Racing to the estate agents to put the offer in to buy the house, was of course completely out of proportion to the urgency of house buying in the Piedmont region of Italy. There probably was no need to see the agent for weeks into the future, there was no race against time, as houses move so slowly here, the locals preferring to live in the towns and the, holiday home buying, tourists thin on the ground. But as an agent myself, albeit in recruitment, if I get a whiff of a competitor closing in on one of my clients, I up my game, determined not to lose out. I half expected the local town agent to be doing exactly this, calling everyone he knows to find a buyer for the beautiful, Langhe Hills, ‘little white house’, to make it up to his Mama and get back in her good books, or at least that is what I would do in his shoes. Looking back on it, with some distance, I think this was unlikely, after all, our house was one of the cheapest on his books, most of his houses were 3 or 4 times the value, would he really be bothering, or just write it off to complacency, who knows. We, competitive sales people that we are, were not taking the risk and we arranged to meet at Natascia’s Casa Futura’s office at 3pm, an agonising 6 hour wait, as she was busy until then, my creative imagination imagined her showing our house to other prospective buyers, (which she wasn't). After this painful wait, we eventually set off for Acqui Terme, pedal to the metal, as fast as the country roads would allow and the frustrating, 50kmph speed camera restriction, villages along the way would permit.
We, composing ourselves, entered her building, a lovely older, typical Acqui Terme office building, with ornate doors and, climbing, marble stairs, into her very large office. Herself and Marco, her husband greeted us warmly and we hurriedly explained that we wanted to make an offer on the house, so much for playing it cool! They were absolutely delighted, naturally, but genuinely seemed really excited for us. In Italy, it is important to know that a verbal offer is binding, you can’t play around with this process, we knew the house’s advertised price, but had read, via blogs, that 10% was the usual discount off the advertised price. We decided to put in an offer of 15% discount off the asking price, as a starting point, expecting negotiations to occur, particularly with our astute and wiley Giovanni, no fool he. Also, as much as we were tempted to go in with a cheeky 20% discount, Andrew made it clear that we didn’t want to be offensive, as Giovanni would be our neighbour, one we expected to be friendly with. Giovanni reminded me of the time I sold my first house, in my early twenties, I would put bread in the oven, half an hour before viewers came around, to make the place smell welcoming and inviting. Giovanni, had used his own little tricks with us, like demonstrating the freshness of the spring water out of the garden tap by cupping his hand under it and drinking it with lip smacking enticement, let alone the spotless presentation and unnecessarily warming wood fire he had lit that hot, autumn, day of our first viewing, we had spotted one of our own that day and loved him for it.
Marco, a friend, it turns out, of Giovanni, hence them getting the house on the books, rang Giovanni and started the proceedings off, as we sat rigid in the office chairs, tense with nerves and excitement. Marco paced this way and that, rapidly in Italian presenting the facts to Giovanni, strolling into an anti-chamber office and continuing the discussion, Natascia tried to engage us in conversation but we were so distracted, our minimal Italian was failing to recall with all the nerves. Eventually, after about 15 minutes, Marco came back in and said that Giovanni would accept a price at 10% discount, of course; we agreed but bizarrely and I really don’t know where this moment of inspiration came from, I agreed to the 10% discount, as long as we could have all the furniture, fixtures and fittings, the house was fully set up as a liveable house, with beds a plenty, rustic, wooden dining table and chairs and cupboards full of crockery, all of the vintage style that I adore. I had read, that Italians are notorious at stripping their houses of everything removable when they sell, including the lightbulbs! This must have made a big impression in my subconscious mind to pipe up with this request at the last second. Just in case you think I was being a 'meanie' by taking all of poor Giovanni's furniture and family heirlooms, fear not, the place was set up as a home but hadn't been lived in for 20 years (more on this strange story in future posts), though it looked spick and span, all the furniture and crockery belonged to the previous owner, before Giovanni had bought it. Marco went back on the phone and another 5 minutes, of fast Italian dialogue, passed, finally hanging up and coming back to tell us, happily, that Giovanni had agreed to include everything already in situ at the house. It was ours.
The excitement, and thrill of it all, sent all four of us out into the cool, Autumn night, aired town to celebrate, my mind a whir and every fibre of my being on an adrenaline and serotonin surge of joy. We headed to a little favourite bar of theirs and, just in time for aperitivo, opened a bottle of prosecco and we toasted the day. Where would you get this. I had never toasted anything with an estate agent before, it was a whole new and very pleasurable experience. We ate titbits from the platters spread out for aperitivo, all free, while we sipped our cool Prosecco and rambled incoherently to Natascia and Marco. Marco told us how happy Giovanni was to sell us the house, as we were a young couple and would be a great addition to the town. Giovanni had also promised to help us settle in and would show us the workings of the land. As we got ready to leave Marco presented us with a present, a white truffle the size of a large walnut shell that he had bought at the front deli part of the bar, how wonderful. Leaving them, high on life, with multiple kisses and promising to get the paperwork started on returning to Dublin, we knew we had made the right decision and relaxed into the last couple of days of our Piemonte trip, in our soon to be new world.
Next chapter about buying a house in Italy
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