Group Land Buy FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions
The property is (example) 60 hectares – so if I buy a 5% share, why do I not get 3 hectares as my individual homestead lot? 3 is 5% of 60.
There are a number of things that factor into deciding how much land is divided among individuals:
- The community area (house, shed, nursery, etc) takes up some space that cannot be divided among homesteaders, as well as the community fruit orchard.
- Roads and paths are also communal elements.
- There are some steep areas, far areas, and otherwise undesirable areas. Rather than giving some people undesirable/unusable lots and others prime lots, it is sometimes better to simply divide up the usable prime space, and keep the remaining space as an ecological forest reserve.
- Some trustees may be given slightly more land due to certain considerations – for example, those who are investing in larger shares are more of a help in completing the group buy, so they will receive land at a higher rate per dollar invested.
- We don’t want to necessarily use 100% of the forest, because it is environmentally beneficial to allow some natural forest reserve areas.
What fruits will grow here?
Fruits that can be cultivated: Most tropical fruits that do well in the humid tropics, including banana, papaya, jackfruit, mangosteen, passionfruit, eggfruit, mamey sapote, green sapote, durian, many others (obviously there are hundreds of others.)
Please check the elevation of the Fruit Haven lot that you are buying. Our elevations tend to vary from 760 meters to 1100 meters above sea level, and this can affect which fruits will grow on your lot. Contact us with any questions about this.
Mango and coconut do not do as well in this climate due to the dry season not being markedly drier than the wet season, though there are still plenty of dry periods. Nam doc Mai and and Maha chanook are two examples of mango varieties that will do better in this climate. Mangifera odorata is a fruit in the same genus that is very similar to mango that we grow instead of the proper mango. As for durian – It will grow at the elevations near the river – 750-850 meters, although there are a few varieties that require even hotter climates that would not fruit here. Durio graveolens and graveolens-zibethinus hybrid should grow up as high as Fruit Havens 3, 7, 8, and 9, which are mostly higher elevation.
What does the community area consist of?
The community area varies slightly on each property depending upon the features of the property, how the group buy is organized, and the preferences of the owners. You can find details about the community area of each property on the lot’s listing page or on the room rental page. However, the following elements are almost always included:
- Community house (we often rent the rooms to help reduce the yearly property maintenance budget)
- Internet connection (typically is broadband 4MBPS up/down, received via antenna for $30/month.) Faster connections, or connections with 100% dedicated bandwidth, are available if desired. These antennas are higher-frequency and narrow focus, so they do not harm the EMF-scape in the way that typical wi-fi or cell towers do. We hope to install fiberoptic to all Fruit Haven properties in the coming years.
- Bathroom / shower
- Water system (gravity-powered system from a stream up the mountain.)
- Electrical system (usually solar power with a backup generator for power tools. Some properties may already have grid power in which case we just use this. Some groups of owners may prefer that we connect grid power, in which case we shall do so.)
- Water filter for clean, safe drinking and washing water
- Compost bins
- Workshop or tool shed
- Power and hand tools, that the owners can use for free a certain number of days per year depending on their % ownership.
- Fruit trees planted
- Vegetable garden area
- Fence around community area for security against petty theft and other intrusions
- Well-equipped kitchen with sink, blender, water filter, utensils, bowls, etc.
- Implements for organization of community (whiteboard, bulletin board, markers, clipboards, printout of property map and community bylaws, other important things.)
What is the access like?
The access for each property is different, and you can see details for each property by reading its description on the group land buy page on the Fruit Haven website.
Some properties have direct road access. However, note that though the road may go through or right alongside of the property, this does not mean that your personal homestead lot will have direct roadside access. In most properties where this is the case,we will include a driveway in the property development budget. This will be a basic access road that runs alongside most or all of the personal homestead lots. If the owners of a property have minimalist preferences and wish to have a lower development budget, we may simply make a trail.
Other properties are somewhat remote (1 hr hike to get there from the road, for example.) For these properties, we will always include an access road in the development budget. For the details on each property’s access, see the appropriate web page for that property.
We will usually include appropriate vehicles in the budget(usually an ATV) for community use – delivering materials, rental for transport and delivery to private lots, etc. Owners may wish to purchase an ATV for personal use. We will not do group land buys of remote properties and leave the access situation unimproved, because we do not feel this is a realistic situation for living.
There are pros and cons to properties close to the road/rivers, and remote properties. At remote properties you cannot hear the noise of traffic or boats, and you cannot hear the loud parties that nearby villages have a few times per year all night long.You are more immersed in pure nature without the distractions of civilization. However, at the properties closer to the roads or rivers, it is quicker to get back and forth to the city, and easier to get construction materials delivered.
Note that we still include internet, electric, and running water as part of thedevelopment budget for the community area in remote properties. Just because theproperty is remote does not mean it won’t have all the comforts of modern living.
Can my Private Homestead Lot be managed remotely?
Homestead lots can indeed be managed remotely – a house can be built and fruit trees can be planted and maintained by the local workers we are already employing on the existing Fruit haven lots. Houses can be rented and fruit can be sold, providing a passive income to help offset the investment cost. There is a PDF describing this process on the “Group Land Buys” page of the Fruit Haven website.
How are the lots selected? (only applicable to Stage 1 properties; later stage properties have the lots already mapped and marked)
We do a general survey of the land and map out important features such as paths and streams. Notes and pictures are taken of the features of various areas and communicated to the owners. We ask for stated preferences of the owners – for example, do you prefer to be near a stream, near or far to the community area, etc. With those preferences, we get an idea of the general area in which they’d like their lot.
Then we record GPS points of partial boundaries of lot locations, and send them to a topographer to plot them and map out the correct lot sizes. The whole time, we are in communication with the owners to ensure they got a lot location that they are comfortable with. After the topographer finishes the map, we use a GPS to mark the coordinates of the lots with permanent cement posts. Each owner is supplied with a map of all the lots, and an enlarged GPS map of his/her own property. Several people have requested detailed topographical (contour line) maps of properties. Note that this is not usually possible because this level of surveying would cost thousands of dollars. However we can do this if the budget is sufficient. Of course, buyers/owners who come here personally, can select their lots or at least indicate the general area in which they want it. But for those who are unable to come, we do our best to ensure that everyone is happy with the lot that they get.
How do you get to this area of Ecuador from an airport?
You can take a flight to Guayaquil, Cuenca, or Quito.
Cuenca is a 4.5 hour bus ride from us ($8.75) or a 3.5 hour taxi ride ($100.)
Guayaquil is a 9 hour bus ride ($16.75) or a 7 hour taxi ride ($200-$300.)
Quito is a 14 hour bus ride ($22) or a 12 hr taxi ride ($300-$400).
We can provide more detailed travel instructions if needed. Please first check the “getting here” page.
What is the weather like?
Temperature: Fairly steady year-round, 18-22c (65-72F) at night and 24-35c (75-95F) during the day. During the middle of the wet season the nighttime temps may drop down to15c (60F) but this is rare. Note that this describes the properties at 760m elevation by the Río Zamora. Fruit Haven properties at higher elevations will be a couple degrees cooler at night and the annual minimum will also be a couple degrees cooler.
Annual rainfall: 1900mm, fairly evenly distributed.
Wetter season: March thru August
Drier season: September through February
What kind of fruits are available?
At the Fruit Haven properties we currently produce bananas, papayas, mandarin oranges, abiu, marang, peanut butter fruit, rollinia, and many other things. Every year we have additional fruits that begin producing so there are always new things.
From the local markets you can buy a wide variety of fruits. We usually place a wholesale fruit order each week where we can buy things like: Coconuts, papayas, pineapple, mangoes, passionfruit, granadilla, ice cream bean, cherimoya, pitahaya, avocado, a variety of nuts, a variety of vegetables, and much more.
Occasionally we can source things like jackfruit, mamey sapote, and durian. It depends on the time of year. Slowly we begin to produce these things ourselves.
How easy is it to buy fruits?
Pretty easy. You can sometimes buy fruits from other FH owners who are growing fruits on their private homestead lots. You can also buy fruit from neighbors, or the local markets in Gualaquiza and El Pangui which are large and ample. To make it even easier, we typically place a wholesale produce order each week that is delivered here.
How is the crime in this area?
This is a very safe rural part of Ecuador, and there is virtually no violent crime.However, petty theft can be an issue if a property is left unattended for long periods of time. If you build a house or leave items of value on your property, you should not plan on leaving it unattended for longer than 2 weeks. We can easily arrange to find house-sitters for your property if you are planning on staying there only part of the year or leaving for long periods of time.
How are closing costs calculated?
It is impossible to know exactly how much closing costs will be. So we charge a flat fee based on our estimated maximum. The estimation of the fee depends upon two main factors: The complexity of the sale, and the number of buyers. The closing fees for a specific property will generally be listed on webpage where it is listed for sale, in a section titled “closing costs” at the bottom.
Closing costs cover a wide variety of expenses relating to the sale process, including: Transport, attorney fees, notary fees, property registry fees, municipal tax certificates, national tax certificates, property tax certificates, various other property certificates, printing and copies, and facilitation.
How is closing done if I am not in the country?
You grant a power of attorney for us to include your name on the property title as an owner. This is a limited power of attorney that only allows us to perform the processes listed on the document, such as buying and administering land. The attorney-in-facts(receivers of the power) are usually two members of the FH Steering Committee, Peter Csere and Kevin Wynder. This document is usually signed at the nearest Ecuador embassy or consulate to you, or in Ecuador if you are already here but are unable to personally attend the closing.
In case there is no Ecuador embassy or consulate within a reasonable distance from you, we will have the document translated to English or another language, and then you can sign it at a notary public in your own country. Then you have it apostilled or legalized by your country’s department of state. If your country is party to the Hague convention, then you send it to us in Ecuador, and we have it translated to Spanish and notarized here, at which point it is legal to use. If your country is not party to the Hague convention, after it is legalized by your department of state, you will need to have it legalized by the nearest Ecuador consulate (which can usually be done by mail.) Then you mail it to us for further translation and notarization. Obviously, this is a more expensive process, so it might be cheaper and faster for you to take a quick flight to an Ecuador consulate to get the document signed in Spanish (we will provide an English translation for you.)
Note that even if you do sign the sale contract yourself here in Ecuador, you will still have to grant the power of attorney so that we can administer the property on your behalf, which includes hiring workers, renovating the house, signing the community contract, measuring and marking the private lots, et cetera. See more details on the Power of Attorney page.
Do I have to come to Ecuador for the closing paperwork?
No. You can if you want to. You will, however, have to travel to the nearest Ecuadorean embassy or consulate in your country, in order to notarize the power of attorney document so we can put your name on the title and sign the legal agreement
between property owners. Or, you can sign this document in Ecuador. We will provide these documents for you, drafted by the attorney, as well as English translations. See the previous question for more details, or the Power of Attorney page.
Is the property title secure?
Yes. Ecuador has a secure title system. The lands we buy are not registered as indigenous land (which is nearly impossible to buy/sell in a secure manner due to legal restrictions.) It is land originally titled to colonists and has a GPS map.
How do I send money there? How much does it cost?
The most common way to send money here is an international wire transfer using the SWIFT system. Ecuador banks charge $10 to receive a transfer of any size. Your bank may charge $40-$100 to send it. What we often see is the sending bank charging around $40 and then a mysterious intermediary bank charging $40-$60, which gets taken off the receiving end of the transfer. The currency used in Ecuador is U.S. Dollars.
For smaller amounts we can also accept Western Union, MoneyGram, Transferwise, or PayPal. There may be costs associated with receiving funds via these companies. Ask us for details before you send funds.
Note that some countries may have restrictions on sending money to Ecuador via WU/MG/etc., so you may only be able to send up to a specified maximum amount. Some countries require additional documentation to send a SWIFT transfer, to help prevent money laundering (we can provide you the necessary documentation.)
In most cases we can also accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Ask us for details.
Will you accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies?
Yes, we plan to accept cryptocurrencies as all or part of the payment for most of the properties. However, this costs a bit extra as we usually have to liquidate it our selves, except for situations in which the community will be holding a small amount of BTC reserves as part of the property development fund. If you send us cryptocurrency, it will be credited towards the property purchases in USD value at time of sale, not at time of receipt of funds.
If I move there, how can I open a bank account at an Ecuador bank?
We can assist you with that process. It is easy for foreigners to open accounts. Many Ecuador banks have online banking, are federally insured up to $30k per account and per bank, and can send and receive SWIFT international wire transfers. Also, they tend to have higher interest rates than typical western banks. For example, you can earn a 7.25% annual interest on a 6-month CD (certificate of deposit), and it can go as high as 10% for longer-term CDs. A7.25% annual interest means that if you put in $3,000 for 6 months you get around $110 in interest. Even normal savings accounts have higher interest rates here, though not quite as high as a CD. (2.5% annual is pretty normal for a savings account here.)
How will the property development budget be managed?
We have a competent team of people who work together to make the development process run smoothly.
Our accountants make sure the funds are accounted for and write occasional financial reports for the property owners. Our supervisors check on work sites and take daily photos of construction progress which are uploaded to our cloud server for owners to see. Our workshop manager and nursery manager make sure those areas run smoothly, so that the flow of construction materials and fruit trees is uninterrupted. Our project manager plans most projects, including making blueprints and cost estimates, ordering materials, and hiring skilled workers and contractors to carry them out.
What happens after the property development budget is spent?
You should expect to pay a small amount each year for maintenance of the property. If trustees all wish to write a larger budget for major property developments, that is fine. But the minimum that is require is to keep the property boundary cleared and marked, the taxes paid, and the community infrastructure well-maintained. You could expect this to be around $300-$500 per year for a 5% share, depending on the specifics of the property that you bought into.
Is it complicated to have so many names on the title?
It is true that this is a group buy, and we may have 10 or more people on the title. However, we are aware of the “drama” risks and can take steps to mitigate them:
- All trustees, in addition to the title itself, will sign a legal contract which holds them to certain standards in regards to land use and other important factors. This contract will not be overly restrictive, but it will be sufficient to prevent the majority of serious problems. Due to the nature of this project, it will also prevent owners from selling their share to anyone who is not approved by a super-majority (actually, consensus minus one) of the other owners. Obviously, the main concern is that someone sells their share to someone who is not vegan or not even remotely interested in permaculture or sustainability. The contract would generally prevent this from happening.
- Large rifts in intentional community projects commonly happen because of differences in vision. Most intentional community projects are not a collection of aspiring frugivores looking to create a permaculture paradise free of corrupt government intervention, instead they are a collection of random hippies with widely varying views and niches. See Diana Leafe’s book “Creating a Life Together” – specifically the part about structural problems, and chapter 4 about community visions. Since we are cultivating a group of trustees who have very similar needs and goals, we minimize the risk of problems caused by large rifts in visions between different trustees.
- We have been able to successfully manage (and even navigate problems with) several group buys so far – totaling over 30 landowners. With each group buy, we make even more improvements and learn from issues we’ve had with the past ones.
- Via continued emphasis on decentralization, consensus decision making, and non-violent communication, we can navigate issues in a mature and professional way. We suggest that trustees undergo a small (but sufficient) amount of education on these topics before participating in community decision-making processes, to ensure smooth cooperation.
I don’t want to live here, I just want to make an investment. Is that ok?
That’s fine, as long as you support the community vision and have the same values as the rest of the group. We need enough people to make these group buys happen, and that must include a number of different “buying philosophies.” Some people want a place to live in tropical paradise where they can grow their own fruit with like-minded individuals and families. Some people want to help support the project and help us complete the group buy – and sell their lot a few years down the road, to another fruigivore who is ready to move to tropical paradise. Some people just have extra money and want to throw it somewhere where it will hold its value and do some good. Some people want a “getaway place” in case the economy collapses and they are unable to support themselves in the city. All of these reasons (and more) are valid reasons to participate in a group buy at Fruit Haven, Terra Frutis, or Liberty Homesteads. Obviously for a successful project and functioning community, we cannot have JUST investors or JUST apocalypse-planners, but a good mix of all of the above makes for a well-rounded group.