According to the experts, constant sewerage problems and the chaos during the holidays, are driving owners to sell, flooding the market with listings.
The ‘for sale’ signs, hung in various apartments along the Malecón de Salinas, are becoming more apparent. Owners of the properties are tired of dealing with problems that have not been solved for years.
One problem for example, according to Hugo Rodríguez, President of the Santa Elena Construction Chamber, is the lack of a rainwater evacuation system makes the three cantons of the province suffer the sewage consequences year after year.
Then there was the lack of police presence over the last two years to help control problems during the holidays, which caused excessive crowds, illegal activity such as drug sales, underage drinking, etc., on the Malecón de Salinas.
“That drives away tourism and investors. We are slowing down the development of the province and damaging local tourism,” said Rodríguez.
He added that before, it was a luxury and even an almost unattainable dream to have an apartment in Salinas, but four years ago that reality changed.
With the image of Salinas changing, property prices have fallen and even at deep discounts, units are not selling quickly.
Now for example, a medium-sized, almost new, two-bedroom apartment sells for $60,000 and those with parking for $90,000. In older buildings, these kinds of units are listed for sale between $40,000 and $50,000.
Rodríguez says even so, properties are not selling. “An acquaintance has been [listing his properties] for more than a year and has not sold any of the four apartments he has in Salinas. People do not have the ability to pay.”
The National Federation of Real Estate Brokers of Ecuador (Fenacbre) confirmed the situation. Its president, Paulina Cueva, says that some owners are trying to sell properties with up to a 40% discount on what they invested in them.
“This behavior was accentuated as a result of the pandemic, because people were looking for remote spaces, with fewer inhabitants,” she explained.
And when seeing the rowdy crowds during the holidays, which often ends up putting Salinas on the front page of national publications, people no longer see the town as a relaxing resort destination or as a good place to invest in property.
Both Rodríguez and Cueva agreed that another factor that affects the sale of the apartments is crime, mainly robberies and assaults —during the last Carnival holiday there were even riots that caused the removal of the governor of Santa Elena.
Edison Salinas, of Edison Salinas Real Estate company, which has been selling properties in Salinas for more than 12 years, confirmed that sales are on hold.
In contrast to what Rodríguez and Cueva claim, Salinas believes that the growing supply of apartments is because some owners underutilize their properties.
“There are people who think that they are going to use them on weekends, but they use it once or twice a year, and then they decide to sell it,” Salinas insists.
He says that his main clients are foreigners, and he manages a portfolio of 150 properties on average each year. According to what he said, 80% of are vacation rentals.
He said it’s a good time for buyers because listings are plentiful, and the market is down. He said that buyers can now find apartments facing the sea, on the Malecón de Salinas, for as little as $1,500 a square meter.
Manta displaces Salinas as resort destination
According to Cueva, there was a change in the tourist image of Salinas, which deteriorated due to crime and high costs. At the same time, Manta has been gaining ground as a tourist beach location.
“What does a foreigner or a local look for when investing or buying a property? Security, tranquility, space and service. Manta is emerging as a pleasant tourist destination, due to its tranquility, comfort and security,” said the head of Fenacbre.
In July 2022, as part of a US trade mission, Manta was visited by members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), mainly from Florida, who reviewed the real estate tourism projects.
And in 2024 a real estate Congress is planned in Manta.
This coincides with the decline in the construction of real estate projects in Santa Elena province. According to the president of the Chamber of Construction, in the past there were between four and seven large builds going on at any given time; now there are times when there are no new construction projects being started.
Salinas says he prefers to avoid comparisons between the Salinas and Manta but did offer some factors that differentiate them.
“Manta is a seaport and a big city with big problems. Salinas is a small canton, which could expand its offer with another shopping center or bowling alley, among other alternatives.”
According to him, of 10 foreign clients that he sends to Manta, he still sees nine return to look for property in Salinas.
With the slowdown in property resales in Salinas, many owners are offering their units for short-term rentals thru Airbnb.
According to the Association of Temporary Rentals of Ecuador, an average of 900 Salinas properties are offered on the platform at any given time.
Absolutely zero residents of Ecuador consider anything on the coast worthy of consideration.