When we first got to Romania, we figured out that if we were going to stay, we needed to buy a house, but we didn’t have enough money. There was no getting a loan, so we had to save the money. In the meantime, we had to put up with landlords walking through our house going through our things like they were theirs, landlords doubling the rent at the drop of a hat just because they wanted more money saying, “Pay more this month or get out” in the dead of winter, and other crazy things they did. We just kept getting batted around all over town, so we knew that we needed to buy a house if we were going to stay. Our Romanian friend who was a high school Vice Principal and Math teacher decided she needed to help us, and if she hadn’t we might have lost our shirts.
We found a house in the village for sale. We knew it needed lots of work. There was no indoor plumbing. The heating was only with wood, etc. However, the price was in our price range and it had a beautiful rose garden in the yard. I was in love with the rose garden! We didn’t have enough money right then and there. We had sold our house in America, so we needed to go back to America and get the money from our house to pay for the house in Romania. We payed half the price down for the house with money we had saved that we paid for the house and told them we were going to America to get the other half. We wrote out a hand written contract that we both signed. Our friend, the Math teacher, helped us with the contract. She had them add at the end that if they didn’t give us the house when we came back from America, they had to give us double the money we gave them back. We didn’t know how necessary her clause was.
When we came back with the money to finish paying for he house, they refused to give us the house. They had decided to keep the money we gave them which was a sizable amount since is was half of the asking price of the house and keep the house. I was so upset!! Our Math teacher friend took us to a lawyer, and the lawyer filed papers at the court. The people were forced into giving us the house because they didn’t want to give double the money back. We were so grateful she had added that clause. She knew her people and knew what they might do, and saved us. Since we were foreigners, only the house could be in our names, not the land, so we put it in the name of our Math teacher friend.
Before the woman in the house moved out, she destroyed everything she could in the house and carried every little piece of the house away she could. She even went into the yard and pulled all the rose bushes up so I wouldn’t have them.
We couldn’t move in right away because the house was such a mess. Our Math teacher friend’s husband had been a military officer, and he volunteered to stay in the house until we moved in because he knew that if no one lived there, others would move in and take the house. He spent his time there killing mice. The house was full of mice. They had stored grain in the attic that attracted the mice.
One evening, the women who we bought the house from came back with her brother in law. They were in a huge truck. There was a tall wall all the way around the house and the yard, and a big wooden gate at the front that faced the road. They were wanting to tear the house up and take it apart even more. The guy who was staying in our house told them they couldn’t come in. They didn’t take that for an answer and began ramming the big wooden gate with the big truck. The guy staying in the house was scared and didn’t know what to do, so he called us. I called my friend at the university, Professor Dumitru Ciocoi-pop to ask for his advice. He said, “You must know that Romanians are civilized,” and he called the police. The police came and chased the people away who were ramming the gate with the truck.
My friend who was the chief pharmacist of the Tuberculosis Hospital said to me they were just acting like normal Romanians. She said if she sold her house, she would make sure to take everything and break what she couldn’t take because she didn’t want anyone to have what she couldn’t have. She said she had seen people often go in and destroy houses after they sold them. To her, what was happening was normal. I was shocked because she was an extremely nice lady.
We completely redid the house before we moved in. We put in all new floors. We put an indoor bathroom and an indoor kitchen in the house. We had the cabinets specially made by a carpenter because we wanted them taller than what Romanians usually had because when I did dishes, the cabinets were so short, my back hurt bending over the sink. Water stood in the basement, so we dug a french drain around the outside of the house and painted the floors in the basement with swimming pool paint so the water couldn’t get in. We installed a hot water heater that used electricity. We installed radiators that went throughout the house and used a central heating unit in the basement. Initially, we could only use a wood central heating unit until they installed gas in the village, and then changed it for a gas central heating unit. Until we put the central heating unit and the radiators in, you had to heat each room individually with wood. We painted the house inside and out. We had a problem that you couldn’t go downstairs without going outside first, so we put stairs inside the house like you have in a ranch style house to get into the basement. We carpeted the basement. We completely changed the house for the better. We planted grass where the woman had pulled up the rose bushes. We changed it into a different house, a much better house. We put lots of money into it.
When it came time to go back to America, we decided we should sell our house. Since we had done so many improvements, we thought we should try to sell it for a profit. We knew that not every Romanian could buy it, but we also knew it was a very nice house and didn’t want to just give it away. We put a reasonable price on it, but the only people who came to look at it told us that they knew how much we paid for the house, and they weren’t going to give us any more money than we initially paid, so we ended up not selling it.
We had some Romanian friends who the wife was pregnant, and the doctor had told her that if she didn’t get in better circumstances, she would lose her baby. We decided to let them live in the house free of charge because she would have to be carrying water or wood to heat and cook with at their house, but her life would be easier in our house. We asked them to be the caretakers of our house. They accepted. The baby lived.
However, they didn’t take care of the house. They destroyed it. They got behind on the bills, and we sent them money to pay the electric bill and whatever bills they couldn’t pay. We didn’t have the money to go back. Our Math teacher friend decided she needed to sell it. The house had been treated so badly, she could hardly get anything out of it, but she sold it. We took a loss on everything. Now, I have no house at all.
If you go to Romania wanting to buy a house as a foreigner, you need to know you can only own the house, and not the land it is on. You need to be very careful, and you need to have Romanian friends who are truly your friends and won’t let you lose your shirt. Be very, very careful and guard against any devious trick that someone could pull. The Romanians actually think being “tricky” is a good thing. They admire people who are “tricky.”