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Dateline: At the intersection of two blown gaskets

Sometimes you just have to be a total asshole. I’ve been waiting to close on my property deal pretty much since mid-November. That’s friggin’ six months ago!!! As I’ve written, my visa is due to expire on 3/30, and given the need to test negative for covid pre-flight, I don’t want to push it. I had a ticket to leave today, the 15th, but last week I pushed it out to the 23rd as nothing seemed to be happening in terms of getting this deal done. “As a last resort, we can do a purchase and sale contract,” my lawyer assured me last week. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted a close with escrituras in hand afterward. I also figured that whatever leverage I had in this process would evaporate immediately if I signed a contract and made an advance payment. This was to be avoided at all costs.

Today I basically lost my patience. Like all of a sudden. Literally one minute I was fine, the next minute I was steaming mad. I was out sitting on a bench along Avenida Insurgentes, and decided that when I got home, I was going to email all the concerned parties that either we close the deal Monday or I was going to walk. Not only was I annoyed at how ridiculously slowly things were going, there’s been quite a few changes in the world in the past six months. I’m fairly convinced that we are heading into a global recession, and frankly, I think houses here will likely be cheaper in a year. Also, the spreadsheet where I was tracking houses of interest has only sold 23% of the properties in the last 6 months. The rest still sit, forlorn, a few with teensy price reductions. The seller of “my” houses needs me more than I need them. There’s plenty of houses out there and there are going to be more. Frankly, all of this has made me a bit nervous, but I intend to keep my word. At least if we can close very soon.

Interestingly enough my attorney managed to message me just about 20 minutes later. I was a bit calmer until I read his message. Among other things, the notaría would need a copy of my birth certificate. “Birth certificate!” I practically screamed, and blew yet another gasket. How many things are wrong with this seemingly simple request? Well, for one, it comes at literally the last minute. Why didn’t that pathetic notaría tell me six months ago? Two, I’m a friggin’ foreigner. You think I travel with such a thing? I don’t even have a copy of my birth certificate in Boston. The last time I needed it was the late 70’s when I turned 16 and applied for a driver’s license. And given that I live in Boston but was born in California, I can only imagine what a hassle it would be to get a copy of my birth certificate even if I were at home.

“We need to talk,” I texted my lawyer. When I got him on the phone I explained the ridiculousness of the above. I said that if they needed a birth certificate, the deal was off. I also told him that if we didn’t get it done on Monday or sooner, the deal was off. “Ok, I’ll handle it,” he told me. I’ve probably been a somewhat difficult client, and he clearly didn’t want to talk further, so he said he’d call the notaria immediately, and hurried off the line.

Would I really walk? I was definitely mad enough to do so. Also, even though I am supposedly getting a good deal on these houses, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was having second thoughts. Both places will need a top-to-bottom remodeling. Over the last six months, the amount of work needed has really sunk in. Also, there’s less of a tradition of do-it-yourself here, and I think these houses would be difficult to sell to any other buyer. Which means I’m stuck with them until I remodel them. And what I said above about the economy seems more true than ever. There’s a ton of houses here, and it is in no way a seller’s market.

About 40 minutes later, I hadn’t heard anything from my lawyer, and I was still stewing. So I said, “Eff it,” and threw down the gauntlet. I composed a letter to all the concerned parties (my lawyer, the notaria, and the seller) basically saying, “Look, I made you an offer in November. And while it wasn’t written into my offer, it was understood that we’d do this deal in a reasonable timeframe. That time is up. Either we close Monday or we have no deal.” I hit “send” then texted Marco, the owner’s son. “I sent you an urgent email. You need to read it and act on it immediately.”

About 20 minutes later, Marco messaged me and wanted to talk. We spoke for about a half hour. Turns out the sellers are just as frustrated with everything as I am. They don’t feel like the notaria is very helpful either, and apparently the notaria is asking them for documents they’ve already delivered. (Where have I heard that before?) “I’m sorry I have to be a dick, but this seems like the only way things are getting done. You need to go and camp out in your notaria’s office if you want this deal to go through,” I told him. “I’ve done everything I can, and she ignores me anyway. Tell her that if this doesn’t get done Monday, she’s getting no fee, and you all are starting from zero.” Marco understood and we ended the conversation cordially. Maybe he even understood that I probably wasn’t really going to walk away from the deal. But I was serious, and at this point have almost no money on the line, nor a signed contract. I have almost nothing to lose by walking away, maybe a few thousand dollars, which I’d be happy to sacrifice at this point.

So what happened next? About an hour later I got a message from my lawyer. “We’re scheduled to close Tuesday. Monday is a holiday, so Tuesday is the best we can do” he wrote. If I were a jerk deep in my heart, I’d say, “Monday or nothing.” But I didn’t.

I still kind of can’t believe it. And given that my postponed flight is Wednesday, this is as down to the wire as it gets. They’d better be able to pull this off. Because I may well carry through my threat.

I’m not really a jerk at heart, but I’m learning quickly.