In the book, The Intention Experiment, Lynne McTaggart talks about intention being defined as this: “To influence physical matter with highly motivated and targeted thought. The projection of awareness with purpose and efficacy towards some object or outcome.” I’ve done a lot of workshops and read a lot of books about manifesting, but this is the most clear and palpable definition of intention I’ve ever come across. I had this definition framed and have kept it above my desk as a constant reminder to be clear about what I’m putting my focus on in life.
Over the past year I’ve thought a lot about what type of space I wanted to live in when I moved to Prague. There were certain things I really wanted. I wanted to live in an old building, I wanted a balcony and hardwood floors. I wanted a place in a great location with convenient access to public transportation. Ideally, a place that was furnished, though I was willing to get an unfurnished place as there are plenty of Craigslist-type sites with cheap furniture, etc. There were a few other things on the list. From time to time I’d look at that list and visualize the space that I wanted. I didn’t know for sure how realistic it was going to be to find, though I did have some idea from looking at websites. I wasn’t going to commit to a place before getting here.
After a few days of recovering from the trip I started to confront finding a place to live. There was urgency since the clock to wrap up my visa application was ticking. Again, I couldn’t apply for my visa until I had a place.
The system here is that if you work with a realtor to rent an apartment, you (the renter) pays their commission which is one month's rent upfront. Many conversations on the Facebook expat groups center around how to cut the realtor out or get them to reduce their commission. Wow! Never heard that before.
I actually tried that approach to save money by looking at websites with apartments listed by owners directly. I found some great looking places. Most of them were unfurnished. Every once in a while one would be furnished with the basics - like a bed and table and chairs, etc.
I sent countless messages to owners but couldn’t get anyone to respond. In the process though, I learned about the different neighborhoods and parts of Prague. That’s when I realized how great the Vinohrady area was. I was getting exhausted with the process and subtly and unconsciously started renegotiating with myself about my “ideal” space. I wasn’t seeing many places that had all of it. Maybe the balcony wasn't so important, maybe I should consider a newer building, and so on. Honestly, at this point I just wanted to find a place to live so I could move on.
Finally, I decided to consider paying the commission and using a realtor. When I thought through it I realized that it was actually a pretty good deal to pay the commission and have someone help me navigate the process. So I started contacting agents about looking at places.
When selling real estate, one of my pet peeves was having to deal with uncooperative tenants who had no vested interest in the property selling. So I loved it when I got this message from the realtor about an hour before I was scheduled to look at an apartment:
Can we please arrange the viewing for later this week? Unfortunately the tenant living in the apartment cannot welcome us today as she needs to stay longer in work today. Thursday from 5pm onwards would work...
I looked at another place with a realtor that was completely depressing.
I continued looking online and found a place that looked amazing. Almost too good to be true. I thought, "there’s got to be something wrong, but I’ll call and arrange a showing anyway." The place was in an old building, fully furnished, had hardwood floors and a balcony, and well within my budget. The realtor got back to me and we set a time to look at it. When she gave me the address I plugged it in and realized it was right around the corner from my Air B&B. It was in the very heart of the neighborhood I wanted to be in.
Still, I’m thinking, "It's too good to be true." At least though, it will be a good exercise for me to go through and maybe the realtor will know of other places. I waited at the entrance at our appointment time. A woman got out of a cab and approached and I realized it was the agent, Jarka. She had frizzy blond hair, walked with a bounce, and talked in a sing-songy falsetto. My first reaction was this lady has to be doing this part-time - like the stereotypical American housewife trying to make it in real estate. As it turns out though, she had been in the business a long time and really knew her stuff.
The apartment was on the 5th floor, but there was a lift. It was truly amazing. It was not only furnished but it also had dishes, TV, and other things virtually unheard of in a typical Prague rental. The previous tenant was a Swedish acupuncture student so it had that clean energy you feel when you walk into a holistic healer's office.
I WANTED this place! Jarka informed me however that there were 2 different parties looking at it after me. I quickly got the lay of the land here. Jarka was the gate keeper. I needed to sell her on myself. I told her about my real estate background, I gave her my photo business card with my website - good move. She looked at the card, paused and smiled. She said “this is good.” She mentioned she had a Czech friend who lived in Albuquerque.
When we were leaving she said, “If you get the apartment you can smoke in it.” I could tell she smoked but I said I don’t smoke. She said, “Well your friends can smoke then.” She almost seemed a little disappointed when I said I didn't smoke. Not wanting to upset her in anyway I thought maybe I should just say, “Great, awesome, can’t wait to smoke in my new apartment! “
When we parted she said she would see how it went and maybe set up a meeting with the owner in two days. The owner, Magda, works in TV production and so was out of town a lot. Someone had already tried to rent the place about a week ago but she wasn’t available to sign the lease and they couldn't wait.
That night I sent Jarka an e-mail and text expressing how interested I was and hoping that it worked out. A couple days went by and no response. I was warned that the realtors here were really bad about follow up. I had also heard that nice affordable places were getting snapped up pretty quickly. I wasn't sure what the lack of response meant - did they rent it to someone else?
One of the things I learned in all my years of selling real estate is that it’s never a good idea to get attached to a property. If you fall in love with a home and it doesn’t work out, there’s a reason. Even if the reason isn't apparent in the moment, it will eventually reveal itself. I had to keep reminding myself of that. The only problem was...I was really attached. So, I decide to keep looking and set up appointments to see other properties.
It was now Sunday and to add to the pressure, I was leaving Thursday at noon for Italy to do a retreat. I had signed up and paid for this retreat last year knowing I’d be in Europe at this time. If I didn't have a signed lease before I left Thursday it would put me behind by at least a week or more in getting the visa process going. Also, I had to be out of my Air B&B by Thursday morning.
Finally, I heard from Jarka. Magda the owner wanted to schedule an appointment to meet me Monday. I half-heartedly continued my search because until a deal is done...
About 2 hours before our meeting I get a call - Magda had to cancel due to her work. I said, "Jarka, I need to know, am I getting this place?" She said it was a 99% yes, but the owner needs to meet me. So we rescheduled for Wednesday. We all met, visited and did a walk-through. Magda felt comfortable with me. I handed over the deposit, rent, and commission and got the keys! I had to come back the next morning and finalize the lease - then off to the airport. The intention I had been focusing on slowly but surely made itself into reality. Later, I got the name of Jarka's friend in Albuquerque, and through a quick Facebook search I learned that we have 8 mutual friends.
Now that I had my lease, I could set up a meeting with Jitka the “Visa Guru.” I scheduled a meeting for when I returned after my trip. We met at her office, a big coffee shop. She asked me for a copy of my lease. I gave it to her and her eyes got wide and she let out an exasperated “They gave you this?!”
I thought, uh oh, what’s the problem? All I had was this copy of the signed lease. I didn't have an original signed lease. Apparently, original signatures are a big deal. Jitka schooled me on the importance of having original signatures on my documents. Photocopied signatures are not the same - you need original signatures! Not a big deal - I'll get original signatures.
In my real estate world we never worried about original signatures. For that matter we didn’t even worry about real signatures. The method of "electronic signature" has become the norm. This involves simply logging into your e-mail, logging on, and simply "signing" with the click of a mouse. As a realtor I loved it; it made my life much easier. But maybe there's something to be said about going through the physical process of signing and touching the paper that your contract is written on. Maybe that gives a person a more grounded relationship to what they are committing to. I recently heard a very wise person say that our technology is disconnecting us from our humanity. I would have to agree to some extent.
In the meantime, Jitka told me that she needed to go to a "special place" to get official copies made of some other original documents for my visa application. This involves someone there making a photocopy, but then stamping and affirming that it's an official copy. Kind of like a form of notary - or something like that. She said that the "special place" was closed - she would run there and be right back. I said, well, I want to go. I want to now about this "special place," I want to know about everything; because when you're in a foreign land, you never know when you might find yourself in a bind and need a..."special place."
"Prayer without action is like no prayer at all. You have to work as if everything depends on you and then leave the rest to God."