Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Great Stove Thief Of Cuenca

Apartments in Cuenca are a process to obtain, that is for darn sure. Along the way you discover all kinds of horrifying aspects of apartment life in other countries, like the electric showers. Occasionally, you discover the opportunity to have a really good laugh.

As with the stove thief.

For background, most apartments in Cuenca are completely unfurnished. And by unfurnished, I mean stripped down to the basics. There aren't bulbs in the light fixtures, appliances in the kitchen, or even mirrors in the bathroom. When you read that an apartment is unfurnished, they aren't kidding

As a foreigner here, I don't come with my own house full of furniture, so I have been looking at furnished apartments, or at the very least partially furnished places that have their kitchen appliances. One of the apartments on my list was this one from Bienes Raices Catedral, Cuenca's largest (for now) real estate agency.

Cuenca Kitchen

Note the presence of kitchen appliances here.

A few additional notes about Bienes Raices Catedral for your reference. They say on their website that they speak English. This is true over email depending which agent you are talking to at the time, but when you get to the office, you'd better be able to habla Espanol. Though they have a large office, when Pete and I showed up for our appointment there, nobody was speaking any English, which is okay for me, but not so fun for my friend Pete, who is looking for his own place with a dog. Anyway, this is a problem with a lot of real estate places in Cuenca - you have to double check that they really are bilingual! Some can't speak any Spanish, while others can't hack it in English.

Also, the super organized and polished front that they started with quickly went downhill when we started looking at places. The first place they tried to show me was right next door, but it had already been rented and no one had bothered to tell them. Then we drove over to the condo you see in the photo above.

We walk into the place, and it is indeed a good price in a nice building near a park and a main street in the district that I want. However, when we turn to the kitchen, there's a problem.

It's completely stripped.

I mention this to the agent, and he gives me the little speech about how appliances aren't included in unfurnished rentals in Cuenca. Yeah, yeah - I know this from the nice folks over at Cuenca Condos and Cuenca's Best Properties, who've given me quite an education in the local market. But in the listing it specifically says this place is supposed to come with a refrigerator and a stove.

So we get into a little argument about it, since I want a lower monthly rent if there aren't going to be appliances. The agent tells me I'm being unreasonable and reminds me again that this is normal for Cuenca. Yes, but the listing says it comes with appliances, and because I know I'm right and the agent has a Blackberry, I invite him to look it up if he doesn't believe me.

He looks it up, muttering the whole time about how I just don't know the market and really, he's not trying to rip me off and it's a great price and so on. I don't care, I don't want to buy $1500 worth of appliances for a place that's supposed to be furnished. Look it up.

Lo an behold, the foreign lady can actually read Spanish correctly. The apartment description specifically mentions that the appliances are included, listing them by name.

Well, this freaks the agent, because 1) I'm right (Take that, doubter man) and 2) the stuff's not there. He call his office and asks them about it. They verify that the owner listed the appliances as being there, and what does he mean they aren't there now? Where did the appliances go?

We still don't know.

Needless to say, I didn't take the apartment. We left it blaming the Great Stove Thief Of Cuenca. He's a fast one, sneaky and smart, and somewhere he's got a refrigerator and stove, much to my own intense personal amusement and the chagrin of my real estate agent.

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