Ten days later I’m at the supermarket and I get a call from Laura, “Good news, all the owners have signed the document to agree the offer price.”
“That is great news!”
“So today you need to come to the office to sign a document to acknowledge their signatures.”
“But your office is an hour away and I have gelato in my shopping trolly. I’ll come tomorrow.”
“Unfortunately that is not possible. It needs to be done within 10 days and today is the 10th day. You need to come today to sign that you agree.”
“What is it exactly that we need to sign … A document to say we accept, that they accept, the offer that we offered?”
“Yes that is correct.”
“How about I write a statement and email it to you to say I acknowledge, that they acknowledge the offer that we offered and email that to you today?”
She checks with the boss, “Yes that will do.”
I send it as soon as I get back while eating the gelato. Who said buying a house in Italy is difficult?
The next step for us is to elect a notary. These are scrupulous people who work on behalf of both sides of a property deal. My Italian friend says they spend longer studying and are more qualified than judges, as they have to keep updated with the ever changing property laws in Italy.
We found our notary, Elizabetta through Mick Kelly. ‘She is very, very, good.’ He has me at the second ‘very’. As soon as I meet her I like her, even though she didn’t smile once. She’s probably about 40, blonde, tanned, tall and thin. She’s wearing a Rolex. We rename her Lizzy for our own reference.
A meeting is arranged at Lizzy’s office with the estate agents, Ronan, me and Uncle Francesca, who as always, has a large file of papers in front of her. Lizzy has done the legal checks of the documents with the town hall.
She opens the meeting with the statement; “There are buildings to be destroyed”.
I find Italians use the word ‘destroyed’ a lot when speaking in english, examples are; “I was working in the garden all day and now I am destroyed… I can’t come to dinner as I had three meetings today, I am destroyed.”
Everytime, I hear them describe themselves as being ‘destroyed’ I get an image of a Marvel character brought to their knees after being deprived of their energy source. Now my notary is saying buildings need to be destroyed, so I’m imagining spacecrafts dropping bombs in the garden as we speak.
She is flicking through the plans and descriptions.
“Allora (a great word which means ‘so’), there are nine courtyards, four houses, a vineyard and three outbuildings – two of which need to be destroyed as they do not have the permissions.”
That word again. Cue evil laugh in my head before what she has just said reaches my brain.
“Wait, what did you just say about four houses and nine courtyards? … are we buying the village?”
Laura is quick to step in to explain. “The house is divided into four separate apartments.” She flashes some Italian at the notary and they are both laughing a little. “Apartments, NOT house buildings,” corrects Lizzy, smiling for the first time. She likes my joke about buying the village, which wasn’t meant as a joke.
“The family geometra will need to submit paperwork to get the house recognised as two units rather than four separate units. It can be considered two units for the sale, as one unit is not possible, after the sale your architect can submit it to be considered as one unit, one house. It is then possible. Okay?”
I sort of get it but don’t.
“And what about the nine courtyards?… and vineyard?”
“Look.” Lizzy pushes the aerial view drawing outlining the property infront of me. The fenced garden has been sub divided into nine different sized quadrilaterals each with an assigned registry number. One which is in the middle of all the others is about three meters long and one meter wide.
“Why is it divided like this?” I ask.
Laura shrugs, “It is Italy. Often with inheritance things like this happen, each child is entitled to claim an equal amount of inheritance no matter what is written in the will. This is why we have property law professionals like Elizabetta who figure out inheritance property complications.”
“We need to ensure that all plots are listed during the sale” explains Lizzy in Italian, which I understand and so I explain to Ronan.
“Basically, it’s her job to ensure we are the owners of all the plots because otherwise the person who owns that central small plot, could come along, fence it off and be perfectly entitled to leave their savage rottweiler there.”
He’s looking impressed. “She said that and you understood?”
“What about the vineyard?”
“Perhaps there was a vineyard on the property at some point?” says Laura.
My surprise expectation of owning the village has shrunk back down to reality.
Lizzy asks Uncle Francesca for the court document. She shuffles through her papers and hands a document over. The notary reads through it. She then is saying something factual to Uncle.
Uncle is responding sweetly smiling, lots of prayer like hand signals. They are both talking back and forth.
Laura translates, “Yes. Uncle Francesa has got the power of attorney document from the court to act on behalf of her aunt who has alzheimers who is also an owner, but the notary has told her she needs to go back to get it specified of the areas her aunt owns. Otherwise it could cause problems as now on the document it looks like she owns the whole property.”
Uncle Francesca’s sweetness and ‘I know-a nothing’ attitude while shuffling through papers is not going down well with the notary. She has stopped being sweet and is arguing back, but it’s not working, Lizzy is telling her firmly that she needs to go back and get it changed. I’ve a feeling Uncle Francesca up to something.
On the way home we stop at the house. The grass has been cut so we walk down the garden for the first time. Along the bottom boundary there is a shed built with yellow cement bricks, although they are difficult to see as most of the building is covered in thick ivy. The shed seems to be divided into four rooms. This is one of the buildings that needs to be DESTROYED. We peer through the ivy and can see cobwebbed shelves, old suitcases, boxes and possibly a barrel. We’ll need to come more prepared to get through the ivy.
In front of the shed that needs to be DESTROYED there is a path of concrete posts, used to hold up vines in old Italian vineyards. On the posts nearest the shed that needs to be DESTROYED, there are still five old vines, badly in need of pruning. “Ah here’s our vineyard!”
The estate agents have stopped by the house too, to meet the geometra and Uncle Francesca is there to let them in. She’s scurrying towards her car with a bag, she gives a little wave but seems to be looking guilty. We take the opportunity to look around inside again. Yes, we still want it, more than ever.
In the glass cabinet there are large neat clean dots in the beige dust. “Ah crap she has taken the champagne glasses!”
She has the two ceramic jelly moulds and some rosary beads are on the table near the door ready to go. She is one of the owners and perfectly entitled to take what she wants, I just wish she had cleared them out in the 10 years previous instead of waiting until I had seen them.
“Are you happy about the meeting today?” asks Laura.
“Yeah, we’re just wondering how long is the process all going to take?” she shrugs.
From previous experiences if you had buildings without planning in Ireland or had to change a building’s purpose, it would take months for the plans to be approved, and for a document to be approved in court you could be on a long waiting list. We needed to do all three of these and Italy is notorious for being very slow with all it’s bureaucracy. I’m beginning to rapidly loose hope of a quick sale.
“Perhaps two months” she says apologetically.
“Oh really? That quick?” I’m feeling hopeful again.
A few weeks later I get a text from Laura.
“We can proceed to the preliminary deed (Compromesso) next Friday, it is the date that all the owners can be there.”
“All the owners will be there?”
“Yes it is law in Italy that all the owners must be present for the reading of the final deed. For the Compromesso next week, six of the owners will be there, for the final deed all eight will be there…”
Eight owners? I thought there were six.
“But I need to warn you,” Laura continues, “some of them do not get on with each other and no longer speak.”
I’m now looking forward to the meeting like a long awaited movie, will there be fist fights? I’m thinking of bringing popcorn.