In a book given to many college graduates, Dr. Suess talks about The Places You’ll Go. I think the sequel should be called Oh, The People You’ll Meet.
Thanks to modern technology (i.e. Facebook, e-mail) and not-so-modern means (i.e. word of mouth), I have had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people in the few weeks we’ve been here in Valencia. Let me introduce you to one. . .
My friend Chris (in Asheville) has a daughter who lives in DC. That daughter has friends who lived in Valencia for a year. “I’m sure they would love to talk to you,” Chris said. He was right.
This past May, I scribbled notes as they told us all about life in Valencia: how they’d go back in a heartbeat, how much we were going to love it. The weather. The people. The lifestyle. “Any suggestions on where to live?” we asked. Their top recommendation wasn’t a place, but a person: Margarita.
“You must meet her. She has a B and B. But she also helps people like you find apartments. She’s so nice. Tell her we sent you.” They couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful this woman was. “She can help you with anything. Oh! And she has an apartment she rents out to you while you’re looking!”
So within days of arriving in Valencia, I sent Margarita an email. She offered to meet us the next day. Michael and I walked into a quiet plaza in the old part of the city. There was no sign indicating a Bed and Breakfast, but we did as instructed and rang the bell. Margarita’s smile and warm greeting were enough to convince me. She has lived in Valencia for twenty years; she speaks five languages. Around her coffee table, surrounded by art she’s collected from all over the world, we shared our stories and she welcomed the opportunity to help us.
Days later, we moved into her aforementioned guest apartment. We toured rentals with her, sent our questions to her, and learned more than a few things:
- Though a listing says an apartment doesn’t have heating, if it has air conditioning, often the same unit is also your heating. (And despite what anyone tells you, you should get an apartment with heating. It can get cool in the winter months here!)
- When you find a place you like, check to be sure everything works. The faucets. The hot water. The light switches. The A/C. The heat. Do all the windows actually open? Or are some painted shut?
- Though the agent tells you they have other people looking at the place, they probably don’t. It’s actually a renters market here at the moment, contrary to what real estate agents want you to believe.
- Some landlords only want to rent to Spaniards. It’s not that they have anything against Americans. It’s more that they don’t know enough about what it takes for us to be here–financially speaking. Tenants have a lot of rights here (can squat in a place for years, apparently) so the landlords want to be sure you’ll pay. In this country, they want to see that you have a job with a Spanish company or have Spanish tax records. We have neither. “We can show what we have in our bank accounts,” we said. “Doesn’t matter,” Margarita told us. Luckily, though, there are some landlords who know what financial proof we had to show to get our one-year visas–landlords who would welcome American tenants. Those were the landlords we needed to find.
In between apartment viewings, Margarita also helped us secure the next pieces of our visa here in Spain. When the police officer at a government office said what we wanted to do couldn’t be done, Margarita talked to him in Spanish for us. The sour look on his face as he walked away made me think we were NOT going to get what we wanted.
“He’s letting us,” Margarita said. I looked at her, stunned. “The policemen here will always say no at first. But they are human. You just talk to them.” She smiled and shrugged.
On Wednesday afternoon, we signed a lease. Hours later, we moved in. Could we have done it without Margarita? Sure. Would we have wanted to? Never.
(I have not been great about taking photos. I’ll get one of us with Margarita soon!)