Swimming with Sharks
Living along the Pacific Ocean has been magical. The ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide soothe my soul. But a deep seeded fear of the sea lies within me. Moments before wading in I hear the soundtrack of Jaws. Dun nuh…dun nuh…dun nuh, dun nuh, dun nuh! I suppose it is not the sea I fear, but the merciless nature of a shark. It is this same behavior that I am learning to be aware of in humans…
AGENT’S FIRED! He had been so helpful to us in the beginning I wanted to trust him. When we first arrived in Ecuador, Captain and I were very anxious. Neither of us spoke much Spanish and we didn’t know a single soul. When we found an English-speaking ‘real estate agent’ in the remote area of the Esmeraldas province, we were relieved; especially when he was so generous in helping us find an apartment to rent and getting us set up with wireless internet. But doubts of his intentions had been lingering. Was this guy really looking out for our best interests?
Agent had told us about several properties for sale but none were what Captain and I were looking for. It was very apparent Agent was only trying to sell the properties he had a hand in. Every time he told us about a property, he honestly was trying to convince us to buy it. Every time I made a point to be very specific in what we were looking for: jungle/beach/waterfall. Agent was not going to convince us to buy an island instead but he tried!!
Because there is no system to buying and selling property in Ecuador, real estate agents are not guaranteed a commission with a sale. Captain is aware of this so we were very clear to Agent about his compensation. If he would help us find what we were looking for, we would pay him generously for all his time and effort.
Agent was leaving for a week so Captain sat him down to talk business; we weren’t going to waste a week if he wasn’t as serious about business as we were. We wanted to be clear about our intentions with the days we had left in Ecuador. If Agent wanted to make a sale, he needed to step up to the plate.
Captain and I saw right through his game. Agent was looking for the quickest sell for the highest dollar with the least amount of work. Agent exclaimed, “I already showed you the perfect property! If you don’t buy this now, someone else will. You will not find anything better.”
The Perfect Property was the only piece of land Agent had shown us that was jungle/beach/waterfall. Maybe it was perfect but I was not ready to throw in the towel. If Agent knew I thought this property was “The One”, all further efforts would be forfeited; we not see another property. Purchasing property is a huge life decision and a serious investment; not anything I wanted to rush. I was very serious with Agent when I told him I would not make a final decision until we ‘shopped around’. If Agent was going to be our ‘agent’ he needed to show us more than one potential property.
Agent told me this wasn’t like picking out a dress. “There are 20 different dresses. There is only this one property. Nothing is for sale around here. This is a great deal guys. This is ‘The One’ for sure.” If I have to shop under pressure I don’t need someone over my shoulder telling me I need to hurry. I brushed this off and Captain reminded me this is the real estate game. IF YOU DON’T BUY THIS TODAY, SOMEONE ELSE WILL! I had to keep myself in perspective. If someone else snatches up The Perfect Property in the next month than it wasn’t “The One”. Agent didn’t want to hear this. He was hoping to hear “Sold!”
Captain did quite a bit of property hunting online so he was very familiar with the prices of surrounding properties. When Captain threw out a low ball offer, Agent said the seller came down “significantly” but never gave us an exact price. Why was he not being reel about the price? Was Agent feeling out our budget? How fishy…
Another snag in this ordeal was Agent’s quoted price of The Perfect Property. The price was not perfect. Because there is no system to real estate in Ecuador, “Representatives” and “Real Estate Agents” can easily add large sums of money to the seller’s price. When middle men get their hands in the deal, prices inflate and unsuspecting buyers overpay. Property Sharks…
I had kept quiet during the confrontation but I had enough of Agent’s ruthlessness. I was not going to feed into his scare tactics. The time had come for Agent to have a taste of my callous. “Look. Captain and I came here on a mission. We are not here to convince you to believe in what we are doing. Today I want to know if you are we are going to help us find our affordable paradise? Are you in or out?”
Agent said nothing to reassure me he was going to be any further help and his negativity continued, “I can’t believe you actually thought you were going to come down here for two months and find exactly what you were looking for. It’s just not going to happen…” I left that meeting telling myself I would not rely on him for anything else. I knew we were better off without the ‘help’ of Agent.
The following week, we remained in contact with Agent only in hope to get a few answers. Captain and I were curious as to who owned the surrounding land, how we would access water and most importantly the price of The Perfect Property! I did not expect to hear any legitimate answers but I was entertained with Agent’s responses.
Not a single question was answered. Instead, Agent spent the week sending us emails trying to convince us to “help with renting a car”! I read about this common trend in Ecuador. Because there are no property listings and land for sale is typically heard of by word of mouth, many time prospective buyers will front the cost of an agent’s rental car. Too many days had already been spent with Agent in a rental car looking at properties and this was terribly unsuccessful. No way would the next scenario be any different. Captain and I would spend our time running all of Agent’s errands and not see any properties we were the slightest bit interested in!
While Agent was away, Captain and I had plenty of time to come up with our game plan. We continued our property search by contacting several more real estate agents. Down the road from The Perfect Property was a sign with the seller’s contact information. Until now, we planned on Agent being our helpful liaison but he hadn’t been much aid. Taking matters into our own hands, we went directly to the seller. The seller promptly replied and informed us of his asking price. Can you believe that Agent told us the price was double the true asking price?! AGENT IS DOUBLE FIRED!!!
After days of not responding to his ridiculous emails begging us to pay for his rental car, Agent sent us an email entitled, “Ready To Work.” What does that even mean???
Agent claimed we would finally be going on the ‘whale watching trip’ we’d planned and paid for weeks ago. “PLEASE CONFIRM THAT YOU WILL BE GOING ON THE BOAT RIDE TOMORROW AT 10.” Captain and I reluctantly agreed to spend one more day with Agent but we figured we spent $20 on gas and oil so we might as well go see the whales! When we arrived, there was no gas, no oil and no one to drive the boat. Hadn’t Agent called to confirm our boat trip with the driver??? As if I needed further confirmation: AGENT IS AN IDIOT!
At this point we were fully aware of Agent lying about the asking price for The Perfect Property. It was interesting to sit back and observe Agent’s brutal behavior as he realized we no longer took his bait. We told him the asking price was too high and were no longer interested in the property. Right away he stated, “I bet I could get the seller to come down a little more.” Of course he could! That was Agent’s asking price, not the seller!!!
Captain and I hung out for a little while entertained by Agent’s coldblooded antics. “I thought you guys were serious about buying The Perfect Property. The guys are walking down the beach right now to do paperwork. I wouldn’t have rented this car if I would have known you weren’t serious!” First of all, we never ever told him we would pay for a rental and secondly, paperwork?!? We didn’t even know the price!!!
Sharks…is there any way to avoid them? I could just stay out of the ocean but what about the sharks on land?