We, like many, many, many other well-to-do, living in a la-la-land of relatively secure high income and successful (whatever that means here in ‘the west’, although, arguably, Croatia is not really in the west, but since we like to pretend that it is…) people, with wannabe (and perhaps few real) intellectual friends, rapidly developing taste for good wines and all things tasty and beautiful, now want even more. Hope you managed to follow that sentence, and, if you did, you may be a tiny bit closer to how my brain works. Or doesn’t.
Anyway, after much (5, 6 years?) of deliberation we have decided that it is absolutely possible to have even more and that that more is a piece of land in Istria where one can welcome guests, grow fruit and vegetables, do ‘real’ work remotely, and laze about in the year long sunshine and bliss. Or, as some people said – ‘change other people’s sheets’. Yes, we will open a B&B. But of course, it will not really be ‘just’ B&B. It will be a hideaway, a very special place, blah, blah, blah…
I (Andrijana) will do it, Vanja will support me with all his heart, brains and diplomacy. He will also bring in the money while I plan and run the project. On the back of that I have quit my job just over a year ago and have been searching the interweb and am being a very well behaved kept women. That includes cooked, very healthy lunch with fresh groceries from the market every day, perfectly clean flat, not to mention all the other advantages of a well rested, never stressed, new me. Hahaha.
Villages we’ve seen
The search for the property begun in the early November 2009. Some 10 agencies later and at least 30 properties that we went and saw, we have found the one that we liked A LOT. But, it was not to be.
Our initial idea of buying a good map and visiting all the villages in Istria was abandoned quickly as we realised that there are about 3000 villages in Istria (it looks so small, but 3000 it is). So we combined several methods: many many hours on various propery websites, plus Plavi Oglasnik (Croatian classified ads paper), Butiga (local Istrian classified ads paper).
The naive expectation that the property agents will keep calling us after we gave them the initial requirement- was not met. I am still mind-blowed by how few people called me back when I called them that I want to give them my money if they do something for me that they claim they can do.
So, we visited quite a few towns and villages, including: Bale, Pićan, Bartolići, Benkovići, Gilešići, Krmed, Lakošeljci (my favourite sounding name), Mavretići, Gračišće, Milotski Brijeg, Sv Petar u Šumi,…
Regardless of how good the photos on the intrenet are (and there are few sites that put an effort in illustrating faithfully what is to expect), they NEVER match the reality. So there were many hits and misses, where we would arrive to the property and immediately turn around. Still, we did get there in the end. And, perhaps surprisingly – based on my words from two paragraphs above – because of the estate agent who put two and two together and figured out what we really were after.
People we met
I planned to list all the agencies we met in person with a short description of my experience with them, but as all this happened almost two years ago, my memory is fading so I will only mention those that I recommend.
We met Neda (Kupola agency – they advertise via Adriatic Group) first and our first trip to Istria for a property search was with her. That trip ended in a lovely meal in Livade and gave us the reassurance that Istria and its people are indeed lovely and that we are doing the right thing. Btw, we met Neda by dreaming about this property in Gračišće – I just saw it is still on sale – it requires too much work and money unfortunately 🙁
Mojmir (from Portun agency) showed us quite a few things and all were good quality places, but unfortunately none were just right. He was really pleasant to work with, proactive and it looked like he knew what he was doing, his website had the best info about properties and all the paperwork looked in order – I felt almost sorry we didn’t manage to find our property through him.
And finally, Mira, Jadranka i Veljko (Istra-dom agency) brought us to both Milotski Brijeg where we fell in love with the village and the property (but not the owner who simply didn’t want to move the price so we gave up).
And finally – Lovrinići
Thanks to Mira (who had great fun working with me and my paranoid approach to the whole process) we have found Lovrinići. As buying that other property we really liked fell through, she connected two and two together and suggested that we go and see Lovrinići. You may expect that all agents do that – you see one thing that you like, they suggest another similar one – the fact that Mira (and Neda and Mojmir) did that was an exception. And in this case, a nice exception. I saw it the first time on my own as Vanja couldn’t come and liked it (my sister Klara who came with me wasn’t so sure as that same day we saw few other things with nicer views). Then Vanja and I went together and he liked it as well. Actually, he said “That’s it!”.
Then I think we went again with the agency to look inside the houses, then again with Vanja’s sister and her architect husband – for them to take a look and reassure us yet again that it all makes sense. And then, after many emails with Mira, our lawyer and us going back and forth, we signed the contract on 31 August 2010.
We hired the lawyer (a friend of a friend) in Zagreb to go through all the contracts prepared by the agency. We were paranoid and scared by so many people about all sort of troubles that one can get into buying a property. From a property being sold more than once to paperwork being fixed to all sorts of craziness.
In hindsight, the lawyer involvement, in this case, was necessary only to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Of course, I would hire him again if buying another property. You are buying peace of mind.
I suspect the agency hated my guts at times as I was extremely annoying with questions and suspicions and checking every letter in every document. Apparently not many people do that. What do you know!
I would be much more relaxed if I worked with the same agency again. However, earning that trust is hard and takes time and by the nature of the setup here in Croatia with the estate agents, they cannot really be trusted as they take cut both from the seller and the buyer, so they only really work for themselves, never you. And I’d like to at least imagine that they have my best interest in mind. So, all down to people relation and rapport in the end. As ever, it is easy to say all these things in hindsight.
So far, so good. We do legally own the property now and have got all the necessary ownership paperwork (“vlasnički list”) which is nice. Can now finally move onto more exciting things like defining what the frack we will do with all that land.