In Italy, they do just about everything with a flair for the dramatic. Even closing a real estate deal gets this treatment.
My wife, Lisa Grassi-Blais and I found this out when we finalized the deal on our villa in the Abruzzo Region of Italy that serves as a home base for our tour company.
It was the first day of March 2013, and we had flown from Canada to Italy because here when a property is exchanged, all concerned – buyer, seller, real estate agent, mortgage holder, and anybody else with a legal interest in the property – appear before a notary for a hearing where the sale is completed by the purchaser dishing out cashier’s cheques and cash to everybody.
We arrived at the notary’s office in Pescara at the appointed time of 8 p.m. (a normal office hour in Italy) and things were running late (also normal.) So we sat in the waiting room, and quickly realized that the British couple next to us were the sellers. I found it awkward, but we made small talk with them, and as we did, we became aware of a man in a suit nearby getting very impatient.
Turns out, he represented a bank that held the balance of the British couple’s mortgage, and he wanted to get back to Rome immediately.
At about 8:30 p.m., we were all hustled into a large room in which there was a desk, some chairs, and an enormous painting of a woman and her two daughters. It looked something from the Louvre.
In the chairs were, Lisa and I, the British couple, the annoyed banker, an interpreter, and our real estate agent. After a short while, a door behind the desk opened and in flew one of the daughters from the painting with two helpers running behind her each carrying a mountain of papers they put down on the desk.
The notary sat down behind the stacks, put on her reading glasses, looked around the room, and started reading documents in Italian at superhuman speed. I was catching one out of every 100 words or so and was in a bit of a panic. I leaned over and asked the interpreter what was going on, and she pointed to the translated version of the agreement of purchase and sale I’d been handed minutes earlier.
“She’s reading that,” she said.
Then I heard my name and turned to the notary, who was now holding my passport.
“Say yes,” the interpreter said, and I did followed by Lisa.
After a few more bursts from the notary the banker piped up. This was followed by some blistering numbers from the notary, and a blank stare at me. I was ready for this part because our agent had explained to me that all payments associated with the purchase were made at the hearing directly, and we had several bank drafts and wads of cash ready. So I handed the notary the bank draft made out to the British couple’s mortgage holder, she examined it, handed it to the banker, he nodded, signed the agreement and left.
This was repeated with bank drafts for our real estate agent, the notary herself, cash for the interpreter, cash for the sellers for some kitchen appliances they were selling us, and finally a bank draft for the sellers.
It took about an hour, and, at the end, I had two sets of questions. Why did the villa have several mailing addresses, two street numbers, and two different legal addresses? And why was the land broken into several smaller chunks of land, all with their own legal descriptions - including one piece of land that had no legal description?
The interpreter voiced my concerns, and this set off five minutes of heated discussion between our agent, the notary and the interpreter. The deed was consulted, a book was produced and checked, the notary’s assistants were dispatched a couple times to check something. When it was over, the interpreter turn to me and said: “Don’t worry about it.”
I pushed my luck and said I really was worried about it. The interpreter looked at me with slight exasperation and said the villa has three addresses because they keep changing the name of the street and nobody bothered to delete the old addresses, and the property has two doors, hence the two street numbers. As for the all legal descriptions, she said we needed them all to show we owned all the land. As for the lack of a legal description on one piece, she said we didn’t have to worry because the overall description of the property says it includes the land with no description.
Lisa and I struggled to keep from bursting out in laughing. We signed the agreement, and then we all went out to a cafe and celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco and some lovely nibbles.
Two days later, we were on a flight back to Canada having firmly committed ourselves to futures as inn and tour operators in the beautiful Abruzzo Region of Italy. We were excited, and a little scared, but overall feeling good about our decision.
Note: We have had some ups and downs since then, and those events are covered in a series of articles I wrote that is currently running in Post Media papers in Canada. In the interest of continuity for this blog, I will post these articles on the blog as they appear, and they will bring you up to our opening day of April 30, 2016.
After that, this blog will focus more on the vacation experience in Abruzzo, and individual experiences of our guests.
Take care and thanks for reading.