Our young friend took us to look at 4 apartments. All were nice in their own way but we looked at one that was just spectacular. It's in a brand new building and has never been occupied; 2 bedrooms, approximately 1200 square feet, hardwood floors, a lot of built-ins, good size balcony off the living room, smaller balcony off the master bedroom and huge picture window overlooking the river; very quiet and absolutely first class. We should be able to get into it with a 1 year lease for just over $400. This about the best Cuenca has to offer for the size of apartment we're looking for. There are high-end suites available for $300 plus $40 to $60 in condo maintenance fees. This one is $320 plus $90 maintenance fee. The high fee is because it's a brand new building and all services (cleaning & security, etc) are contracted out at the present time. They expect to go in-house within the next few months which will reduce the maintenance fee down to about $50 or $60. At the end of the day we would be paying about $40 a month extra to get the best in town. What the heck - 'eh?! We expect to hear back from the owner either tonight or tomorrow morning.
If that one doesn't work out, for a total of $325 we found a very quiet unit with a fantastic outdoor patio. The bedrooms are somewhat small but it's still a lovely place and we would probably end up taking it.
We cannot express how appreciative we are of the help our new young friend is giving us. We're of course paying him, but he's offered to help us get bank accounts, good cuts of meat, set up our utilities and is very modest when we try to talk money with him. We don't think he understands the hugh value that he represents to us. In order to find the apartment he drove around Cuenca looking for suitable looking apartment buildings and then knocked on doors to get the telephone number of the administrator. Apparently, the better buildings hardly ever advertise in the newspaper, relying instead on word of mouth and real estate connections.
We ended up getting the apartment we wanted and met with the owners. They are very nice. He is an older gentlemen who is a Doctor of Philosophy who taught in Chicago and is currently emeritus at the local University. She is an artist. We are not allowed to have a bank account here until we have our residency card so we'll be paying everything in cash for the next 3 months. It means frequent trips to the ATM. We're going to talk to our lawyer to see if she can help us arrange to get a bank account because it would be so much easier. We could then do electronic bill payment, etc. The ATM only allows us to withdraw $500 a day even though we have a larger daily limit.
Tomorrow we sign the final papers and pick up the key and then we get into serious furniture shopping. At this point it looks like we can get a maid to come in once a week for 6 - 8 hours for a complete top to bottom cleaning for $10. It's hard to get someone to come in for only 2 or 3 hours, which is what we really need (they have scheduling problems that way). So, we'll load her up with laundry, ironing, window cleaning etc. Shelley says, "It'll be the cleanest place we've ever lived in!"
Another hard day had us finalizing the paperwork on the apartment and buying furniture and appliances. Our "working day" commenced at 9:00 am and didn't end until 6:30 pm. Again our young Ecuadorian friend was invaluable. We bought a bed & top line mattress ("The best in all of Ecuador, Senor!"), 2 side tables, a foot cabinet for the end of the bed, an entertainment unit, a coffee table & 2 end tables for $1,700. Trudging along, we bought a fridge & stove and Whirlpool washer & dryer for $1,800.
Tomorrow it's all going to be delivered, assembled, hooked up, attached, etc. Plus, curtain/blind people are coming to measure 2 windows in the apartment that do not have coverings. The gas stove people and the curtain people were very concerned that our young friend would be there tomorrow to speak Spanish with them.
We must be having fun but we're too tired to be sure.