Transfer Problems A Small SWIFT Code Error

Last week, Kevin asked me to make payments to the geometra Jimmy and the contractor Francisc. They have both been doing a lot of work in advance of payment as we waited to get the final construction contracts signed.

Kevin sent me the bank details for the transfers and it all seemed very straightforward.

Foreign currency wire form
Currency Transfer Form
Click image to enlarge

The only tricky piece is getting the correct SWIFT/BIC codes for the receiving bank and the IBAN code, which determines the bank and the receiving account at the bank. (This second one is the place where it can be easy to make mistakes, as it is of variable length and can be up to 28 characters. Here’s and example: IT57O0570469010000000013861)

The transfer to Jimmy went smoothly, but on Friday afternoon I found out something had gone wrong with the transfer to Francisc. Apparently, one of the codes was wrong.

This created a bit of a problem for Francisc. Apparently, he had told his bank the money would arrive within 72 hours. Kevin told me that if it didn’t, he’d have to pay penalties and fines.

We scrambled to get some document to them explaining the problem and promising a transfer as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the following Monday was a bank holiday, so the transfer couldn’t go out until Tuesday.

Again, when I prepared the form, I was told the SWIFT code was wrong, even though I’d used the exact code for a successful transfer in December.

So, we’re still struggling to get the money over to Italy.

An Update

It’s Tuesday and we’re still having problems. I checked all the codes and numbers against the paperwork I got from Francisc and resubmitted the transfer. We still were told the SWIFT code, BPSPIT3S is wrong, even though we had used it before.

I searched online for the code and it still seemed right. Finally, I found a source that used BPSPIT3SXXX. It said the XXX represented the branch, but I don’t have a branch code.

I looked at the successful transfer we made to Jimmy and his bank’s SWIFT code ends in XXX. So we’ll try adding the XXX and see what happens.

Another Update

It’s a day later and the problem still is unsolved. Adding the XXX didn’t help. We’ve exhausted all options from this end. I asked Kevin to ask Francisc to contact his bank and explain what we’ve done and see if they can enlighten him and then us.

A Final Update?

Let’s let Kevin tell the story of what we hope is the resolution of this mess.

You’re getting a dose of Italian incompetence at its BEST (WORST?).

I went with Francisc to the branch today where we were told to send the transfer to that other BIC your guys discovered yesterday. The director then called him after we had departed to say that the regional direction in ANCONA had confirmed to her that in the last 10 days they had INDEED executed a change and that with the release of February statements they would be communicating this change. Can you believe that?? I can’t even imagine the chaos created over 10 days for all their commercial customers doing business with foreign clients.

So, the attached has the CORRECT, UPDATED, NEW BIC/SWIFT CODE…please use this and disregard all other communication on same.

The bank has waived all fees and penalties levied against Francisc due to this being THEIR error.

While clearly this is completely out of our control, I am nonetheless VERY sorry that you and your transfer people have had to waste so much time on this crap.


Finally, ten days after we started the process, the transfer went through.

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Watering It Down Water, at a Reduced Price

They’ve been trucking water to the site so far, but we need to get a direct water connection to allow construction to continue, so Kevin has been working with the local utility company. Today, he gave us an update. It’s pure Kevin:

In mid-December we conducted an on-site assessment with the water company – TENNACOLA. Just before Christmas we received an estimate from them. The estimate, which I attach to give you a chuckle (it elicited a decidedly different physical reaction on my part!), was for €13,511.25 + IVA. Obviously, complete BULLSHIT.

water supplyKevin’s approach was to sit down with Tennacola and our contractor, Francisc, and work out what could be done by the contractor and what Tennacola absolutely had to do. (Either way, Tennacola will oversee the work and be sure it’s all up-to-snuff.)

The reduction is cost was dramatic: to less than a third of the previous number. Great work by Kevin.

Installazione grupo presa
Electrical switch installation (?)
Allaccio a corpo con scavo fino a 5m
Connection to the system, excavation up to 5m
Allaccio a corpo con scavo maggiore a 5m
Connection to the system, excavation over 5m
Posa in opera tubo maggiore 5ml dm 1′
Laying additional pipe
Riduzione 20% scavi su ghiaia
20% discount, excavation over gravel
Pozzetto coperchio in ghisa
Cast iron cover
Gruppo misura DM 1/2
Group measures (?)
Anticipo consumi.
Deposit for consumption
Total Tennacola€13,537€1.649
Total Contractor€0€2,800
Value-added tax
Total Project€14,888€4,729

The next utility up is the electric company, ENEL. Kevin says this will be a crap shoot as well, They don’t provide estimates in advance, only when they show up to do the work. So Kevin will take the same approach to try to peel off whatever Francisc can do at a lower cost.

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Getting on the Road

Today’s email from Kevin was a request for approval to get started on building the access road.

The property sits about a kilometer off Strada Provinciale 129, the road between Colmurano and Urbisaglia. Right now, a rough road that turns into a gravel path as it approaches our property is the connection to the SP129. It’s too steep and rough to get equipment and materials to our site.

From the property to the main road Click image to enlarge
From the property to the main road
Click image to enlarge
Our part of the road? Click image to enlarge
Our part of the road?
Click image to enlarge

So step one in construction is to improve this road. I’m a little unclear how much of this distance needs to be improved, but certainly the last few hundred meters need work. Especially the entrance to our driveway. Right now, it’s a steep, sharp turn. We’re hoping the adjacent farmers will let us reshape it a bit.

Because of the recent earthquakes, there’s a tightening of supply of available contractors, as many are or will be working on earthquake-related projects: inspection, repair, rebuilding.

Kevin said that we could grab a grading contractor if we acted fast. Otherwise, we might face a delay of several weeks. We don’t have a building contract yet, so this would need to be done as a separate deal.

We’ve budgeted 12,000€ for this work. The proposal is for us to sign a contract for the road work and pay 10,000€ this week. Plus 1000€ tax.

Anne and I agreed we should go ahead, so now the project is “on the road.”

Google Earth

Opening a Bank Account and Writing Checks

With Giovanna’s (essential) help, I opened an account at the Banca Marche, in the San Ginesio branch. (Which branch turns out to have an interesting implication.) I gave them my passport and my Codice Fiscale. After signing a stack of documents and having the banker stamp them all with a rubber stamp, I had an an account, an ATM card, and access to Internet banking.

Banca Marche logoOne thing I learned here is that Italians don’t seem to like signatures in which the individual letters aren’t clearly visible. You can’t print; you must write neatly. This gave me a real problem, as I haven’t signed my name that way since about 1968. I had to labor over each signature, spelling out my name in my mind and then writing carefully.

Why is the branch important? On the checks, which Giovanna taught me to write, there is a blank for the branch. Write in the local branch and the check is good for one week. Write in another branch and it’s good for two weeks. Both seem like short windows to me, but that’s how it works.

I can see the two problems I’ll have: writing the date in the Italian fashion as D/M/Y and remembering to write out the amount in Italian, not in English. Duecento trentuno instead of two hundred thirty-one.

Logo: Nuova Banca delle Marche SPA

Planning Meeting with Kevin

Wednesday morning I sat down with Kevin in his office in San Ginesio to discuss a range of issues related to construction.

Our key topic was going through the budget he sent last week. It feels more bare-boned than I’d like. I’m not sure how we’d know if something we wanted to do was in the budget or not. How can we do a “change order?” Kevin wants to get a construction contract signed, but the draft contract he’s given me references a “Directory of Work” that we haven’t seen yet. I can’t really understand how the contractor could build a house without more detailed plans than we’ve been given.

drawing-board-indicating house building process in ItalyFor example, I’d really like to have construction drawings, showing detailed dimensions, electrical plans, foundation construction, etc., plus written material specifications. I wasn’t sure during the meeting just what to ask for, and figuring that I’d be told, “we don’t do it that way here,” I decided to address this issue after I returned home and could do some research.

Kevin told me we would sign individual contracts with each of the suppliers and pay them directly. I had assumed he would act as general contractor and we’d contract with him and he’d use the others as sub-contractors and that his fee would be some markup of costs. He’s included a line item of 12,500€ for a “project facilitator” and he says that covers his work.

He said that the building contractor thought he could start the project, with earthmoving and digging, in mid-November and then finish in December 2017. Kevin recommended that we write the contract for February 2018. I agree, as I don’t want them feeling stressed and cutting corners. I have been planning on using the house in summer 2018, so a couple of months extra is fine with me. (Anne disagrees. She thinks they should be able to build a house in 9 months or so.)

The pool was another discussion point. Since we are going to dig it now, with the other earthmoving, we need to pick a size. He recommended that we not go too big, as it can get expensive fast. He thought 5×8 meters or 4×10 and is going to price them both. The second option seems skinny to me.

He showed me exterior views of the house, with the photovoltaic and solar panels on the roof. He wanted to reassure me that they wouldn’t be very visible. They are on the downhill, or southwest side of the roof and since the property drops off in that direction, they should be hard to see from anywhere on the property.

The solar panels are used for hot water heating, while the photovoltaic panels generate electricity that we can use, or if we have an excess, sell back into the power network. I don’t understand the particulars of these devices, but the solar panels require direct sunlight while the photovoltaic panels just need light, so they work even on cloudy days.

We covered a few design details and then went off to lunch, on the way to the closing at 4:00 in Civitanova Marche, about 30 minutes away, on the coast.

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