Buying a property in Italy is not like in Canada where things are handled for you by professionals at arm’s length. In Italy, you are required to actively participate in the process.
We learned about it after deciding to dump our day jobs in Ottawa to open an inn and tour company in the amazing Abruzzo Region of Italy, and found a great villa in the town of Torre de’Passeri.
There are two stages. The first, called the compromesso, like a down payment but with a twist. So, after agreeing on a price with the British couple who owned the villa, we were given their banking details and sent them 10 per cent directly. According to the compromesso, if we pulled out of the deal before close, the seller would keep the 10 per cent. If the seller pulled out, they were to return the 10 per cent plus 10 per cent more.
I’m not sure about the enforceability of an Italian law on British people selling a property to a Canadian, but whatever. When you are in, you are in. We sent the money.
The closing stage is where things really got different. For this, we were required to go to Italy in person for a face-to-face meeting with all concerned in front of a notary to complete the deal.
So in late February 2013, we flew over and rented a small apartment in Roccacasale, a beautiful little town overlooking the Peligna Valley. We’d never been to Abruzzo in winter and we were pleasantly surprised by great sunny weather with highs of around 14 degrees each day in the valley while snow covered peaks loomed all around.
The day after arriving, we met with our real estate agent, opened a bank account, and sent word back to our Canadian bank to transfer the money, which was largely the proceeds of selling our house in Ottawa. The money transfer took a couple days to complete, so in the meantime we kept busy by meeting with our architect, constructor, and agent at the villa in Torre de’Passeri to discuss what our renovation plans would be. We also visited many furniture stores to price out the cost of fitting up the entire villa, toured the countryside in the area, and generally just enjoyed being part of what would become our new home.
After the money arrived, we spent a lot of time in the property. Its roughness was daunting, but we could easily see how beautiful it could become. It didn’t hurt that in the backyard a cherry tree had started to bloom.
The day before the notary meeting, Lisa and I went over our decision one last time.
As we sat in the kitchen, drinking wine made at a vineyard up the road and eating local cheese, bread, salami, and olives, we went over the pros and cons one last time.
Was this a risk? Sure. What were we risking? Financially, other than quitting good paying jobs, we weren't risking much because we were largely investing in real estate. Was it the right life move? Yup, we were both tired of our rat race jobs and looking for change. We’re we committed to doing the things needed to make this work? Yes, we both don’t shy away from hard work and tough decisions, and we both committed to being patient. Was the risk of failure outweighed by the potential benefits of success?
And then, I’m not kidding, this happened.
Through the open back door, we heard sheep bleating. When we looked out, we saw a shepherd and his flock coming down the hill behind our house – a white herd flowing between the olive trees like slow moving lava with Abruzzese mountain dogs guarding them. The herd eventually was penned up in an area about 100 metres away, but we could still hear them. Then we spotted one of the mountain dogs nursing two puppies in the field directly behind the villa. Lisa went into the back yard to get a better look, and she was met by the two puppies. When I saw the look of joy on her face as she played with the two snow white balls of fur, any lingering doubt in my mind vanished.
The next day we would plunk down the bulk of our life savings and lock ourselves into an adventure others dream of embarking on, and it would be the right decision for us.
Next Blog: The deal gets done.