a wandering woman writes

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Saved by the conditional

I love my apartment.

I tell myself I shouldn't, really. After all I am now a 43 year old woman without property (or silverware) of her own.

But my apartment is extravagantly large for one person in Spain, a delicious luxury now that I work in it. And my apartment comes with an equally extravagant terraza alongside the pool, where a small but aromatic little garden has stubbornly survived my summer travel, thanks to Nomadita.

My extravagant piso is a front row seat for Salamanca's full schedule of fireworks. I leave the bedroom window open at night and fall asleep to the roar of the Tormes (ok, sometimes it's more of a gurgle, but it is lovely - cool and soothing.) More than one Semana Santa procession marches past that window, as will the procession of La Virgen de la Vega when Salamanca kicks off her fiestas on Thursday.

My piso is 2 minutes from the future location of my largest client. And a few hundred metres from the Roman Bridge I fell in love with before I moved to Salamanca.

For a few minutes today, I thought I was going to lose my extravagant piso.

Instead, I think I learned something about negotiating in Spanish.

My landlady Pilar called me last night to cheerfully tell me she'd just read the IPC (Spanish cost of living index) and would adjust today's rent and all of my future payments accordingly.

I just started a business. This would not be the moment to spend more on (extravagant) housing.

I sketched out all the sales arguments I'd use in English. I called a couple of Salmantinas who assured me that no natural law obligated my landlady to annually adjust my rent to the IPC. I exhaled when I remembered my contract never mentions the adjustment. My objective: convince a Salmantina that one garden-growing extranjera who's learned her lesson about throwing parties in rented apartments in Spain is worth more than two Spanish university students. Even at last year's rent.

This morning, I ran through my thoughts in Spanish with Nomadita, who unveiled the secret of negotiating in Spanish. "Always in the conditional", she told me at least 3 times in chat. "Keep the door open."

You might have to have learned a foreign language after 30 to understand how hard it is to persuade in a language other than your mother tongue.

Still, when I followed Pilar's smooth "So, your rent is now X" with a very sincere "La verdad es que....", she put her hand on my arm and said, "We'll just leave it where it is for this year, Erin."

And saved me from losing my beloved piso.

And it hit me: I'd had the same experience with a Spanish client. My contact came at me at the last minute with a much lower price, and conditions I couldn't possibly say yes to, and when I conditionally (gracias, Nomadita) told him I'd have to walk away, he immediately surrendered. He's been a charmer ever since.

In both cases I was completely sincere. I couldn't agree.

So Spaniards, what's the negotiating strategy? Shoot for the moon (scaring the hell out of consensus-seeking Americans), just for the hell of it?

I've invited my landlady to join me for this weekend's fireworks.

And I'm just walking around, contentedly. Looking at my extravagant apartment.

Thanks, Pilar.



  • Some thoughts.
    You live in an extremely nice place, I gather from your posts that it's the yellow building by the Casino and Casa Lis.

    I would bet that what triggered the attempt to rise your rent wasn't the IPC, but rather the EURIBOR, the base rate for mortgage interest, which has been going up a lot. Last week it experienced a record hike.

    By renting her place you are probably just paying your landlady's mortgage for her, and probably her monthly payments have gone up a few dozen euros as of late.

    Still I'd say you have a decent negotiating position. As we Spaniards dislike renting and love buying our "pisos", it's hard to find someone willing to rent such an upscale place. Here in Salamanca it's easy to find students willing to rent, but they look for cheaper places, and are riskier guests, with their parties and all that.

    And finally, while not being a lawyer neither watching any on TV, I know that Spanish legislation is quite slanted in favour of those renting, so there's probably a bunch of stuff your landlady cannot do, for example rising the price above that IPC thing, which I think goes for around 3.5%/year

    By Anonymous lrb, at 12:15 AM  

  • I've read now more slowly your post and seems you didn't really need any of my "insight".

    Methinks in both negotiations you found a very common strategy, that you called shoot for the moon. If you didn't know already, the Spanish expression for that is:
    "Si cuela, cuela"

    By Anonymous lrb, at 12:22 AM  

  • You seem to have a very nice house.

    In a normal recent "contrato de arrendamiento" the rent is put up every year by the IPC, about the 3.5%. If your contract says nothing about it, you are a very lucky woman.

    By Blogger Alfacharly, at 9:08 AM  

  • Hi lrb, yes, after we'd come to our agreement she brought up the EURIBOR, even though she had only spoken of the IPC when she made her pitch. I think that's what prompted her. But she's still at a profit, I pay her dinero negro, and I do think we both won. I am no maintenance at all, and take wonderful care of her investment (and her neighbors here in the building, who thanked her for renting to me instead of 2 students. They gained peace, quiet and tiestos by the pool. ;)) I got the feeling she was pleased to hear I loved her place.

    I paid it last year without flinching, Alex, despite not having it in the contract (Salmantinos tell me its not so common here?). I also took the place without negotiating, so I think my initial price was high, and she appreciates that. :)

    lrb, yes!! It's "si cuela, cuela." I had it happen in B2B negotiation with Spanish companies when I worked for a Spanish co. here in Salamanca, too, and you just made it make sense. I was offended the first few times, but you're right, that's all it is: Si cuela, cuela. Si no, no pasa nada.

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:49 AM  

  • Oh man, so glad this worked out! When I read the start of this my heart just sank. It would crush me to have you lose your place.
    It is wonderful to know that in the end, this was between humans. Not always true here in the States, as you know. Although I did meet lovely humans in Boston. Wikkit cool place, you are right. Saw the sail boats and thought of you, my dear. Thanks for the pre-trip translation services. You were right about the accent! Took a bit for my ear to follow it.

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 12:05 PM  

  • Hooray! I love the writing that comes out of that apartment, and while it would probably continue in another place, I'd hate for you to lose such a wonderful environment.

    By Anonymous Kate, at 2:45 PM  

  • What a story! Am so glad you don't have to move. Lessons in negotiation for us all.

    By Blogger paris parfait, at 3:24 PM  

  • I couldn't comment the first time I read this ... you make your apartment sound simply delicious.

    Congratulations on the win!!

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 1:44 PM  

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