In September 2016 we suddenly found enough courage and money to make our dream come true. We had some savings, Ferdinand had invested in the right funds and I received a huge amount of money for my fortieth birthday from my parents because this year was the last time they could give it to me without being taxed over it. Suddenly we looked at 50.000 euro.
With interest rates of less than 0,4 per cent it wasn’t very smart to leave it in the bank. Our friend and financial adviser Albert tried to convince us to buy a garage box in Holland and rent it out, but we already knew what we wanted.
Of we went to Medellin in October (for the ninth time in the last few years). Every time we go there, we rent an apartment in another part of the city. This time we rented a cute little apartment with a roof terrace in “Prado”.
But how do you start? Off course we had searched the internet when we were still in Holland and found some sites where they sell house like http://www.fincaraiz.com.co, http://www.metrocuadrado.com and http://www.mercadolibre.com.co. So we knew what we could get for our money and we made a list of what we wanted. We also found two real estate agents who catered for foreigners that want to buy a house in Medellin. We din’t like the name of the first agent (First American Realty http://www.farinternational.com) it sounded so American. But it was close and our agent turned out to speak Dutch (He was born in Curacao) He told us that it was going to be a project and that it wouldn’t be easy. The agency normally caters for (much richer) people who want to buy an apartment or penthouse in the most expensive parts of town, like “El poblado” “Envigado” and “Laureles”. We wanted a house in a real Colombian neighborhood between the Colombians. Like so many others he tried to convince us otherwise but horribly failed… Still, he was willing to help and explained us the steps to take.
The first step was to get our money into Colombia in a legal way. For that we had to go to a broker, he advised Alianza Valores (www.alianzavalores.com.co). We were invited there the next day and Carlos explained us how it worked. We had fill out a huge a mount of paperwork and then the money would be in Colombia in two weeks. They needed to know everything about us and my parents, we needed things like birth certificates, bank statements, payslips, employer statements and so forth. In three days we arranged everything. Thanks to the internet.
In the meantime we strolled the streets of the fun neighborhoods to live in looking for signs with “SE VENDE” and telephone numbers. We realized that almost nobody puts his house for sale online, we really have to walk aroud look, and find one. Our Colombian friends advised us not to call the sellers ourselves because they will ask us a higher price if they hear our gringo-accent.
The first house we went to visit we found on the internet with a price quote of 47.000 euro. We called ourselves and meet up with a cute old lady who used to live in the house. She finds it hard to sell it but the whole family lives in a better neighborhood now. She tells us that the people who are going to live in the house are more important to her than the money she is gonna get… She shows us around and we instantly fall in love with the roof terrace of 100m2 with a shed we could turn into an apartment and a view of the whole city. It is not for sale separately… But we cannot afford the apartment and the roof terrace. We also have to buy furniture…
We like the neighborhood ‘Prado’ the most. Full of colonial buildings and a lot of green. But we soon discover that the houses there are at least 200m2 We do not need that much space nor do we have the money to afford a house of 200m2.
The neighborhoods next to it like “Campo Valdez” and “Manrique” are also very nice but newer so you have to look hard to find the colonial houses. Especially in the evenings these neighborhoods are more alive. There are a lot of restaurants, bars and shops en more people on the streets so it feels a bit safer.
Our Colombian friends often go with us to have a look at the house but they especially look at the location. They know all the ins and outs and some streets are more safe than others. When we visit an old mansion of 200m2 we fantasize living there together with the six of us and starting a dance school. We are having a great time together.
In the meantime half of Medellin knows we were looking for a house and every time we are visiting family of friends (we still have to be showed to all the family members) somebody knows a nice little house in the neighborhood to have look at. On a lazy Sunday when we were having lunch with the mother of Yolima, one of our best friends, a taxi is waiting for us in the street. It is the Leonardo, the brother of Yolima. He invites us to take a seat and hovers around the neighborhood stopping and calling at every sign of ‘SE VENDE’. This day we find a cute little colonial house which is refurbished with love, by the old owner and divided in three spaces for shops and one apartment. He tells Leonardo by the phone the price is 160 million Pesos but when he sees our white noses the price changes to 180 million. Whatever, it is still a serious option!
The cute little lady from the first house invited us for lunch in the penthouse of her daughter in a really expensive neighborhood. The car that picks us up in is worth more than the apartment we want to buy from them. We think this appointment is really weird and give the phone number and address to our friends so they can find us when we are kidnapped or something like that. But it is OK, they are really nice and just want to tell us that they like us so much but that we are a bit naive and that they think it is better for us to buy an apartment with security in a big building instead of the apartment they are selling. They really do not understand why we don’t want that.
Buying a house in Medellin is a project! Everything is so much different in Holland, everything is much more informal. You have to cuddle everybody, drink a lot of coffee and be nice. Time is not important at all!! Let alone being on time or call back. Sometimes we wondering if they really want to sell the house… Nothing is easy, nothing goes without saying. You have to call more than three times to be taken seriously. We don’t hear from the real estate agents, the lawyer doesn’t respond, the broker forgets to open his email… Sigh
We were invited by friends to go on a mini break to the tango festival of Santa Fe. We had a great time in the finca with swimmingpool and at the tango festival. During the weekend we both felt we wanted to have the apartment we visited with Leonardo. We were a bit scared it will be sold to somebody else. After the weekend we try to get hold of our estate agent but we do not succeed. So we go to a rental agent just to ask what he thinks of the investment. He is enthusiastic. Good!
We visited the house another time by ourselves and I measure everything and make a computer drawing. The next day our Dutch speaking real estate agent has some time for us. He is surprised that we found a house on our own, I think he didn’t take us that serious the first time. The Colombian negotiator is set to work…
Three days we don’t hear anything… Very optimistically we went to all kinds of home and kitchen stores. Suddenly we have become Dona Rosa and Don Fernando, the official title if you what to buy something expensive. On friday the real estate agent lets us know that the seller is very rigid and doesn’t want to lower his price. He still wants 180 million pesos. It is not worth that much money. We are sad. So we call the lady of the first house with the roof terrace again, if she wants to speak with us another time. For the occasion the roof terrace is cleaned and painted. We tell her and her daughter that we want to bid 200 million for the apartment and the roof terrace instead of the 235 they are asking. Very slowly the lowers the price to 225 million pesos “but we almost give it away to you then” (We don’t think it will hurt that much if you drive that kind of car) They even propose that we can pay the other 25 million one year later but we still want to have money left to go on holiday five times a year and furnish the apartment…
Very sad we go back to our rental apartment where we got the message that the seller of our dream house had lowered his price to 155 million. The agency wants to wait to lower the price even more. After two days more we are done waiting, we want it!
Three and a half weeks after our visit to the broker our money still hasn’t arrived in Colombia… we leave in two days and need 1500 euro for a down payment. The banks in Colombia are never going to hand you that. The only option is to withdraw money from the ATM’s. There is one bank who gives you 240 euro in one transaction (the biggest bill is 15 euro) and you can use it 3 times a day. We also have to pay for our dance classes so today and tomorrow we both have to withdraw the maximum amount on all our cards.
Tuesday we went (fat from the money we stored on our bodies) to the real estate agency. The negotiator just steps out of a meeting with the seller. She is really enthusiastic about our purchase. She thinks we have vision and is surprised we found it ourselves (we are really happy and relieved to hear that!) The only thing is that the seller doesn’t want 1500 euro as a down payment but 6000… In Colombia the people are a bit slow but really creative, everything is always solved… They never did it before but we can pay the rest of the money with our credit card to the real estate agency. My first attempt fails… the second attempt for less money succeeds! Ferdinand pays the rest. The agent even offers his own personal credit card it doesn’t work out… everything is so informal in Colombia. I am happy to have Ferdinand who asks for a receipt… informal or not, we don’t just trust anybody with our money….. not even Colombians…
They told us we probably gat the key in Februari…. to be continued…