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We never did get another offer, and we had only four visitors on Sunday’s open house. Our realtor did say some were very interested, but no one placed an offer. We asked the original offerors to up the eearnest money from $5000 to $10,000 and they did so no questions asked. Home inspection was on Friday and we had only 2 minor problems-a leaking faucet and a broken icemaker. Of course, it cost us $650 to repair these two items!

Maria almost fell out of bed this morning when I told her. We listed the house yesterday. After 2 no-shows, the third came half an hour late at 8:30 last night. This morning there was an offer at asking price in my email from Ron, our realtor. Now we are starting to line things up; buy the appliances, negotiate settlement date, do the shopping etc.

We are still showing the house and having the open house on Sunday. Maybe we’ll get another offer!

Have you ever been sitting in your car, sitting still, when suddenly you think you’re moving when you’re not supposed to be? Perhaps a car beside you is rolling backwards, creating the illusion that you are moving. Or perhaps you are moving forward, but you’re not supposed to be. Maybe you’re at a red light, and it hasn’t turned green yet, and you’re creeping out towards the intersection. I kind of feel that way right now.

We hired a realtor last week. And just when we hired him, we had one of those nights where we considered that we need a Plan B. Just in case…just in case of what? In case Ecuador’s new lefty president does something so utterly stupid it makes us not want to go anymore? In case Ecuador heads so sharply to the left, as Chavez has done with Venezuela? Would any of this really affect our plans? We remind ourselves, for God’s sake, we’re not investing $500 million in telecom or opening an oil refinery. I don’t think anyone is interested in expropriating a chocolate shop. We’re not going to deposit all our money in an Ecuadorian bank.

So what was our Plan B? We had thought of this before…sun and surf beckon. Florida was our only Plan B. Housing is cheap, we could buy something outright if we wanted to. Just a few miles from the beach. Find a crappy job, do something. Yeah, like what? we ask ourselves over and over. Wonder what we are doing in a sterile planned community, with all the neighbors mowing their lawns on Saturday morning and discussing their tennis games, golf handicap, or latest goings-on down at the community center. Sebastian (our son) sees the advertisements on the kid’s channel for Florida all the time, and asks “Where is Florida? It looks good. Florida has lots of water. Where is Florida?” We got some sleep, and the idea soon faded, like a bad dream you quickly forget and just wonder what it was that made you so upset.

We signed the contract to list the house this week. Now Maria’s family is starting to believe us. We’ve just been blowing hot air for the last two years, if you asked them. Suddenly, there is forward motion again in our life. It has been absent for a few years now, with the exception of our kids, which bring forward motion whether you like it or not. We are heading towards something, we don’t know what, but it feels right.

Of course, we had to get a wrench in the works the same day we signed the contract. Maria gets an email from a firm she had been in discussion with since early January about a job in Bogota, Colombia. She has a conversation by phone with a a guy at the company and a day later they send an email, saying they want to fly her to their place for an interview. She finds out during the interview that she knows the woman she would be replacing. Another friend of hers tells her she heard the project with this position has some serious implementation problems, to put it politely.  She gets on the phone with the woman in Colombia, who basically tells her it’s a wonderful project, but their are a whole lot of problems. Her schedule is 7 am to 10 pm most days, later if she has nothing better to do. Boy, that was an easy decision.

I write this as much for your reading pleasure as I do for my own reference, as I know I will forget some of this info and need it for future reference. If you’re interested in learning the basics about how to export stuff overseas, read on. This was the first step in my tale of how to (or how not to) start a business overseas.

You can read all the books and guides to import/export you want, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. It sounds like a simple process, and it is, but there are a lot of details you won’t learn until you’ve done it. And most of those details involve costs, costs which you can avoid if you know what you are doing.

I used a company out of Miami called OceanAir Logistics as my freight forwarder. Basically, they are the ones who get your cargo on the plane or boat and prepare all the necessary documentation for you. And while maybe some of them are willing to hold your hand the first time you do it, I highly doubt it. This company certainly didn’t do any handholding for me, though they did do what they promised, on time and at the stated cost-plus a few surprises I’m going to tell you about shortly.

First, I purchased several pieces of kitchen equipment/implements from three different companies based in the US. I never saw any of it. You can have the company ship your purchases directly to the freigh forwarder, where your shipment will be consolidated at their warehouse until everything is there and ready to go. Then you just have to provide them with a packing list detailing exactly what is in the shipment, to whom it’s going, its value, and how you’d like it shipped-see Incoterms, these can quickly get confusing but CIF is the most usual form. They tell you what it’s going to cost, you pay, and basically it will show up the next day at its destination.

What this particular company didn’t tell me upfront, and probably others won’t as well unless you inquire, is that there are receiving fees for your goods at the warehouse. This is sometimes called the Warehouse in/out fee. In my case, $25 per delivery to their warehouse. So if it’s a 1,000 lb. pallet or a Fedex envelope, it’s $25 bucks out of your pocket each time. So say some of your items from one of your suppliers is backordered, and they send it after sending the initial shipment. $25. I had six warehouse receipts at $25 each so that was a quick $150 for the company. I was only expecting three shipments originally.

Most places will also charge you for warehousing the stuff, but fees usually don’t start until after your stuff has sat there 30 days, so you usually don’t have to worry about it.

One document most freight forwarders will prepare for you is the commercial invoice. This is a standardized form indicating the inventory, the shipper, the consignee, addresses, contact info, shipment value, that is used worldwide. You can get a software program to prepare it for you, but it’s usually only $10 to $15 to have the company do it for you.

There’s a document preparation fee that covers all the other miscellaneous paperwork, a cargo insurance fee, and sometimes an airline transfer fee, which as I understand it is the fee to move your stuff from their warehouse to the airport.

Not really much to it, just act like you know what you’re doing and ask all the right questions up front, and you’re more likely to get an accurate quote the first time around.

Air freight seemed pretty cheap to me, overall it came out to a little under $1/lb to ship from Miami to Quito, Ecuador.

This question has been in our minds for months and months. It’s always a moving target. We were ready well over a year ago, even got a moving quote back in March of ’05. Then we decided we’d have one more baby before going (making us four). That happened, and now we are aiming for March/April of ’07. We would have been better off financially going back in ’05, when the housing market was at its peak. But we weren’t ready and couldn’t just pick up and sell then. So somewhat for the poorer, we intend to sell at the beginning of ’07.   This is six months beyond our initial plan of being in the US no more than five years.

We have got two moving quotes in hand, and are working on the inventory of the house we need in order to ship our goods into Ecuador duty free. We haven’t been to Ecuador since January of last year, as my wife can’t have spent more than 30 days in Ecuador in the last 365 to be allowed to ship in our household goods duty free.

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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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