Have you ever thought about buying overseas? Have you thought about a place in Venice? Thought about it – but imagined it to be too difficult or stressful to achieve? Then I urge you to rethink if this is more than just a pipedream.

The first hurdle is of course to find someone that you can trust, that is reliable, that is helpful and efficient and delivers not just what she commits to but time after time much more. I’d like to introduceyou to Lilia Bratu, a young, rather self-effacing, attractive and gentle woman who immediately makesyou feel comfortable and at ease; she has no idea of what “putting a spin” on something means. It’s just not in her nature.  For an estate agent, as we all know, this is quite an achievement, if you have everbought or sold property in the UK. But estate agent or realtor is far too restrictive a definition for what she does in reality. Yes, she showsyou properties that fit your budget, style and location; you expect at least this; and she doesn’t disappoint here either. But believe me she exceeds all expectations when it comes to overall service. She makes sure she sends you the latest properties for sale, always prepares in advance for your arrival and is always on time. As she walks you through the narrow streets of Venice, which she knows like the ‘back of her hand’, she chats informally and openly about anything and everything you care to ask and she has a great sense of humour. She becomes your confidante. Once you arrive at a property she cleverly disappears, leaving you in peace for as long as you need to look around. If,when you have a question she can’t answer she’ll find out. Nothing is too much trouble.

She is an exceptional negotiator; she is pragmatic to both seller and purchaser and does not set any false expectations; she says how it is in a gentle, considered and concerned approach. We met several estate agents in Venice but Lilia stood out for all the right reasons. She has a wise head on young shoulders.

Remember, the property market in Venice isn’t as buoyant as say it is in London, where properties there are sold sometimes within minutes or days. It is not uncommon for properties to stay unsold in Venice for years. Expect to give yourself six months and then commit. During this time Lilia keeps in contact, offering new places that come on the market, even before they are advertised on the website or with other agents. If you are serious you need to make at least 2 visits to get to know the city and areas that appeal and what your budget can get you. Lilia helps you informally, finally decide but there is no pressure other than your own to get a place and start living such a wonderful life in “La Serenisima”.

So hopefully you will finally be given the keys and walk into your new home for the first time.It may suddenly dawn on you that there is a next phase to your adventure. Venice has no cars. How do you get furniture to you home? Beds, settees, chairs… Where do you buy them? How do you transport them? What happens if your home comes without a kitchen, which is often the case in Italy (amazingly sellers take their kitchens with them)? What about internet access, how do you pay water and utility bills, the council tax, how do you setup a Bank account. Panic! But fear not. This is where Lilia’s support and professionalism added for us that unquantifiable stress-busting component where doors suddenly open and problems get solved. It is so uplifting to have such a pillar of strength, hundreds of miles away from the UK, where a reply to an email is generally no more than a couple of hour and an answer to ananxious question tackled in an instance.

Lilia is proactive, thinks ahead and gives endless help that in the end she has become one of the family. She and her husband Roby (who is a geometra) and is also has an exceptional talent. From perhaps a kitchen installation or to a wall that wants removing, an electrician to do some modernization to dealing with the Venetian authorities to get plans through, he is who you choose.

A formidable pair then, who are quietly and disarmingly high achievers who unexpectedly leave you and your partner one day opening a bottle of Prosecco earlier than you thought and celebrating the lifestyleyou always dreamed was insurmountable. Thank you so much to you both. We really couldn’t havedone it without you without considerable hassle and pressure. It was a much more seamless, less stressful and shorter journey than we’d dared to expect with your help.

David and Gerard