Friday, January 25, 2002

A Full Agenda

A Full Agenda Eleven o’clock, we started with our meeting at the realtor’s office. This person is an enterprising person. He had the contracts all ready to go, but I told him there would have to be revisions and we would have to come to terms with the owner first before we signed anything. The owner arrived with his daughter, but the owner does not speak English. The realtor had to interpret everything. Fortunately, his English is excellent. We negotiated back and forth for an hour. It turns out that if we rent the apartment and have a business there, it raises the tax rate of the owner. The way around this was for us to rent the apartment and then in turn lease it to our business. The owner has to sign a form agreeing to allow us to use the apartment for business. In Hungary, all apartment buildings have separate owners of the apartments, like a cooperative. Hence, there is a homeowners association and dues for building maintenance. When you rent an apartment, the tenant is responsible for the dues. I cannot balk at that since we are charging our own tenant the homeowner’s fees we are billed for our house. However, in this case, this apartment has a higher assessment since they refurbished the lobby, they are replacing the roof, and doing work on both the front and back of the building. The maintenance dues were almost triple of what we are currently paying. Since we are not purchasing the apartment, I had no intention of paying for repairs and remodeling that we would not directly benefit from as an investment. We were successful in having this dropped over twenty dollars a month. The owner will clean out whatever we want, make sure the apartment is cable ready, buy a new television, microwave, iron, ironing board, vacuum cleaner, and put up privacy drapes in the master bedroom. This is the only room without the security blinds, since it is a double window. He agreed to allow us to run the business there and almost all of our issues were met. The apartment will be cleaned by February 15th. I also stated that I would not sign a contract until we were given the inventory list. The agent said that this list was signed separately, but I wanted to make sure what we wanted and needed was on the list before we contracted for the apartment. We set up another meeting at the apartment for the 30th of the month, to go over the inventory and sign the lease. This is a closed lease, so if we break it within the year, we lose our $1,000.00 deposit. From here, I went off to Berlitz for the second interview and Ron delivered our thirty-day notice to our current rental agent. The interview lasted fifteen minutes with the offer of starting the training on February 6th. The woman said that this was just a formality and the supervisor was so impressed with me that she wanted to meet me personally. Ron having delivered the notice, said the manager asked why we did not ask them for help in looking for another place. I asked if he asked if they felt they did so well the first time that we should trust them a second. We still have a list of things that were promised our first week here that still have not materialized. The shower door was never installed, though the guy was here over two weeks ago measuring and was to install it over a week ago. Also, while I was gone, Ron sat down with the phone and started calling schools. He was offered his first interview for Monday. We will review the interview questions once again, but he has a great command of the vocabulary and concepts of the field and I know he will do well when he builds his confidence. We had just enough time to share the last hour, when it was time to meet with our new attorney. Following cultural tradition, we met at a coffee house. He gave us a menu of the expenses and though there are many, we will still spend less than Joshua and his wife did. There are fees for permits, notary fees, court fees, publication in the business gazette fees, and of course the attorney fees. We need to have three million forints ($11,721.00) in a Hungarian bank account for getting our seal and that money is frozen for up to a couple of weeks. That is the toughest part. We also need to have an on-going accountant since there are forms that need to be submitted to the government on a monthly basis whether or not we have income. This will be a major expense since they run about $90.00 a month, but we will shop around. Our attorney said he could recommend a good one that he uses and she works cheaper, but does not speak English. We could hire an interpreter for a few bucks an hours and still come out ahead. The good part is that our tax base will drop from forty percent working for someone else to about twenty eight percent being self-employed and like the U.S. there are a lot of deductions that are available. After doing some number crunching before learning of the tax percentage differences, I figured that if Ron worked ten hours a week, which gives him enough for a work permit and therefore a residency permit and I work twenty hours a week, that will give us $566.00 a month net salary based on forty percent taxes. Not bad, huh? That will pay our rent and some utilities. Since the average salary of Hungarians is less than $400.00 a month, we will be rich. That figure does not take into consideration the private lessons, which will put us in the upper echelons of Hungarian society. Damon had invited us to his place for American snacks, pizza, and a video for the evening. The U.S. government treats our diplomatic corps to great comfort. His apartment has a very large eat in kitchen, a double wide living room/dining room combo, two bedrooms, and two baths all fully furnished with furniture that looks like it came from the Bombay Company. He has all of the conveniences you could want provided: dishwasher, blender, hand mixer, VCR, DVD, stereo, those are the things that I miss that I noticed he had. He also gets the Armed Services cable channel so he gets current American television shows. The only one that I really miss is E.R. and Will and Grace. Ron misses West Wing. They have the PAL system here, not VCR, so we can’t ask any of you to tape shows and send them to us, we would not be able to play them anyway. The best part was when he opened his fridge to ask us what we wanted to drink and to show us the selection. On the door, were six packages of Oscar Meyer bologna, Healthy Choice snacks, and in the fridge were four boxes of Ho Hos and Yodels. The embassy has a commissary on the grounds, so they can buy American products there. When we get to know him a lot better…. Ho, ho, ho. Now you know where some of your tax dollars are going. Damon’s position as the Regional Language Officer is to provide support for teachers, schools, and organizations for the teaching of the American English language. Since he is a regional, he covers sixteen countries, but he is based in Budapest. He travels around to organize TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) conferences, give seminars, lend support to programs, acts as an advisor, and the list goes on. He covers sixteen countries, but the British taxpayers should be more up in arms since they have one person for each country. Now that is big bucks or big pounds to support these people and their programs. We stayed until midnight, munching and watching a video, then found that our bus stopped running at 11:46 pm. We had to catch a different bus, the night version, which only runs every twenty-five minutes and then walk about six blocks from where it left us off. It was a fun diversion and we are becoming aware of the fact that our social life is more active here than it was in Modesto.

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