Picking Ourselves Up

Picking Ourselves Up

It’s fair to say that the last two and a bit weeks have been one big roller-coaster of emotions. We are selling our renovated stone house in Istria, to enable us to finance the renovation of another building, not too far away. With hindsight – which is obviously a wonderful thing – we put it on the market at the worst time possible. The summer of 2020. Lockdown. Maybe we should have just stopped marketing the house and sat it out until slightly better times arrived. But, we didn’t and so we feel that the house has been on the market forever. Of course it hasn’t and looking at things realistically, whilst we were having no viewings, much, much worse things were happening across the world as a result of Covid. As things started to look a little more optimistic in summer 2021, we took the decision to list with an estate agency. Viewings did happen, but again, with hindsight, we see now that serious buyers were still not really even dipping their toes into the water, as people visiting Istria were still well down on previous years. We took comfort from the many enquiries which came in via our listing on Rightmove Overseas, perhaps deliberately ignoring that most enquiries were never going to go anywhere. Most were quite brusque, even rude. Rarely did we get a reply to the quite extensive information we’d send out. And then when we did, it usually became apparent that the interest wasn’t actually that great – or realistic – at all. We recently took our listing down.

But earlier this year we had a breakthrough. We ditched the initial estate agents and listed instead with a new, vibrant agency, who absolutely understood how to market a property. We have had a lot of exposure via their own website and social media channels and have subsequently had increased viewings by people who seem genuinely motivated to purchase a property in Istria. They are working hard on our behalf – and yes, you could say, “Well they would, wouldn’t they?” because if they sell, they get a fee – but so be it. If a sale comes as a result of their work, then fine. We feel confident that they will find our buyer, and so we are still very happy with them. Their work with us has been a breakthrough and we feel we are in good hands.

So, why the need to pick ourselves up?

Because our world has been turned pretty much upside down, after a series of events the last two weeks. To cut a long story short, we had a walk in viewing a couple of weekends ago. The person viewing was pretty much bowled over by the house and its decor and its surroundings. She had been trying to find a house in Istria for some months, and having just viewed a property close by which was unsuitable, saw our “For Sale” sign and asked to view. We decided that after lots of walk-ins, which have amounted to absolute zilch, we would not just immediately agree to show people around. We wanted to gauge their level of interest, so we advised that there & then was not convenient, and could she and her husband return later. Which, to be fair, they did – and after viewing, made a verbal offer of the asking price. She was keen. Boy, was she keen! She was very concerned that someone else might view and make an offer and she wanted to pay a deposit asap, offering us her official documents – we’re not sure why at this stage and could only assume as some kind of assurance that she was serious. We agreed that once the deposit was paid, we’d cease all marketing of the property.

I contacted our solicitor the next day who advised me he was on holiday but would still begin to draw up the pre-contract (a standard procedure here), the next day, so as to facilitate her request to get things moving. This was communicated to the buyer – a tiny ring of an alarm bell was set off, when rather than acknowledging that our solicitor was prepared to work whilst on holiday, and very quickly, she hoped that there would be “no dragging of feet”. However, this little ring was put right at the back of mind, as we were now getting to a very momentous point in the long journey of our house sale.

Our buyer returned to Germany, and as expected, she had lots of questions. These were all welcomed, as we have absolutely nothing to hide. Our own website is extensive in terms of information. We have an Instagram account which is a truthful record of our journey in the house from Day 1. Our blog details even further all aspects of our move and the full renovation. She requested more photographs, so rather than send images via email, I gave her links to all of our platforms. Possibly, in hindsight, I should have just sent a few photos…

As I would do, she trawled through everything I sent her. I expected her to do this – after all, buying a home (and it would be her new full time home) is not a small purchase and you need to be as fully informed as possible. However, I would also be a little bit circumspect and realise that a photo or a blog post, captures a moment in time. And this is where I started to feel that things weren’t perhaps going as positively as they had been when she viewed.

She had concerns about where the shadows fell in the garden. We had discussed this as we walked around the property, and maybe I hadn’t grasped how she would become fixated by shadows, but I also emailed, in depth, explaining what the garden was like at various times of the year. I also tried to explain, that when you have a property, and there are structures near it – ie our green wall and our stone cottage – shadows will be cast at certain times. Thankfully, she seemed reassured and advised me that she was happy and all was still going ahead. But this didn’t last long – a flurry of emails came in, all based on photographs she’d seen on our Instagram feed or a blog she’d read, some going back two or three years. When she viewed, we explained that we did not have air con – our home is warm and cosy in the winter, and in the summer, we use fans when necessary, and as it was not installed initially, we’ve not wanted the disruption of having it put in. However, she’d found a blog – and believe you me, I’ve tried to find it to ascertain exactly what I wrote, but can’t – where I alluded to the fact that at times, air con could be a “bonus”. I can’t have it both ways, apparently and she intimated that I had not been honest with her. She referred to a photo I had posted of a screenshot of my Iphone weather app. This showed, in February last year, that the lowest point the temperature could reach, in the middle of the night was -7. This apparently was more evidence of me not being truthful, as I had told her that in general, winters here are quite mild but can get chilly, and that every year we have been here, we have had snow, but it is fleeting. I also explained to her how to interpret the “temperatures” on such an app, as I felt that things were now being picked up on and perhaps starting to be used as a get-out. I also explained that had the temperature actually fallen to -7, I would probably have recalled it as it would have been cold!

However, she once again reassured me, and urged that the pre-contract be delivered as she wanted to press on and transfer the deposit payment. Just over a week after her initial viewing, the pre-contract was indeed drafted by our solicitor, whilst still on holiday. It was at this stage, she decided she wanted it in German. Absolutely fine, but it had been drafted according to Croatian law, with one version in Croatian and a second, in the accepted common language of English. Had she requested a German version sooner, this could have been put into place, but a delay was now created whilst our solicitor – still trying to enjoy his vacation – arranged for a court interpreter to organise a German copy. What a waste of time this was, as she decided later that day, she didn’t need it in German, after all. Much rolling of eyes ensued…

The contract was sent to her and she emailed to say “all going ahead”, and we waited on tenterhooks for her signed copy to be returned. Only, it wasn’t returned. I got an email that afternoon, which ended with the phrase, “I will not buy it!!” Two exclamation marks also included. Gutted doesn’t come into it, but now that we have reflected and calmed down, the reasons she gave have made us realise that this was probably never meant to be, and that we have probably avoided a much more complicated situation. She had decided against it, as in her words, “…there were too many restrictions on the property…” This was refuted immediately and forcefully by our solicitor as we have ALL documentation to prove ownership and boundaries, and there is nothing to suggest any kind of restriction on any part of our home/land. The shadows made a return appearance, making us realise that whatever we said, her mind was made up. And, because we had chosen to have a potted garden, rather than dig up concrete to plant permanently, we had, in her words, “dodged everything”. Make of that what you will.

So, here we are. Back to Square One. House still for sale. Feelings swinging between anger and sadness. But, as the saying goes, everything happens for a reason, and this is the only way we can look at it. We think, being realistic, The Printworks dream is over as the pre-contract we entered into has ended and the seller has intimidated he is now looking for more money. On balance, we think we’ll now walk away and start to look in a different direction. A very different direction. And hopefully, in time, our brush with the ultimate time-waster, will become a very distant memory.

 

A Holiday Home in Istria

A Holiday Home in Istria

Are you the kind of person who goes on holiday and imagines living there? The kind of person, who, when they return home, often to the inevitable damp and drizzly weather that we generally experienced back in Manchester, dreams of having a holiday home? Somewhere where the weather is guaranteed and where you can just kick back and relax? Whenever you want – because it’s yours. If this sounds like you, then read on – as we have an idea…

We’re selling our beautifully renovated Istrian stone house because we have found another property to renovate, a few kilometres away. We live in Istria full time – because we did what we’d always dreamed of. We bought a house in the sun and, in March 2017, left the grey skies of north west England behind. We had no intention of renovating the property and flipping it. Completely out of the blue, the new property caught our eyes and we decided that if we didn’t go for it, we’d regret it. So, our beloved stone house is up for sale.

Admittedly, circumstances haven’t been on our side. Trying to sell a house, in the middle of a global pandemic, has not been easy. But then again, nothing has been really easy and I suppose if this has been our only concern over the last year or so, we’ve fared pretty well. However, travel to Istria is now becoming much easier and interest in the house has taken off. Unfortunately, trying to sell a property abroad, is not as easy as when we sold in Didsbury. Open days, for multiple viewings are unheard of here. We rely on getting the word out via our own marketing and our own website. We’re also targeting a very specific and quite niche group of buyers and enquiries, leading to viewings, are much slower than back in the UK. However, we know that our buyer is out there – and we’re ready and waiting for them.

We also know, from the enquiries we’ve had, that lots of people are very interested in our property as a second/holiday home. We know that people in the UK are interested, as well as potential purchasers from across Europe. But in these challenging times, we are also acutely aware that cost is a massive consideration – and to buy a holiday home these days, as tempting as it may sound, may not be possible for everyone. However, if you are determined, like we were, to be abroad, there may just be a way to do it…

The word TIMESHARE is one which makes me shudder. I couldn’t think of anything worse than ploughing money into a property which wouldn’t completely be mine, and which could only be used through negotiations with everyone else who had invested in it. Paying money to have a property in the sun, and perhaps being stuck with the weeks no-one else wanted. The weeks when the weather’s not good, for example, Or, totally out of season. Paying money for a property which kind of was mine, but not really. However, we’ve recently been thinking about the concept of “timeshare” and realised it could actually have some very positive connotations, in the right context…

For anyone interested in the possibility of a holiday home, but not relishing the prospect of taking on the whole financial commitment, how about doing it with family and/or friends? A kind of timeshare – but with people you know and trust. Our home has three – but potentially four – large bedrooms. It has three large living spaces – this would be reduce to two if The Snug was converted into a self-contained en-suite, but the current living room is very spacious. We have two bathrooms – one with a bath and one with a wet-room style shower, so no arguments in the morning! The outside area is spacious and is well set up for outdoor life, with a gravel parking area for two cars. More space is available around the house for further vehicles, if necessary. And, if our potential purchasers fancy a little bit of a renovation project, we also have an additional stone cottage, to the rear of the main house. If renovated, this could become a very cute annexe, creating additional living space. Or, if a pool was on the agenda, it could be demolished to create the additional space. And, with the beautiful Istrian stones salvaged and cleaned up, all of the material would be there to build a garden wall, for privacy.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in investigating with family or friends, take a look at our website, where you’ll find a whole lot more information. And that dream of yours might just become a reality.

 

 

secret garden reno : update 1

secret garden reno : update 1

A small, abandoned cottage – in need of much TLC – sits behind our main house. It belonged to one of our neighbours and when he offered to sell it to us, we decided to go for it. The little house, which we think was possibly connected to our house many, many years ago, is very close, and we didn’t want someone else seeing its potential and snapping it up, as all of a sudden we’d have lost our much valued privacy. With the house, we also purchased a parcel of land, meaning that the potential of the dwelling really increased.

It’s small. The floor space is approximately 6m x 4.5m, but it is tall enough to have at least a mezzanine level, or if carefully designed, two floors. The roof would most definitely need to be taken down – over the years, vines and ivy have twisted their way up and out through the slate tiles. It looks very magical, but not the safest. The building is constructed completely of beautiful, milky Istrian stones. Again, I’m no builder, but I would imagine if the cottage was to be renovated, the easiest way to do might be to take it down, stone by stone, and rebuild. The small windows have Istrian stone lintels – a big bonus, as these are quite pricey if bought new. We know this because we had to buy four, for our new kitchen window.

We’ve cut and stripped back much of the vines, although ensuring that the sturdiest ones, which could potentially be holding it all together, were left in place. The roof greenery has been left intact – although we can access the roof, it wouldn’t be at all safe to actually get onto it so a cherry picker would be required. This was all part of the grand plan when we bought the property, but our plans changed pretty quickly, when our heads were turned by another renovation opportunity. Meaning that our two houses – the main renovated house and our cute cottage – are for sale.

Internally, there’s not much to see. We think it was originally a barn for animals, so we’ve unfortunately not uncovered anything which could be salvaged. But, small as it is, it would make an amazing annexe – perfect for a bijou holiday rental, a granny flat OR, if the main house was rented out in the holiday season, this could be where you could camp out.

Even though we’re no longer intending to renovate the stone cottage, as our intention now is to move, we do still scour Pinterest and have turned up some gorgeous examples of what could be done with it. Feast your eyes…

https://tinyhousetalk.com/charming-stone-tiny-house-moulin-de-liar/

https://tinyhousetalk.com/376-sq-ft-modern-brick-tiny-home-with-ocean-views/

www.nordichouse.co.uk

The image below, although not entirely practical, has to be my favourite. It’s so magical and internally looks so much like our little cottage. Perfect for a photoshoot…

So, if you love the idea of a fully renovated holiday home, but with the scope to also let your imagination run riot, why not get in touch? You too could discover Terra Magica.

(Uncredited images from Pinterest. If you are the photographer – or you know who is – please get in touch and we will obviously credit you for your beautiful images).

 

How To View Our House For Sale…

How To View Our House For Sale…

So, you want to move abroad. Istria could be the place and we’ve whetted your appetite, with our property for sale website. What now?

We could be wrong, but we’re assuming that you don’t live here already and that, like we did, you will want to view the house and the area, if you are serious about a potential purchase. We’re very aware that it’s not going to be as simple as viewing a house in the UK – or wherever you are based – but we have done it ourselves and so we hope we can help make it as simple and as stress-free as possible for you. You may be the kind of buyer who’s looked at our website and that’s it for you. In which case, we’d better start packing our bags!

However, we’re guessing that you will want to do at least one viewing and we think this can be done in a couple of ways, in normal times. See below. But these times aren’t quite normal and so we want to introduce you to our safe viewings in these days of Covid-19…

Safe Viewings

We have prepared a virtual tour of our home, where we’ll walk you through the house, room by room and the outside area. We are currently updating this virtual tour, so please email if you would like to view the original one, in the meantime. If this then whets your appetite, we can then arrange to delve deeper via phone call, Zoom or FaceTime or WhatsApp. We’ll also be able to answer any questions you have in real time.

We would still welcome serious viewings in person, but we would obviously insist on all safety measures being adhered to, including the wearing of masks and use of hand sanitiser. In a move that is just not us, because we are very much “people people”, we’d also request, sadly, no hand-shaking and no touching of anything around the house. As the visit would be relatively short, we would ask that our bathrooms not be used. We are so very sorry that we need to ask these things, but we would much prefer to be safe than sorry…

Under Your Own Steam

You might decide to incorporate a viewing of our home with a break in Istria. If so, we can advise you on flights, car hire, hotels, apartments – basically whatever you need to know. When we know that you have a definite date for coming out, we would then provide you with all the information you will need to find the house. For obvious reasons, we have not included such details on the website as we will only share this information with people who are definitely interested in taking the next step. We would give you a comprehensive tour of the house and answer all questions as honestly as we can. We would then suggest places you could visit to get a “feel” for Istria.

Under Our Steam

If we are honest, we did feel a little bit daunted when we set off from Manchester to come and view a house in a country we didn’t know. We did cope and look where we are now. But, we know that for some people it might be easier to do it with our help. Therefore, we can offer the following service:

We will have communicated with you prior to your arrival by phone and/or email and will meet you at the airport, or wherever you arrive, within reason. If your stay will be a short one, we would bring you back to the house in our car, and if previously arranged, you would be our guest in our home. If your stay was going to be longer than a couple of days, if required, we would help you to book additional accommodation by recommending places we know to be of a high standard. During your stay with us, we would provide meals and take you on a number of trips around the peninsula, so that you could get a real “feel” for Istria. Should you choose to view our home in this way, we would discuss the finer details with you prior to your trip. To cover our costs (petrol, food, drink, our time etc.), a charge of £150 (for two people) per night, would be payable, in advance. Please note we can only offer this service for a maximum of two nights. Should you subsequently purchase this house, this fee will be refunded back to you, in full.

What are you waiting for?

We’re ready to pack our bags. Are you ready to pack yours? Contact us here.

(PS – in the image above, we’d just completed strimming the grass, leaving the patches of wildflowers. It grows quickly over the summer, and needs to be taken right back, so for the first couple of days after cutting, can look a bit scorched. But the green soon returns!)

Information for Potential Travel & Viewings

TRAVEL INFORMATION FROM CROATIAN VILLA HOLIDAYS WEBSITE – UPDATED ON 4/6/21. PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU CHECK FOR TRAVEL UPDATES, FROM YOUR COUNTRY OF DEPARTURE, PRIOR TO MAKING A DEFINITE VIEWING APPOINTMENT.

Restrictions applying to tourists arriving in Croatia

Croatia accepts all foreign travellers. Croatia is open to all foreign tourists provided one of the following certificates can be shown on entry:

  • A negative PCR or rapid antigen test dated no more than 48 hours prior to arriving in Croatia.
  •  A certificate showing that you have had your second vaccine at least 14 days prior to arriving in Croatia (with Johnson and Johnson vaccine a single jab is enough).
  •  A certificate issued by a doctor confirming you have recovered from COVID not more than 180 days and not less than 11 days prior to arrival in Croatia.

Children under 7 don’t need a negative test if their parents have one of the above certificates. Quarantine or self-isolation is not required on arrival with only very limited exceptions. Currently travellers arriving from South Africa, Brazil, India and Zanzibar must comply with a 14 day period of self-isolation in the place where they are staying.
If you arrive in Croatia without one of the certificates listed above you can take a test on arrival and must then self-isolate until you get the results.

Other conditions for entry to Croatia

If you are travelling from outside the EU you must have an economic interest for wishing to come to Croatia. This includes having pre-booked holiday accommodation. Holiday accommodation includes hotels, villas and holiday homes, apartments, camp site pitches and charter yachts. You will need to be prepared to show documentation at the border that you have pre-booked accommodation. If you are travelling from within the EU you do not need to have pre-booked your accommodation. Only the COVID certificates listed above are required.

Enter Croatia Form

The Croatian authorities introduced (29/05/2020) an online form which can be completed with all your travel and accommodation details. You can complete this form in advance and submit it online. The data will be stored and matched with your passport details when you enter Croatia. This will speed your entry at the border.  The form can be found on this link: Enter Croatia form.  This takes you to a page where you can select the language in which you want to complete the form. You can select one of ten languages. These include English, German, French, Italian, Polish and Croatian.  After submitting the form you will receive an email acknowledgement. All travellers should complete this form.

Easter 2021

Easter 2021

It really only seems a couple of weeks ago that it was Christmas, and yet here we are, having just had Easter weekend. Sometimes we feel that we don’t seem to do much with our time, but with a quarter of the year already gone and the fruits of our labours beginning to show in the garden, I think that we must occupy ourselves quite well, despite not really – until very, very, very recently – being able to really go anywhere. However, slowly, slowly things are beginning to awaken. Although Istria is still in a kind of lock down state, restaurants and bars which have outside areas have started to re-open and tourists are beginning to return. From 1st April, people who have been vaccinated or have a negative PCR or EU-approved Antigen test, can enter Croatia. We’ve started seeing cars from different countries – definitely not as many as we’d normally see at this time of year, but there is something nice about seeing a license plate other than from Croatia.

We’re spending a fair bit of time in the garden, getting it ready for the summer. And hopefully, for new owners. The lavender plants are now bedded in and the crocus bulbs are beginning to push up through the soil. Where we’ve cleared the trees, we’ve sown wild flower seeds and these are now beginning to show. No sign of the sunflowers, yet, though. The dahlias have all been potted and have been sitting in the warm spring sunshine. Under the well room windows, we have a long raised bed which is now filled with varieties of hyacinths – the blues and purples are utterly gorgeous, and the aroma is just intoxicating.

Good Friday was glorious – very sunny and very warm, so we took the opportunity to begin the job of finishing off the shed which we built last year. When it was constructed and painted, it took quite a long time and I think we were just a bit of sick of working on it, and so a top coat was never applied inside and the door, on the inside, only had one coat of satinwood, so it was all looking a bit sorry for itself. Also, we wanted to investigate why wasps were beginning to find the shed interesting – everything was taken out as we thought there might be a nest. No nest in sight, but an empty shed, so we decided to crack on and get it finished. I didn’t want a shed in the garden to be filled with tools and be a bit of a mess – we have an external cellar that can accommodate work stuff, so the idea has always been to use it for storage of sun bed pads, seat cushions, the hammock – the kind of things we’d use throughout the summer and need easy access to. As well as sitting pretty in a garden we’re now investing a lot of time and effort into. I’ve always been taken by this photo and all along this has been my shed inspiration…

Over Easter, we made good headway with finishing the shed. All of the paint pots and tools have a new home in the cellar and now everything is easy to find. It felt good getting the cushions, pads, throws and hammock out of their winter wrapping and getting order in a little space which we think we finally come into its own over the summer. Hanging baskets, bursting with lilac and white and purple petunias have added immediate colour and our purple clematis has been repositioned against the side of the shed, and this will hopefully grow up and over.

The garden furniture has had an Easter makeover too. The table and chairs – originally brown, but spray painted in an anthracite colour by us – have been spruced up. Two years of sun and rain had weathered them and the colour was starting to fade, but they look as good as new now. Equally, the sun loungers – originally brown wood – were sprayed at the same time as the table and chairs, but were also faded and weather beaten. It’s proving to be quite a slow job, as we’re finally doing them properly – tightened, washed, sanded, two coats – but the one that is almost finished is looking so much better now that it’s been painted in the same soft blue satinwood as all of the exterior woodwork.

We could also finally actually eat outside of our own house this weekend, and after a stop off at the new renovation to begin making a plan with our builder, we had our first visit of the year to our local Konoba in Oprtalj. Overlooking hills and valleys and vineyards, with a sliver of The Adriatic in the distance, it is in the most perfect location. It was a real treat to eat some fresh pasta with local wine, sitting under the big chestnut tree on the terrace, as the sun started to set.

A gorgeous weekend, filled with sunshine, good food, hard work and the thought that summer is tantalisingly close. Fast forward to Tuesday morning. Let’s see how all of those budding bulbs and shoots of wild flowers have fared when the snow has melted away. Just as well we checked the weather, as we managed to get the potted dahlias into the warmth and cover the long raised bed of hyacinths, but we’ll have to wait and see what carnage lies beneath that very pretty snow…