Cuenca rentals – my apartment hunting & renovation project


I am sitting in my new apartment in downtown Centro Historico in Cuenca, a little sore from moving all my junk yesterday, but with Internet up and running it is starting to feel like home.

Cuenca Rentals – From a room to an apartment

It’s amazing I arrived in Cuenca almost a year ago and now unfortunately have enough stuff to fill my friends pickup truck. So much for my goal of minimalist living. I moved because I was living in a room, a room without a kitchen, a situation which many people in Cuenca do indefinitely, either from lack of means, the prevalence of the $2 almuerzo or a combination of the above. I am looking forward to trying more Ecuadorean cooking experiments now that I have a kitchen, stay tuned.

How I found it

I had actually been looking for a long time, reading the overpriced rentals on gringotree, and calling ridiculously undetailed ads in the classifieds, 90% which read something like “I rent an apartment, 2 bedrooms, good location.” You would think that these people would assume that you are renting an apartment, given that you took out an ad in the apartment rentals section of the classifieds! And you could use that extra line to specify which neighborhood, or the price. But I digress. I was tempted to call one of the gringo specialists who will find you an apartment in exchange for a fixed fee, but being the stubborn DIY-er that I am, I pressed on ahead. I found this through a friend of a friend (connections are everything in Cuenca, way better than classifieds or gringotree).

Value for the money

When I found it, it had shabby slightly uneven wooden floors, in need of a polishing, an odd mixture of white, brown, and yellow walls, and bathtub with no bath-spigot (just a shower head). The shower moreover had a wooden window which faced into the inner courtyard (above the owner’s art gallery). Water from the shower would splash onto the window, go out into the courtyard and make a nice puddle in the first floor art gallery, so the previous tenants had resolved this by duct-taping a second shower curtain over the window – making it quite possibly the ugliest bathroom I’d ever seen. Fixing this was a condition of me moving in (see Renovation Nightmare)

But if charm is anything, there is something appealing about the recessed and lighted alcoves for paintings or sitting, the spiral staircase, and the view from my 3rd floor bedroom, of red roof tiles. $170/month is what I believe to be the fair local price (1 bedroom 1 bath, water, gas, internet, etc all included). Ahhhh, the good life in Cuenca. Meanwhile I sublet my $1900 San Francisco downtown apartment. My parents came and visited. After a day in Cuenca they said…I can understand why you don’t want to come home.

Renovation Nightmare

So here’s me being a whiny gringa again – the maestro (construction expert) was supposed to come on Saturday morning, didn’t show up. Was supposed to come again on Monday morning, didn’t show up. Without any notice whatsoever he showed up knocking on the door on Wednesday morning, so I was pretty much obligated to ditch my morning ballet class to oversee the work.

Since water was going out the window from the shower into the first floor art gallery, the approach was to place a piece of glass as a splashguard in front of the window to block the water. He went to the store and bought the glass. I was downstairs painting. I came up to see how it was going, and he was about to cement the glass in place when I noticed it was way too short. I turned on the shower head to show that the water would have easily splashed 2 feet higher and gone out the window just the same. Back to the glass store he went…. And back to painting I went. He shows up with a big piece of glass, which I approve, and goes to cement it in place. I go up to see again, and he has smeared silicone glue in haphazard patterns on the back of the glass and stuck it in place. So, I tell him to take it off, clean the glass, and glue it on with glue in a straight line!!! A couple hours later, the glass splash guard is in place, with straight lines of silicone glue. Voila!!!

Here are the “before” pictures, and a half-in-progress “after” picture. Note that I removed the junky furniture, painted the walls white, added flowers, and voila. I also painted the bathroom, threw out the world’s ugliest shower curtain. Still to do – find a kitchen table, a couch, and some artwork.


Before – yellow accent wall, weird “couch” made of smelly used mattresses and a table made of cardboard



After- a little paint and a trashcan works magics



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One Response to "Cuenca rentals – my apartment hunting & renovation project"
  1. Jack says:

    Liked reading your article. I have been searching the internet for places to retire for myself and my wife. We both are looking for a place that has good medical plans / services as well as affordability. We live in a suburb of Vancouver, Canada and hope to retire in the next few years. Looking for some advice from people who have already taken the step. I came across your article some how linked from Dr. Lee Dubs article. Would definitely like have a chat with you VIA email. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Cheers, Jack

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