I admit, it was sketchy-looking. A free “informational” seminar… at a Travelodge?

The ad that changed our lives appeared on page 35 of the Thursday, February 13, 2014 edition of EMC Ottawa South News, one of about two dozen free community newspapers that Postmedia bought in 2018, carved up with the Toronto Star, and then promptly shuttered. Because the only local news we should ever receive is from an American hedge fund with a grumpy, Big Oil financed, climate-denying editorial operation run by a convicted felon out of Toronto.

But I digress.

“Take a look at this!” Chantal showed me her open paper.

The Ad that Changed Our Lives

It was perhaps seven weeks since we had returned from the Panama cruise. Memories of Ecuador were still very fresh in our minds. The ad seemed almost providential.

HolaEcuador, we were to learn, was a Canadian company that developed properties in Ecuador and officed in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from us in Ottawa. The website wasn’t much: amateurish and low-information. But I’m a professional web designer. That judgment comes from a particularly picky place.

In spite of our reservations, we attended the seminar. Again, a somewhat sketchy-looking event, hosted in the dimly-lit wing of an underpopulated hotel located nowhere near anything interesting on the least attractive corner of Ottawa’s Carling Avenue. For one moment, I thought of a ridiculously scammy timeshare presentation I once stupidly attended in Montreal.

But a lot of people were there. The room was, in fact, at capacity. Most of the folks were bilingual French Canadians, we were not surprised to discover. (The company is headquartered in Trois-Rivières.) And Hola’s PowerPoint display – photos of a very sunny and beautiful beach, architectural designs, shots of the community features (pool, paved main roads, the malecón) – compelled. It compelled, very much.

That night, we easily Googled information on co-owner Gordon Poole, formerly of the National Research Council, formerly of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The HolaEcuador Facebook page showed a thrumming development, stylish interiors, exotic flyover videos, and happy homeowners.

Of course, anyone who lives in Ottawa and is familiar with our local industry (government) knows that a literal trove of publicly available filings awaits anyone who visits Industry Canada’s corporations database. HolaEcuador Property Development Inc., Corporation Number 777381-1, Business Number (BN) 831473913RC0001, was a real enterprise with real annual returns and real shareholders.

We did our due diligence. We decided that we liked what we saw. We booked an appointment with Yves Legault, the guy who hosted our “informational” seminar. Yves very happily sold us B-36-15, a 232.3m2 lot at Mirador San Jose, the Canadian “urbanization” located 45 minutes south of Manta. We paid twenty-two thousand US dollars for the privilege.

What our due diligence did not reveal, and what HolaEcuador did not completely disclose, was the relationship between themselves and the actual developers of the urbanization. We believed they were one and the same. It turns out they are not. No one corrected our assumption.

Years later, this would become an important fact for anyone who purchased a lot from HolaEcuador. In some ways, my blog is about the outrageous mess these people created for themselves, and the anxiety they introduced into the first of our leisure years. But that was well beyond our planning horizon. For the moment, we were thrilled.

These were our first real steps toward retirement. We had a five-year strategy now in mind. And in two years, mas o menos, we would own a villa on the Pacific coast of Ecuador.