Well buckle up, because you are mostly like in for an interesting if not bumpy ride!
After toying with the idea of building new, we came to realize that it simply just was not going to be the best option for us. So then began our search for a house. My husband and I knew what we were looking for as we had discussed in great detail what we needed from a property and the things that would be a nice bonus but were not exactly a necessity and also the sort of things that would be an absolute no go. For instance, an older property that needed some updating and cosmetic work done would be perfectly acceptable since we (by we, I mostly mean Captain Canada) feel capable of handling quite a bit of the renovation work ourselves. However, we knew that something that was too old, as in deemed a historic or listed property, needed structural work, or had any sort of water damage, damp or cracked foundation for example, was a strong no for us. For one, we have limited resources which we wanted to make the very best use of and had no interest in doing a remake of the Money Pit, and time was also of the essence as we were looking to get out of our current living situation as soon as possible.
With our search criteria sorted, we began voraciously searching the online real estate listings and we quickly found ourselves in yet another situation where Germans simply do things differently than we were used to. It seemed that when we would call to book a viewing that the real estate agents would first give us the address (because they do not put the property address in the listings) and request that we drive by to give the property a look before setting up a more formal viewing. This was fun because we live in a more rural area so some of these properties were not exactly just around the block or in the next village over. So be prepared to do a fair bit of leg work if you are going to start this process yourself. Also, when you contact an agent they sometimes want you to give them a lot of your information and one agent even wanted us to sign a contract before he would agree to show us a property.
After quite a few disappointing viewings and looking at the real estate listings every day we started to get frustrated as the process was taking longer than we would have liked. Quite frankly we were beginning to lose hope that we would find anything suitable in our price range. The search process in Canada seemed to go more quickly not to mention that once we found a house and put in an offer to the time we took possession of the house was rather fast as well. This was not to be the case here in Germany though.
As I mentioned before, we checked the real estate listings daily and eventually a property located in the village we currently live in popped up that had some potential. We had hoped that we could stay in our current village as is it conveniently located, which allows Captain Canada (my husband) to be able to bike to work most days and is not too out of the way to get to any amenities we need. However, we honestly did not imagine that it would be possible as it is a small village and there is not a whole lot of turn over in the real estate market here. So naturally we called right away to book a viewing and saw the property the following weekend.
The house viewing went well. Not to say that it would not require some updating and work though. We went home and talked things over and an hour later we called to let the agent know that we were interested in making an offer, which is what we thought the next step would be. However, when we called the agent he said that there were other viewings that weekend so on Monday he planned to present the seller with any and all offers so he could then choose. My husband asked if there was anything we could do to put ourselves in a better position to get the house and we were told by the agent that this was not an auction situation and he was not interested in having a bidding war. So in short, there was nothing we could do but wait and hope.
After waiting to hear from the real estate agent until the agreed upon date we heard nothing from him even we had been reassured that he would let us know straight away. So by the late afternoon Captain Canada gave him a call to find out that the seller had decided to sell the house to a neighbor who wanted to secure a property in our village as an incentive to convince their daughter to stay nearby. To say that we were devastated would be an understatement. For one we were honestly upset that the agent had not even attempted to contact us and wondered when and if he ever would have let us know anything. Also, we were annoyed by the fact that we had been fully prepared to do what we could to put ourselves in a better position to secure the property but were essentially had our hands tied.
The next week was hard. We felt dejected and our house search was at a standstill as none of the properties that were coming up were anywhere near being suitable for our needs. In all honesty we had began to feel quite hopeless. Our current living situation has been and still is stressful as all the residents in our building are not very respectful and flat out disregard German tenancy laws, the building rules and the lease agreement. However, something kept nagging at me and I just did not feel as though that this was the end of the line with this property we had found.
Sure enough at the end of the week we woke up Saturday morning to Capt. Canada receiving a phone call from the real estate agent. He told us that the deal with the neighbor had fallen through and that if we were willing to agree to a few terms that the house was ours. I would be a liar if I said we were immediately overcome with joy. The truth is that we were still hurt and a bit angry considering the fact that some of these terms were things we had been prepared to agree to from day one and that this whole emotionally draining situation could have been avoided. But alas, we licked our wounds, moved on and met up that day to sign the initial paperwork to secure the property once and for all.
It turned out that were some restrictions as to when we could take official ownership and possession of the property that due to privacy reasons on the home owners part I will not get into. So the paperwork could not be finalised until early July. In the meantime the owner offered to give us keys so that would could get started on things as they sympathised with us having to wait so much longer than what we initially thought. We happily took them up on their offer but decided to keep the work limited to the garden or yard just so as not to take too much risk just in case anything were to go awry for any reason. So as soon as the weather permitted (we were blessed with a rather early spring), Captain Canada began hacking away at the overgrown cedars, removing the pond, repairing the retaining wall and started whipping the garden into shape.
Although things did not happen as quickly or go as smoothly as we had hoped, we learned a fair bit along the way and were able to get some much needed work done outdoors before the weather got unbearably warm. Not to mention that this gave us ample time to sort out just exactly what needed to be done and make plans for the work ahead.
In short, if you are looking to build or purchase home here in lovely picturesque Germany, be prepared for some unexpected twists, a whole lot of bureaucracy, and to have your patience and sanity challenged. Even with all that, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and have renewed hope that all the struggle to get here and making such a big move to a new country so far away from everything and everyone we know was right. I think that perhaps all the difficulties we faced along the way have just made us more sure of what we want and need and all the more appreciative of what we have and of the things we achieve.