Our week long adventure searching for our forever home is complete. We started by driving to Galicia to view some homes along the Atlantic coast. Early last Saturday morning we headed out knowing that it was going to be at least an 8 hour drive. We had been really looking forward to this road trip and had everything prepared and ready to go. What I wasn’t prepared for were the differences between how each province was handling COVID-19. About an hour into the trip we were ready to stop for a coffee and a Coke but each service area we stopped only had fuel. No snacks, no coffee and most importantly (to me at least), no Coke. We had to travel another 2 hours before the service areas were allowed to sell more than just fuel. Another thing I learned is that our car gets amazing gas mileage compared to the cars we had in the US. We had only used about 1/2 a tank of fuel since we had bought it in February so I didn’t have a sense of how far we could drive on a tank. It turns out that we can go a very long way between fill-ups. So sure, fuel is more expensive in Europe, but it still costs about the same to travel the same distance in the US.
Eventually we made it to our hotel in Pontevedra. The surrounding area is stunning. The pictures I had seen of the area did not do it justice and I could easily see us living there with views of the sea and mountains. I am looking forward to a return trip in the future.
Our first house showing had cancelled on us so we had an extra day to explore and our next showing was down south in Portugal. Having never been to Portugal and only hearing stories about what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised when we crossed the border and the twisty highway turned into a wide, almost American-style, 3 lane freeway complete with a wide shoulder on each side. If it were not for the occasional road sign in Portuguese or the left most line marking the edge of the road being white instead of yellow, you could easily think you were driving down I-5 in northern California. It felt like home and I had room to breathe.
Another thing that I noticed right away was that the other cars on the road were now mostly German brands instead of French or Italian. BMW’s regularly zipped by us. Our Audi fit right in and for the first time since we purchased it, it didn’t feel like we were driving the largest car on the road.
The house we were here to see looked promising in the photographs. Maybe the realtor had read my previous blog post regarding how to take pictures that told a story? We arrived a day early, dipped our toes in the Atlantic and explored the town. It was a very hot day in town but just a couple kilometers away along the coast the temperature was a nice 75 degrees. I don’t think I mentioned that temperature was one of my requirements but it is one of the reasons we were looking to move from Valencia to a cooler climate. Summers here can be very hot and sticky.
I believe Kelli will do the big reveal once we have closed on the house so I don’t want to say too much here, but after a week of searching in both Spain and Portugal we found our perfect house. It ticked most of the boxes for me and we ended up not having to make as many tradeoffs as we thought we were going to have to. One of my requirements was a mountain chalet next to the sea, so that was not exactly going to happen, but I think we did pretty good. One requirement that I compromised on was that I think the house might be too close to sea level for clear skies at night for astronomy. But just about a 90 minute drive away there is a place that has been designated as a Dark Sky Reserve. I can’t wait to visit the site this winter when the air is especially clear.
The purchase contract was incredibly simple, and in Portuguese. After using Google translate I discovered the contract only contained 8 items that basically said that the seller agreed to sell the house, the buyer agreed to buy the house, the purchase price and when the closing date would be. It was too simple for me. I’ve bought and sold property before and my litigious American sensibilities needed more than just those 8 items. I needed remedies and contingency plans in case things go wrong. What happens if the inspector finds a major fault or a whole host of other possible conditions? After explaining this to the realtor, he and his boss went into the backroom for a conference. Ten minutes later they came back and said “OK, this is not normally how we do business but go ahead and put what you want into the contract.” They were afraid that we were going to walk away from the deal and besides, who else would be buying a house during a pandemic? The original contract was just a single page but my new version was 5 pages long. Had I known that I would need to be channeling my inner real estate/contract lawyer, I would have done a bit more research and probably could have come up with a dozen more pages of legalese. Only after adding the clauses I thought needed to be included did I realize that the sellers were sitting on the bench outside. They had witnessed the whole exchange and my last minute revisions. But after meeting everyone, I believe that all parties are interested in a fair and equitable deal. The sellers are a very nice couple and I believe they want to be sure that we will be happy in the house too. I’m chalking this one up to a difference in cultures. I think a handshake deal is definitely worth more in Portugal than the US.
Everyone we met in Portugal was friendly and seemed genuinely concerned for the well being of others. Even though it was warm, everyone was wearing masks. They had leapt into action even before Spain and Italy. The waiters in the restaurants were happy to chat with us and give impromptu language lessons. It was exactly like I have always said, “as long as you make an effort, people will try to help”.
I’m looking forward to closing on this house and starting a new chapter in our lives. We have lived in Valencia for more than 2 years and I think without that experience first, I would not have been able to appreciate some of the differences of each culture.