Friday, March 13, 2015

We’re in the ballgame now: We have made an offer, but still far from victory

We looked at the house we like best in Montecarlo twice more this week—once with Angelika, a real estate agent friend of Elena and again the next day with Angelika and Fulvio, who is a local geometra we have hired.

We also consulted with and considered hiring Alberto Spadoni. He has a real estate agency in Ponte Buggianese and is a relative of sorts who speaks a little English. I don’t know him well, and our family connection most likely dates back 400 or 500 years. While it would be nice to be represented by a Spadoni, and Alberto seems competent and knowledgeable, he regards me—and justifiably so—more as an everyday client than as family. Angelika, however, speaks English very well and is quickly becoming a friend. She has actually said that she will not charge us for her help, but we plan to pay her something regardless.

Our second viewing and Angelika’s opinion of the house confirmed what we already thought—this would be the best for what we want. Fulvio checked it out and also went to the town hall, which is only 100 feet from the house, to make sure that all the paperwork is in order for the house to be abitabile. He found nothing out of order, except that the comune had recently inspected the house and found two minor items that don’t meet the current codes. The comune must either approve variances from the regulations or else the problems must be corrected by the owners. In the first instance, the ceiling in the bathroom is too low. It seems fine to us, but Italians like their ceilings high and the codes reflect this preference. The second violation is that the number of windows is too low for the square footage, another issue with which we have no problem. The living room and street-side bedroom have two windows, and there is a large window and door in the kitchen leading out to the terazza. The other bedroom has a door leading to the terrazza. In all likelihood, the variations will be approved as is by the comune.

With all this information in mind, Lucy and I definitely had in mind to make an offer within a week or two—but that idea changed quickly when Rachele, the Remax agent showing the house, said that a Swedish couple who had looked at the house previously was planning to fly back to take a second look on Saturday with their own geometra. If we like it, she said, we should make an offer immediately so we will be in first position. I don’t like being pushed, and I’m not sure I believed her 100 percent, but we didn’t want to take a chance. Angelika, Lucy and I went to Rachele’s office the same afternoon, and we tendered an offer, conditional on the sale of one of our rental houses in Gig Harbor.

And now comes the wait, because the family who owns it—four children of an elderly lady who occupied the house before she died about two years ago—have until next Friday to decide. They will, of course, wait to see if the Swedish couple makes a better offer, and then we could find ourselves in a bidding war—or we could just drop out and wait for another suitable house to come along. We will also be looking at two or three more houses on Monday.

Meanwhile, I went to the Agenzia delle Entrate in Pescia to find the number of my codice fiscale, the Italian equivalent of a social security number. A bilingual friend, Ari, had helped me obtain my number five years ago, but I had misplaced the card before I recorded the number. This time, I was able to go to the office on my own. Now we have to open a bank account here in order to transfer money when we are ready to buy. After that, we will need the account to pay our taxes and other fees.

Lucy asked me if I was excited about the possibility of owning the house. She said I didn’t seem very enthusiastic, and she wondered why. I used a sporting analogy to explain my demeanor. If a player hits a home run in the fourth inning, he doesn’t celebrate; he may not even smile. He has his game face on, because he doesn’t want anything to disrupt his concentration. He knows it is still early in the game, and he will come up to bat two or three more times, and he has to keep his focus. His team may be ahead by a run, but the other team can easily come back and retake the lead.

We made the first offer, true, but the game is far from over. We have to beat the Swedish couple. We have to gain acceptance from the sellers. We have to sell our house in Gig Harbor, and our buyer has to get a loan approved. This is no time to get giddy. If everything finally falls into place, it will be like hitting a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning. That’s when the game faces come off and you see a real celebration.

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