Selling snake oil in the Valley of Longevity

April 22, 2010
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

There must be something in the water down here.  They call this place the “Valley of Longevity” because it’s not uncommon for people to live well past the century mark… and it’s true.

Driving around the town last night and this morning, I couldn’t help but notice so many elders going on about their business. Mind you, I didn’t exactly card anyone (record keeping here is quite poor), but their appearance and the stories they tell clearly suggests an age that is unimaginable to most.

What’s even more striking, though, is their good health. You’d ordinarily expect a centenarian to be weak and decrepit.  On the contrary, these folks were extraordinarily alert, engaged, and physically fit (relatively speaking)… essentially, how you would consider a healthy 65 to 70 year old in the western world.

The 5-hour drive from Cuenca was breathtaking; I found the roads to be of excellent quality, and the scenery was similar to Wyoming and the Austrian Alps.

Make no mistake, though, the southern Andes in Ecuador are a far cry from Europe or North America.

I’ve talked this week about how Ecuador is an exceedingly cheap country… but in the major cities like Quito, Guayaquil, and even Cuenca, you don’t have to sacrifice too many amenities for the cheap prices.

Down here in Loja province, though, it’s like going through a time warp.  Houses without electricity and running water are common, and you see people riding mules and horses everywhere you look.

Consequently, as beautiful as it is, this isn’t an area that I would consider buying property. As I mentioned on Tuesday, being a ‘wealthy’ landowner next to a poor village is probably bad politics in Ecuador.

Ironically, I noticed a great deal of expensive new construction in the area, clearly catering to gringos who don’t mind overpaying for the privilege of living in the Valley of Longevity.

Compared to other property deals that I mentioned yesterday, the Vilcabamba properties are at least 3-5 times more expensive… $300,000 for a small house on 2 acres near Vilcabamba vs. $150,000 for a large house on 10 acres near Cuenca.

I’ve seen this happen in a lot of different countries… a particular area is ‘discovered’ by gringos, and they start building a community that’s eye-gouging multiples more expensive than adjacent properties.

Needless to say, the developers and sales agents always insist that their property is of much higher quality and luxury, hence ‘worth’ the enormous premium. My property tour in Vilcabamba was no exception, almost to the point that I wondered if I would receive a free bottle of snake oil for purchasing a lot.

Personally, I don’t see the point in relocating to such a free-spirited, healthy place, only to close myself away in an overpriced, walled-off, gated community.  Naturally, the marketing folks at these communities strongly disagree, and this is exactly what I was talking about yesterday when I discussed ‘trusted contacts.’

There are too many people out there whose business model is to take advantage of the uninitiated.  They look sharp and sound sharp, but their opinions absolutely cannot be trusted, particularly when it comes to the benefits of overpaying.

Here’s the bottom line– I’ve spent a week on the ground on this trip to Ecuador, and given certain changes in the laws since I last looked at the market, I’ve decided to definitely pick up some property here.

Most likely, though, I’ll be buying near either Quito or Cuenca, and with the help of my trusted advisors in those cities.  Land is cheap, beautiful, and of significant value… plus I’ll get some additional residency benefits that I’ll share with you later.

About the Author

Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter Notes from the Field is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom, make more money, keep more of it, and protect it all from bankrupt governments.