.
        • WHERE is the house? 
          • I will skp over a listing if it doesn't tell me where it is.  I'm not going to waste my time calling an agent just to find out the house is in Timbuktu which is nowhere near where I want to be.
        • WHAT does the house look like?
        • How many square feet (square meters)?
        • How many bedrooms/bathrooms?
    • Website LMN who has 37 listings.
  • No sign posts out front of the house with info sheets.  
  • Se Vende (For Sale) signs in the upper windows of a house with a phone number...nothing else.  No price, no square footage...# of bedrooms/baths...forget it.
  • Property descriptions ripe for 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' monologue.
    • Walking closets.  Really?   Where do they go?
    • 2 car parking garage.  Reality?  2 spaces in front of the house with one car butted up against the front door.  No garage door.  No roof overhead.
    • Fireplace.   98% of all fireplaces in EC are for cosmetic purposes only.  They are NOT functional...they are dead-ends.
    • Dining rooms.  Really?  That table of four, 3 feet away from the kitchen counter is a dining room?

As a seller, it's whole different ball of wax.   The seller is essentially reliant upon one single source of exposure....his/her agents' website.   It is all too common for agents to post the listing on their website, then sit back and wait for 'the call'.   Granted, the agent is also keeping his/her eyes and ears out for anyone, who might mention the desire for a property closely matching what he/she has in their inventory, while mixing in social circles and the like.   Rarely, does the seller agent pay for advertising in medias such as the newspaper or magazines or expend much energy on promoting the property via other means such as flyers posted at expat hangouts, or even free classifieds.  Holding an open house....huh???   Relying 90% on the traffic, what little there might be, that comes to their website can mean a lonnnnnng wait for the seller to get thier house sold.   It is not uncommon to see properties for sale, listed on websites for a year or more.

Then there's one of my favorites....different prices for the same property.   I went to see an apartment a few days ago.  The owners were there and said the price was $61,200.   The next day, I saw it advertised for $58,000.    An agent friend of mine has a swell hacienda listed for $158K, but on another site it is priced at nearly $40K more!!   Why?  Because there's no centralized source for the data.  So, if a seller changes their price, it isn't changed in ONE place to which all people access...they have to inform each and every agent and expect they update their website accordingly.

Other differences:
  • People who sell real estate here, do not need to be licensed.
  • There is no such thing as Escrow companies.
  • There is no such thing as Title companies.

Commissions.  This subject gets my goat.   Again, no standardization.   I have never believed in percentage-based commissions...here, or anywhere.   I have a lot of real estate agent friends and I'm sure they will get their voodoo doll out and start sticking pins in it after what I have to say.

Why should an agent make $6,000 on a $100,000 sale and make $18,000 on a $300,000 sale when they have to (pretty much) do the exact same thing for both sales?  It's like my beef about property taxes....why should I pay $5,000 a year, being a single person, for a house which happens to be more valuable than the exact same house located in a cheaper neighborhood that houses a family of 5 (3 kids in school) that only pays $3,000  a year but uses MORE of the city services (ie; schools, police, streets, lighting) than I do as ONE person?


Here, commissions are very confusing and not at ALL standardized.   At one agency, the seller may be charged 3% commision and the buyer 3%.  At another, the seller may be charged 6% commision (standard in the USA) but, secretly, the buyers agent also charges their client 3%.  In my oh-so-humble opinion, each party should pay their respective representative a fee for the services they provide.  Why should the seller get stuck with the whole thing?  Obviously, the commission 'structure' (word used lightly) is fashioned after the USA, but that's all there is in common.  The agents may make the same amount of commission percentage as an agent in the USA, but what they do for what they get is entirely different.   Here, they don't hold open houses, nor do they invest in advertising, install signposts and keep flyers stocked, oversee inspections, follow through on contingencies, create documentation (ie; purchase/sale agreement), coordinate closings, or even (in some cases) conduct negotiations (ie; offers/counteroffers).

Note:  There is very little in the way of consumer-protection laws in EC.  In this example, there are NO disclosure requirements to inform the consumer of who is getting paid what, and by whom.

Then there's TERRITORY.   I'm not talking about the land itself, I'm talking about 'agent territory'.  I did a little test once (I was bored).   I asked 3 different agents to show me properties available in Cuenca with XYZ criteria.   In all 3 cases, the agents showed me ONLY their listings...as if there were no other properties in Cuenca meeting the criteria I specified.   Typically, agents will only show their inventory even though, clearly, there are other properties matching their customers' criteria but because they are with other agencies, they will not show them.    Even though they still stand to make a commission!!!!  To me, this is a terrible dis-service to the customer.

Then, there's ACCESS.   There is no such thing as lockboxes here.   If an agent wants to show a property to a client, they must contact the owner (or other agent representing them) and arrange a time they can mutually meet at the property.   This can be a nightmare to arrange...when the buyers agent, the buyer, and the seller can all be available at the SAME time to access the property.  What a waste of time for the seller side to have someone show up and the buyer spend 5 minutes at the property and say 'Nope, not what I'm looking for'.

Then, there's the SERVICES the 'agents' provide.  This is extremely frustrating.   It's like there's a laundry lists of tasks that need to be done relating to a sale of a property.   One agent might perform items 1, 3, 12, 19, and 27.  Another agent might perform 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 13, and 17.   Again, no standardization.  That old routine of 'who's on first', 'what's on second', and 'I dunno who's on third' becomes all too familar.

Because there's no escrow or title company services here, one generally has to employ the services of an attorney (MY favorite!!!).   They will check public records to ensure there are no outstanding liens.  They will draw up the papers that say something about promising to buy.   Everyone signs, then off to the Notary to get everything rubber-stamped and pay fees.   Money is transfered either by check, or by stacks of cash, or by electronic transfer bank account to bank account.   Papers are filed with an agency who transfers the ownership.   You're done.   No appraisal conducted, no pest inspection, no title policy....nada.

Oh, by the way...I sold my house!!!  Now, don't go freaking out on me (Mom)!!!!   heh heh heh...this is a test to see whether my Mom really reads my blogs!!!   Yes, I sold my house to a lovely couple from NY state.   I needed a new project to keep myself busy since I was done with my remodel and left with little to do....to the house, anyway.    Now, I plan to become a renter and, NO, I'm not leaving CUE or EC.   My plans are to do a little investing and maybe buy a small apartment to rent out to you folks who may travel to Cuenca someday and/or explore the possibility of relocating here and need a short-term rental while here but with more of a 'homey' feel than just a bed in a hotel.

YEA.....oven timer just went off!!!  Garlic chicken...here I come!


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Observations - 5th Edition

Welcome to another addition of Dano's Observations, where Dano's overly analytical mind picks up on the way things are done/not done here.  Funny (some), quirky (some), whacky (some) things that seem to stand out from what I'm used to back home.  If you really want to get a FULL dose of my observations, go to my archive postings and read the other 4 before this.

I wonder how much flack feedback I'm gonna get from some of these??  Maybe my reader who has filed me under 'Ugly American' and thinks I'm bashing Ecuadorians has stopped reading my blog (sniff, sniff).   Here we go (rubbing hands)...
  • Guys don't wear baggy pants slung down below their butt here.  Soooo refreshing.  Though you do see a lot of buttcrack.
  • For some reason, a lot of car owners have their lights oddly wired.  Example:  back up lights wired as taillights.
  • Drives me BONKERS when those behind you honk their horn immediately upon the light turning green.   As if they are doing me a favor to let me know I can go now.  My favorite  is when they're 7 cars back!!!!  WHAT?  They're going to arrive at their precious destination 3 seconds earlier because they blasted their horns?
  • Police drive around with their overhead lights spinning and no siren.   There's no emergency.  Everyone ignores them.  I can only assume they are letting the neighborhood (and crooks) know they are there.   Hmmm....an AWS (Advanced Warning System)...stop whatever you're doing because here we come, then go back to what you're doing after we pass by.
  • It seems every gas station has 4-6 attendants by the pumps.   They'll happily help you with directions.  They pump your gas and 99% of the time, when the nozzle clicks off, they will fill to the next round dollar amount versus topping off no matter what the dollar/cent amount is.  Less change to make.
  • Gas stations provide free air/water.
  • Nescafe coffee is alive and well here in EC.  Order coffee from something less than a full scale restaurant and you're likely to get a cup of hot water and Nescafe and a spoon.  
  • HOWEVER, Nescafe produces countertop machines that make pretty good mochacinos at the push of a button!!  My neighborhood tienda has one.....buck twenty five.
  • There are a lot of city improvements being seen around Cuenca these days:
    • sidewalk reconstruction (brick by brick)
    • all traffic signals are being replaced
    • later this year, the first line of light rail will commence construction
    • city parks and plazas surrounding churches are being re-landscaped, re-bricked, amongst other improvements
    • a ghastly, traffic-choked, roundabout is being fixed by building a tunnel and bridge solution.
  • There is no MLS database for real estate here (commonly written as real state).   Buyers/Sellers/Agents have to rely on word of mouth, rudimentary signs (with nothing but a phone number) posted in windows, or the small inventory listed on a handful of individual company websites.   What few websites do exist, generally, lack in functionality and they sorely miss marketing opportunities.  Examples:
    • Rarely can you filter your search criteria by elements such as # of bedrooms, Sqft size, age, neighborhood, price range, etc.
    • Ditto with sorting your results in the order you want
    • Agents don't keep their lists current.  Some still show houses for sale that sold a year ago!
    • Photos.  Ugh.  why Why WHY post a photo of a bed?  I'm not buying the bed!!  The photographers could really use (yeah, my 'Ugly American' showing through) a lesson in taking photos that appeal to the viewer and give the viewer INFORMATION.   This is a thorn in my side with many agents back in the States, too.
      • Where's the photo of the HOUSE??  You know...that thing I'm looking to BUY???   You don't show the house (or apt building)...you're hiding something.  PASS!!!
      • The PRIMARY photo you show representing a listing is a BED in a square room?   Or, a stairwell?   Or, the front lawn?  C'MON!!
      • Oooh...this listing has lots of photos....the living room, a closet, a hall, the shack out back, the driveway.   Ummmm....where's the KITCHEN?   BATHROOMS???  HELLO???
      • My favorite....including a photo of a toilet in the listing.  A TOILET!!!   Really?  Buyers need to see what the toilet looks like more than the face of the house?
    • Why oh why do owners not bother to clean up the house before photos are taken?  Dirty laundry piled high, toys strewn about, unmade beds, cluttered kitchen counters with dirty dishes in the sink, toilet seat left up.  Oi Vey.  
  • Weather reports.  I remember when I lived in San Diego.  I thought the weather reporter had such an easy job.  I could almost lip-synch along with him because it was nearly the same thing every day.  Low fog in the morning, burning off by late morning, sunshine the rest of the day.  Here, it seems impossible to predict the weather.  There's no such thing as looking out your window first thing in the morning and say 'it looks like it's going to be _____ today'.  That's because the weather can change in an hour and several times in one day.  So, it's probably a safe bet for the weather reporter to predict 'rain, and clouds, and sun today...rinse, repeat'
  • There doesn't seem to be any restrictions on what or how you tow something.   I've seen many a car being towed by a rope, or a truck hauling lonnnnng rebar dangling off the end and bobbing up and down, bamboo dragged behind a motorcycle, or miscellaneous what-not held down by a human being in the back.
  • Recently, the Ecuador unemployment rate was published....4.9%.  Eat THAT USA!!!
  • Voicemail?  Bwwwwaaahhaaahhaaaa!!!   No one leaves messages, much less retrieves them.
  • Cigarette smoking is not all that common here.
  • I have yet to see vending machines that dispense pop (soda) or candies.  I'm sure they must be out there SOMEWHERE.   Instead, there are a gazillion little tiendas (stores) or snack stands that provide this 'need'.  But, we do have the parking meter type of candy dispensers (with the goods in a glass ball).
  • Likewise, we don't have lottery ticket machines.   You either buy them from stands on the streets, manned kiosks at the mall, or hawkers walking the streets yelling out they have tickets for sale (or, at least I think that's what they're saying).
  • As I've travelled around the country, I'm amazed at the next-to-non-existent use of machinery to maintain elements of the roads, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, etc.   Instead, for example, it's people using hoes, picks, machetes, and shovels...tediously hacking away at weeds overgrowing into the drainage gutters.
  • GAWD this one gets my goat!!!   Smoke detectors chirping.  Doesn't it drive you CUHRAZY when one starts chirping in your house and you don't have a battery replacement, so it goes on and on for hours until you can get to the store to buy one and replace it?   Not here.   Don't care.   The post office has had one chirping right outside the service windows...for MONTHS!!!!   Upstairs outside the admin offices, too.   I asked them if they knew why.  They didn't know.  I explained it's because the battery is low and, if the electricity went out and there was a fire, the alarm wouldn't work.   All they needed to do was replace the battery.   Ohhhhhh!!!!    Still chirping.   Ditto at a high-end kitchen and bath store where you can hear the chirping throughout the entire store.  Both....to this day....still chirping.
  • Passing on highways.  Double yellow line?  Big deal.   Hill?  Curve?  EHH!!!   Car/truck coming at ya?  Temporarily turn the 2-lane into a 3-lane.
  • I have never seen an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant.
  • On the same note, I think there are 3 drive-thru fast (junk) food places in all of EC.
  • People lovvvvve to ignore the no parking signs downtown.  They just pull over and put their flashers on, get out and go do their thing.  Meanwhile, a full driving lane (of only 2 available) has been blocked.  Once one person does it, others flock and do the same thing to the point it looks like parking IS allowed because there's so many!
  • Cuenca is rolling out a new 911 system....something that pretty much didn't exist before.  Bomberos (fire dept) services have been amping up their training and equipment.   I've seen some pretty sophisticated ambulances, but for the one I see, I see 6 that look like a Volkswagen van, or something that reminds me of the old milk trucks from yesteryear.  Glad they are developing this system, but now it is clear I am right on an ambulance arterial.  Add sirens to the daily digest of noises I get to 'enjoy' such as incessant dog barking, out of control car alarms, horn honking, and idiots who don't know how to engage/disengage their house alarms without them screaming throughout the neighborhood 6, 7, 13 times a day!!!
  • I've seen more Datsuns, Ford Mavericks, and Ford Pintos in the time I've been here than in the past 10 years in the states!!   Why is that?  Also, 1970's Ford pickups are hugely popular here.
  • There are two large companies that provide major grocery store services and each of them have three locations in Cuenca.  That means, 6 large grocery stores the size of Safeway, let's say, serving a city of 600K....or so.  Thank goodness, NONE of them read your receipt as you leave the checkout line and say 'Thank you....uhhhh....(look, look, search, scan) Senor Lucille Ball'.   They simply (and genuinely) say 'Grasssy Ass'.
  • We don't have a 'do not call' list.  In fact, I have never gotten 1 solicitation phone call in the year and a half I've lived here.  Now...Jehovah Witness's and Mormons at my front door...YOU BET!!

Enjoy these photos of actual Cuenca real estate listings.  See what I mean?

14 photos of this property.  THIS is the primary photo...the first thing a viewer sees when the listing comes up. Of the 14 photos, 3 are of toilets.   Not ONE photo of what the house looks like!  Oh, btw, the toilet paper dispenser is crooked.
Yet another 'calling card' picture.  The first photo displayed on a condo listing.
Yes, it's a nice set of stairs, but out of 16 photos, THIS is the lead-in photo??
Yep....PRIMARY 'hook-em' photo.   OMG...such a stunning parking area, I MUST SEE MORE!!!

THIS is the primary photo...the first thing a viewer sees when the listing comes up.  Of the 16 photos, not ONE photo of what the house looks like!

When I saw this primary photo, it's all I needed to see.  I had my checkbook out soooooo fast!!!

What is the obsession with TOILETS in real estate listings?????

REALLY?   They couldn't have emptied the trash and PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN before taking the photo???
What...is the selling point here the fact that there is a commercial-sized TP dispenser?


About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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