Dealing with Italians has left me with some of my fondest memories of my years as a Real Estate Agent.
A young couple was engaged to be married. They were both born in Canada from Italian parents who had emigrated to Canada, and as dowry, the mother of the bride was to buy a house to her daughter. I found myself having to sell a house to the young couple, her parents and for good measure to his parents too. A total of 6 people.
A maximum price was set and I proceeded to show the young couple every house in the set price range. North Bay at the time had a population of 80,000. Talk about “spinning wheels” as it is called in the trade….
With each viewing of a house much discussion went on since not only did they want a house they liked, but they had to figure out if her mother would like it too and if the choice was also acceptable to his mother.
We found the house they both liked and now, I had to sell the house to both sets of parents to conform to their cultural tradition.
First, the parents of the groom to make things look honorable.
Then the parents of the bride.
Needles to explain I each time showed three houses in the set price range: the choice one was the third one who looked very good in comparison to the two first ones I had decided to show as comparison. The Italian mother of the bride could hardly speak English and kept saying with a tone of sorrow “Me-No-Money” to everything.
And now came the time to write the offer to purchase the house. The young couple was sitting on pins and needles, did not move and said absolutely nothing as I was filling out the documents. “Me-No-Money’s” husband was very cautiously translating my questions to his wife and then translating her answers back to me.
When I asked the mother how she wanted to pay for the house “Me-No-Money” understood me perfectly and answered, very matter of the fact, “Oh, CASH”.
Another time, I had clients who wanted to buy a house in a certain part of the city. As I drove in that area to scout the neighborhood I saw a recently built spacious and beautiful duplex, truly the best and nicest house in that old part of North Bay.
The Italian who built the duplex was living with his family on the right side of the duplex It was beautifully built, with marble, arches and columns, and appointed with the very best of everything on the first floor. It was obviously a work of love and pride. That part of the house was for show. They lived in the basement to make sure the first floor was sparkling clean and impressive at all times should someone drop in or invited guests would come over for a visit.
The clients fell in love with the house the minute they saw it and walked in to check things out. It was exactly what they were looking for.
And now was the time to present the written offer to the Italian owners of that side of the duplex. I was led to the “everyday” kitchen in the basement. I was seated at the very large round kitchen table, with the lady of the house sitting on my right, the husband across from us and their three young adult children sitting on a bench along the wall at my right.
The ambiance was tense.
I read the offer out loud; giving one of the young adult the time to translate in Italian to his mother what I had read. I then explained their house was truly beautiful and that the offer was top price for their side of the duplex, no room for bargaining.
And then, the lady of the house started to cry. As the tears were flowing, she explained to me in broken English that she was giving her beautiful house away at such a low price.
We all carefully stayed quiet, all of us, as she lamented, her husband and her three children holding their breath. And then, she took a deep breath, grabbed the pen and signed the document. Staying silent, I then gave the document to her husband who was starting to breathe again, and the moment the document accepting the offer was signed, here came a big claim of victory. Now was the time to celebrate a very good sale.
Talk about rejoicing! The mother said something to one of her children who opened the door to the root cellar and came back with a bottle of homemade red wine and a nice big homemade Italian sausage.
As they uncorked the bottle of wine, I could tell from the aroma that wine was high octane stuff. Wanting to stay sober and go back to the office with the accepted offer as soon as I could, I explained with much conviction that as much as I would have loved celebrate with them, I would get fired if I was found drinking on the job.
That evening, I went back home with an excellent bottle of homemade red wine and a big, delicious garlicky Italian sausage.