Have you ever read the inspiring book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie? I have, back in my late teens, I sped read the book and thought I had learnt a few big tips to help me in life, I even recommend it to some of my clients in my therapy practice, particularly if they are struggling to influence people in the workplace. I really ought to have read the book in the last few years though, as what follows, in our Piemonte house search, was definitely in the ‘how not to win friends and influence people’ chapter.
We had arranged to see yet another house in this great Piemonte, Langhe Hills, town, with a third estate agent, this one was actually based in the town, next to the bar we had already met the prior agents in. But, unlike the other two, who were out of town agents, these, naturally, being the town’s agent, had a large shop window of properties and big offices to meet them in, which we did. They were very professional, I might say ‘old school’, the middle aged proprietor and his gracefully older mother, in their best office attire, were in the office to greet us, and with her sharp hawk eyes, she looked us up and down and, I guess, calculated our spending ability in her career long, estimating mind calculator, and gave us a bemused smile, if not slightly worried smile, that we may be one of those tourists who indulges in property viewings for the hell of it. We assured them both that we were very eager to find a property and that we were real buyers, more bemusement, I knew I should have dressed up in a more Italian business outfit, I had on my old jeans, hiking boots and jumper, expecting, correctly, that we would have to ramble over more overgrown land and up and down neck breaking slopes.
Moving on from their initial doubtful appraisal, they opened a giant, black, ring binder and leafing through it, pulled out and laid the details of the property, in hard copy, with graceful precision, on the large, polished, desk. Carlo, the proprietor, explained the particulars of the property we had booked to see and then spread out a few more properties, all in wide ranging prices, we had to instantly dismiss most of them, as they were way out of our price league, though we had been very clear on the price points at the beginning of the conversation. Signora then pulled out another property detail from the giant ring binder and neatly laid it on the desk in front of us, it was the little white house that we had just finished viewing, with Natascia and Marco, an hour ago. We didn’t think too much of this, after all most agents in the UK and Ireland seem to use multiple agents, so we made our apologies and said no, unfortunately we had already viewed the house, however, this apology was lost in translation, I think. Signora then started explaining the little white house to us and we had to say no, again, it was impossible, as we had already seen it with another agency, Carlo then, with a small wince, got the gist of what we were saying and in fast Italian explained this to his mother, whose face, instantly, turned into a picture of dark fury, she glared at us, and at him, and arms in the air, her voice escalating at her son, began directing verbal missiles at him in Italian, which we think were along the lines of, “how could you have let this happen”, we also kept hearing Giovanni’s name mentioned, over and over again, and with dawning realisation, us stupid, foreign, city dwellers woke up to the fact that this very small Piemonte town would of course be protective of their own property book, with so few houses to sell and being so remote, us ‘tourists’ had viewed one of their properties with a competing agency, who were not even in the town! She looked at us and demandingly asked us the name of the vendor who had shown us the property and we had to say, timidly, in a very small voice, the one betraying word, “Giovanni”. We felt like naughty school children, knees trembling, standing in front of the Head Mistress waiting for our punishment. She was then certain of the fact that we had betrayed her business and she, with a wave of dismissal, bid us "Arrivederci" and left us with Carlo, who probably, predicting more motherly wrath, decided this was an opportune time to go and view the original property we had arranged to see and he hurried us out of the office and off to view the house.
What a valuable lesson, a first, I am sure, of many in our Italian Piedmont adventures. We hadn’t given this predicament any thought in our property search, when we had seen these properties online, through various estate agent portals, some houses were listed with multiple agents. I couldn’t remember if Carlo had been advertising the little white house, we hadn’t thought of it anyway and had just gone with the first agent we had seen viewing it and hadn’t thought how insensitive it could be to not use the local agent. I do remember thinking it was important to have multiple estate agents from a wide area, so that if other houses in other locations had arisen we were covered. But, I'm not sure, if we had our time again, we would have checked the local estate agent, immobiliare, website to see if they too had it listed and booked the viewing with them, it's a hard one to say. Though to this day we haven’t been able to look Carlo in the eye and he hasn’t recognised us, or, has chosen not to recognise us, and for a little town where everyone knows everyone we had already upset the apple cart with two local business people. Not a great start; hopefully, one day we can make it up to them.
Next chapter in our Piedmont property buying story
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