ll Nick's Croatian Adventure! 

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Sun 29 Aug

In contrast to last week, things have moved on quite a lot this week. I spent Monday and Tuesday out all day with agents looking at more properties, which unfortunately didn't result in any new finds, but did convince me that Baredine was a good bet.  The guy I met on Monday has a different tactic to most agents here. He actually buys the property himself so is sole agent on all the property in his portfolio. He does it bit by bit, buying out the different owners until he has as much as he thinks he needs to sell and then renovates  the buildings to a certain standard - leaving them as Roh-bau - i.e. structurally sound with the utilities connected , but needing internal refurbishment. On the Tuesday I saw a nice house that would be ideal for us - if only it were nearer the sea... Wednesday I had to sort out the transfer of money from the UK to Croatia. This time, for whatever reason, it got transferred as Sterling not Euros, so that the bank here had to convert it to Euros for us and I had to request them to get in 120,000 Euros in cash so that I could pay the seller. That's an awful lot of 500 Euro notes!

On the Thursday I had a meeting with the lawyer about Baredine. We have a pre-contract to buy and I am setting up a company here, Predio d.o.o., to complete the purchase. Having the company means that we don't have to wait for permission from the Foreign Ministry to be able to apply for building permission, if we want to change the footprint of the building or add a pool. There are some costs associated with this, but these are mainly for lawyers' fees, which we managed to get knocked down, as we have used the same lawyer for all our dealings so far, and registration fees with the courts. The initial capital of 20,000 kuna, about 1800, can be used towards the purchase. I decided on the name as dio means part in Croatian, and Predio also means real estate in Portuguese, so it appealed to the linguist in me - sad "jeba majka" that I am!! (Best not to translate that bit!). The company has a very broad remit - it can deal with commercial, real-estate, translating and programming, so that should just about cover all the bases, should we decide that we want to live and work here. So I will be a company director! It makes me feel a bit like one of those Millwall hooligans who run the scrap-mechant dealers on the Old Kent Road - funny how they always seem to be company directors as well. To pay the deposit on Baredine I met the agent in a cafe and handed over a brown envelope stuffed with cash - old Big'Ead would have been proud of me (don't want to mention names - not sure about defamation laws here!). Having the company also means that we can buy from the Opcina, the local council, who are also quite big land-owners here. They seem to have a lot of derelict property on their books - something else to look into over the next month. Now I need to find a local accountant to do our auditing for us. Presumably that will be open to interpretation as well. I don't think there is corruption here, but there does appear to be a lot of rule-bending and tax-avoidance! In fact avoiding tax seems to be a national (make that international) obsession.

Friday was completion day for the purchase of Funtana. I spent the morning trooping round the utilities, electricity, water and telephone, with a copy of the contract to get them connected. Unfortunately of course I didn't have all the necessary information, such as the number of the meter and the current reading, so that is a lesson I have learned. On the plus side, there are no connection charges to pay and having a local currency account set up already means that I can pay by their equivalent of direct debit - I still need to find out the Croatian terminology for that so if any body out there (David, Sasha, Ivana?)  knows what that is then that would be useful to know please! I then had a look on the web for rental income for 4 bed places in Croatia and to see what the competition are offering. I think that our place compares favourably with the other places I have seen, so am looking forward to taking all your bookings in due course - discounted of course!

At 2pm we all met at the lawyers for the completion. The seller had to give me a receipt for the balance and I will get a mortgage assigned against the property in the land-registry so that it can't be assigned to anyone else until such time as we get approval from the Ministry. Then we trooped off to the bank, who had reserved a room for us at my request so that we didn't have to count out the readies in full view of the public. They have one of those counting machines (which kept breaking down!) so it was a bit like a scene from Traffic or something - I half expected there to be a set of scales as well! (I was looking forward to testing the quality of the merchandise!). The bank staff have been very helpful, as well as very complimentary about my Croatian, so they can have a plug here - if anyone wants an account in Croatia I can heartily recommend die Erste Steiermaerkische Bank! (Not a very Croatian name, but most Croatian banks have been bought up by Austrian or Italian banks already - something of a sore point here from what I can gather). Having given Marko, the seller, his wad, we then scurried off to the Estate Agents, where behind locked doors, Marko and I paid our commission to the agent. She gets 3% from each of us, buyer and seller. Nearly 8,000 Euros - not bad for a morning's work. Out of her 3% she pays the lawyer's fees of 1%. This market could do with a bit of competition if you ask me!

This has been the first week that I haven't spent all afternoon on the beach lounging around. It has actually been a much better way of spending my time as I have spoken more Croatian and achieved a lot more. My landlady's half-brother arrived from Slovenia for the weekend and paid me the ultimate compliment - he thought I was Croatian and lived in London! Admittedly he's not a native speaker, and was a bit "tired and emotional" at the time, but even so I was pretty chuffed! Weekends though are still for lounging about - or rather doing market-research on the different sites available to potential guests!

The furniture search is proving more difficult than anticipated. There is an awful lot of really hideous stuff available, that I would just about consider for the BBQ - as fuel! There are some expensive places which seem to specialise in modern Italian design, some of which I really like, but wouldn't consider as it would be nicer than the stuff we have at home, and probably twice as expensive. Ikea are supposed to be coming to Pula next year, but that doesn't help me now and about the nearest practical location is in Bologna, which I have to pass through on my way to our football tournament in Sienna next week. Tournament is perhaps rather a grand name for what will probably end up as a kick-around in the local park. We have a good record on tour abroad, having won all our games, but I suspect that against a team of 20 year old Italians we 40 year olds might get a bit of a spanking - and we'll probably lose the game as well. I'm trying to find a local carpenter to make some furniture for us, but am concerned about delivery deadlines. I suppose it might be as well to wait until such time as we can get what we like, rather than just buying what's available as we could always fly back for a long weekend to tie in with delivery dates. My Croatian lessons at the moment centre on learning vocab related to furniture - curved, straight, rounded, smooth..

There has definitely been a notable dropping off in tourist numbers now, with streams of Italians and Germans driving back home. My landlady has only  a couple of Italians at the moment for a couple of nights with few future bookings. Dejan, my landlady's  elder son, who works as a chef in a restaurant in town, is also working fewer hours, as they have fewer guests. Conversely I have seen rather more British cars on the road and heard English being spoken more in the cafes. I get the impression that the Brits arrive after the end of the typical season, in September and October when things are quieter. Getting into Porec is a lot easier than it has been for several weeks and the beaches are a lot less busy as well. Prices should now start to fall for accommodation, even restaurant prices should fall. You even notice little things like not having to pay for parking in certain places any more. The weather is still good, not too hot but very sunny, but the locals tell me the water is too cold to swim - they've obviously never swum in the UK. It has rather put me off the idea of going diving again though as it was cold enough in July! I still fancy the idea of a sailing course though.

My neighbour, Marko, from whom I bought Funtana, told me that he is looking to sell his house as well. I told him to let me know when he is ready and I will pass on the details to anyone who might be interested. It's a shame as he is a nice guy, about my age, likes the same kind of music and I had hoped to use him as our agent here, to let people in, change the bedding etc. On the plus side he is staying in Funtana, buying land and having a house built for himself. He made the telling comment that people here see property as a better bet than investing with the banks. So somethings are the same the world over!

Beach time now. I need to recover from the effort of writing this missive.

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Last modified: 10/17/04