last entries
Dec 2007

subprime-renting crisis

The plan was all set, the plan concerning accommodation, apartment, house, the place to stay that is. But then reality interfered. Sounds familiar? Well, I for one have experienced this often enough: life is what happens while you're making plans! And what happened was, that all three or four rental objects from which I wanted to pick my final residence had disappeared from the market - and nothing new had popped up.
Ok, for the first couple of days everything was cool, it was low season in San Martin and Claudia had no problems offering me one of her cabañas.

CdB_3780 - - - CdB_3695
Claudia's "Cabañas del Bosque" - - - and my breakfast table there

During the preparation stage it had been Claudia, as well, who came up every other week with new ideas and possibilities for rental property and thus generated a sound optimism. Right after my arrival she hit the phone again and scanned her network of friends for new options. But this time it was different: whatever emerged popped like a soap bubble one tried to catch. Take the "dream-palace" for example (see also: " The Idea"):

The house on Tierra del Sol

up until now I hadn't been able to give up the dream of living in that house. Meanwhile the palace had been sold, but change of ownership was to take place only in March '08. Up to then, it belonged to one of Claudia's friends. So perhaps there was still a chance to spend a couple of months in an exquisite ambience. We set up a date to discuss if and how dream and reality could be merged. The place of the negotiations, the grandiose living room of the house up on the Tierra del Sol, renewed old desire, the first proposal for monthly rent payments confirmed old fears: 1800 US $ was way above my budget. The justification Angeles offered for this sum was to set a precedent for the weeks to come: "... if we rent to tourists we can get 4 - 500 US$ per week.." My question, whether she'd find enough tourists willing to pay that price for the entire period of November through February was left unanswered. Obviously, on Oct. 11, the day of our rendezvous, no reservations had been made.

Since nothing new showed up during the following week, Claudia began to get nervous. After all, a big weekend was about to come: official end of season, with lots of attractions, special events and one last run for slopes and accommodations. This was the big opportunity for all hotels and hosterias, which had not closed down yet, and all those, who had a free room to rent, to cash in one last time. And I was 'blocking' one of Claudia's two bedroom cabañas!

Just then, a friend of hers called up, indicating that her cabaña/vacation home had unexpectedly become available again. It wasn't going to be the final place for me, but at least a save haven until end of November. No use waiting any longer...

mima_house_6102 - - - kich_liv_6246web
The second step: my little vacation home

This was the second step of my project called "settling in". The little house offered everything needed for a stay of several weeks and all the stuff I had brought in two suitcases fit in somewhere. But once - or if ?? - my shipment with computer, books, music, mountain bike showed up, I'd be quickly running out of space. And apart from that, for a long term habitat it lacked room, the inspiring corners, nooks and crannies, where work in progress and future challenges could unfold. The search had to go on.
After a timeout of two weeks I started again. I visited real estate agencies, Claudia started a new round of calls and Martin, a compatriot from Nuremberg, who owns and runs a hosteria in San Martin, also contributed tips and tricks for a more efficient search. "Thanks" to the level of my language skills the communication was at times difficult, interesting, embarrassing, quite often funny, too. Daniel, in his cupboard-size office, appeared disturbed during more important work than trying to find rental property for a newcomer. He tried to discourage me with unacceptably high rents and an almost arrogantly fast and barely audible way of talking. Karina used romantic photos of a snowed in little two room hut and a slightly blurred shot of an attractive woman (selfportrait?) to entice me to her offering of country living for 1000 US$ a month (broadband connection included). Pamela invited me spontaneously for a drive to the only 'rentable' object in her files after she learned, that I was one of the mad pilots, who surf on strange waves in the sky whenever the wind drives everybody else crazy.

lolog_snow - - - cascada_house_6403
the two room (skiing-?) hut - - - and the house that wasn't for rent - in the end

All these little adventures promised hope and kept me busy for a couple of days, but any prospect for something even remotely appropriate? no cigar!
And time was running out. Around Christmas the high season begins and that is the time when anything with a bed and a roof over it would be considered superb accommodation, command premium prices and nevertheless be picked up at first sight by the vacationers from Buenos Aires and abroad. I got nervous, as I couldn't imagine where new possibilities would come from. The real estate people were of no help, Claudia and Martin and their circle of friends hadn't produced anything either. A nice house for a week or two? to the tune of three or four hundred Dollars per? no problemo! but something for a little longer and little less? no señor! Obviously, everybody was holding out for the chance to make quick money over a short period of time and thus rather leave the house empty than committing to a longer-term rental.
On the market everything had become prime real estate. For me it had turned into a subprime-renting crisis.

To stand any chance at all I had to increase my budget.

And then, suddenly, things got rolling.
A friend of a friend of a friend... actually, it was a friend of the mother of Claudia's son Adriel's girlfriend - got it? - who apparently wanted to move to town from her house on a golf course about 10 miles east - and was looking for somebody to rent the house. Would I have any interest? Would I ? of course, I had to! For reasons explained above, it was unlikely that I'd be able to stay in my little vacation home into December. Two days later Claudia and I drove out to the Chapelco Golf & Resort, stopped at the gate and asked for directions to casa E24. I was excited. Chapelco Golf & Resort, I had found out, was a project of golf legend Jack Nicklaus and the British Taylor family. Grandpa Don Santiago Taylor had arrived in San Martin in 1918 and settled down on a ranch called " Estancia Chapelco". Both families had apparently gotten to know each other while being neighbours near Miami in Florida. About ten years ago they had started the project Golf and developed an 18-hole course (par 72, for those interested) with 430 private lots distributed over more than eleven hundred acres.
This wasn't a cheap neighbourhood. The residences reminded me of the beautiful house on the Tierra del Sol. Most of them showing off huge glass fronts, which opened up to a panoramic view spanning from "Chapelco Chico" in the south over the valley towards San Martin, the snow covered peaks at the Chilean border in the west to the local peak "Cerro Colorado" in the North. And among those "estates" there was allegedly something affordable? Hard to believe!
I relaxed as we entered the driveway to Virginia's casa. This was not one of those multi thousand square foot palacios, it seemed to be a cozy house in the local architectural style, in which each room sports his own roof. The view: nothing short of spectacular, the size: appropriate, the furniture: practical, the equipment: everything necessary available. Well, that's it, or what?

house_front_6787_400 - - - House_living_6806_07_400
To each room his roof (1, 2, 3, 4, - incl kitchen) - - - eating, living and viewing

The days after this visit were spent discussing, negotiating, drafting contracts, organizing documents, moving money across the table, and - in the end - even signing all necessary papers. Quite an effort: different countries, different customs, in parts even different regulations - and in all these meetings I faced three (at minimum) women. When I drove up to our first encounter Adriel greeted me in the driveway of his mother-in-law to be (I translate loosely): " Hola Wolf, there's quite a bunch of women waiting for you in the living room! " This sounded jokingly admiring at first. But after three days of talking business it had acquired a different flavor: whew, these women sure use up a lot of ones energy resources...

But now I sit on the couch facing huge windows and while I'm typing into my laptop my glance wanders up to "Chapelco Chico", over to "Cerro Colorado".

"...on a lazy sunday afternoon.."

Now, what was that quote about planning ones life?
Never mind: in most cases the right things happen in life, despite all plans!