Updated: May 26, 2021
We had arrived and were eager to go. However, local restrictions had other plans for us. In addition, there had been a delay on the house completion and I was nervous about putting offers in on properties prematurely.
'Putting offers in' probably isn't the right description. We had spent the last 10 months thoroughly inspecting the photographs of one particular house. More than that, I had already re-designed it in my head. I loved the location, the size, the space and the potential. Renovating a property after having only just finished our last one hadn't been on the cards, but this one needed minimal work as far as we could see. We had visited the village on our last trip to the island and had fallen in love with its calmness and the swishing of the trees towering above the village square, which offered a good selection of kafeneons and tavernas. A good piece of advice that had been given to us was to choose the village and then choose the house. You can change a house but you can't change the village, and thankfully we got a good feeling from this one. The locals were all welcoming and the free mezes with our drinks sealed the deal - this isn't commonplace anymore in the more commercial areas.
We made an appointment to view the house. Triple eek!
Here was our checklist for our new home, decided many months before our move:-
* It needs to have at least 100m2 living space.
* It needs to have a good amount of outdoor land, maybe around 800m2.
* No stairs - Gary has a thing about this being our forever home and so we don't want steps in our old age.
* It needs to be on the outskirts of a village, or set on its own. We like privacy and didn't want to be overlooked or feel hemmed in.
This property met with our criteria. The location on the very edge of the village gave us the option of complete privacy, or to fully embrace village life. We would be within staggering distance of the square and the vision of participating in future village festivals was very appealing.
How magical would it be to have the sounds of 'Zorba the Greek' floating up to the house and hearing the excitable cheers of Opa! from the locals each time the Greek dancing stepped up a notch.
::Random photo inserted just for thumbnail purposes. Location Ziros, Lassithi::
The day arrived and we took along our Greek friend, just in case of potential a language barrier. It turned out to be a wise move as our host didn't speak any English. We have started to learn Greek but it's a difficult language. So far, our vocabulary is limited to saying our names, the alphabet and numbers 1-10, which is not exactly helpful in this situation. Gary is excelling as he has also learnt his weekdays. I can read Greek but don't know what the words mean. The main point is that we are making some progress but not enough to navigate the situation at hand.
I had practiced at playing it cool, fully expecting to have to quash the giddiness so as not to weaken our negotiating stance. It seems that practice had been unnecessary, as we walked around the property realising that there was much more work than we had initially anticipated. Yes, it still had lots of potential and our interest was still intact, but the asking price was clearly exaggerated. We would later find out that this had been set based on the needs of the 4 inheritors, each with large tax liabilities and an unwillingness to budge. Pricing a house in this way is commonplace, but negotiations can usually be far more aggressive than in the UK. Sadly, not in this case. It was a no-go.
The ensuing weeks were spent trawling through the websites that we had already gone through with a fine-tooth comb over the last 10 months and there was a slight panic setting in. This panic was elevated when we realised that a lot of the properties that had been on the market for well over a year were now popping up as 'under offer' or 'sold'. How was this happening when we were still in various stages of lockdown across the world?
We had seen a different house over our initial planned budget, but we decided it was still worth considering and made some enquiries. The result was .......... 'it's now under offer'. The panic resurfaced and if I'm being really honest, there was a time for me when I thought of the beautiful home we had left behind and I wondered if we had made an awful mistake. Not for Gary though, he was steadfast and confident that no matter what happened, we would find somewhere.
We found ourselves in regular chorus with West Side Story's 'Somewhere'.
'There's a place for us Somewhere a place for us Peace and quiet and open air Wait for us somewhere'
The harmonising still needs some work, but no matter. We each would hold the others hand and smile each time we sang it. Better still, we were both back to the belief that there was no stumbling block that we couldn't overcome.
We went back to the drawing board, but nothing was even coming close to our criteria and so we widened our search outside of the Lassithi prefecture (think of Lassithi as being Lancashire and Heraklion as being Yorkshire). We found some potentials in the far south of the Heraklion prefecture that looked fairly interesting and made enquiries. Going back to the restrictions, we were unable to travel from prefecture to prefecture and so we couldn't book any viewings until at least the middle of May. The delay was frustrating. Within our prefecture, we visited various properties, from concrete skeletons to traditional buildings. All had some pros, lots of cons and some made for interesting stories. The sheep in next doors garden didn't put me off one of them but their rubbish strewn around did. The stunning 43,000 m2 olive grove with a building for renovation was like being enveloped in a calming ball of lavender-infused cotton wool, but the 2km unfinished road on the side of a steep cliff to get there was terrifying.
We had 5 viewings booked with one agent, all to be viewed on the same day.
I had arrived with the details printed off, each house with its own page for my notes, organised by distance from our meeting point. The introductions and small talk over, I presented what I believed to be our first port of call.
"Yes, we can look at the outside of this house, but we cannot look inside."
"Why?" I asked, slightly perplexed.
"Because it is rented."
"But I can't buy a house unless I have been inside it."
"Yes, we can look outside of it, but not inside it."
"Well, there's not really any point viewing it, shall we move to the next. What about this one?"
"Yes, we can look outside it, but not inside it."
"Is that rented too?"
"Yes. They have just signed a 3-year contract, but we can still look outside"
"But we need a house now, we can't wait 3 years."
"I can ask the owners to tell them to move out?"
"No! Well, we won't bother with that one either. What about number 3?"
There was an air of excitement as she informed us she had the keys and we were able to look inside today. However, that was followed by her advising us that the owners were no longer sure whether they wished to sell. Scratch that one too.
We were then offered to see some other properties that she had brought the keys for, beautiful properties apparently. I was a little despondent, I had already trawled their entire website and the five I had chosen met with our aspirations. But we were there, we had set aside the full day to view 5 properties and we were already 3 in with no physical viewings and so we went along with it. I haven't mentioned part of our criteria was also that it wasn't high up, where the climate is much cooler.
We followed her so far up a treacherous mountain road that I wouldn't have been surprised if I'd had a nosebleed. The wind was howling, our van was shaking and we were on an asphalt road that had seen much better days. On one section, the ground under the road had come away, leaving an overhang that was ready to fall. One more earthquake and I reckon it would have been kaputt. I was terrified. Each bend took us higher and higher until my nerves could no longer take it and I squealed at Gary to stop. We beeped and flashed at our estate agent guide, but I suspect the whirling sounds of the gale force winds muffled the noise and she continued. I tried to call her - no response. There are times in life when it feels as though you are already invested and so you do something you didn't particularly want to do. That absolutely was not the case for me. My superhero managed to conduct a 3-point turn, on the tiniest road imaginable, in difficult circumstances, simultaneously telling me to close my eyes whilst he got us back down the mountain. I didn't think we were getting out of that one alive.
During the weeks that had passed, a friend had mentioned a house in their village that was available. I immediately dived into the criteria that was metaphorically set in stone and dismissed it, being in the centre of a village did not appeal to us.
If we had a penny every time we quoted everything happens for a reason we would be millionaires.
We had to pay the aforementioned friend a visit. The offer to view the house resurfaced and after being told that someone in the village held a set of keys, there was a shrug of the shoulders and a 'why not?' conversation.
Serendipity bowed deeply and stepped aside, allowing us to enter into a courtyard that could have easily been hiding fairies. It was magical.
We fell in love.
There is a sad backstory as to why the house is in its mid-renovated state, clearly having been lavished with love and attention once upon a time. That isn't my story to tell though.
* Did it have at least 100m2 living space. It did.
* Did it have a good amount of outdoor land. I'm still not sure what size the outdoor area is. What I do know, is that it isn't land but several very pretty courtyards, currently overgrown and in need of some tlc.
* Was it all on one level with no stairs. Absolutely not.
* Was it on the outskirts of a village, or set on its own. Nope.
* Did it have a dead cat. Yes. This bullet point is purely observational.
What was superbly unexpected was the feels that it gave us.
We had found THE ONE.
::Photo location Ziros, Lassithi::