Defining Boundaries

Defining Boundaries

If there is just one thing we have learned from the journey of selling our renovated house in Istria, it’s that boundaries are number one priority for nearly every potential purchaser. To the point of obsession. Even before getting into the house, the questions asked were usually :

How much land do you own?

Where are your boundaries?

Now, to a pair of Brits, not fanatically concerned by boundaries, because they are either sorted – or you do what you need to do to sort them – these questions started to grate a little bit. Because we just didn’t understand the importance behind them. Always living in England, until five years ago, boundaries never really raised their heads as an issue with properties we bought and sold. If we knew of any friends who were experiencing boundary issues, it usually involved trees or fences. Nothing hugely major, that couldn’t be sorted fairly easily. But, and it’s a very big but, boundaries are BIG things out here.

When we purchased the little stone cottage to the rear of our house, with adjoining land, from a neighbour, we set about ensuring that our boundaries were established and legally recorded. This was a lengthy, protracted process and fairly costly – but not doing it would have caused mayhem further down the line. So, all good. We had the documentation. It was lodged with the Croatian Land Registry. And we were able to mark out the boundaries with potted trees and wooden markers. As we wanted to keep our aspect from the house, very open, we didn’t really want to begin building walls and we assumed that if people were intelligent enough to travel to another country – or come from a fair distance away in Croatia – they’d be intelligent enough to look at a document, and understand where our land started and ended.

Good grief, though – we gave far too many people, far too much credit. We also naively thought that people viewing, might be more interested in the quality of the renovations, the space the house afforded, the potential it had, the neighbours, for goodness sake! But, no – BOUNDARIES!

But, plans have changed a little bit and for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided to take the house off the market over the winter and will be using this time to do some more work on the house. Things are still in the initial planning stages, but much of it will focus on the rear of the house. However, having taken on board the confusion over the boundaries, we’re also planning to make these much more clear and do what we didn’t really want to do. Build a wall. Albeit a bit of a funky, retro wall, with patterned bricks, meaning we won’t feel totally enclosed. Now, just to find those bricks, Which we all had in our gardens in the ’70s…

Image : www.breezeblocks.com.au

Image : www.breezeblocks.com.au

 

Our Little Abandoned House of Istria

Our Little Abandoned House of Istria

When we bought our stone house in Istria, we were advised by the sellers that the little abandoned dwelling, to the rear of the property, could be purchased from one of our new neighbours. We were interested, and with hindsight, should probably have sorted the purchase of it, at the same time as the main house. But we didn’t, and you live and learn.

Why We Should Have Bought It Initially…

Boundaries in Istria (and, as would seem to be common across The Balkans, Italy, France…) are complex issues and often are not established legally. The particular problem in Istria is that because the region has been ruled by many over the years, each regime has had different ways of demarcating boundaries and so what you might think is your land, may not be. On the flip side, what you think may not be your land, could be. Sorting all of this at the time of the initial purchase could have saved us money, but more importantly, the process may have seemed swifter. However, we didn’t – the enormity of taking on a property to be renovated in a new country where we couldn’t speak the language, probably meant we had other things on our minds back in early 2017.

But, we did begin the process in October of that year, agreeing a price with our neighbour and having a contract drawn up by our solicitor to seal the price. Surveyors were appointed and the ball got rolling. With a little unexpected blip when we had a visit from the Land Registry who had to come and assess the house and certify that it was actually permissible to be used as a house. Yep, that’s right. It’s only after we’d bought it that we found out that there was a possibility that it wasn’t actually included on any official records and that it wouldn’t be classed as a dwelling. Luckily, we were legit…

What Happened Next

Once the surveyors had been, and using three sets of ordnance survey maps – Austro-Hungarian, Italian and Yugoslavian – our borders, all around the house, were established. Some surprises here – we found out that we actually owned a little more on one side than we thought, but that the little patch of land, in between our house and the (other) abandoned house we are attached to, isn’t actually ours after all. However, it belongs to seventeen people – three of whom are in Australia – and so we figured that if we tidied it up, no-one would object. So far so good…

 

It turned out that none of the neighbours objected to either our new boundaries or our purchase of the abandoned property and associated land behind the house, and so nearly two and half years later, we signed the official documents, paid the balance to our neighbour, and hey-ho, we now find ourselves the owners of a bit more land and property. It all sounds very grand, but it’s not at the moment. The potential is massive but we’re in a real quandry about what do with our new acquisition.

Two and a half years ago, the plan was for us to either renovate it as a self contained property, or knock it down and create a walled garden. But that was before we decided to sell our house, having found our next renovation project. And before Coronavirus shut the world down…

So, What Now?

Our plan is still to sell the house and buy what we have our eyes on. The dilemma is what can we feasibly do, under our steam, to make the rear of the house look as pretty as it can, especially as we can’t get to builders’ merchants or DIY stores for the foreseeable future. We have dismantled the Istrian stone trough which was attached to the front – leading us to believe that this property was probably actually for cattle. But, you can see that inside it was once on two levels, so possibly cattle on ground floor, people on the upper. We’re trying to find out what it’s history is, but it’s quite difficult, records-wise. We’re also in the process of making it as safe as we possibly can – the slate roof is still pretty intact, but to be fair, it’s held together more with the ivy which grows up and through it, than any kind of mortar. Internally, there’s very little to be salvaged apart some great big beams, which, along with the Istrian stones, if we dismantle it, will be salvaged and reused. Without a cherry picker or proper cutters, we can’t really tackle the foliage as we’d like, but we’ll be trying to cut back the lower levels around the outside to tidy the property up.

I do have some ideas and if we can pull them off in the short term, we’d be delighted. I do need to keep myself away from Pinterest though, as I actually considered this as a possibility, this morning. Still wondering if it might work…

We’re going to be using our next few however many weeks/months in the house, to assess what we can do, but in the meantime, if you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them 🙂