Note to readers: Sorry about missing last week's usual Monday morning post schedule. I forgot, and then I got busy. I'll try not to let it happen again.


True to my wife Lisa Grassi-Blais’ and my doer personalities, the day after deciding to drop out of the nine-to-five world in Canada and open a tour company in Italy, we got busy.

It was the fall of 2012, and the decision was made. We were quitting the rat race and setting up an inn and tour company in the picturesque and vibrant Italian region of Abruzzo where Lisa’s grandfather came from.

We got things rolling by contacting real estate agents in Canada and Italy.

We had some work to do on our house in Ottawa before putting it on the market but in Italy, it was time to make an offer on a place we’d seen a couple months earlier. It needed work, but it was in the perfect location and had all the right qualities for a company offering small-group all-inclusive tours packages.

The place was listed at €195,000 and from various Italian real estate websites, we knew the sellers had dropped the price dramatically a couple of times already. It looked like they were motivated to sell in a slow post-2008 financial crisis market.

We found the asking price to be pretty fair compared to other properties we’d viewed, but it needed renovations and related works were going to cost a lot more than we’d hoped to spend.

We were in business mode now, so we instructed our Italian real estate agent to offer the seller €150,000. He didn’t like the lowball offer because he thought it might be so low that the seller would refuse to deal with us at all, but we figured that the worst was the seller would say no, and at best they might be really motivated to sell and accept the offer.

He made the offer and the seller didn’t outright reject it. Instead, they counter offered by dropping to €190,000. Then we decided to make a real offer they might accept. We offered €170,000.

We thought that would probably do it, but to our surprise the seller countered again; this time at €180,000. At that point, we were pretty sure the deal was going to get done because, to be honest, we felt the original asking price was pretty fair for the size and quality of the building and the counter offers showed us the sellers were indeed motivated but they wanted to get the most money they could. Fair enough.

So, we added €5,000 to the offer and added that it was our final offer, which was true, we were not going to dicker around anymore. If we lost the place, so be it. We’d find another place. No worries though, the offer was accepted.

By the end of October, the agreement was signed, we sent the sellers our down payment and we had until the end of February 2013 to close the deal.

In less than three months, we’d gone from exploring the possibility of ditching the rat race and moving to Italy for a new life to signing a deal to buy a place. We were now fully completed.

Things had moved fast, but it felt right, and we were confident our house in Ottawa would sell pretty quickly for a decent price.

We didn’t know how long it would take and we assumed there would be some unexpected challenges, but we were on our way to fulfilling our goal of opening an inn and tour company in Italy’s Abruzzo region, a breathtakingly beautiful place with an off-the-beaten-path feel we’d fallen completely in love with.

We knew by this point that we were not going to meet our original goal of having the business open in the spring of 2014. But we felt, if it all worked out, we could be moving in the fall of 2014 and opening the doors in the spring of 2015.

We were doing it, and that really felt good, but now it was time to unload our place in Ottawa. We had three months to get it sold and close the deal so we could close the purchase in Italy on time. No stress there.

Next Blog: Selling our house.

1 Comment