This blog entry is meant to be informative in nature about the true price of paradise. Recently, there has been much activity on my blog with questions regarding Las Palmas and other communities in the area. You, as a potential lot or homeowner, should be keenly aware of the risks involved and determine whether those risks are worth taking. You might be someone who can adjust, adapt, and overcome – if that is the type of person you all, none of the things I write would probably cause you much grief. However, some people want the naked truth. I want to give the naked truth from someone who is living the dream in Las Palmas, Puerto Cayo. We are not on vacation – we live here in a Mobusa house with a third party Construction Manager. So, this is not a hearsay tale of what we interpret from others’ stories – this is our true and actual account.
I have never attended a rally or conference, so I cannot speak to the validity of what is spoken there. I will only address Las Palmas, since this is my home. You can visit http://www.laspalmasecuador.com/LasPalmas.html and get the information directly off the site. I took the liberty of copying and pasting information below. The builder of this community is also in charge of two other communities north of Las Palmas. The information for these communities can be found at the following websites: http://palmerabeachecuador.com/
“And you don’t have to lift a finger other than helping decide which floor plan best suits you. We can help you choose a plan that will suit your needs or you can bring your own. Either way, we custom build your new home to American Standards that is sure to suit even the most discriminating buyer.”
American standards. In America, certain things are standard: clean and drinkable water, grounded electricity, master cutoff for electricity in the house, water drains away from home foundation, doorknobs on doors, etc. Just some simple things too – like windows have drain holes to allow water to drain –again – away from the interior of the home. Let me explain…
- The steps to the second story and the terrace were without any type of handrails. I ask, “Is this U.S. Standards”, because even the basic home in the states has railing on steps where three or more steps exists – building safety codes.
- The windows and sliding doors, while beautiful to look at, leak water into the house. Neither the windows or doors had any type of holes to allow drainage, so the water runs down the windows and doors into the tracks, fills up, and flows into the house. We sealed all the windows with caulk (this was not done) and put foam seal around the doors and windows to keep the wind from howling through (the windows have no type of seals). Several attempts to get responses from the builder useless. Don Atkins, Mobusa, fixed this problem.
- There was no main breaker for the electricity, so we had that fixed, so we could connect our generator. The answer to our question of why it is not there was, ‘they do not do that here.’ Yet, the promise from the builder was American Standards and not the local building practices.
- We bought an under mount sink and with all respect to the men doing the construction, this was a new concept. IF the builder had been onsite, they could have guided the workers through the process. Instead, the task was left to an Ecuadorean, who did not understand the process, so the hole cut for the sink is too big, resulting in additional scrubbing around the lip of the metal sink.
- A home normally has things like drains that drain to the septic or drains that are purposely used for gray water underground irrigation. As it turned out, our master bathroom sink and our washing machine were not hooked into the house drainage system. Not on purpose, as one could imagine, but just because, ‘they forgot’. So, as a last minute remedy, a ‘French drain’ was installed. We had to dig this out and reinstall it, because, as with the rest of the water – it did not drain.
- Our home came with a very nice and large cistern. During construction, the workers used our cistern for making cement and other construction needs. This meant that the debris from their buckets and other construction tools often fell into the cistern. When we moved into the home, within a month the water lines into the kitchen and master bath were completely stopped up with cement particles and dead bug body parts. Our investigation led us to believe that the cistern was never cleaned prior to us moving into our home and there was not a filter or screen placed on the bottom of the inlet pipe leading from the cistern to the holding tank. Now our holding tank is also full of these particles, which has caused even further problems.
- Our home came with an American Standard septic system. INSTALLED!
For our community of Las Palmas, the website boast the following:
We have thought of all of the amenities that you might need or want including…
“Concierge Services, On-Site Management Office, Satellite TV, CNN, HBO and Cinemax, Major U.S. TV Networks, High Speed Internet, and 24 Hour Security” does sound good. I have explained the internet in a previous post and our satellite is DishNet, which, just like in the states we paid for as well. However, the builder of the community did put in the underground lines in the event services come in the future. I would caution against thinking these things are included. Quite the contrary, even the concierge services are not even remotely available and the on-site management office is ME!
“Remember, this is not just a lot and a home but is instead a lifestyle you are buying. Las Palmas is quite unique in that we offer such large lots and they all have the best views you can even imagine.” This statement is true. The lots are very nice and spacious. All of them are beachfront or will have a beach view within perhaps 150 meters to the beach.
For the Las Palmas community, there was a gate and a wall put around three sides. The wall has never been finished. There are two holes about the width of a car and another gapping hole to allow the passage of construction vehicles. The comment from the builder of the community is that until the construction is completed the drive passages in the wall are necessary. However, this also leaves the community open. On a daily basis, random people in cars, trucks, van, etc. drive into the community through the ‘construction entrance’ and park in front of our house. On several occasions people want to tour our home – they are not with a realtor, we do not know them, and they have not made an appointment. And that is what your “Gated Community” and onsite security get you.
The community was never registered as a Urbanization with the city, so you are buying a lot in a community that has no means of enforcing any of the HOA covenants that people are ‘buying into’. I would just warn those buying in other communities in Las Palmas or neighboring communities to do your research and ask questions from people who live in the area.
“One of the things we have learned from doing so many developments over the years is that the homes in a nice development will typically increase in value much quicker than a standalone home. We believe that this disparity in home equity will be even greater in Ecuador because:
The streets in Las Palmas are not professionally landscaped or professionally maintained. Instead they are dirt streets that turn to a slurry mess when it rains. There are palm trees that are planted and nutshell have been placed as a means to keep the weeds from growing. The community paid to have the final lights installed and made functional.
“A care taker is present for those times when you can’t be. This means your home is being looked after and is safe from vandalism.” This statement is an outright LIE. There is no caretaker here to look after your property unless YOU pay for the service.
“We offer the benefit of having a pool, tennis court and other amenities without any maintenance or up-keep on your part.” This statement is an outright LIE. The HOA fees were being used to maintain the pool and an individual who lives in Puerto Cayo was looking after the pool. Today, the pool sits with stale water and serves quite nicely as a mosquito bed. The other amenities must be located somewhere else, because we have a pool, tennis court and the common areas…Nature provided the gorgeous beach and sun!
“You also have the benefit of having us rent your home for you when you are away. This allows you to be able to have positive cash flow without any of the hassles in doing it yourself.” This is an outright LIE. The person who is claiming this service does not even live in Ecuador. This service is not available.
“For those of you who speak English there will be other neighbors who also speak English. This will give you more time to learn Spanish without feeling so isolated.” This is a true statement; we very much indeed speak English and we are the only people living full time in Las Palmas.
All of this to say the true price of paradise is flexibility and acceptance. If you can be flexible with your wants and accept that all of those wants are not needs, then you should be just comfortable in any new Ecuadorian digs!