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2002-10

We found our apartment to buy, but now they have to accept our offer!

Tuesday October 1st, 2002 – Olga called us and said that the owner accepted our offer but that there were a few conditions he wanted to set.  We agreed to meet Olga at the realtor’s office and sign a 2nd offer letter on the apartment with the new conditions.  They also wanted us to give them more money as a deposit (insert ominous music here).

 We signed the offer letter but asked for 60 days to close in order to get my refinanced loan processed.  The owner didn’t understand why we wanted so much time since it’s common here to pay cash for an apartment, Argentines usually don’t get loans to purchase an apartment because they don’t trust banks.

I was a bit worried that the owner would continue to try and sell the apartment while we were waiting for our loan to go through, even though they weren’t supposed to keep the apartment on the market after signing an offer letter, this IS Argentina after all, and I didn’t think for a second that the owner wouldn’t continue to try and sell the apartment.  As Ron and I were walking home from signing the 2nd offer letter, we were discussing our situation.

Our stocks are in the toilet with everyone else in the USA, so we didn't want to cash out stock in order to buy an apartment, so I came up with this great idea (Ron groaned and rolled his eyes when I told him I had a "great idea").  I figured we could sell some Adobe stock right now so that we could get the money sooner and purchase the apartment, then when my refinance loan comes through, we’ll just repurchase Adobe stock.  This way we’ll still enjoy the increase in the stock price of Adobe when the USA markets finally recover.

We returned to the apartment and decided to have a cup of coffee.  Ron has been reading a book called “Eat right for your Type”, which talks about different eating techniques depending on your blood type.  In it, it says that Ron should stay away from milk and dairy products so he bought some soy milk to put in his coffee.  This looks WAY gross when you put soy milk in coffee.

Wednesday October 2nd, 2002 – Ron put in a sell order for a specified price for some of our Adobe stock.  He kept watching it, saying, “It went up 25 cents, only 75 cents to go, OH NO, it went down 35 cents!”  I told him to stop watching the fluctuations as it was driving me crazy.  I really wanted him to just sell it at the current rate and be done with it, but Ron didn’t want to do that.  Finally after a few hours Ron said that the sale had gone through and we both sighed with relief.

Thursday October 3rd, 2002 – We are still living here on a tourist visa without “residency”.  Perfectly legal, we just have to leave the country every 90 days to renew our tourist visas.  When we talked to the realtor about purchasing the apartment, they said that we would need to obtain a CDI number, which is just another way for the government to track people who don’t have residency, I would assume it’s for tax purposes.

We took the bus to go to the government office where we could obtain the CDI, the office looked like most government offices in the world; a little messy, haphazard, utilitarian, with cold metal chairs to wait, the counters were not well marked, several different lines of people, bored looking clerks.  We got in what we hoped was the proper line and waited.  I was watching what other people were doing and I noticed one counter that looked like where you obtained the forms, luckily no one was standing in line.  I saw a clerk come out briefly and I asked Ron to ask them if we needed a form from them, before continuing in the line we were in.  Luckily the person gave Ron two forms and we completed them as we waited.  When our turn came at the line I tried to explain what we needed and was actually able to make myself understood.  They pulled out a book and looked something up and told us that we needed to go to a different office, seems it depends on the address of the apartment you are buying, to go to the proper office to be registered.  We thanked them and headed off for the other office, about 10 blocks away.  We got there around 1 pm and I was hoping they wouldn’t be closed for lunch.  Once again we appeared to have lucked out, the line wasn’t too long and we waited our turn.  The clerk was very helpful although he couldn’t speak a word of English.  He told us we needed to have a copy of our current rental agreement to attach to our request for a CDI number.  I asked him if there was any charge for the CDI number and he said, “No!”

We returned home and Ron made a copy of our rental agreement and then we went to see some architects in Belgrano that our friend had recommended.  We took a bus as Belgrano is two neighborhood districts away from us, a very nice part of the city, although a little more slow paced and relaxed then where we live.  We started following the addresses, we were on the even side of the street and we trudged up a slight hill to where we got to the place where the odd address should have been right across the street.  We crossed and the odd side of the street was a totally different block number!  Very strange, this is the first block I’ve been in where the different sides of the street had different block numbers.  We had to walk back down the hill we just trudged up and their office was almost right on the corner where the bus dropped us off, AAAARRGGHH!!

After we made our introductions I tried to explain to the two architects, Alberto and Ricardo, that I needed them to tell us what kind of services they provide, I didn’t want to ask them to do something that they normally wouldn’t do.  Of course, this is Argentina, and if you ask them to do something, they’ll do it for you.  One thing about this country is that people are pretty accommodating that way.  Alberto and Ricardo explained that they basically act as a general contractor, hiring everyone, overseeing the work, coordinating appointments, buying materials, etc.  They deliver the house to you “llaves en manos” (keys in hands) or what we would call “turn key”.  This sounded ideal to us as we didn’t want to have to be responsible for hiring workers, etc.  We gave them a copy of our current floor plan and said that we wanted to make many changes.  They said they would like to see the apartment to get a better feel for the space and then would give us a proposal.

We left their business feeling great!

Friday October 2nd, 2002 – We returned to the government office to get our CDI number.  We saw the same helpful clerk and he said that we needed two copies of the rental agreement, one for each of our applications and of course we had only made one copy.  He was nice enough to make us a copy on their office copier so we didn’t have to run out to a kiosk and return.  He then said to return in 2 hours to get the CDI card.  The office is pretty far from our apartment, so if we went home, we’d have only 20 minutes before we’d have to jump back on a bus to return, so we thought we’d just walk around and window shop and kill some time.  We walked down Lavalle and then Florida streets, walking pedestrian streets filled with stores.  We found a bookstore and looked for books on remodeling apartments, the clerk suggested another store a little further down the way.  The recommended store was really interesting and the clerk directed us towards some remodeling books, however, one magazine was 25 pesos!  For us, that’s only a little over $7 USA but it still seemed like a lot for a magazine.  We walked back to the government office and bought some design magazines at a kiosk, we still had some time so we stopped in a café and had a coffee and looked through the magazines, oohing and ahhing over the pictures.

We showed up at the office and our CDI numbers were ready, just one more step completed in the process.

Saturday October 5th, 2002 – Ron went to get something for dinner from the supermarket.  He goes out every night to shop for the night’s dinner, the supermarket is right across the street from our apartment and there are several “mom and pop” fresh pasta shops, rotisserie chickens, delis, butchers and vegetable stands all in a line, we love this neighborhood and it’s great for him to come home with fresh baked bread for dinner.  This night he came home and said that there was a champagne tasting at the supermarket so he had bought 2 bottles of champagne.  Good excuse to have champagne with dinner.

Sunday October 6th, 2002 – Ron and I played around with the floor plan of the new apartment.  He put a lamp under the glass coffee table and traced the floor plan on a blank sheet of paper so that we could experiment with different designs.  I felt like a kid with his crayon book, drawing rooms, offices, etc. as I traced, cut, pasted, and had a wonderful time.  I came up with 6 different designs, all getting better and better as I thought of new things.

Monday October 7th, 2002 – A friend had recommended his escribano, Dr. Mugaburu, to handle our apartment purchase.  Here, an escribano acts to do a title search and verification for home purchases.  They are lawyers who then become escribanos.  Much more then a notary in the USA, their signature is their livelihood and is the final word in a court of law and it is the buyer’s prerogative in choosing the escribano.  Ron called Dr. Mugaburu to see what the status of the purchase was, and he said that he hadn’t heard from anyone yet, so we called Olga to see what was going on.  Olga called us back and said that the owner’s realtor, Rafael, was setting up an appointment to talk with the owner and invited her to go along with him.  Olga said that usually the other realtor will never allow you to meet with the owner, because you could then bypass them entirely and go directly to the owner.  Olga thought this was odd that Rafael asked Olga to accompany him to the owner’s office to talk about the purchase. 

Later that afternoon Olga reported that the owner wanted to use an escribana friend of his, to save on her commission for doing the purchase.  We thought about this and it seemed that if there was any way that she could write the contract to favor one party over another, that she would favor on the side of her friend, the owner.  We talked to several Argentine friends to get their opinion and they all thought that all escribanos / escribanas would do the same work, no matter who you went with, so we thought, “Well, if the owner will save money using his escribana and if we will save money using his escribana, and all escribano/as will do the same work, we might as well use his friend.”

Tuesday October 8th, 2002 – I had been calling and calling the loan agent to find out the status on my refinance loan.  She was not being very professional in our dealings, so I decided to cancel the proceedings with her and go with my credit union for the loan.  I have always found my credit union to have the best rates, but in the past they have been slower in processing orders then a bank.  I thought about this but in this case we already received the money from the sale of our Adobe stocks, so it wasn’t as time critical as it had been previously.

I called the original loan agent on the phone and followed up by sending her an email, after 3 days she had not even replied to me to confirm that she got the information.  Great customer service.

Thursday October 10th, 2002 –  We met with another architect, Marianna, that was recommended to us by another friend.  We showed her the floor plan along with some of my ideas for the remodel.  Like the previous architect I asked her if she had a portfolio of previous work, a presentation, or a photo album with previous jobs.  Like the other architect, I just received a blank stare in response.  I asked her, “How do you market and sell yourself and your services without a portfolio?  How am I supposed to decide who is best for me?” 

Blink…. blink….. was the only response I received.

They seemed truly puzzled by what I was asking.  I figured that in this society, everyone must work by referrals from friends and “proving” or “selling” yourself isn’t how you win someone’s business, it’s all in who you know.

We met with Olga and owner’s realtor, Rafael, at the owner’s escribana office.  We wanted to meet her before deciding on if we would use her or not.  She seemed like a very nice person and Olga asked her how long she has been an escribana, she joked that it was for her entire career and being a lady, she couldn’t reveal how long that had been but that it has been for a VERY long time.

The negotiations continued and the escribana said that her fee would be $1,900 USA.  We said the owner already told us he had talked to her and that she had previously agreed to a fee of $1,300.  She gasped and acted like she had never heard of this before and that there was NO WAY she would have EVER agreed to a fee of $1,300.  We all turned to look at Rafael.

Blink…. blink….. was the only response we received.

What kind of game was this? 

Everyone started talking at once, hands waving, voices being raised.  Olga pointed a finger at him and started yelling.  It was all quite comical.

Rafael excused himself and said that he needed to phone the owner, so he went into the next room to talk to him.

He came back and everyone started talking again at once, hands again waving, voices being raised.  He said the owner was very upset that we’re arguing over $600, when he has already lowered the price on the apartment.  Ron said, “You had told us that the owner had already spoken to the escribana and that her fee would be $1,300, now the escribana is saying her fee is $1,900.  Who is going to pay this difference?  Not us!”

As Olga, the escribana and Rafael started talking again, I leaned over to Ron and asked, “Why don’t we just agree to pay the extra money?” and Ron said, “It’s a matter of principle, if we back down here, how many other times will we have to back down and pay more?”

I tried to follow the conversation in Spanish and I caught Rafael telling Olga that she was trying to “bust his balls!”  Olga laughed at this one as I did.

After further discussions, we agreed to adjourn and Rafael would go meet with the owner and try and resolved this issue.

In the elevator on the way out, Rafael smiled and said to us, “This is normal!”

Friday October 11th, 2002 –Jennifer and Andrew called and asked if we wanted to go out to dinner, silly question!  We took a bus to their house and Risa also showed up, Risa is a graduate student who was here working her graduate thesis, “risa” in Spanish is “smile” and I thought, what a great name!  We had a glass of wine at their house and then walked to China town for dinner to a restaurant Jennifer recommended.  Jennifer was at a catered lunch where this restaurant served their food and she really enjoyed it, however, when we showed up at the restaurant it was entirely empty.  I think Jennifer was worried that the food wouldn’t be good, but I told her, “Don’t be ridiculous, let’s try it!”  We came in and were seated around a big round table, Risa was saying she was starving and dieing to have Chinese food.  We started ordering and the waiter stopped us, “You’re ordering to much food!”, he warned us.  We told him politely, “Thank you for the suggestion, but just take the order, we want MORE!”  The food was excellent and we ate everything!

Saturday October 12th , 2002 – We stopped to see an apartment that our friend Ignacio was selling.  It was on Callao, a busy and noisy street, but the apartment was in the rear and was actually very nice and bright with lots of windows.  If we hadn’t made an offer on the other apartment we may have considered it.

That night we went to dinner with our friend Diego.  We had missed his birthday when we were visiting my dad in September so we told him we wanted to take him out for dinner.  He recommended a place called "Anciens Combattants", on Santiago del Estero 1435, near the Constitucion train station.  This is not a good area even in the middle of the day, so I suggested we take a taxi there.  We got out of the taxi and Diego pointed out that there was a “love” hotel right across the street from the restaurant, you can tell by the red lights they had around the eves of the building, several friendly ladies were strolling nearby.

"Anciens Combattants" is housed in an old mansion that then became a kind of military “veterans” hall.  We pressed the door bell and waited to be let in.  The chef appeared and greeted us, and then led us to the dining room in the back of the old mansion.  It was quite impressive, with 25 foot ceilings, just imaging what the house must have been like when it was a private home.  The chef seated us and explained the night’s menu to us, there were 3 or 4 choices for each course.  Diego had mentioned that the menu was very expensive, but possibly because of the current economic crisis and the fact that the menu is not in a tourist district, the prices were very reasonable.  We were expecting to pay a lot more.  Diego assured us that we were in for a treat.  We each ordered our different courses and then asked for a wine recommendation, the waitress became a bit flustered and went back to get the chef.  The chef suggested a special wine that he had recently acquired for the restaurant.  Although it was $65 pesos, that only works out to about $19 USA, we were expecting to pay a lot more for the dinner so we felt fine to splurge on a nice bottle of wine.  The chef brought out the wine and it was wrapped in paper and looked quite impressive, he opened the wine and gave a taste to Ron to approve.  Ron rolled his eyes in satisfaction, and the chef filled our glasses.  We all toasted Diego’s belated birthday and clinked glasses and said, “Salud!” 

The meal was fantastic and I thanked Diego for suggesting it.  We would have never found this place on our own.

Sunday October 13th, 2002 – We heard that there was a home design exhibit at the “Design Center”, a trendy expensive mall near our home.  Since we were about to remodel our new apartment we decided to go check it out.  When we arrived we found that it cost $12 pesos to get in, seemed pretty high, but maybe that means it was a good exhibit, NOT!  Big rip off!  I walked through the exhibits and said to myself, “This is just a bedroom, this is just a living room, this is just a kitchen, etc.”  You would think if an architect or interior designer was creating something for a home show, they would try and showcase their talents with wild ideas, extravagant flourishes, or highly stylized and artistic designs, this was like walking around a furniture store and seeing every day displays of rooms.  Very boring.

We were leaving the “Design Center” and there is usually a whole bunch of artisans who setup booths near the park, selling all sorts of things.  Ron spotted this guy who makes mirrors with colorful decorative trim and I just fell in love with one of them, I thought it would be a great mirror for our new guest bathroom. The cost was 140 pesos, but that is only $40 USA.  I studied the mirror for several minutes, looking at it from different angles, up close and far away, I thought to myself, "I'll come back later to get it" and then realized, when you say that to yourself, you NEVER go back and get it, so I said to Ron, "Hey, do you happen to have 140 pesos??"

I was happy, the artist was happy, what could be better?

Monday October 14th, 2002 – This is Argentina’s Columbus day, I guess they celebrate him finding South America too!  It rained buckets all day long.

Tuesday October 15th, 2002 – Ron replaced the faucet in our kitchen as it was leaking.  I went in to check up on him, plumbing is not his forte, he seems to get into trouble every time pressurized water is involved.  He was using some caulking on the threads of the faucet that looked like hair.  I asked him what it was and he explained that this is what they use here, natural fibers that swell up to form a seal when wet.  I had my doubts, I asked him, “Are you sure you didn’t just misunderstand what the guy at the plumbing store was trying to tell you?”  I got one of those, “Do you think I’m an idiot?” scowls and thought it best to just leave Ron to his project with his hairy caulking.

Wednesday October 16th, 2002 – We went to visit the apartment with two of the architects we were interviewing.  We wanted their opinion on if we could make the changes we were considering.



Meeting with the Architects Pics

They told us that they thought we could make the changes I wanted but that they really don’t know till they start opening up the walls, since there may be pipes or electrical connections in the wall that isn’t apparent at first (insert ominous music here!).

Every time we have visited the apartment we have gone at a different time of day so the lighting is very different each time, walking around the apartment I was nodding my approval, it is a very nice apartment even though it needs major work to renovate it.  I was talking to Ron as the architects poked around the apartment, and neither of us have had buyers remorse yet.

Thursday October 17th, 2002 – Met with Alberto and Ricardo, the architects that our friend Felipe recommended.  They work as a team and we liked this, as it was like getting two architects for the price of one.  We visited an apartment they had redesigned and remodeled and I was asking them to explain some problems they encountered and how they resolved the problem.  The apartment was small but they did an excellent job of remodeling it, although I don’t know what it looked like before they started, the finished apartment was excellent, the quality of the work impeccable.  I was specifically looking for small details like light switches, light openings, base board trim, etc. to see what kind of work they accepted.  I couldn’t spot anything that I would have questioned as not being of good quality and design.  Very promising.

Friday October 18th, 2002 – Met with the architect Mariana again and went to Frank and Fabiana’s house to see a sample of their work.  Frank and Fabiana bought a house that Mariana and her assistant described as a “chorizo” house, called that because the house is long and narrow like a chorizo sausage.  The house was originally a bakery, then used as an auto repair shop, then bought as a sculptor’s home and studio.  The previous woman, the sculptor, kept the large open spaces for her studio, Frank and Fabiana liked the large open spaces and Mariana was explaining how they had to design a house around a large, long, narrow warehouse type building.  Although nothing like the apartment we are buying it showcased the skills Mariana and her assistant had in coming up with creative solutions to spaces.

We were inviting some friends over for dinner the next night and asked Ron if he could make a quiche for dinner.  I like it when he makes them the day before, so that the quiche can rest and set, and then reheat it the next day. 

Olga called apologizing because the other realtor wasn’t calling her back about our last offer.  Olga was telling us that she told Rafael that there are 4 of them in that office and they can’t do the job of one.  Gotta love Olga.

Saturday October 19th, 2002 – Had a few friends over for a small party.  We forgot to tell Pablo, one of the architect friends we were interviewing, that we had invited all Argentines over.  Pablo arrived promptly on time, but the rest of the group didn’t show up for another 2.5 hours.  Crazy Argentines!  We had invited Diego, a new friend Alex and another new friend Gustavo.  Diego is a pianist and Gustavo is a violinist so they seemed to have plenty to talk about music.  We had a nice get together and shared some wine and food.

Tuesday October 22nd, 2002 – We called Olga again to find out what is going on with the purchase.  She said that the other realtor, Rafael, was dragging his feet.  We made the offer on September 28th and here it was October 19th.  What is the problem?

Wednesday October 23rd, 2002 – Olga called us to say that the owner wanted to back out of the deal.  We were pretty shocked, he had accepted our offer, now he’s changing his mind, what was going on?  Olga told us that she had called the owner directly because Rafael wouldn’t return her calls.  The owner said Rafael was not representing him any longer and that he had hired a new real estate agent and had raised the price.  We were stunned.  I keep saying this, “I know we are not in the United States, but in the USA, it works like this….”  I tried to ask Olga, “We signed a contract, the owner accepted it, now he’s backing out, can he do that?”  Olga said that in Argentina the owner never signs anything, our offer contract was with the real estate agent Rafael, and he was no longer representing the owner, so we had no contract.  “Hhhhhmmmpth!”, I said.

I then said, “If the owner wanted more money, why didn’t he counter offer with us?  He has 2 people who are interested in buying the apartment, why would he just say, ‘No’ and go to another real estate agent, why wouldn’t he talk to us, willing buyers??”

Olga didn’t have a response to this.

Thursday October 24th, 2002 – We went with Olga to the realtor’s office to get our deposit back.  Olga explained that we need to make sure he understood that it was HIS fault that the deal fell through.  HIS FAULT??  Of course it’s his fault, we did everything he asked, called him EVERY DAY since September 28th, how can it be OUR fault??  Olga explained that she wants to be sure we get our deposit back.  If Rafael refuses to return our deposit we will have to take him to court, a long and expensive process because we would have to hire a lawyer, so we have to be sure that Rafael understands we did everything we were supposed to do and it’s the owner who backed out.

We sat there for 2 hours while Olga talked with Rafael, explaining the entire sequence of events.  To me it was clear, we had a deal, the owner broke the deal, now return our deposit.  What’s to discuss?  I was getting tired of sitting there but figured Olga was doing this for a reason, to protect us and get our deposit back.  I just thought it was absurd.

After 2 hours Rafael finally said that he would return our money, but that he doesn’t have it right now because he spent it.  WHAT??!?!?!  He thought the deal was going through so he spent our deposit.  We were again dumbstruck.  What kind of a business is this?

“I know we are not in the United States, but in the USA, it works like this, you put a deposit in a safe, it is not YOURS to spend!”   Sigh……

Rafael said that he would have the money for us by next Monday.

I went to the gym to work out some frustration, I saw Diego and he started talking about dating.  He was saying that you have to be aggressive with asking people out, if you wait for them to ask you, you’ll be sitting at home by yourself.  He said they have a phrase, “El no, ya lo tienes!” which translates to, “The ‘No’, you already have”, meaning when you meet someone the answer is ‘No’ if you don’t ask them, but if you ask them, you may just get a ‘yes’!  A wise saying!

Saturday October 26th, 2002 – We went to dinner with our friends Dee and Fernando in San Telmo, and older section of the city where they have the weekend antiques fair.  It was just a neighborhood restaurant but the smells wafting in as we entered were heavenly.  Our waiter was this enormous giant of a man, he had hands like ham hocks.  He took our order and started bringing us food but then we couldn’t get his attention to get more water.  Dee noticed that he was leaning over and cleaning this table as he talked to a beautiful girl and staring down her cleavage.  He just kept talking to her, staring at her cleavage with his hand doing a circular motion cleaning the same spot over and over again.  Dee said, “Maybe I need to pull my blouse down to get some attention over here!” as she grabbed her sweater and pulled it down to reveal some skin.

Sunday October 27th, 2002 – Jennifer was organizing a Halloween party for children and asked if we would help out.  Although a party with 100 small children is not my idea of fun, I agreed to help out as it’s always nice to get out of the house and do something different.  Jennifer said the party was being catered at a local hotel and that they’d have an area for us to take digital pictures and then a printer right there to print them out, this sounded pretty easy so we agreed.  It took a few minutes to get a routine going but we were soon taking pictures of kids and printing them out.  They actually turned out quite good and I was kind of glad to focus on the camera and printer and ignore all the children running around attacking one another.  I was NOT there to baby sit somebody’s kids, that’s for sure.

After the party Ron and I headed to the hotel bar for a much needed drink.  We ordered two Manhattans and then ordered two more.  We got the bill and it was $64 pesos, OMG the drinks were 16 pesos a piece.  Luckily that only works out to about $4.50 USA per drink, what you would expect to pay in the USA, but you could NEVER charge that much in a regular bar here, only in a hotel that caters to tourists.  Good Manhattans, but BIG RIPOFF!

Monday October 28th, 2002 – We met with Olga to go to the realtors and get our deposit back.  Olga told us to get angry, and make a scene because up till now we have just sat there while she does all the negotiations.  Rafael felt that what Olga was telling him was coming from her and NOT from us, so she told us if we got angry at him Rafael will know it’s coming from us.  He gave us 300 USA and 400 Euros,  EUROS??  What the hell are we going to do with Euros?  I don’t even know what a Euro looks like.  We thought it wise to accept the Euros as it’s better then nothing.  Rafael promised us the rest in a few days.

We went to a café and discussed strategy with Olga over coffees.

Tuesday October 29th, 2002 – Went to Rafaels again and he said he didn’t have the money for us, but he would have it tomorrow.  Yeah….., right!  Ron got irate and raised his voice at Rafael, Rafael doesn’t speak English but I’m sure he got the idea!

We left Rafael’s office and Olga showed us that the owner had listed the apartment in the classified section of the newspaper with the increased price and also that she had made an appointment to meet the owner of the apartment.  We took a taxi to his office for the meeting.  He seemed to be a nice enough sort of person and I didn’t feel he was trying to scam us.  The owner explained that the apartment had been on the market for 6 months, but with the current economic crisis and the fact that the apartment needed a total remodeling, it hadn’t sold.  He had recently lowered the price $20,000 when we offered even less.  Friends of his had convinced him that the economy was recovering, apartment prices were increasing again and that he should stick with his original price because the apartment is in a very desirable location and has such wonderful views, just the reason we wanted it.

Olga asked, “What are you asking for the apartment?”, and the owner proceeded to get a piece of paper out and started jotting some things down.  One of the original items we wanted in the previous deal was that the deed list the actual price we were going to pay for the property.  The owner said that if he did that, he would be taxed on the profit, so he wanted us to pay the tax that he would have to pay to list the actual price of the house on the deed.  Another point that the owner wanted previously was to use his friend as the escribana for the property, the person who would actually do the title search and re-title the property in our name. 

Ron and I had previous had discussions about what had transpired so far, we didn’t feel that the owner had much integrity, after all, we had a deal and then he just changed his mind and wanted more money.  What kind of a person does that?  I told Ron, “Put your personal feelings toward his past actions away and just ask yourself, ‘What do I think the apartment is worth?’”  We had looked at almost 50 apartments in the neighborhood where we wanted to live and this was the nicest one we had seen.  I told him, “Compared to what we’ve seen in this neighborhood, this is still a good price.”  With our original offer we were getting a REALLY good deal, now I felt that he was asking the true current market rate but not that the price was inflated.

The owner showed us a figure that was within what Ron and I had previously agreed we would pay.  He said that he would leave us to talk between ourselves and left the room.  Olga suggested that we go home and think about it, then we could come back later if we wanted to accept his offer or make a counter offer.  Both Ron and I were tired of waiting, it had already been over a month from our original bid, we told Olga, “Let’s just do it before he changes his mind again!”  The owner came back and discussed the offer and we shook hands.  What a relief!

On the way out of the owner’s office, Olga met a famous clothing designer in the lobby that she had known when she owned a restaurant several years before.  The man had a store directly across from her restaurant, they talked and laughed for several minutes as Olga introduced us and told us of their relation.  Then in the elevator she met another person that she had met10 years before.  Olga said she never forgets a face.  We went for a café afterwards and Olga said she was so excited that we had finally bought an apartment, after everything we had gone through I told her I wouldn’t get excited until we had the keys in our hands.

Thursday October 31st, 2002 – Olga called to setup an appointment for us to meet the owner and give him a deposit on the apartment.  The owner wanted to meet at 12:30 pm but Olga said to change it to 13:00 as 13 is a very lucky number.  We arrived at the cambio currency exchange house and waited for the owner to arrive, the place was like Fort Knox.  The owner arrived and all the employees snapped to attention, previously the owner had told us that he was good friends with the owner of the currency exchange house and I guess he was telling the truth, it was like the partying of the Red Sea as people opened doors for us and escorted us into the bowels of the building.  After entering the first secured area we saw a large waiting room with lots of people waiting.  We got some jealous sneers as we were escorted past everyone and showed to a very nice conference room.  We had previously done a wire transfer to the New York branch of this currency exchange house, using a “secret” word when we transferred the money, it was all very bizarre.  We signed the deposit offer and the owner gave a signal to someone behind us, the money was transferred to his account before we left the room.

As we left Olga again gave us kisses and told us how excited she was, she said, “With all the trouble we’ve been through, I feel like I’m buying the apartment too!”  I again told her, “I’ll be excited when I have the keys in my hands!”

An Australian friend of mine, Russell, had purchased an apartment recently and he had a house warming party.  His mother was visiting and Russell had invited his Spanish teacher, his escribano that did the paperwork for the purchase of his apartment, his architect and his real estate agent.  It was a great party.