For anyone thinking of buying a place in Italy, having your property professionally managed really takes the stress out of owning a home in here. When we opened our estate agency, we realised that it was an area that needed covering to really help our clients enjoy their homes and it's something that has been shaped along the way depending on what people need.
I'll often find myself in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, braving muddy dirt roads to check empty homes and make sure they are surviving winter without leaks and damp. It's Alfie's (apprentice guard dog) favourite part of my job as he'll often tag along and do a thorough inspection of the land whilst I check the house. If it's a nice day I'll take a few pics to send to the owner as I think it's always a lovely treat to receive a photo on whatsapp of the view from your Tuscan home when you can't be there to see it in person. During lockdown, I've been taking video clips and sharing lots of images of Anghiari to help soften the blow for those not able to come here and to provide some reassurance that all is well.
Some clients tap into more admin based services such as dealing with property taxes and mail whilst others opt for larger packages of support so that when they arrive, their home is clean, the garden is beautifully tidy, beds are freshly made and there are some essentials in the fridge. There's nothing worse than arriving late at night, after a long journey and having to make beds up, only to discover there's no hot water, heating or wine - a tragic start to any holiday!
This leads me on very nicely to my least favourite part of property management - boilers. They are the bane of my life. I should be a boiler expert by now - I have spent so much time trying to work out how to get the bloody things working and dealing with their quirks and foibles. I often manage to get the job done by using tricks I have picked up over the years but if I can't get one going, before calling our plumber, my plan B is to video call Pierluigi in the office so he can see the boiler and talk me through various 'try this, press that' options.
It was on one such occasion when I was standing in a freezing cold house trying to get the boiler going when I realised that I had no signal and needed the wifi code before I could make a video call. I went outside and sent the now infamous message to the owner which read as follows, "what's your wifi code? I need to have sexy boiler time with Pierluigi".
Now, I wouldn't usually write a message like this to a client, but this particular client is also a good friend. He also knows his boiler can be tricky and that I often need a video call with my technician/husband to get the beast going, so I thought he'd appreciate a funny message. However, on this particular day he was starting a new role at work, a role that meant he was in charge of around 200 extra people worldwide. So on that morning he was holding an 'all-hands' meeting which he later explained to me involved him hosting an office based meeting with part of his team while the rest joined online from all over the globe. He had linked his laptop so everyone could see his screen for the presentation and just as he started to talk, my message popped up. He wasn't looking at the screen at the time, so was confused by the sudden ripples of laughter running through the meeting room and the wider audience.
Now he had to make a choice. Should the new boss explain the situation - "oh sorry, that was my property manager in Tuscany, blah, blah, blah" - it was an option but not really one that was going to make him a man of the people. Instead, he opted to say nothing, which led to a global company guessing game that lasted for several weeks, whilst attempts were made to work out what 'sexy boiler time' was and who it involved. Needless to say the mystery was never revealed until now...
I think very carefully about the messages I send these days, I have to say.
On the upside, I always remember this story as I am coaxing a pilot light to switch on or bravely sticking my hand under a boiler to adjust the water pressure and it gives me a smile not normally associated with this mundane but necessary task.