Now that I've finally gotten to post about our extended stay in Barcelona, I can tell you all about the new adventures we've been up to. Yup, we're moving. Though not home...not yet. I actually wrote this post on May 2nd but since we hadn't been able to officially share that we were staying here longer, I've had to delay that post as well as this one. So after deciding to stay here for an additional 3 years, we realized that the time had come to start looking for a bigger space for our family. We love our apartment and for the most part, it's been perfect for us. Only about 1200 square feet with a 600 square foot patio, we have a decent footprint in the city - especially with the outdoor space. So for the last few months we had been looking casually, you know, while watching tv and just playing on the ipad, we'd take a look and see what the real estate market of Barcelona had in store for us.
Only unlike the last time we moved (which was when we moved here from the US), my criteria has changed. When we moved here from the US, I was less concerned with location (after all I wasn't really that familiar with the layout of the city then) but more so with the following: washer, dryer, air conditioning, dishwasher and not a 3rd floor walkup. Simple right? Well, even a lot of that was a challenge. But in the end, we ended up in the neighborhood of Gracia which is smack in the middle - less than 10 minutes from Placa Catalunya (which is the actual city center) and halfway between Josh's office and the kids' school. It's a really family friendly neighborhood and so close to everything. We have amazing landlords which we know we are lucky to have (and now sad to say goodbye to), a new apartment that was only 2 or 3 years old when we moved in and of course, key for the boys, outdoor space (for pics, see my entry from when we first moved here - http://megustatuzapatos.blogspot.com.es/2010/01/our-flat-our-home-away-from-home.html).
So my new criteria read like this: Must be within a 10 minute walk of where we are now (not limiting myself there at all, am I????), must have similar outdoor space to what we have now (Aidan plays tennis against the back wall almost daily, must be able to continue to do so) which means living on the baixos (bottom floor), AC, dishwasher, washer, dryer and CLOSETS (we literally have none here, no exaggeration). And so after months of casual looking, we happened upon an apartment that we felt met our criteria, or at least the majority of it.
This new place is well, let's say, slightly older and aesthetically looks it's age. The layout isn't spectacular, but it will work for us. It needs some modernizing and perhaps a little TLC. But looking at the listing online we were intrigued enough to inquire about setting up a time to visit it. That was on April 11th. And it's only been this first week of May that we are finally at the point where we are going to move to the contract phase, ah the Spanish real estate system at it's best.
The apartment itself is a townhouse. It's 4 floors and 200 square meters which is about 2100 square feet. There is a 2 car garage for the car(s) we don't yet own because we don't have a Spanish license (yet) and a patio that while dated, is larger than the one we currently have. There are 4 bedrooms, a library (future playroom), 5 balconies and a rooftop patio that's all ours. Oh and tons and tons of CLOSETS! So while it's a bit dated and has a weird layout, we felt we could get by that because it fits all of our other criteria meaning space and location. It's the exact same distance to our current metro stop but in a different direction so we can still shop at the same stores (key for me), same bus stop for the kids, same commute for everyone. And it's more into the heart of Gracia than we are now which is a bonus.
I went to see the apartment without Josh and the kids and while I wasn't jumping up and down excited, I saw a lot of potential and felt it was worthy for Josh to come and see it. The downside is that the realtor didn't speak any English and my Spanish could only cover so many (though more than I expected) questions. I told him I'd like my husband to see the place because I was interested enough. I followed up with an email with some questions as well as information I wanted to confirm since I wasn't 100% sure I understood. I felt that his response was a bit run-around as he told me he'd already answered the questions and we could review again the next day with Josh. Ahem, what didn't you get about the line in the email that said, my Spanish isn't fluent and therefore I feel I need to confirm these details in writing to make sure I understand???
Anyways, Josh, the kids and I went to go see it the next night. Aidan was beyond upset at the idea of moving - he's a creature of habit (like his mother) and thinks we've got tons of space here (ah to see thru the eyes of a child) and so why should we need to move? Josh, also, saw the potential and so we decided to move forward and to now involve our own realtor. We tried to explain to Aidan that nothing was for sure, but regardless, that night he put some pieces of paper in a hat - ones with the word STAY and ones with the word MOVE. Interestingly enough, 8 pieces of paper had the word STAY and only one had MOVE. Hmmmm...which do you think won? I told him the next time, he has to play fair and not load the hat with his personal choice! But kudos for using his head on this one.
So after contacting our realtor and telling her we were ready to move forward on a property, we started the negotiation process. The process that has lasted more than 2 weeks. The house has appliances that are older than me - they need to be replaced. And she balked at replacing them all. I also don't think it's been painted since the 80s and it shows. There are just general updates that need to be done. The owner came down from Girona (a little over an hour outside of Barcelona) to meet with me which I took as a good sign of her interest (at this time we were competing with college students who were willing to take the house as is). We walked thru the house room by room with what our requests were and what we were willing to take on ourselves with her permission (changing out lights to more modern ones or brighter ones). She was pretty resistant and I have to say, defensive.
The owner we could tell, was less than thrilled at our requests. And yet over the last 2 weeks we've continued back and forth. A big negotiation point for us was the aval or reserve. In Spain, you don't give just a first, last and security deposit. Many owners require an additional bank account that is set up that has anywhere from one to normally 6 months of rent. This account is to only be accessed if you stop paying rent for several consecutive months or if you incur significant damage to the property. When we moved to BCN we were able to get out of the aval by showing our landlord Josh's W-2 and his contract for work here. And so we paid only the intial 3 months (which are not actually first, last and security here but more like financing - down payment and then a 2 month security that will be returned to us upon inspection of the apartment when we leave).
This owner has been a stickler on the aval. She originally asked for 3 months (which would have meant us putting down 5 months of rent in total) and we got her down to 2. We agreed to the 2 if she would replace one more appliance which she is sort of doing (she agreed to the stove top but not the actual oven????). Anyways, the process itself has been painstakingly slow. With 2 days of holidays this week, we knew we wouldn't hear until at least Wednesday as we didn't know for sure if it was ours or not since even though we were in the negotiation process, the landlord never actually had said she accepted us as future tenants and as far as we've been concerned, we've still been in competition with those college students.
On Liam's birthday, May 2nd, we got an email from our realtor who told us that the other side had sent us their bank info to send in a deposit and to please send our photo IDs as they will be needed for the contract. So I took this to mean, we've got the apartment! It took the owner 2 days to get back to us that she had in fact received the money and so now we move on to the contract phase. I've spoken to an electrician/painter/handyman who I'll meet with next week to discuss the costs associated with doing the upgrades we need to do. We need to get quotes on movers and actually pick a date that we will move. Our hope is that we will do the signing on May 25th which is after I get back from my whirlwind trip to the States for my brother's wedding. The next few weeks are going to be crazy as we tell our current landlords we are leaving, start packing up, purchasing some furniture (we need beds and a couch), and doing upgrades in the new place before we move. But we are incredibly excited about this new chapter in our lives and can't wait to finally have space for guests (hint, hint!)! I will post some pics once we sign the contract!