1. Start Searching Online
Search houses for sale online for about five years, dreaming of a ‘maybe someday’ possibility. Villas with pools and frescoed ceilings to caves which once housed three families during harder times. Castles to crumbling trulli, anything is game.
Decide to make the move to Italy, life is too short to wait around. Or like us, when your country’s economy crashes and you loose your income and have your home repossessed by the bank, decide to move to a country you can actually afford to have a nice life in, our No.1 choice was Italy. Rent for a couple of years and then consider buying when you are back on your feet.
2. Filter Your Choices to Suit Your Budget
Become realistic and filter your search by the area you want. Try not to cry when you see that a modest three bedroom house in the town you love will cost about €420k. Try a different approach and filter your house search by price. You’re left with the caves and crumbling messes. Maybe with a lick of paint, they would be okay? … Go back to looking at the pretty ones in the area you want with a pool… or at least some windows.
3. Arrange Viewings
Take a leap and arrange some viewings. Just for the fun of it. Sure why not, it’s okay to dream and you have to start somewhere. Don’t disregard the houses the estate agent tries to talk you out of… ‘on the market for 10 years … ALOT of work to be done… I will send you photos of the interior… you still want to view it?? … Did you receive the photos?’
Remain open minded and visit the ones with pools and the one with cobwebs worthy of a starring role in a black and white Tarzan movie – the type of cobwebs the baddies got caught in just before they sank into the quick sand. Broken windows, tattered furniture left behind, scenic sky views through the roof, waist high grass that moves ahead of you. You’ve progressed from Tarzan movies to Jurassic Park. Your husband walking a few metres ahead pauses and shouts back casually ‘a snake just went over my foot’. It suddenly feels like you’re walking on Madusa’s head as the ground moves beneath your feet. You laugh hysterically and run towards the electric gate that is no longer electric.
4. Be Fooled By TV Programmes
Two weeks later be captivated by a new TV show, where a couple buy a chateau in France and do it up. She’s cutting wallpaper shapes and sticking them on the wall, they’re shining up copper pans and hanging them in the kitchen. They haven’t fixed the roof but that does not seem to matter. They’re laughing, having a great time.
“We could do that”. Your mind goes back to the house of cobwebs.
He knows what you are talking about, he hesitates but says it anyway. “It is a beautiful house.”
You may have renovated before and said “never again”. You may, like us, have renovated homes twice before and said “never, ever again”. It’s sort of like childbirth, you are screaming ‘Don’t you ever come near me again’ at your husband while doing the last push, but then something happens to your brain once the baby is born, you forget the pain of your body being ripped in half and something as simple as the smell of a new born baby’s head, has you all doe eyed again and saying, “Let’s have another”. It’s how the human race has continued to go on, and how old houses manage to get renovated apparently.
Cobwebs, snakes, we’ve got this. ‘It would be an amazing house.’
“Look at them”, you point at the TV, “they never renovated before, we have, look how happy they are”.
“We could do that.” You don’t realise you are basically smelling a baby’s head and forget that this is TV. The screaming arguments of assembling furniture together, sewerage splashing in your face, the despair as a ceiling collapses and the horror of never ending bills for work that is not even visible, such events have been edited out of the TV show. You’ve renovated before, it didn’t end well, how are you seeing this through rose tinted glasses? You find yourself texting the estate agent to arrange another viewing.
5. A Second Viewing
The estate agent is surprised at your choice, “not the cute one with the pool?”. She brings the senior boss, she is young and has never handled crazies before.
While you are waiting for the estate agent, a woman in her late 70s or early 80s wanders into the garden. The viewing begins, she tags along. You try to quietly say to the estate agent that she’s not with you, you think she’s just a nosy neighbour until half way through the viewing you find out she’s one of the owners. One of eight owners in fact. You are told her name is ‘Uncle Francesca’.
You’re left to look around the interior by ourselves. The second time around the cobwebs are not noticed, the light plays through the shutters highlighting possibilities of beauty to be recreated. Built in 1923 some of the original furniture is still there, you’ve never reupholstered anything but now you have a sudden urge to do so.
You return to the courtyard where ‘Uncle’ Francesca is collecting the caca fruit into an enamel po she has taken from the house. The estate agent is helping her with the fruit from the higher branches. He’s eating one of the orange fruits, which you know is similar to trying to eat a water balloon. Between slurps he points out the features he thinks you will be amazed by, the lake view … you can’t see it because the trees that have grown in the last 10 years block it, they are on public land so you know they will never be cut down but that is okay, a lake view was not the appeal, you know you can walk two minutes and be at the lake front.
There are two wells on the land and he quotes their amazing depth…. ah yes wells… the reason for many childhood nightmares and now possible death traps to your cats, they will be the first things covered up. You like the idea of your own water source but as you are not an Italian farmer, nor someone who has experienced massive drought, the appeal seems to have been lost on you.
Planning permission for another house. While this sounds like a great investment possibility you are not a property mogul, you are looking for a potential home. There are 21 rooms in the house, there are three of you, so why would we need to build another house?
He hasn’t grabbed you on any of his big sale points but what he doesn’t realise is the house has captivated you. As soon as you walked in you felt it was home. It wrapped it’s arms around you and made you feel safe … and happy. You wanted to linger. The ceiling mould and rising damp, is more beautifully labelled in Italy as ‘humidity’ invoking tropical tones of rainforest rather than rain, floods and cold, which the word ‘damp’ conjures up back in Ireland.
6. The Offer
You are told the asking price is €240k which is down by over 100k from the previous year. They are quick to state it’s negotiable. Uncle Francesca let it slip during the viewing that only one other person has come to view it in the three years it has been with this estate agent.
You judge that there is about €150k worth of work to be done to make the house a home. It’s a non-runner. The estate agent asks what price range are you looking in. You decide that this is a good time to practice saying numbers in Italian which you have just learnt in class this week. You say for a house needing work, you can afford €120k.
’Impossible!’ he laughs ‘the site with planning for the other house is worth that alone’.
What is he talking about? You were just telling him the price range of houses you are thinking about in the far off future, when you may decide to buy. You know the house when renovated would be worth close to half a million, but you do not have €250k to buy it and renovate it.
‘They can keep the site, we’ll just take the house,” states your husband to the estate agent.
You nod… Why are you nodding? Oh yeah you are just cheering him on in this unplanned game. It’s just a bit of fun.
The estate agent goes back to Uncle Francesca who is swatting a wasp from her face and running around the tree but then is distracted by a plump caca. The estate agent’s assistant is talking and you are trying to find a gap in the conversation so you say goodbye. You’re not listening to what she is saying as you are thinking about what to have for dinner.
The estate agent returns, “They will accept €150k”.
“No we can’t do, thanks anyway”.
“Arrivederci”. You wave at the old lady.
7. Offer Acceptance
While sitting in the car on the way home, you’re both laughing about the whole experience, but also talking about how amazing the potential is, it would be a fantastic space for someone to buy to host creative group retreats in Italy.
You stop into the supermarket to buy your dinner ingredients. On the wine aisle you get a text from the estate agent. “On Tuesday come to our office at 11am to sign the sale agreement.”
You catch up with your husband at the fruit and veg section. “Do we need bananas?” he asks, holding a bunch in his hand.
“Ehhh I think we’ve just bought a house?”
“I think they have accepted our offer on that house?”
“Did we put in an offer?”
“For how much?”
“I think I said €120k? I’m not sure I tried saying it in Italian.”
‘Ohhh… For just the house or the house and the field with planning permission?”
“I have no idea, but it seems we are signing for it on Tuesday?”
It’s a great house for that price. A steal! But… what would we do with such a big house?”
“Host creative groups who want a retreat in Italy?”
“That’s really not a bad idea … Did you say, if we needed bananas?”
You go back to the wine aisle and buy a bottle of Prosecco, unsure if it is to celebrate or to block out the confusion. Have you just decided to buy massive renovation project plus start a new business, in the space of time it takes to decide if you are short of bananas?
Apparently you have. It’s exciting but there’s also a creeping fear that there is quicksand ahead and not just a puddle, but a whole lake of it.
And that’s how you find a house in Italy the Rosie way. It’s all about being at one with bananas.