Success!

So there we were back to square one. The disappointment and stress of losing the last house was tough. At the time it like we had just wasted 5 months but I like to think of it as experience gained. It only made me stronger and more determined to find a property.

Upgrade
Upgrade

It was a busy time for us and my trusty Pajero started not to be so trustworthy. Now my Pajero was a 13-year-old car so its obvious that we will need to spend money on it from time to time however the amounts of times it went in to get so called fixed was starting to become a joke.

Chicarron
Chicarron

Let’s just say I am not the biggest fan of Dominican mechanics – it reminds me of being in Vietnam – they do just enough to get the car running again rather than fixing the issue properly in the first place. A couple of times we took the car in and they actually made the problem worse! So after three breakdowns in a week consisting of the alternator, starter motor and an electrical problem that decided to cut all power from the car when you needed it the most ie at dark on when it stars raining on the motorway and your wipers stop working – I decided it had to go. The problem was what to get next… we didn’t have a lot of money to get anything really decent – although I was happy to get anything that used less gas. All the Toyotas and Hondas are crazy prices but reliable, European cars are expensive for parts and cars from the USA are not the most economical.

Typical night out
Typical night out

My friend Jose told me he was thinking of selling his Jeep Grand Cherokee… a 4.0 litre petrol V6 – however he had owned it from new and it was low mileage and in great condition. There was not much else around that we saw so we decided to buy that from him and I have to say is an awesome car – the only problem is I cry every time I put gas in it. The gas price at the moment is around $6.20 a gallon which is crazy – did not learn my lesson!

Got it!
Got it!

Never to let a bad experience put us off we went on the search again. this time far less successful – we quickly realized that with our budget there was not a lot around that we could afford in the Colonial Zone. We were on first name basis with most of the realtors in that area and had called practically every house with a for sale sign – I can honestly say I have walked every single street in the Colonial Zone – multiple times!

Bit of a mess!
Bit of a mess!

We were starting to get a bit down as what was becoming clear was that maybe we could not afford the type of property that we needed. So rather than give up we decided to broaden our search; not in area but in condition of the building. I do like a good project so on one of our many treks around the zone myself and Jose stumbled upon this old man living in a huge but derelict old house.

Planning stage
Planning stage

He had a well-known family name and had been left a lot of property in the Colonial Zone. About 15 years ago he had a stroke in the middle of fixing them up so all the properties were up for sale. So armed with a list of his properties we started looking; all of which needed a lot of work.

Jose does not look impressed
Jose does not look impressed

We looked at one that was 450sqm and within our price range and laughed, not giving it a second thought as we left. I remember laughing with Jose saying it was huge but far to much work – someone would be crazy to buy that place.

Garden View
Garden View

So the hunt went on and our search looked to be doomed, until one time me and Jose were sitting in the Zone talking over a few Presidentes (something that we do a lot thinking about it) and decided that we should take another look at the house. So we went down again and it was just as bad as we remember, needed new floors, new roof and pretty much everything else. So it looked like we would have to do some research into renovating a property in the Colonial Zone.

Bit of the mess!
Bit of the mess!

The Colonial Zone is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which limits you to what you can do with the properties, so we went to Patrimonio to see what we have to do to get permits for renovation. To my surprise they were really helpful and went around that week to take photos and survey the property. It turns out that it is over 400 years old, one of the first built in the Colonial Zone. They said it shouldn’t be a problem as we were just restoring the property rather than making structural changes.

A big project
A big project

It took us a couple of weeks to do a check on the title and to try and figure out how much the renovations would cost. To do this we needed plans of the buildings which the owner did not have. Not wanting to spend money to get new plans drawn up on a property I did not own we went on the search. Research showed us that there are a few places that could have plans: Patrimonio, Catastral and Obras Publicas. Unfortunately, no plans were found – which put us in a situation of not knowing an accurate cost for renovations. That said the price left us a little room for manoeuvre so we decided to put in an offer.

Now the owner was a bit crazy, myself and Jose were discussing the price with him when all of a sudden he picked up a jug and started to pee in it… yep you heard right, pulled it out and started peeing, no warning nothing. We didn’t really know where to look, suddenly the roof of his building became very interesting.
This happened a few times over our next couple of visits but through preserving we eventually we agreed on a price. We were eager to complete as we were heading back to America for a few months of work but the owner started to drag his heals – I was starting to get a little nervous. We had agreed on a date so I made the plans to have the funds in place. The day before the completion we were running around trying to get things sorted and thought we would call to confirm the time to meet at the bank.

First Floor
First Floor

We got no response so decided to visit him; the response was he can’t speak to us right now so maybe we can complete next week… ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! I was so mad at the time – how could this guy pull out like that a day before. At that point I was so deflated that I had all but given up. That’s two properties that have fallen through, maybe this was just not meant to be…
After that experience we headed off to America for a few months and were deciding what to do. That property was still in my head all summer, so much so that when we got back we decided to pay the owner another visit to see why he had pulled out a few months back. Apparently he felt the price was to low and the timing was bad as it was an election year. Not many people like doing business before elections here as a lot can change.

Even though my pride was telling me to walk away as he had messed us around earlier in the year I really felt that this place had potential. We eventually came to an agreement to buy, but it was so up and down, one day it looked like it was going to happen but the next day something would come up and the deal looked dead. One of the sticking points was that he had a friend living in there running a small business that needed two months before he could leave and I really didn’t want to buy a property with a tenant – the law protects the tenant here not the owner.

In the end we signed a contract that he would leave in two months and in the meantime he would look after the property to ensure we have no squatters.
So Tuesday 11th September 2012 we are in the bank and ready to sign the contract to buy the property.
I did not know what to feel – one part of me was excited, another part was nervous thinking this is a huge project and another part of me was just waiting for something to go wrong – I was a nervous wreck but to my (and Katherine’s) relief the deal was completed, we now own a property in the Zona Colonial! It is a huge project but I cannot wait to get stuck in! Please see some of the pictures below:

Holding up the roof
Holding up the roof

A huge sigh of relief was given by ourselves and our families. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, all this time was just spent waiting for this to happen and then it finally completed. Shit, now I really have to improve my Spanish! I am very fortunate to have met some awesome friends over here and have a great family that have helped no end.
So this is where the story begins, I know there is going to be blood, sweat and tears in the upcoming months as it is a mammoth project to undertake but I am really excited. I am going to document the transformation from start to finish over the coming months so please check back from time to time.