A new country, a new home

IMGP7412 So here at last is the final chapter in the story of the international property transaction. I’d love to say that the ultimate day went as smoothly as the perfect tango.Yes, I’d like to… but I’d be lying. It was stressful to the bitter end. 

Part 3b. The final deal, August 16th 2007

Because I am only here on a tourist visa I could not hold my account in dollars, nor exchange my pesos for dollars. My apartment was being sold to me in dollars and I had to pay for it in dollars. Of course I had known this, but I had also understood that the bank would arrange for the vendor to exchange the money when I paid him. No problem – in theory. And the day before it might have been no problem. Decent exchange rate, plenty of dollars available.

How things can change in 24 hours! Overnight the dollar had surged against the peso. I was shocked to find that we could barely get through the door of the bank at 11am. The place was packed with Argentines desperate to change their pesos for dollars. Such is the effect of a wildly fluctuating exchange rate, and I quickly realised that it was to have an impact on my little deal.

At first, to my surprise and dismay, I was faced with the prospect that the bank would not change the money at all. The vendor broke the news that he would have to change the money on the black market and I would have to pay the price. Of course I pressed to find out why he was unable to change the money in this bank, or indeed in any other… but the details were never made quite clear – something to do with insufficient time to collate all the documentation required, mmmm…

I desperately tried to keep my cool, but was beginning to lose it.  Carlos tried to negotiate on my behalf, but was met with stony faces all round. To be honest I was exhausted and I must have looked distressed beyond imagining, because after a lot of animated discussion in the corner between Carlos and our contact at Banco Piano, eventually the bank softened its stance. Three of the Argentines present (Carlos, the agent and the ‘vendedor’) would be permitted to exchange between them up to a maximum of US$25000 at a generous rate of 3.18 pesos to the dollar. No more dollars were available. The rest would have to be exchanged on the black market. Carlos disappeared outside onto the street to check the black market rate. Yes it was now heading for 3.25 and limited dollars available there too. I decided, in the interests of ever seeing the money at all, to agree to pay the difference.

And so it was that after two hours of negotiations and signing of documents, I finally saw ‘la plata’. My cash! It was brought in in a brown envelope and emptied onto the table – half in dollars, half in pesos. It took about thirty minutes to count. I’ve never seen that much money before and certainly not that much of my own money. I had to keep telling myself that I was actually getting something in exchange for it… something more than the little bunch of keys on the table. You will notice that I sneaked a photo of the money. I just couldn’t stop myself. The guys in suits probably thought I was completely mad, but I was past caring.

When every note had slipped through the fingers of the various men around the table, the son of the son of the ‘vendedor’ casually stashed all the cash in his jacket pockets and the moment I had longed for came – those illusive keys were placed in my hand.

I wanted to jump up, punch the air and yell ‘YES!’, but as the eight men in the room all had the looks of people who had just bought and sold a pack of cigarettes I forced myself to stay in my seat. For the first time that day, I allowed myself a smile.

I can never explain the relief of completing this transaction. Maybe it doesn’t seem that much of a big deal, that much money, that difficult to achieve. But to me it meant everythingIMGP7459. A major decision, most of my savings, a new life in a new country… for me big stuff. And ok I had Carlos at my side, but I had worked hard too. I felt the tears in my eyes as I hugged him in the cool air of the street. At last I had achieved what at many times in the past weeks had seemed impossible – I owned a home in South America, in Argentina, in Buenos Aires – the city of my tango dreams.

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4 Responses

  1. Congratulations of the highest order. May your new abode be the source of much happiness. Does it have a spare room to put all your European visitors in?

  2. Alas my funds did not stretch to spare rooms! However there is a well priced boutique hotel just round the corner, and for those in more urgent need a conveniently located ‘telo’. SC

  3. will you be having a housewarming milonga? 🙂 i propose a game of “puny stage”.

    congratulations!

  4. Well Sal, you never do things by halves & you certainly are at the forefront of new initiatives.
    Congratulations on owning the apartment in BA – on the back page of the Weekend Telegraph there is a whole article about the wonders of living there – the journalist on visiting there couldn’t tear himself away & ended up returning for several months & who knows may soon be one of your neighbours!
    Love as always
    Mo

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