Sunday, November 1, 2015

A new chapter in our explorations: We are literally at home here now

Friday, October 30
We met with our notiao, geometra, real estate agents, our friend Angelika and the sellers today in Montecatini. We all signed the atto di compravendita during the final ceremony of house-buying in Italy. We have bought and sold houses and property in the United States, and we were interested to see the similarities and differences in the Italian procedures. Our experience here, however, may not be completely typical, because of some peculiarities in the behavior of our notaio, whom I had chosen on the recommendation of cousin Simone with the suggestion that this notaio’s fees would be reasonable.
Lucy signs for our house under the vigilant direction of our
notaio, Signor Simone Monaco. Meanwhile the geometras
are discussing whatever it is geometras talk about.

Lucy and I arrived for our 3 p.m. meeting a few minutes early and were the first to file into the waiting room. Within minutes everyone else had arrived as well – except for our notaio, Signor Simone Monacò. His secretary came in an informed us that he was out of the office and would return at 4 p.m. Perhaps something important had called him away, but this was only one incident in a series of strange behaviors on his part.

Happy buyers, sellers and real estate agent.
We had met with him twice before, once in March to discuss his fees and ask him about how the sale would proceed, and then in April to sign the preliminary real estate contract. A short, balding, neatly dressed and scholarly looking man, Sr. Monacò seemed to know his business well enough. His interpersonal skills left something to be desired: He had a weak handshake, did not make frequent eye contact and did not seem particularly welcoming or friendly, but perhaps those skills are not so important for a notaio. We did have some difficulty determining what his fee would be, as he quoted us estimated costs for the entire project, which included all government filing fees and taxes. I had to ask him to break out his fee from the other expenses, and it came out to something less than a thousand euro. Of course, it would depend on how many meetings we had and their length, but this seemed reasonable at the time, and we knew we didn’t have the time, experience or language skills to interview other notaios, so we hired him.

Our next meeting with him went well enough, and we had Angelika and a bilingual real estate broker along to translate. Most of the discussion took place between Fulvio – our geometra – and Sr. Monacò about technical details that should be included in the contract.

The second scheduled meeting, however, was somewhat of a disaster, although we didn’t find out the full extent of it until today. Since we had to wait an hour for the notaio to come, we had plenty of time to socialize, and it was during some spare moments that Angelika filled us in. The meeting had been in July, and since we were in Gig Harbor and busy with our summer business then, we had given Angelika power of attorney and also authorized her to draw checks from our bank account.

She had gone to the meeting with four cashiers’ checks, one for each of the shared owners of the house. However, she did not have any extra blank checks, and after everyone gathered for the meeting, Sr. Monacò asked Angelika to write a check that would cover his fee and the government filing fees. When told she didn’t have another check, Sr. Monacò abruptly canceled the meeting, sending home the eight people who had gathered for the document signing.

“He has 20 days to file the documents,” Angelika said. “I could have brought him a check the next day. I asked Fulvio about it, and he said he had seen it happen before that people forgot to bring a check for the notaio, but they were always able to continue with the meeting and bring the check in later.”

Angelika had told me this in an e-mail, but the severity of the inconvenience had not hit me until now. Did Sr. Monacò think we were going to bring in checks worth 76,000 euro for the sellers and then not go through with the sale, forfeiting that money just so we could stiff him for his fees? That would be inconceivable. Maybe he had not prepared the documents needed for the meeting and welcomed an excuse to postpone. We’ll never know why, but Angelika also vented a little more in an e-mail after the second meeting had actually taken place: “I sent him a lot of e-mails, called and left messages asking what to bring, but they never responded. He asked for documents today that Fulvio and the real estate agency had sent him weeks ago. He had not read anything before we arrived. Good luck that Fulvio is really good; otherwise it would be a big problem.”

Well, now we were facing the final meeting, and nothing could be done about our choice of notaio. We used some of the waiting time to get to know the sellers, and that went very well. They consisted of three brothers and a sister who were about our age, all of them very friendly and accommodating. They had not been born in the house, but they had moved there in their teen years. When they became adults, they all moved to nearby neighborhoods. We thanked them for having left the house with so much furniture and supplies and in such a tidy condition.

We moved to the conference room at about 3:30 p.m. and took some photos. Sr. Monacò entered a few minutes before 4 p.m., but he greeted no-one and made no announcements or apologies for his tardiness. He spent the first 10 minutes silently looking at his computer and his file folders and reading various documents while the rest of us continued to converse. Then, still without any preliminary words, he began reading the act of sale out loud, very quickly. I had heard that Italian law required that the document be recited, so I was not surprised by that, but I had expected a little more formality and some explanation of what was taking place. A couple of times during the recitation, he had brief discussions with Fulvio and the sellers’ notaio, and he made a few notes on his papers and changed the wording on his computer. It took about 20 minutes to read the act, and then he got up and left the room without a word. He returned promptly, though, with a freshly printed copy of the document, which we were then given to sign.

Another strange moment came when it was time to pay. Angelika and I went into Sr. Monacò’s office. He took out his calculator, pushed some buttons and showed me the figure: 2,600 euro, I wrote out a check and we went back to the conference room. I realized as I sat down that I had received no invoice or any kind of itemization breaking out the fees and taxes – nor had Angelika received anything when she paid in July. It seemed an incongruity that in a country where the shopkeepers insist on giving a receipt for a gelato that cost 2 euros, my notaio offered no proof of payment besides my canceled check.

After everyone finished signing the atto di compravendita, Sr. Monacò announced that we were done. I had expected more documents to sign and more explanations, based on closing ceremonies I have experienced in the States. However, I realized that this was the third of three meetings; any potential issues had already been resolved before, and there were no issues of a mortgage to discuss. But wait, I still had the checks for the sellers, and they still had the keys for the house. Apparently that exchange wasn’t part of the notaio’s responsibilities, so I just reached across the table and handed each seller his check and one of them gave us a bag with three sets of keys.

During the times that we had been waiting for Sr. Monaco, the sellers and real estate agent had prepared a list of people to contact if we had problems with plumbing, electricity or heating, and they gave us a packet of documents on the appliances and utilities. Angelika said she would help us next Monday to get all the utilities transferred into our names. All that remained was for everyone to shake hands, and then we walked out with our keys. Despite the eccentricities of our notaio, we had such positive feelings for the sellers, Angelika and our geometra and real estate agents that we left the meeting very satisfied.

Lucy and I celebrated by splitting a full course meal at our favorite restaurant, La Trattoria di Montecarlo, which is just a couple of hundred meters from our new home. Afterward we went to the house and started the process of carrying our belongings up from our closet on the piano terra (ground floor) to the piano secondo (second floor, which in America would be called the third floor). We only took a few loads up, because it was getting late. We would spend that night in the Casolare dei Fiori, as planned previously, to give us more time to set up the new house before sleeping and eating there.

Emotionally, we were not particularly giddy. We have had so many months to digest the idea that we would be becoming true Montecarlesi. However, we have not had even one second of buyer’s remorse. For the past six years, we had looked at houses and considered the idea of buying one here, and this home has everything we wanted and more – it is even about 90 percent furnished. So even if we don’t seem outwardly thrilled, we are happy – make that deeply contented – to be here. We will take the next couple of weeks to unpack, decide what improvements we should make and just enjoy our new surroundings. The Seghieri family (my grandmother was Anita Seghieri) has roots in Montecarlo that date from at least the 1200s, and the Spadoni family came from a nearby town (which can be seen from Montecarlo). So when I say that I’m going to my home in Italy, it now has double the significance.


  1. WHOOPPEEE!!! Oh, so happy for you! Dreams DO come true.


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