No sooner had I returned to Victoria, B.C., in late September 2011 than Eddy the Realtor phoned me with the happy news that Sergio, our developer, had decided not to tile our terrace. This was because he said we bought our condo for a fraction (55 per cent) of what he thought it was worth. In his mind he had been taken.
I felt my not yet rested veins begin to throb again. I massaged my temples vigorously. What was going on? How could somebody be this arbitrary? We had a deal on paper. I was now staring at a vision of an unfinished 2,000-square-foot terrace with just a concrete base, including a patched hole where water had leaked, after I had been repeatedly told that of course it would be tiled.
Let me go off on a tangent without giving too much away. As I have been writing this column in 2014-15, I have received more than a few e-mails asking: “Knowing what you know now, would you do it all over again?”
However, I would say that if you get involved with an unfinished building, you are leaving yourself open for some real surprises, especially if the developer is a “one-man show” like our Sergio. Capriciousness can play a large part in trying to get a place in the sun.
So by this time most of my friends in Victoria had started to avoid me because I was becoming annoying on the subjects of Mexico and the trials of trying to move into our condo. There was no sympathy whatsoever from anyone, especially from my ex-pal from the bank, Jimmy, who now smiled distantly whenever I came across him.
Actually by this time I was up to my eyes in alligators as far as my business was concerned, so for awhile I had to forget the rogue’s gallery of characters in Puerto Vallarta who haunted my every dream. To make things worse, I kept hearing that people I knew had none of my problems, because they had bought existing condos in well-run buildings managed by reputable companies in Mexico, and just shook their heads at my “issues.”
Michelle and I planned to return to PV on Dec. 1, 2011, to get everything ready for James and Olivia, two of our children, who would arrive on the 17th, so we could spend our first Christmas together in the new condo. The only thing that bothered me slightly was that Eddy the Realtor had become much more distant in our e-mails, but I put it down to having to work in his office amongst all our furniture and appliances. It couldn’t have been easy.
We had agreed to pay the developer five payments consisting of 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 30 per cent and after inspection, a final 10 per cent. We had so far paid the first three instalments, with 40 per cent still to go.
I kept asking Eddy “How is it going?” and receiving mostly off-hand replies, which was getting on my nerves, because everyone else was asking me questions like “How is the elevator?” or “Is there electricity yet?”
We arrived in PV in a state of excitement, went straight to the hotel, changed and then struggled up the hill to our Valhalla, only to be met by a dug-up road in front of our condo building. We stood gapping at a huge hole, with workers trying to lift a large pipe into place.
“Probably nothing to do with our place,” I said hopefully to my alarmed wife. Then I saw Sergio jumping into his bullet-proof SUV. After a quick wave to us, he drove away. I turned to our contractor, Juan, who was standing nearby, and the story came out.
Unlike our country, in Mexico the land is not always prepared before work begins on a building, particularly in Centro, where we were. Work, I was told, usually goes on in tandem between the building and the infrastructure, but it seems that some had fallen behind.
“Fallen behind?” I said through clenched teeth.
“Yes,” said the helpful Juan, “the pipes and electricity, for example.”
“Electricity” I squealed, “We don’t have any power yet?”
I sat down on the broken sidewalk. How was this possible? What had everyone been doing while we were away?
Just then Eddy the Realtor appeared, handed me a beer and sat down stoically.
“There is still time, Chris,” he said. “I have seen things like this clear themselves up in a matter of hours, but you never know. It’s Mexico, after all.”
I have heard that phrase before and now, too often. I began to vent hard and bitterly. I told him I didn’t care if it was Syria, that my family would be arriving soon. What was he going to do about it all? Where was our money going?
He stood up and repeated that he had seen this all before and he was having our furniture brought over in a couple of days as he needed his office back. He had a point there, I had to admit. He had been very accommodating in that area. But I was getting the definite feeling that our Christmas would not be as advertised. Not with pipes all over the road and no sign of power or an elevator.
Another strange thing: I noticed that Juan our contractor and Eddy the Realtor were not speaking. Trouble loomed, I feared.
Next column Feb. 25: Oh no!
Copyright Christopher Dalton 2015