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Do You (Want to) Own In Ecuador? Joseph A. Giamportone

Not yet? That’s okay. You are reading this article, so maybe you have been considering it and that puts you ahead of the pack. The good news is that there are still plenty of potential expat investors who are on the fence as to whether South America is even a ‘safe’ bet for investing their hard-earned dollars. The bad news? That number is declining quickly.

Did you know that the Global Retirement Index has listed Ecuador in the top four countries to retire to across the globe in 2022? And that Manta is now considered the fastest growing city in Ecuador? Or that International Living has it in the top ten, also beating out France, Malta, Spain, and Uruguay? Colombia, Portugal, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama all get ranked ahead of Ecuador but, in this expat's opinion…fine by me. We are a smart bunch and know that slow and steady wins the race. In other words, I personally wouldn’t want to be number one…not yet, maybe not ever. This place is special and there is something to be said about it being a 'hidden gem.' Nevertheless, Manta is growing more, and faster with each passing year.

"But Joe, why should we believe you?"

Good question. Here is my answer:

Since my arrival here in August 2017, I have had the enormous luck to be able to start a small network of successful businesses. One of them is Rent in Manta, a luxury property management and rental agency. At RiM, we have been studying (and acting on) the data from almost four years' worth of investors and renters in the City of Manta. It is without a doubt that we can tell you the levels of awareness, attraction, attention, and engagement in the real estate market here have all been increasing steadily, and in recent months, exponentially. How do we know? The numbers don’t lie.

Let’s just look at the last two quarters of 2019, RiM’s first full year “in business.” I use that term loosely because until March 17, 2020 (when the pandemic officially reached Ecuador and a national quarantine was enacted) RiM was nothing more than a sister brand to our bigger endeavors at the time.

Our first business here in Ecuador was a branding agency that we had solidified as a local leader in no small part due to the dedication and hard work of my partner and wife Ambar Giamportone Quijije. Manabí born, and raised here in Manta, with extensive credentials in journalism, television, and communications, she has worked in both the private and public sectors, for the department of aquaculture, and with past presidents.

Our second business is an online restaurant directory that has grown in popularity so much that nine out of 10 of the top restaurants in Manta know who we are. Additionally, anyone in the city who considers themselves part of the #mantaFOODIES does so because of us (we coined the term).

Until the pandemic reached Ecuador, those two businesses were the ones generating profits. Rent in Manta was just paying for itself to exist. But when a global pandemic brought the economy to a screeching halt, our two profit-makers were forced to re-evaluate their strategies and RiM was the only one generating any income, AT ALL! A story for another time…or perhaps another issue of HiExpat Magazine (hint hint) is how those businesses both remained relevant through the first two years of the pandemic and are either being rebranded or re-activated in 2022.

So from June 4, 2019, when we officially began publishing marketing material to attract renters to, and until December 31 of that same year, we had a total of 736 visitors to the website. 36% came on their own, 33% came via Google, and 28% came via social media (96% from Facebook and Instagram combined). Of those 736 visitors to our site, 39% were from Ecuador, 38% from the US, and just under 10% from Canada with India, Argentina, the UK, Australia, France, China, and Colombia at or just below 1% each.

Now let’s fast forward to the same time period in 2021; overall we saw a 589% increase in the total number of site visitors, 5,071 vs 736. Forty-two percent came through Google, 35% came on their own (meaning they either knew our domain name and simply typed it into their browser or clicked from a bookmark they had stored), and 22% came from social media (91% from Facebook and YouTube combined, 9% from Instagram). Of those 5,071 visitors, 51% came from the US, 28% from Ecuador, 10% from Canada with China and Germany tied at just above 1.5% each. Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Mexico, and Spain at or below 1% each. That rounds out your top 10.

And now let's look at our total number of rentals in 2018…that total would be five.

In 2019? 25.

In 2020? (year one of pandemic) 41

In 2021? 111

I cannot give a total for 2022 yet obviously, but let's just say we have already beaten our January and February numbers from 2021.

From 2019 to 2021 we saw a 345% increase in rentals. With an approximate 54% bounce rate on our website the numbers tell a story of a company whose increases in web traffic directly correlate to their increased sales. It also corroborates our hypotheses and claims about the growth of this magical city.

During 2020 and 2021, many owners of prime beachfront real estate listed their properties for sale in response to the pandemic. At that time, it was a buyers' market here in Manta. Today you can observe, just by driving along the coast, that those prime lots which were once “For Sale” are now being built on. Some of those properties have even been completed and are already lived in by long term renters or the owners themselves.

Let me close with some more observations and a bit of a prediction for 2022. The economy has been on a steady road to recovery. Tourism and international travel are more popular than ever here in Manta. It is abundantly clear that the amount of available oceanfront property is diminishing. Gated communities, or urbanizations, such as Ciudad del Mar, Manta Beach, and Manta Blue, are selling fast.

New luxury high-rises such as Mykonos Torre D and Riva Di Mare were recently completed, selling out quickly as well. Upcoming projects such as Grand Bay, an $80M residential complex with 4 towers and more than 344 individual properties ranging from $150,000 to over $500,000, was recently announced. Best of all, natural preservation and infrastructure improvement projects are being funded and breaking ground here in Manta every few weeks.

In preparation for the continued rise and significant growth of investments in Manta, the local government is investing heavily in beautification and environmental improvements to protect the sustainability of our assets. The population of Manta has exploded in recent months with travelers and expatriates from all around the globe, predominantly from the USA and Canada. They choose Manta as their new home and get to spend their time in a low stress, "tranquilo", environment with a year-round warm and stable climate (24-29 degrees Celsius or 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit) surrounded by kind, beautiful people, fresh food, and plenty of activities to enjoy both here in Manta and around Ecuador.

The low cost of living, highly accessible healthcare services and medicine, and locally sourced meats, fish, fruits and vegetables are only some of the primary reasons why Ecuador is so attractive. Their adoption of the dollar as the national currency and the growing number of English-speaking Ecuadorians plays a huge role in the allure and comfort level. This is why Ecuador continues to climb the ranks of the Global Retirement Index.

But why Manta? By car, we are only 10 minutes to Santa Marianita, which is known for its kite surfing schools, restaurants, and an amazing beach. There is also the fact that Manta is home to the Pacoche Rainforest, a protected natural rainforest that is a total of 13,545 hectares (135.45 sq km or 33,470 acres) and is only 20 minutes by car from the center of the City of Manta.

We have two malls for shopping, many types of ocean sports, and 12 beaches for fun in the sun and on the water. Manta is also very close to Montecristi where you will find cultural museums, top-rated fine dining experiences, such as Trattoria de Gabrielle, and a world class golf club and community called, you guessed it, Montecristi Golf Club.

We are centrally located along Ruta Del Spondylus (formerly known as Ruta Del Sol), making us equidistant from all the other amazing oceanfront towns and small cities in the Province of Manabí. Manta’s domestic airport currently has 35-minute flights to the capital city of Quito, where you can catch a direct four hour flight to Florida (that’s only an hour longer than flying from NY to Florida).

Not to mention that thanks to the perseverance from the local government and our expat community leaders, Manta’s airport will one day be international (fingers crossed), and perhaps even have direct flights to the Galapagos’ Islands. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Come and see why Manta is the fastest growing city in Ecuador! Book a flight, find a nice AirBnB for $50 - $100 per night, and then, when you fall in love like we know you will, rent a luxury oceanfront condominium for 80% less than what you would have to pay for something like it in Florida or California.

Feeling adventurous? Rent an unfurnished 3-bedroom house in a gated community for less than $650 per month. Do that for a year or two while you buy land, design, and build your own dream home on the beach. You can do all of that for less than $250K in total. But wait. I promised a prediction, so here it is.

The dream will not end there. You will then get to watch that beautiful dream home appreciate in value right before your eyes, making your new biggest problem whether you should continue living in it or rent it out and build another for yourself. If you think I am kidding, make Manta your next getaway. Come here with an open mind and then tell me I am wrong.

The way I see it, Manta has been on its way to becoming as well-known as Costa Rica for an expat haven, due to a few key factors, many of which I have mentioned here.

One of the biggest differences between the two? Cost.

Places like Costa Rica have been at the top of those expat ‘haven-o-meters’’ for decades. The prime oceanfront land has been bought and sold multiple times over.

I often attribute finding Manta to having been given access to a time machine. In many ways it is compared to living in the 1950's USA, although I personally wouldn’t know because I was born in 1980.

However, my parents and grandparents told stories of amazing real estate opportunities, communities and families being together and sharing with one another, a more tranquil time when working check to check or living in debt was far from the norm. A time when anyone with some grit and “know-how” could start their own luxury property management company with a small investment and a few years of challenging work.

If things continue as they have been and the culture of protecting our environmental assets becomes part of the bedrock of our people both immigrant and native, it will only be a matter of time before Manta finds itself vying for that number one spot and I am no longer the only 41-year-old expat doing important things here. Even though I like hanging tough in the “Top 10”… we don’t want it to get too crowded now, do we?


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