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Websites, magazine articles, and other get-rich-quick offers often claim you can make a killing buying overseas real estate. Maybe you can. But I can tell you from personal experience, many of the places you might buy in don´t offer a quick return, and there´s no guarantee you´ll be able to sell it when you wan to.

You can check the International Living website, which has many articles about real estate in places like Croatia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. If you buy property here, and probably in some of the other places mentioned, the challenge comes when you want to sell. In many of these countries, there is no dynamic real estate market as there is in developed countries. That means no longer term financing, or if there is, it´s expensive. That means no buyers knocking at your door. That means there´s a very small market of potential buyers, and they set the price, not you.

We bought 6 acres over five years back, and put in a lot of improvements. If you buy rural land, you face the challenges of getting water connections, telephone, and even electricity connections. And these don´t come cheap or easy without local connections…that is, knowing the right person. Fortunately, we had these. We´ve installed all these things, at some cost.

We´ve decide to sell the land, given that it will remain in the family. But we´re not making any money on it, we´re just breaking even. If we did put it up for sale, it could take years to find a buyer. No one is knocking down doors to buy property, especially rural property, even if it does have a great view, has all utilities installed, and is accessible. Why are there no buyers?

First, few people have 50, a hundred, or a couple of hundred thousand lying around in cash. Fewer people can get access to any kind of long-term financing that would enable them to make a purchase in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And even fewer people actually move from place to place or invest in a second property in developing countries. Finally, many buyers of homes want to buy only new here. Despite the claims of appreciation the real estate companies make, there are very few homes or lots you could buy that you will actually make money on-especially built homes.

The mentality here is that if it’s used, it should be cheaper. Neighborhoods go in and out of style, and when they go out, they lose value. So not might you buy something and be stuck with it because there are no buyers, but you might be stuck with a depreciating asset. In my opinion, you’re better off renting if you want to live here.

I met with a publisher of a restaurant guide earlier this week to discuss placing an advert, and to discuss other marketing possibilities. We talked up a bunch of ideas, and reasonably so, they wanted to try the chocolates before perhaps helping market them to some of their current clients. I was glad to oblige.

The response I got was a little cool-“You have an interesting product.” Well, that’s not saying much, either negative or positive.

I began to think this over, and realized, that while they might save me a great deal of time by being able to market and “endorse” my product, I don’t see any reason why they should be the arbiters of taste. Especially when I have gotten a positive response from all my clients. They would, of course, also be interested in taking a cut of the sales they generate for me.

In our discussions it quickly became apparent, as is often the case here, that they know little about chocolate production in Ecuador and that the lack of quality chocolate is probably the greatest barrier to making a high quality bonbon or truffle. I work with the best stuff that is available, in my judgement, and have had only positive comments, both here and in the US. So why they were so quick to judge the product as “interesting” did not please me.

I will continue to market on my own and given the current demand and interest in the product, I’m sure we’ll do just fine.

Just under two weeks ago I returned from a week in Los Angeles. Went to discuss business with a potential client, see an enrober, and see my parents.

It was delightful to be able to just pick up the phone, order something, and have it within a day or two. Of course, not having that convenience here makes spending money a lot harder. I seem to go many days at a time without spending a cent, which is also a rather pleasant experience. No advertising in your face, none of all that commercialism always reminding you how much you NEED something else to make your life better.

Everything seemed so shiny, clean and new there, but I guess it really wasn’t. Just the effects of being in an environment where everything is somewhat damaged, dirty, broken down, or just not maintained. Sidewalks are cracked, there’s trash in the street, cars are old and beat up, lack of customer service.

We had dinner at two of LA’s supposedly best restaurants, but somehow they just don’t cut it for the prices they charge. And food prices have gone up noticeably since I’ve been gone. The best meal we had was in Culver City at Wilsons, a simple but delicious place, as well as two of the breakfasts I had out with friends at very low-key places.

I got everything I needed done, but was also glad to return to the family and the business. We are expanding and the trip was definitely important to help move things along.

A current debate going on here is reform of the Ecuadorian tax laws. The reform would increase deductions, raising the minimum amount you have to earn to pay taxes, thus reducing the tax burden on low-wage earners, and increase taxes on high-income earners. That´s about as much as I know.

But the most interesting thing was the political ad I´ve been hearing on the radio. It doesn´t sound like some impartial purely information ad. It goes something like ¨The New Tax Laws will be fair and progressive. Don´t let the oligarchy, who are defending the status quo, continue exploiting the country, and avoiding taxes. Don’t let their spokespeople try and convince you that thte law is bad with their rhetoric. The oligarchy and ruling class are twisting the truth to protect themselves and not you. Vote for the Tax Reform.”

The most ironic thing here is that the head of the Tax Service is named Carlos Marx.

When I filmed my first segments for a show a couple of months back, I thought it was just so much fun. My shining, smily face would appear on TV, along with my logo, my address, and the hordes would flock to my chocolate shop and be lined up to the corner to buy out all the sweets. Not so. I didn’t mind preparing for two to three hours a day for three to four days beforehand all the ingredients I would need on hand, so that we could film the greatest number of segments in the least amount of time. Five segments! I managed to get in five segments on the first filming, and I wasn’t at all tired. By the fifth segment, I even had down pat the greeting to my phantom audience that I would never see, and was sort of starting to get used to talking into a camera as if it were my best friend.

The cable channel that does the filming is based here in Ecuador, and I suppose they’re looking for material for their shows at little to no cost. I met the producer at a bridal show back in November, and she asked if I could do a segment or two, and of course any free publicity is good. Besides, a show aimed at señoras who are at home, like to cook, and have high income is just my market.

The second filming wasn´t too difficult either, but it was tiring.

I just did session number three, and I´ve now done about 12 segments in all. Somehow, by this third filming session, I just wasn´t able to come up with five different segments, that ideally would show items that could be integrated in a final segment, to keep the audience coming back for more.

I did manage three segments, each showing a different technique and preparation, that were all used together in the third and final segment. But it was exhausting. Not only did I have to make each item in the days beforehand to make sure it would come out right during the filming, but also to have on hand for the next take, for instance, the cake going in the oven, and only seconds later, in the next take, the steaming hot cake coming out of the oven (which was actually frozen).

I forgot to add the salt at one point, which I realized long after the segment had been filmed; the cameraman also mentioned he had noticed I forgot the salt. We´ll wait and see if we get any comments from the people at whom, many of whom like to sit and take notes and then write back to the station if they notice something amiss or don´t agree with something.

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Welcome to Destination Ecuador!

Welcome to Destination Ecuador! My family and I have been living in Ecuador for the last four and a half years. We’ve dealt with the worst kinds of red-tape, searched out or ended up making hard-to-find ingredients ourselves, imported equipment for making chocolate confections, learned the import-export business...Continue >>

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