(Cue music…..pictures of world landmarks, cut to two men walking down a muddy street….)
Welcome to House Hunters International – Balkan Edition
American lawyer Robert, after ten months of unemployment, has found a job which requires him to leave his adored wife Laurie in the United States and relocate to the former Yugoslavia, a warn-torn and economically depressed collection of a half dozen dysfunctional and corrupt countries.
Robert is here in Pristina, Kosovo, and will be looking at three apartments. He has a low budget and wants to get something so he can maximize the money he sends back to Laurie. He hopes to use less than 5% of the couple’s monthly income. Helping him is his new friend, real estate agent Hazir, who speaks only Albanian and a few words of English, and Hazir’s crippled son, Deniz. Robert has a modest wish list which includes a separate bedroom, internet, cable TV which includes English and French language channels, and a reasonably clean condition. Hazir asks:
You want one, three or four rooms.
OK Bravo. You need park?
OK Bravo, we look three apartment. We walk.
They make their way up the rubble-strewn street in the Rosenta Tossi district and turn left into a construction area to find House #1. Hazir opens an elevator and they rise to the 6th floor where the landlord is waiting with the key. They enter the apartment.
Here is sleeping room.
Nice. Is that a waterbed?
Yes, bed from water. Fun OK. Bravo.
The living room, kitchen, closets and dining area are in one room furnished with bright orange slipcovers loosely thrown over three sofas left here by the retreating Ottomans.
Hazir, there is no TV.
Yes one come. After you buy. See here balcony.
Nice, but there are no chairs or table on the balcony.
Yes one come after you buy.
There is no table to sit at in the dining area..
Yes one come. After you buy.
Is there internet.
Yes, but one come after you buy.
How much is this place?
Five hundred Euro month.
Is electricity included?
Yes. Included, but you must pay.
What about internet?
Internet is included?
Yes, but is only 20 euro.
What about cable?
Also include 15 euro.
Ok, no heat.
No, is there a way to heat apartment? To make apartment not cold.
Oh, I know! Warming.
So who pays for warming.
Landlord pay warming. Is include.
Yes, include in electricity.
Who pays electricity.
You pay. But internet not include.
Internet is not included in what.
In warming, so you pay.
OK, I need to get this straight. For 500 euros I get what.
For 500 euros everything is included?
Yes, include, except TV come later after you buy.
Who pays for TV.
So for 500 I get everything?
Except garbage. You have to pay for garbage.
I don’t want any garbage.
Then you no pay.
How you like apartment?
Nice. But I notice no microwave.
OK bravo. After you buy.
Robert is beginning to discern the difference between “included” and “available.”
COMMERCIAL BREAK FOR CIALIS, VIAGRA AND FORD PICKUP TRUCKS
American lawyer Robert is looking for an apartment in the run down, bombed out capital city ofPristina, Kosovo, in the former Yoguslavia.
So far his Albanian real estate agent, Hazir, has shown him a sixth-floor one bedroom in the Rosenta Tossi neighborhood for 500 euros, well above Robert’s ridiculous Third-World budget and without some of the amenities on Robert’s short wish list. Robert is also concerned about the possible presence of vermin in the upholstery and whether the promised improvements will actually materialize.
House number Two is located in the down-scale region of Trink Ismail. It is on the tenth floor of a Tito-era apartment building which has been completely renovated. They have to walk up a flight of stairs because the lift goes only to floor 9.
They enter the apartment and find a collection of IKEA knock-offs manufactured locally from recycled plastics. The bedroom contains a bed with a floor mattress. It has spacious closets.
Nice closet Robert.
Yes, nice closet.
Nice closet Robert.
Yes, nice closet.
Yes, nice. Bravo.
The rest of the apartment includes a two burner stove top, a dining table that serves as an end table for the one sofa, and two televisions.
Hazir? Why two televisions?
Last apartment have zero television. This apartment have two.
Yes, I see that. Why?
Because one on heat go.
One on heat go?
Yes, one on heat go.
Oh, ok. (Robert thinks that this means that the television which is presently on the heater will be removed.)
The balcony has a panoramic view of Pristina from 10 stories up. But Robert does not like heights and does not like the fact that earthquakes have happened in this region as well as just across the Adriatic inItaly.
How much for this place?
What does that include.
Who pays heat? Warming?
You pay. 30 euro.
You pay. 30 euro.
You pay. 20 euro.
You pay. 15 euro.
So that’s 405 euro.
Hazir, there is no shower.
No. Only a bathtub. See?
Robert makes showering gestures.
Oh! Ok no dush. Only vaske.
Vaske more good only.
No. I look more.
On the way out as Hazir fumbled with the lock Robert noticed an invoice from a company called “KEK” on the floor in front of the next door apartment. From his experience in the region Robert knew that KEK was the Kosovo Elektrik Kompani. He picked it up and read the monthly charge for electricity. Sixty-seven euro.
That would make it 442 euro. Also over budget.
(Cue music….commercial for Cialis, Viagra and Nascar)
Welcome back to Househunters International, Balkan edition. We’re with expat American lawyer Robert in Pristina, Kosovo, as he and local linguist and real estate giant Hazir search for an apartment. So far, they have seen a one bedroom with no TV on the sixth floor in the Rosenta Tosi district for 500 euros, and a one bedroom with no shower on the tenth floor in the Trink Ismail neighbourhood for 300. But Robert is concerned that the add-on charges will increase the cost to over 450 euro and cause him to spend weekends running about paying water, TV, garbage and other bills.
House Number Three is located on Gustave Mayer Streetnear Robert’s first office in Kosovo. Due to potholes and erosion the street is nearly impassable to vehicular traffic and boasts what seems to be an abundance of excess wiring dangling in clusters from its leaning telephone poles.
Hazir says “it is nice apartment” as he enters the dirty hallway and climbs the first flight of stairs. There is graffiti scratched into the walls which seems to be critical of something.
Is on second floor Robert. OK? No problem.
But Robert has spent a great deal of time in Europe and knows that the second floor is really the third floor because the ground floor inEuropeis not floor #1, it is floor # 0.
Winded as they gasp at the door to the apartment, they hear the landlord. He shouts in Albanian that he is resting on the first floor for a minute which, of course, means he is resting on the second floor.
When they open the door the landlord removes his shoes. Typical in Muslim countries. Hazir and Robert follow suit.
Robert looks into the only bedroom and sees a typically European size room with a full wall of deep closets. They turn right down a short hallway and into the main area. To the left is an arrangement of three deep blue sofas in like-new condition decorated with bright French yellow pillows. There is a TV, and an internet station attached to a small desk. To the right is a small, clean kitchen separated from the living room by a wooden bar behind which are ample counters.
Bekim, the landlord, speaks pretty good English and is proud to point out the new stove with a full oven, the first oven of the many apartments Robert has rented inEurope. Bekim also shows the dishwasher and washing machine, also new. There is a new microwave.
Bekim shows Robert the balcony which overlooks not only the wiring and the potholes, but also theCityParka few meters away.
Robert sits at the dining table to make some notes.
Bekim. How much for this apartment?
Who pays for Cable?
I pay cable and internet.
Who pays warming?
I pay central heating and electricity and garbage. And I pay water.
What do I pay each month in total.
How much do I need to give you to move in next week?
(cue music…..commercials for Cialis, Autofair and Ippolito’s Furniture)
We’re with American lawyer Robert in the poverty ridden country of Kosovo as he looks for an apartment from which he can walk to his new job and rebuild his life after the global economic collapse.
So far local real estate agent Hazir has shown him three properties:
House Number One is in the Rosenta Tossi neighborhood. It is a one-bedroom with a large balcony, but no TV and more promises and ambiguities than Robert was hoping for. Its 500 euro price tag is more than Robert had budgeted.
House Number Two, also a one-bedroom, is in the Trink Ismail region and is more affordable at 300 euros. However, it does not have a shower and is on the 10th floor with a ninth floor elevator. Robert calculated that add-on charges increase the cost to over 450 euros.
House Number Three on Gustave Mayer Streetis the quietest because cars can’t get down the street. There is a view of the park from a small balcony and some surprises such as a dishwasher and laundry. Of the three, the décor is a little French and most to Robert’s liking. It carries a price tag of 400 euros.
AND HE CHOSE . . . . . .
The French décor of House Number Three onGustave Mayer Street.
Three weeks later . . . .
Hi. I haven’t changed anything. The best part of this place is watching the little, whiteLhasaApso puppy who lives in the fourth floor apartment across the street. He reminds me of our doggies back in the States. Especially when he lifts his leg on the fourth floor balcony onto unsuspecting pedestrians. I tell people not to walk on that side of the street.
Bekim and I have become friends despite the fact that one week after moving in all 14 of the recessed light bulbs built into the ceiling burned out at the same time. My friends think Bekim came in while I was at work and replaced them with broken ones. They suggested legal action, but I can’t imagine bringing it. It will cost less to replace them and, as a stranger in a strange land, a friend, even an unscrupulous one, is worth more than a light bulb or two.