Life as a homeowner goes on much the same as before. We can’t afford to do any work on the house for a few months and won’t be going back to Bulgaria until April at the earliest. So, for now, it’s back to business as usual: working, saving, working, saving, Christmas, working, saving.
Fear not, I still have some entertaining stories to tell about our recent house-buying visit. Starting with the tale of how we ended up paying for the house in cash…
We fully expected to pay for the house by bank transfer but by the time we got the Bulgarian bank details my UK bank wouldn’t guarantee that the money would arrive in time. My bank is a very well-known high street bank (beginning with ‘S’ ending in ‘antander’) – you would think they would have some option for an express money transfer (24, maybe 48 hours?), but no. This meant the only way to ensure the money would be in Bulgaria for the day of the purchase was to take it with us. In cash. £12,000! The very thought of carrying our entire savings had me breaking out in a cold sweat – no travel insurance would cover you for that sort of money if you were robbed! But there was no choice.
Neither would my bank allow me to withdraw the money in Euros (all big transactions in Bulgaria are done in Euros, even though their actual currency is the Lev). But I can forgive the bank for that – they don’t do currency, fair enough. So, I had to collect the money from my bank in sterling and take it to a Bureau de Change to get Euros. I was so scared about doing this on my own so my lovely stepdad came with me for protection.
My, oh-so-helpful bank was only too happy to complete the transaction in a completely secure and private way and it all went smoothly…
Sorry, I wandered off into a dream sequence then. In reality, what actually happened is they handed me a huge brown envelope over the counter with “£12k” written on it in nice bold letters. They may as well have sounded an alarm and done a song and dance routine to alert any would-be muggers.
“Hey now what’s that sound?
Also, you’d expect them to give the cash in as small a bundle as possible – I was expecting £50 notes and maybe some £20s – but it was all in £20 and even £10 notes!! I had to beg to use one of their offices so I could take the money out of the envelope and stash it away about our persons in private.
The walk to Intercash was extremely nervy! It was a bit like being in a spy movie: trust no one, suspect everyone.
The guy at Intercash couldn’t have been more helpful, although he was a bit miffed at having to count all those £20 and £10 notes! And the bundle of Euros I came away with was tiny – thanks to it being in €500, €200 and €100 notes.
We travelled out to Bulgaria with the money in one of those belt things that you wear under your clothes. I kept giving it the odd reassuring pat to check it was still there! But it all went fine. Sadly, I think the Bulgarian vendors were a bit disappointed when we handed over the tiny bundle of cash. They may have been expecting a suitcase full of notes!
I really hope that song becomes standard practice for all transactions in all banks nationwide.