Sometimes you need to be flexible in order to take advantage of an opportunity. The trick is balancing the risk versus the potential reward.
It’s not easy, especially when contemplating big, life-changing decisions like my wife Lisa Grassi-Blais and I were a couple years ago.
We hadn’t planned on deciding whether or not to quit our decent but unfulfilling jobs in Canada and move to Italy until sometime in 2014. But in the summer of 2012, we’d seen a property that seemed right for our tourism business idea, and in September 2012 we were trying to decide if we should speed up our plan.
As discussed in the previous blog post, our review of the property’s location in Torre de’Passeri, 90 minutes east of Rome in the incredibly beautiful and diverse Abruzzo region determined it was in the right spot for an inn and boutique tour company.
Now we were analyzing the merits of the building itself.
It sat on the edge of town with houses across the alley in front and a great view of the hills and mountains behind. It was constructed in stages over a couple hundred years. It had been mixed-use with winemaking in the basement and a blacksmith shop, cart repair and eventually car repair on the ground floor. Above this were two floors of residential.
As the economy in all of Italy declined post WWII, so did Torre de’Passeri’s and eventually sometime in the 1980s, like many properties, the building was abandoned and it started to deteriorate. Simply put, there was nobody to take over such a big structure.
Sometime around 2006, the building was purchased by a British couple with a business idea like ours. They installed a new roof, overhauled the third floor, roughed in ensuite bathrooms in five bedrooms, and completely repurposed the ground floor into an expansive kitchen, dining room and lounge area. Then, for reasons unknown to us, their dream got derailed half way to reality.
What was left was a historical three-storey, 5000-square-foot brick building with five bedrooms (three doubles, one triple, one quadruple) all with bathrooms in various states of completion, an extra bathroom, two kitchens, a sitting room, a lounge, a huge dining room, a large basement, and an entrance way and staircase. (You can check out the original listing by clicking here.)
The ceilings were high and some were vaulted. Some of the original bricks were still exposed. The place screamed authentic Italy, and that’s what we hoped to be marketing.
Furthermore, the layout provided privacy for guests with four balconies and options for accommodating large groups or multiple couples and singles.
The place also came through with a sizable backyard that would allow for a pool, a bbq area, gardens, fruit trees and flowers.
So the property itself was right, but it needed tons of work. Windows and doors needed replacing, endless square feet of walls needed repair, the heating system needed a massive upgrade, air conditioners needed to be installed, a terrace needed to be built, a pool needed to be installed and more and more and more.
It was clear that if we pursued this property, it was going to be way, way more of a project than we’d hoped for. It was daunting, but at the same time, if we did it, we were going to end up with a way, way more stunning property than we imagined.
Then there was the price. It was listed at 195,000 Euro, which was pretty fair for a building that size with land. So, regardless of how much we could get knocked off the price, with the renovations needed, this place was going to blow our 200,000 euro total budget to pieces if we pursued it.
We could have stopped there. According to our plan, we had a couple years to make a decision. If the property wasn’t on the market then, we’d find somewhere else.
But the place spoke to us so much, we decided we owed it to ourselves to find out just how much more it would cost to undertake this project.
So we phoned up Fabrizio De Sanctis of Abruzzo Houses, the agent who had shown us the property, and gave him a list of things we needed to know before we could even think of putting in an offer.
They included checking zoning and other regulations to see if we could run an inn, put in a pool, and build a terrace. We wanted a building inspection done by an engineer, and we wanted solid estimates on the myriad of things that needed to be done in the building and outside.
Two weeks later, we had our answers.
Next Blog: Can we afford this?