Everytime I move, I say that this is the last time. When I moved to Argentina, and I found my pied a terre, I said "This is it. They are going to have to carry me out." That lasted 11 years. This time, I know, it is not the last move. I figure, maybe 8 - 10 years in the new place, when I find it.
Moving is a stressful time. I truly believe that it is much more stressful here in Argentina. The system to buy real estate is stressful. My friends tell me I should write a book about my adventures in looking for a new apartment. I don't have to. I have this blog.
In the USA when you buy real estate, you get a loan. You have a title company. Everything is neat and clean. I know. I did it several times. In Argentina, there are no loans. Everything is done in cash. You feel like Al Pacino in "Scarface" with tons of money in front of you. People put their money in safe deposit boxes instead of the bank. They lug thousands of dollars to an unnamed place where the seller has to count all the money. You don't have a choice. When I got the downpayment for my apartment, the buyer was short $2000 USD. Never separate a Jewish woman and her money.
Unless you are Al Pacino in Scarface, or someone with big bucks floating around, you cannot buy a new place until you have at least the down payment for your place and a date for the title transfer. You can look, but no one wants to sell you their place with a contingency. I don't blame them. My apartment sold in a week, but one that has been for sale in my building for at least 3 months has not sold. Imagine the contingencies on your place, their place, and the other place. No thank you.
In the USA you have the MLS (Multiple Listing Service). Any agent can access the homes for sale in the area you are interested in. Not only that, they have realistic comparison data. Here, the real estate agents have the same tools you have; Argenprop, Zonaprop, etc. Real Estate sites on the Internet with the worst search engines in history. You would think with all the programing talent in Argentina, someone could design a search engine that actually works.
I had to figure out the algorithms of each site in order to get a broad idea of what was available in the areas I wanted to buy a place. Then I had to figure out the actual value. My darling agent for me, was an Argentine voice on the phone. I had to do all the legwork.
Real Estate agents. They make car salesman look honest. I am still amazed at the outright dishonesty and fraud. Let's talk about beyond photoshop. There was a place advertised in Caballito that looked promising. However, it was listed 3 different ways; as a 1 bedroom, a 2 bedroom, and a loft. Luis made an appointment for us to see it.
A PH in Argentina is more like a cooperative in the US. Some PHs are well maintained and owners pay an amount into a fund to cover general maintenance. Others do not. People seem to think they are better than the traditional form where you pay homeowners fees and a management company steals the money, doesn't talk to the owners, and doesn't do the maintenance until it is an emergency. Personally, I am not sure which is the lesser of the 2 evils. Property maintenance seems to be a foreign concept here.
The first appointment we made to see the PH in Caballito was cancelled because it was raining. I told Luis that this is a bad sign. It was not like a monsoon, it was just rain. My yellow slicker and rain boots would be sufficient. We had to make a new appointment.
The day comes. I am waiting with the agent of the property for Luis to arrive. The front of the building is a disaster. Nothing like that was published. Photoshop strikes again. "So," I say to Juan the agent, "This property is published as 1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms, and as a loft. What is it?" He hesitates, "It can be whatever you want." This is NOT an answer. I push, "It has to be one of the three, it cannot be all of them." He refuses to answer and once again states, "It can be all of them." This does not bode well.
Luis arrives. We enter the building. The hall is filthy and there is water damage. This is what happens when people do not pay expenses. The owner comes out to greet us. We enter the home. It is now clear what this place is. I find out that what is now a large living room was originally 2 bedrooms and a small living room. The place has high ceilings so they built a mezzanine large enough for a bed. No closet.
We enter into the kitchen. Small. I look at the ceiling. Water damage around the edges. Black mold. The bathroom is the same. The terraza must be leaking. This is why we could not see it on Saturday. It was probably raining in the unit as well as outside. This place has been heavily photoshopped. Up to the terraza. It is not used. You have to wonder why. The patio has a built in barbecue. What they called the laundry room is actually the washing machine (and a half sized one at that) on the patio.
I tell the agent, thank you but no thank you. He starts to pressure me with how great the place is. I tell him it is overpriced, full of water damage, and has no bedrooms. "No," he tells me. "That is not water damage, it is dirt." Yeah right. I am blond,but not stupid. "You advertised this place as 2 bedrooms, or 1 bedroom, and really, it is a homemade loft." "I told you," he says, "It can be all of those places." Jerk.
"The value of this place is $135,000, not $180,000." I tell him. I wouldn't buy it for that either. This is a property full of problems. I already had one of those. Juan the agent, starts to tell me about the property values in this part of the barrio. Sure, there are many properties worth that amount of money and more, this is just not one of them.
I ask him about another property that he has listed as a PH and a apartment. (I told you they are scumbags.) He tells me he can't show it because the owners are fighting. Can you believe?
Time to go. My search goes on.