Of course, our move into Condominio Miramar went off the rails. This is me and Chantal, and Ecuador. If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know there was not a chance we would escape this experience unmarked by farce.
There were other condos for sale in San Clemente. We toured all four of them, one of which appeared in an episode of House Hunters International. It was impossible for us to live elsewhere. The Miramar sign is a shameless rip-off of the City of Ottawa logo. Chantal and I lived most of our adult lives in Ottawa. We took it as an omen.
There are four large units at Miramar. Couples from Kingston (Ontario) and Quito share the bottom floor. Peter and Daria are snowbirds. Our neighbours directly underneath us, we are told, visit two or three times a year. We have not yet been introduced.
Chantal and I share the top floor with Ricardo and Isabel. They divide their time between the coast and Quito. Their adult children study in Canada. Ricardo asked us to speak only English to them. They want to learn for their next trip north.
Finally, there’s our “concierge” Geovanny. (Concierge. That’s what he calls himself.) Geovanny arranged our water and gas deliveries and found a source in San Clemente for fresh, homemade fruit yogurt, two dollars a litre, delivered Thursdays. He’s been with the building, he says, since the beginning. He’s an affable kid. He likes to show me off to his suppliers as his Spanish-speaking gringo. Apparently, I’m something of a rarity in San Clemente.
The Seller from Hell
We purchased our unit from a physical wreck of a man, a palsied 70-year-old American with blue legs and a stooped back, whom I shall call The Seller.
The Seller is entirely unable to manage his affairs. Even the simplest tasks, we discovered, are beyond his ability to cope. Like mopping up kitchen spills or emptying used toilet paper bins. Or safely discarding needles, which are not of the insulin variety if you catch my meaning. You probably see where this is going.
Despite his broke-ass condition, The Seller enjoys a Big Gay Lifestyle. Nobody at Miramar begrudges him his orientation. But they did have an issue with the noisy all-night sex parties in the pool, and the near constant beer-bottle-and-cigarette-butt litter. And the fact that every young man in town possesses a copy of the keys to the building. We walked in with our first carload of suitcases and were greeted like the liberation of Holland.
The Seller would not allow anyone to tour his apartment. This made marketing it a bit of a problem. Worse, his clueless realtor thought that a selection of blurry, badly lit photos of The Seller’s disgusting bathroom sink and stained bedsheets would seal the deal with any prospective buyer.
Our unit, which is located on arguably the most desirable plot of beachfront north of Manta, remained unvisited for five months before we came along. The moment we showed interest, The Seller raised his asking price by ten thousand dollars. We started our negotiations by ignoring him.
We settled on a modest closing price for a fully furnished unit. (On the coast, property commonly sells or rents with furniture, appliances, and cooking implements. Not so much in the Andes.) The Seller’s living and dining room seating was soiled beyond repair by his two incontinent dogs and his one incontinent cat. It would have to be replaced, and we took that into account with our offer. The rest of his stuff was of the cheap flat-pack variety, but it looked usable for the short term.
The Seller’s realtor provided us with a list of inclusions. The Seller promptly ignored it. When he moved, he took the pieces that he thought were valuable, regardless of their status in our contract, and left us with his garbage – and I do mean garbage.
Did I Mention the Needles?
The living room television doesn’t work. (I tested it before we moved. Somehow, this towering nitwit managed to bugger it up in the meantime.) The grubby washing machine had a busted solenoid and clearly sat there, unrepaired, for months or perhaps years. The induction stovetop was ruined from scorching, the oven would not turn on, and the entire appliance was shrink-wrapped in layers of yellow congealed goo.
The Seller’s kitchen sink was stopped up with hair and grease; when I tried to empty the traps, his entire plumbing system fell to pieces in my hands. The cupboard interiors were littered with mummified vegetable cuttings and gecko poop. I’m certain someone took a shit in the fridge.
There were sizable clots of greasy filth in the corners and bedroom closets. All three toilets were ripe with acrid piss, though The Seller thoughtfully dropped a fragrant blue puck into each tank before he left. Under The Seller’s bed was a large puddle of sticky pet urine. And needles. Did I mention the needles? The entire place reeked of old man, wet dog, and cat litter.
Trust me when I say: This is not an unfair description of the property we received. In fact, I think of it as something of an achievement on The Seller’s part. He lived in his apartment for a little under three years. Every gummy surface provoked my gag reflex. The place was a biohazard.
I dedicated two full days – 18 hours – to resurrect the kitchen. Another three days to return the rest of the apartment to a breathable standard. Then I brought in the industrial cleaners. And the painters. And the electricians and plumbers and appliance repairmen. Ten days and several thousand dollars later, we had restored our unit to something far less resembling hospital landfill waste. There’s still a brown fart smell bubbling up from the pipes. I will deal with that later.
It Doesn’t End There
The Seller walked off with the remote for our master bedroom television. This Ecuadorian-made piece of crap doesn’t work without its remote, and it isn’t supported by the universal variety. I pestered The Seller for three weeks to return the thing. He finally sent over what appears to be a dog’s chew toy. At this point, I can’t tell if he’s an idiot or if he’s trolling me.
I am still waiting for a copy of The Seller’s last CNEL bill, so we can transfer his account with the state energy provider. So far, I have received a blurry photo of the corner of his bill with half his name printed on it, and a request from his realtor to stop being such a pain in the ass about everything. Buddy, you haven’t started to feel me yet.
Ecuador’s expat population includes a very large anti-establishment and antisocial constituency. Americans, who left their free-market paradise because they can’t afford healthcare, proudly display their MAGA caps while they bitch about socialized medicine. There’s an alarming number of QAnon cult members who live just in Mirador San Jose – our old stomping grounds – never mind the country writ large. I have personally spoken to two individuals who believe Lizard People secretly run the UN. And don’t get me started on them chemtrails. Do your own research, sheeple.
Yeah, our condo move went off the rails. Statistically, it had to. We were dealing with an expat. Very fortunately for me and Chantal, we came out of it relatively unscathed. I have read horror stories. One of them is ours.
For several months, very recently, I coached a fellow Canadian on how to buy property in Ecuador. He heard my advice. Like many others who email for my opinion because I have this blog, he didn’t enjoy the parts that contradict what he saw on HGTV. So, he disregarded everything and bought a house in Puerto Lopez, from some Yankee whose story changed weekly and whose price dropped daily.
To him I say good luck. Everything in Ecuador is sideways, and the easiest path always costs more later on. I hope your path leads you to a place that your bank account can accommodate.