Ronan McMahon

Investing in Ecuador's Pacific Coast
by Ronan McMahon

Ecuador has 1,400 miles of coastline. The most under-developed section of coast lies between Atacames and San Vicente. Semi-dry forest covers the hills. Pristine beaches extend along the coast. This has been the least accessible stretch of Ecuador's coast.

This is set to change. Access to this stretch of coast should improve dramatically. This area is set to become the closest beach area to Quito and its new international airport. Construction on a new highway from Quito to Pedernales is well advanced. It is due for completion in January 2010.

Work is also progressing on schedule on the bridge from Bahía De Caráquez to San Vicente. Today it is 45% complete. It will be the longest bridge in Ecuador. According to Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, this project is second only to Quito's new airport in importance for Ecuador's tourism industry. The tourism industry is about to explode! Just recently, Ecuador's Aerogal Airline announced that it will reintroduce 737 flights to San Vicente/ Bahía with a 4 day per week service.

Buy land here, and wait for the infrastructure to get to this stretch of coast, and you could do well…very well.

I know a guy who has already done that, serial developer and investor, Carl Wescott. I have known Carl for three years. I have watched with interest the progress with his project in Vilcabamba in Ecuador's highlands. In Vilcabamba, he did what he promised…and then some. Carl spends most of his time on the road…scouting new investment locations.

He has bought large tracts of land in Ecuador, Uruguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. He's a value-driven kinda guy. Everything doesn't have to happen today. He's in it for the long haul.

Carl is a developer, invested in this area, so of course he has a vested interest in talking it up. He's worth listening to, though. He could have taken his money, time and expertise, and invested it anywhere-but he has chosen to invest here. I've asked Carl to write a note about his investment strategy in Ecuador and his thoughts on the Bahía area.

Carl mentioned demographics and immigration as strong indicators. This is going to be one of the major drivers of the real estate market in Ecuador, as boomers retire, or look for a new life overseas. Here is what else he had to say.....

Why I'm Investing in Bahía

As a real estate developer and environmentalist, I usually purchase property for investment or for preservation. Ecuador is currently one of my three favorite countries in the world in which to invest.

Ecuador has one of the lowest costs of living in Latin America. It's a beautiful country, rich in natural resources, with a very interesting culture, and friendly people. The infrastructure is generally good. Foreigners can own fee simple titled land, supported by deeds, a public registry and the ability to purchase title insurance. Ecuador also offers an easy visa program for immigrants with benefits for investors and seniors.

Ecuador has incredible geographical diversity. It's composed of three main areas - the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon. In the higher elevations on the equator, Ecuador sees some of the best weather in the world, making for pleasant living, and supporting an agricultural bounty. It is a wonderful place to grow a wide variety of crops, and the mild weather also leads to a healthy lifestyle. Houses are designed to integrate indoor and outdoor living. Ecuador has entrenched democratic traditions. It's less regulated than most countries. This is a land where personal freedom is cherished.

As a result of all these benefits, Ecuador is attracting widespread immigration, a trend that bodes well for many industries-including real estate.

Some current, though temporary, challenges for Ecuador include the political situation, where a left-leaning coalition government has created some financial issues, including a recent default on its sovereign debt. Overall though, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.

I first came to Ecuador to visit the legendary and sacred Valley of Longevity, where Joe Simonetta and I created two developments.
More recently, I have been investing on Ecuador's Pacific coast, one of the few desirable areas of the world where beachfront and ocean view land is still affordable.

Many people enjoy the towns of Manta and Salinas as great places for beachfront living. I prefer to be a little more ahead of the curve, with better beaches, fewer people, lower densities, larger properties, and bigger investment upsides.

My favorite spot on the coast for visiting and investing is the area around Bahía de Caráquez. Bahía is a town of 25,000 residents, located on the south side of the Rio Chone river, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. Bahía features good restaurants, clean, paved roads, and a museum of archeology and art.

The environmentalist in me appreciates Bahía's eco-city status. The city is committed to recycling and organic farming where possible. Many of the local taxis are eco-taxis, or pedicabs (they are incredibly inexpensive, too). Passenger ferries and a car ferry cross the river frequently to Bahía's sister town of San Vicente, on the north side of the river. San Vicente is noisier, and more bustling, and features a local daily market and the famous Santa Rosa church.

In my opinion, Bahía is much nicer and cleaner than San Vicente. Bahía supports a vibrant fishing industry, and some local and international tourism. It is 8km south of Canoa, a popular surf town. Canoa's ocean breezes also attract hang-gliding and windsurfing enthusiasts.

The current downside to the Bahía area is that it lacks infrastructure. It's not easy or convenient to travel to Bahía, or the area around it. The San Vicente airport gets very little airport traffic, while the Manta and Portoviejo airports are more than an hour from town.

However, the federal government is investing in local infrastructure, including a $100 million project for a bridge to cross the river. This will connect Bahía and San Vicente. The government is paving many roads in the area and expanding some of them to four lane highways, cutting drive times by 30-40% or more.

Last month, Bahía's most upscale hotel to date was launched, Casa Ceibo. The emphasis is on the best of local products, combined with top-notch service. The hotel furniture was handcrafted locally; the restaurant features gourmet regional cuisine. This luxurious boutique hotel raises the bar for accommodation in Bahía.

Many people, including increasing numbers of North Americans and Europeans, are moving to the area. As a result, real estate prices, while remaining relatively low, are starting to rise rapidly.

My prediction for the years ahead is that the San Vicente airport will open to regular commercial flights, and that the Bahía area will continue to grow and flourish.

Carl Wescott

Investing in Ecuador has proven sound and successful for Carl Wescott and many other international investors. Make plans to visit the area and take advantage of all the great real estate potential in Ecuador.

Ronan McMahon
A finance graduate, Ronan McMahon worked in the e-business consultancy and dot-com industries before joining International Living as Real Estate Marketing Director in January 2004. Ronan has been an active real estate investor since his early twenties and joining International Living gave him the opportunity to marry his personal and professional interests. Last year Ronan took up the position of Executive Director with Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is International Living's preferred Real Estate advertising partner. Pathfinder scouts the globe to find the most unique and value-oriented real estate opportunities.

Ronan writes International Living's Real Estate Trend Alert and regularly contributes to International Living's print and online publications. Ronan has travelled to 15 countries in the past 12 months alone following real estate trends with the potential for profit. Instinct, experience and an unrivalled black book of contacts give Ronan McMahon access to the inside track to unique profit opportunities.

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