Retirement in Ecuador – Part II: Real Estate in Ecuador, Safety & More

a city in Ecuador

Education & Schools * Safety * Real Estate

Retirement in Ecuador: facts you need to know about education in Ecuador, how safe and stable the country is and how to buy real estate.

Ecuador Schools

The Legatum™ Institute claims that the quality of education in Ecuador could be improved by increasing the educational funding per student, which is low compared to international standards. A teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 23 puts them in the bottom 50 countries world wide. From my personal experience with class sizes in Germany and Ireland, 23 pupils per class seems pretty good.

If you want your child to attend an international or bi-lingual school, you should plan for settling in Quito or Guayaquil. Although Cuenca is said to have bi-lingual schools as well, I couldn’t find much information on line. Some expats say that private schools in Cuenca call themselves bi-lingual, but in reality are Spanish schools who teach English classes as well.

Below is a list of international schools in Ecuador with a web presence, which follow either the American or British style curriculum. The admission process seems to be pretty straight forward and involves an assessment in English and Maths. None of the schools have information about admission or tuition fees on their sites.

  • Academica Cotopaxi American International School, Quito: The roughly 500 students enjoy small class sizes of 14 -18 children. Classes are taught in English, plus Spanish language lessons. The school was the first to be accredited both by the International Baccalaureate Program, and the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).
  • Alliance Academy International, Quito: A Christian private school, following an American curriculum. About 450 students enrolled in 2009/2010.  No information about admission process on their site. You’ll have to inquire per email.
  • American School of Quito: With over 2,200 students by far the largest and the only bi-lingual school in Quito. The non-religious, co-educational school was founded in 1940 by representatives of the United States Government, based on the teaching of democratic values. Accredited by both IB (International Baccalaureate Program) and SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).
  • The British School, Quito: A non-denominational school following the British style curriculum. The approximately 250 students are taught in English and have classes in Ecuadorian Social Studies and Spanish language. Maximum class size is 22 students. I like their clear and simple admission process. Primary school kids are invited to spend a day in school, where they will be assessed on their English and Maths skills.
  • American School of Guayaquil: A bi-lingual, bi-cultural school in Guayaquil. Despite a good infrastructure with computer and science labs, and a huge library, class sizes seem to be pretty big with up to 35 students in Primary school.  Accredited by IB (International Baccalaureate Program).

Information about private schools outside of Quito and Guayaquil is hard to find. That’s why articles like the one about the “Las Lomas School” on the Pro-Ecuador blog are rare gems.  Las Lomas is considered to be the best choice for expats in Cotacachi. Classes are taught in Spanish, plus daily English lessons. Tuition fees are $55 per month.

Safety & Stability

Before deciding about a potential retirement in Ecuador, you should know how safe and politically stable the country is. Since its independence from Spain in 1822, the political history of Ecuador was an up and down between periods of stability and instability. Especially in the 19th and early 20th century, presidents, dictators and juntas changed in record time.

Because of its mostly non-violent nature, the political instability had little effect on expats and foreigners. Immigration and visa policy stayed largely the same for more than 20 years, which is good news for your retirement in Ecuador.

Unfortunately the crime rate has not been the same for the last 20 years. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council’s 2009 report, the murder rate in Ecuador has doubled over the last 25 years. Depending on what resources you look at, Ecuador’s murder rate is stated with 19 murders per 100,000 people (that’s about 4 times higher than in the U.S., but only half the rate of Columbia) or it doesn’t even appear amongst the top 50 countries rated by murder per capita.

Whatever statistics you believe, you should be cautious when traveling or living in Ecuador. As in most countries, the major cities have the biggest crime problems. Tourist areas, like beaches and hiking trails, are preferred targets of criminals. Using public transport can be risky too. Especially Guayaquil has a bad reputation for violent robberies and assaults happening in taxis. It’s best to only use radio-dispatched taxis there rather than hailing one from the streets. You can obtain the phone numbers from the American Consulate General.

Real Estate in Ecuador

There are no restrictions on foreign-owned real estate in Ecuador. In fact, buying property could qualify you for residency. Most properties are sold by word of mouth and never make it into the newspaper classifieds or onto agents’ lists. Therefor it’s a good idea to hire an agent who works mostly with foreign buyers, especially  if your Spanish is limited to non-existent (like mine).

Interested in Cotacachi? offers reliable agent’s services and a ton of valuable information on living and buying property in Ecuador.

Once you’ve found a suitable property for your retirement in Ecuador, get an English speaking lawyer. They will do the title research for you, investigate possible problems with the so-called “derechos y acciones” (these “rights and shares” are rights granted to heirs when property owners die without a will), prepare the purchase contract and register the property at the Land Registry. Expect to pay around 1% of the purchase price for the attorney’s services.

Real estate taxes and transaction fees in Ecuador are amongst the lowest in the world, and will in general not exceed 1.5% of the purchase price. Note that all taxes are based on the municipal value of the property, which is normally much lower than the actual sales price.

Annual property taxes (“pedio”) are low too. They vary between municipalities and are normally a bit higher for city properties than rural ones. In Quito, for example, property taxes are between 0.07% and 0.3% of the municipal value. For a house in Quito, valued at $100,000, the maximum property tax would amount to $300 per year.

Related: 15 Reasons Not to Live in Ecuador

To get a feel for the property market in Ecuador, I would recommend you browse through the following web sites:

  • Probably the biggest property site in Ecuador with several thousand listings. Spanish language version only. You can browse listings either by location or by category. Or do a more advanced search using the provided search boxes for location, type and price.
  • Specializes in beach front property in Bahia de Caraquez, Canoa and other cities along the Central coast. Properties are listed on one page, with a short overview, a photo and the location in brackets. Clicking on the photo will take you to a page with more details. Scroll down the page to find the search box. Nice site maintained by a bilingual husband-wife team.
  • Specializes in houses, condos and lots along Ecuador’s southern coast. No search function. Select either “Houses,” “Condos” or “Land” and scroll down the page to view the listings. Lots of photos and informative descriptions, but a bit awkward to navigate.
  • Specializes in properties in Cuenca and the surrounding Yunguilla valley. Cuenca is already a hot spot for expats moving to Ecuador, and Yunguilla is said to become one. No search function. Browse properties by type. Easy to navigate site with plenty of photos and good descriptions. Prices are more towards the higher end, but you can still find town homes for under $90,000 and condos for under $70,000.

Retire in Ecuador – Part I

For your retirement in Ecuador, learn about Cost of Living * Climate * Infrastructure & Internet Access

Retire in Ecuador – Part III

For your retirement in Ecuador, get the facts about Visa & Benefits * Health Care * Culture & People