I’m still new to this blogging lark so I’m not sure just yet what the rules are. I imagine the first rule must be “You do not talk about blogging club”, and the second is probably “Never blog when angry”. Well, it looks like I’ve already broken the first (oops!) so now it’s time to break the second.
In our search for the perfect house in Piemonte we’ve seen upwards of 50 properties with countless estate agents. Because the majority of country properties need some sort of work doing to them, it’s common practice for agents to work with an architect, geometra (a type of surveyor/engineer) or builder who they can bring along on second viewings to give advice about the house, what works needs doing and potential costs. Sometimes they’ll come to the local comune (town hall) with you too, to help you discuss ideas. As foreign buyers, we found this a really helpful service.
I guess it’s an arrangement that works well for both the agent and the professional. The agent makes sure you have lots of information about the house, which makes you more comfortable with putting in an offer, while the architect or geometra gets to meet someone who is buying a house and will no doubt require their services at some point. Perfect.
The house we are buying is a case in point. The agency has an in-house architect who comes along and points out what you can and can’t do. He also came to the local comune with us to help us discuss ideas with the local planner.
All fine. Except, we just received a bill for his time.
Now, there are four key points here: Firstly, we are already paying the agency the not inconsiderable sum of 3 per cent of the purchase price. The vendor does the same. That’s a lot of money for selling a house. Surely they could take the cost of their in-house architect’s hours out of this, no?
Secondly, he is a part of said agency and is listed as such on their website. We will gladly pay each member of their team separately for the time they have put into this sale, rather than the 3 per cent; I imagine we might save enough for a nice new kitchen!
Thirdly, we didn’t once ask him to come to the house. He was presented to us as one of the team and often came along, off his own back, to provide advice. These visits are listed on his bill.
Finally, of all the houses we have seen and all the architects and geometras we have met, this is the only one who is charging us, and yet he is also the only one whose agency is already getting several thousand Euros out of us.
I’m tempted to start following him around. Maybe sit down at the next table while he has dinner, occasionally pass him the bread, and then issue him a bill for my time.
I don’t know if they are trying their luck because we’re not Italian or if they do this to everyone, but in my book it is an absolute disgrace. You can’t boast about what great services you provide (on their website it even says they will help foreign buyers enrol their children in school or help you find a job), charge someone for said services, and then charge them extra for the time it has taken to provide these services.
Suffice to say I have sent them an extremely strongly worded email. I’ll update later to let you know what they say.
I’m sure one of the many other blogging rules prevents me from naming this company, which is a shame. But once we open for business, I certainly won’t be sending anyone their way.
And I was just starting to like Italy…
UPDATE 23/3/13: We have finally had a reply from the dastardly estate agents. They have retracted the architect’s bill, but they’re not very happy about it… they even said that we were being nasty to them and that they have done nothing wrong! So, not exactly an apology, but it’s better than nothing I guess. Onwards and upwards…