The Process: House Hunting – Part 1 of 2

This two-part post will outline the process Joe and I used in finding our little beach hut. It is not a scientific method and we had no way of knowing if our hunting trip would gain us a house but it worked for us. We had a very limited budget and needed to find a town, neighborhood and house that fit the money issues first and foremost, we wanted certain things available to us in that area like enough shopping, restaurants and banking to allow us to live comfortably with certain services especially Skype-friendly internet to keep us connected to family and friends. Your experience may vary!

This was nowhere near as bad a process as I expected. First thing we did Joe found a bunch of house listings on the internet in several coastal cites we had decided were livable for us. We’ve lived in cities but we are not city people. Not even too big a town people at this point. Lots of nightlife not important to us, some of the climate on the coast is not suited to us, as the mountains wondrous as some of the towns are, the altitude makes them off limit for Joe at this point. some towns, while otherwise fine, are too pricey for us at this time in our lives. Or too much of an adventure or a little scary. Everyone should seek their own dream with their own criteria.

We had our friend Daniel (who is bilingual) call each contact person for the properties we were interested in and discuss first if the property was still available as many of the ads placed on the internet were old and the houses no longer available.  The questions we were interested in were size of lot and house, layout of house, furnished or unfurnished and what they would take as a offer on the house. We were on a very tight budget so we needed to find a place within our budget and still have money left over for the closing costs, moving and making repairs/updates. How close to beach and mercado was important also.   After calling on over 40 properties we narrowed our search down to around 20. I printed out the information and we made notations of additional things that Daniel discovered with his calls. We took our two-week trek up the coast and settled in the Hotel San Jacinto, where Jose the owner also sells real estate and builds the sweetest villas.  His current inventory was a bit over the price we wanted to pay and his internet listing had houses that were no longer for sale. He does not negotiate prices so we only looked at a few properties with him. He did drive us around and showed us a fully remodeled place right on the malecon in Jacinto for a little under $100k, also a beautiful home that has not been lived in for a very long while about two blocks off the beach with a huge lot next door but again the price was above our budget at $45k .

This villa at a little under $30k was a great little place, small, compact but not one blade of grass or one ounce of soil…I am a farm girl and I really need a place for plants that is where my heart is and both Joe and I know I would not be happy long-term in the villa.

This villa was a resale. You would need to contact Jose at the Hotel San Jacinto to find out what he has in inventory now. BTW he builds these little villas and may have a new project planned for the future.

While we were out looking at properties he stopped his truck got out and pulled a hand painted sign down off a fence post, stating that the property could not be for sale and would contact the number and let them know that they could not sell a property that they did not own. I guess he knows all the available lots in Jacinto and knew that this was a scam…something that we all need to be aware of !!!

We had one house in San Clemente that fit our criteria when it came to the cost but it was now set up as a duplex. Could we make this work for us?  We looked at it but had several more places that we wanted to see before we would even consider it. Joe had already made up his mind, he loved the house, the porch, the yard and it being 3 houses from the water was too compelling for him to not want to see it again…but we  needed to follow the procedure and were off to Bahia looking at places in Leonidas Plaza as well as San Vicente.  We had several house listings to view in each of those towns. As we drove through Leonidas Plaza I did not fall in love, I actually fell out of love with the area, it was too big, too much going on and just did not feel right for Joe and I. We made our way into San Vicente and I felt the same way, this area was not making me feel that warm and fuzzy feeling that I had found in Jacinto and Clemente.  We drove around looking for the houses we had information on but actually never found them and this was with a local driver who stopped several times asking directions trying to find the properties. I guess it was God’s plan for us. We could not afford anything in Bahia so we never even drove into town. I looked at Joe and he felt it too, this area was not for us. We had the driver turn around and take us back to San Clemente to the Casa Real hotel for our next weeks stay. We set up another appointment to look at the duplex and went back to take a closer look.  On one of these trips Jose introduced us to Patricia “Pat” McKinsey. She had a cute little house for sale on the beach in San Jacinto but it was listed for $60k and I told her I would not waste her time showing me the house if we could not afford it. That was the start of a great friendship, thank you Jose for introducing us!

The first thing we noticed is the location of this property, the house sits on a little lot with the house facing toward ocean. The beach is two houses in front of ours. The road is not paved but has been covered with good sized rocks, it must have been a real mess before these rocks were added. The neighbors, of which I met three or four during our three visits, seemed very friendly and went out of their way to help and even though no one spoke a word of English, we communicated well enough. The houses are in pretty decent shape, most are block or brick construction, all were painted and the ones closer to the water are bigger and more elaborate looking.  The street is located right off of the main avenue called Quito or Norte to the locals and seems to have very little traffic on either street as it is located near the bluff at the northern end of Clemente proper…all in all the location, house, street and beach are perfect for us.

Joe called back using his few good sentences in Spanish and we got to view the house again. It could be redone with the removing of a few walls, removing doors and putting up walls to be a very nice 3 bedroom, two bath home with a nice kitchen and living area. The porch is a nice size set up a few steps above the yard. Part of the yard is concrete currently a car park with the other part grass with 13-15 mature fruit trees. The entire yard is secure behind a 4 foot wall that we will augment with additional height, replace the gate with a more secure one and maybe one day even add a porch to the second floor from which we should be able to view the water…

Now it was time for us to decide if we wanted to make Clemente our home. After some good conversations and some hard questions we decided that yes, this could be our long-term home and neighborhood. Next  step we needed to contact our attorney to make an offer.

7 thoughts on “The Process: House Hunting – Part 1 of 2

  1. Nancy, looks like things are progressing nicely. We are happy for you.

    We have had some visa challenges in Ecuador and may need to ‘bug out’ for a year and return to Ecuador next year (long story). Because you have experience in Panama, I wanted to ask you why you left. Also, my research on Panama revealed a new law (as of May 2012) which is designed for a very quick pernament visa path. Can you recommend a Panamanian attorney?

    Thanks.
    David

    • Hi David, I wrote you an email to address the Panama questions. Thanks for your comment about the house, we are getting very excited about moving in this week, N

  2. Won’t be long now…you all will be moving into your home! It is coming along beautifully and the table is gorgeous. You seem to have made some wise choices on design and probably a good idea to wait until you all move in for remaining decorating decisions.

    Also, thank you for sharing the process of where to and what type of home to purchase. My husband and I will be making the same decision in the near future.

    Have a Gr8 Week!

  3. Pingback: Morning Update – Tuesday, August 14, 2012 « South of Zero

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