As a rule second thoughts should be resolved before any commitments are made. You ponder, soul search, research, and then go over it all again. Well, that’s my process. Donna’s process involves gut instincts and a clear sense of possibilities. It’s, “We can do this!” “Should we do this?” That comes later.
Donna tends to suffer from buyer’s remorse. I don’t. My role is to assure her, quite accurately, that her instincts have always served us well.
No one has ever created a house that is maintenance free. Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses are considered architectural masterpieces. They leak. Water, bugs, shifting ground, basic wear and tear, deferred maintenance, design flaws, and shoddy work all conspire to bring a house down. New, old, newly renovated it doesn’t matter.
When you put all of this in a foreign country the rent vs buy debate looms large. The generic advice is always to rent for a year, and then buy. There is merit in that advice, but very little romance.
Any discussion Donna and I had about renting was short lived. We knew we loved Spain and wanted to be there. We knew constantly rearranging furniture, something Donna has done in every VRBO we’ve ever stayed in, would get old. “If you rent a house, it’s never really yours! You adapt to it. It never adapts to you!”
It’s true. You wind up trying to ignore an ugly couch sized painting that acquires an obscene nickname within the first week. The fridge is inadequate, and poorly placed. The rug looks like a dog blanket, and the drawer pulls look like clowns’ noses. So, we bought our house, its problems, and it’s surprises.
Without really understanding the torrential rains that come with Spain’s Gota Fria I knew the catwalk at the bottom of a run of roof tiles was problematic. The drain was too small. It was easily clogged, and difficult to get to. The plaster blowouts in the living room, and leakage in Donna’s dressing room, were evidence of water infiltration problems. The exterior of the house needed painting. There were blowouts on the front exterior wall that needed to be addressed. A crew was retained to repair the blowouts and paint the house.
While the tile in the living and dining room was being replaced a bathroom pipe sprung a leak. To address the leak fragile antique tiles had to be removed. This revealed lead pipes, and left a hole in the wall. Donna’s response was, “The pipes are lead? Did my grandbabies drink the water???”
Exterior mounted copper pipe was ordered and installed. Copper tile replaced the irreplaceable and irretrievably damaged blue tiles. The bank account took at hit. The end result is pleasing. Without the help of our neighbor, Kirsteen, the project would have been a nightmare.
The house was scheduled to be painted before we arrived in October. Bureaucratic sludge put our project on hold. October came and went. Promises of “tomorrow” became promises of “next week”. Permission to occupy the street and put up a scaffold appeared to be the holdup. Permission was an unnecessary formality. Our house is set back. The scaffolding was never going to block the street.
The project started on November 20th. There was no fanfare. The crew rolled up, erected the scaffold, and started banging on the front of the house.
The houses in Oliva’s historic old town are constructed with “God Knows What”, and repaired with whatever is on hand. Paint doesn’t appear to want to stick to any of it. A short walk down Calle Antonio Maura reveals a dozen failed attempts.
Our house was built with bricks, rocks, blocks, and boulders. Paint prep requires scraping the walls down to solid material, filling the bigger holes with honeycombed bricks, creating a solid concrete base, and then applying architectural plaster. We hoped most of this work would be limited to the bottom half of the front wall. That was wishful thinking.
The drain on the catwalk below the roof tiles was the culprit. It was a decorative feature. Moving up from the street there was a new plastic pipe. It was connected to a metal pipe. The metal pipe was connected to a clay pipe, and the clay pipe wasn’t connected to anything. There was a large gap between the drain and the rest of the downspout. Water flowed into the catwalk drain and from there seeped to the ground between “God Knows What” and the plaster. The blowouts were inevitable, and more extensive than anyone figured.
“So, any second thoughts?” The new floortile Malcom installed is perfect. It’s just as Donna imagined it. The exterior mounted copper plumbing has decorative appeal and isn’t toxic. The copper tile covering the hole in the bathroom looks almost intentional. That I insisted on addressing the catwalk drain and having the house painted pleases Donna. It also makes my insistence look reasonable. Anything that makes a Taurus look reasonable instead of just plain stubborn is a good thing.
Rent or buy? Wrestling with a house’s problems and surprises is what makes it yours. You come to understand and appreciate what previous owners tried to accomplish. The house acquires a personality of its own. Sometimes you come to despise a house. Sometimes a house is just a way station. When gut instincts and best laid plans come together you can wind up loving a house. In this case a house that has always felt like home is being given a longer life. At our age we can see the beauty in that.