Friday, 25 November 2011

The right house.

We've been searching for a house. We didn't start out knowing what we wanted, but we definitely knew what we didn't want. In fact we looked at so many places, and left so many disappointed realtors in our wake, we renamed ourselves "Mr Negative" (because I would immediately point out any faults I found), and "Mrs Hard Faced Bitch" (because my wife does not tolerate fake people and keeps her opinions to herself until we get back in the car). We imagined some of the realtors reactions, after they'd seen us a few times. We would arrive early, rip up their carefully rehearsed bullshit, and be gone. "Oh God, here comes that negative bloke and his unimpressable wife."

We hunted houses for 3 months, and in that time I very quickly put together the best research sites and developed psychological ploys to help us evaluate and negotiate for each house we were interested in. From several comments from the realtors, it appears the average buyer does not usually equip themselves in this way.

We, on the other hand, armed ourselves with the current market price of the house - (immediately lets you work out if the vendor has unrealistic expectations), land value - (to subtract from the asking price and work out if the house is over-priced or under-priced), how much the owners paid for it and when, (enabling us to calculate their monthly repayments and approximate age group).

Why other buyers don't do this is beyond me. I was able to talk several realtors down by over $100,000 just by knowing what the market was paying for that area, and how much of a hole the vendor was in.

Now fully streamlined, with pre-approved finance and research material covering every aspect, we soon realised that we'd rejected every house in the areas we liked, in the price range we found acceptable, and configuration that would suit us. That was pretty depressing and made us question how realistic we were being. But it's not as if we'd been unwilling to compromise. We'd almost made an offer on several houses, but their faults were just too large, too expensive to fix or too unforgivable to live with everyday.

Then, one weekend, we went shopping instead of house hunting. But we always carry a list of "maybes" and decided to drive-by several unappealing prospects on the way home. It was a steep area and we couldn't see much of one that might be of interest, so we drove around to a back street to see if we could get a look at its rear end.

By coincidence we came across a realtor who was pulling up at a driveway with no sign, and not on our list, to start an open house inspection. It was a fairly expensive part of the suburb but I immediately forgot about the other house, slammed on the brakes and invited ourselves in. I asked the price before entering, as I didn't want to waste our time looking through a million dollar house that we couldn't afford. I was shocked at the answer. Pleasantly shocked for a change. And the house was near-on perfect for us. It met almost every criteria we desired and could be easily modified to create the aspects that were missing. It was an exciting find and I couldn't be bothered keeping a poker-face. I smiled even wider when the realtor takes my enthusiasm for stupidity and asks us to sign a contract then and there. And if she thinks my positive reactions have anything to do with the way I negotiate, then she is going to be disappointed.

As it turned out, after I got home and did the research, the house was under-priced, and the vendor was in a hurry to get out. In the interest of fair play, good will and a balanced Karma we offered them the list price. I have NEVER done that before. Not even on a cheap computer monitor. I NEVER pay retail on principle. But it felt right and saved a lot of bad feeling and delays.

Our offer has now been accepted and the fun begins. The Agent is learning not to stick her nose into our business and is slightly upset that we don't require her input. So long as our inspectors and solicitor are satisfied we will be in our new house a day before Xmas.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Snobbery at its Finest

We are currently looking at houses, with an aim to purchase, which our bank was very keen to assist us with by offering us large amounts of money. Commendably we have resisted utilizing this amount to the last dollar, leaving us in the mid range listings for the areas we are interested in.

During our interactions with RE Agents we are inevitably shown structures that are well outside our
"absolute top dollar" price range as they predictably try to find out where our "real" ceiling is.

I believe we have fairly simple tastes. We like value for money and aren't particularly interested in, what I term, "look at me" houses. I'm just as happy in a large, old shed with three different extensions in multi-coloured zincalume as I would be in a barn sized air-conditioned garage. Especially if the dunga shed has 74 power-points, a 2 post hoist, TV, beer fridge and pool table inside. I'm not out to impress anyone. Being comfortable is what we are all about.

So anyway, I am looking through the listings and find a fancy, architecturally designed mansion by accident and do some cursory searches on its value. I see that it has been dropped a shitload in price. More searching uncovers a possible drainage problem at the back. As it is a very beautiful home, and because I can't help buying something "worth" 1 million dollars at half price I ring the agent.

Let's call her Miss Upherself shall we?

Ring, ring.

Miss Upherself: Hello, this is BitchFace. How may I help you?

Me: Hi. I was interested in that hideously expensive mansion you have listed and I've noticed on the flood map that there is a possible flooding problem at the back. Is that why it the price has been reduced?

Miss Upherself: Well I'm absolutely certain that map is wrong. (Blah blah, city council, irresponsible mapping data, etc). May I inquire what price range you are interested in.

Me: (Insert hopeful dollar figure).

Miss Upherself: Oh dear me no, I think you should be looking in other ares. The front door alone is worth $3000.00.

Me: Click. Beeep... beeep.. beeep...

Living in Loser Yobboville

Before I begin my rant I would like to identify myself as an average, working-class Aussie - one retaining a measure of morality and common decency, if somewhat tainted by run-away cynicism.

For various reasons we were forced to lease a 3 bedroom, 5 car garaging townhouse (sight unseen) in a fairly new sub-division. It presented very well in the real estate online ad. Talk about 'looks can be deceiving'.

In reality we got a 2 and a half bedroom with room for 1 full size car in the carport and maybe a motorbike in the garage. The suburb was also very much a "lower socio-economic" area. OK, we got conned, but we could live with that.

What we couldn't live with were the people.
We quickly sold our V8 ute (sob) to fit a smaller car into the shoebox garage. The necessity was brought about by the gangs of kids who roamed the streets nightly, graffiti'ing property and pissing in fuel tanks and letter-boxes. Seriously.

Then there were the burnouts at all hours (from absolute shit-boxes, not even V8's!), a disturbed young man who'd wander up and down the street without shirt or shoes, kicking a football into backyards so he can have a look around. Also there was the random screams that would jerk you awake and make you listen for attackers or follow up yell.
But daytime follows night and the bored little pricks would disperse back into their homes. Into the houses ALL AROUND US.

A particularly uncouth sub-class of white-trash Australians existed directly behind us in a battle-axe block. They used our front yard as a parking lot, graffiti'ed the fence and had loud, very personal conversations that we could not avoid hearing since our neighbours are 2 meters from our back verandah and bedroom windows.

These people were the epitome of the urban lower-class. They are the dole-bludging losers you see on the news when domestic violence goes from fists to knives.

The parents were in their 30's. Their kids are late teens. One of the teenage daughters has a 3 year old and a 5 year old. They all live unhappily in a similar sized house to us, using their garage as several bedrooms, each contributing $160 a week in rent. (Discovered during a screaming argument over who owed rent).

They communicate in moronic low-class drawls while listening to loud commercial radio and use the word "fuck" in every sentence. For instance:
"Where ya fuckin' goin'." 
"Down the fuckin' shops."
Week-ends were a time to max out expletives, fueled by the cheapest beer they have managed to buy with their pooled child-assistance cheques.

I heard this gem through the bedroom window while they were spray- painting (Supercheap had a special on Matt-Black paint). "Hey Dad, this fucking spray can is fucking fucked."

We get used to finding condoms, beer bottles and other rubbish thrown into our back yard. Screaming arguments, broken glass in the street, a girl beaten and crying running from her boy-friend. The level of tension and stress is never-ending and inescapable.

A decision is made to 'fix' an old station-wagon. Soon the trails of oil leading in and out of their driveway, up and down the road and all over our brick frontage is beyond a joke. These self-absorbed, small-minded, short-tempered rejects are totally oblivious to how their actions effect the people around them.

There was NOTHING I could do about it. I cannot start a fight with people who have nothing to lose. They have no focus, few morals and no direction. They live day to day, reacting to obstacles that they let fall in their way with rage and violence. Any sort of confrontation or police assistance would paint a target on our backs. Reasoning with them would be pointless. Any attempt at discussing their behaviour would inevitably degenerate into physical retaliation.

On the up side, I eventually left that place. And I take some valuable insights from that urban hide. The minds of the barely literate, irresponsibly procreating, unimaginative dregs of our society were open to me. I've lost hope for future generations.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Pollyanna the Cynic.

I recently replied to someone;s blog post in my usual knee-jerk, flippant manner. Someone else replied that I'm an overly cynical negative bastard. And I suppose I do tend to expect the worst. It’s a defensive mechanism brought on by years of adversity. But I'd prefer not to be labeled as 'overly negative'.

Overly Negative people think they are perceived as more intelligent when they point out the faults in a given situation, rather than accepting the circumstances and moving on. This pseudo-intelligent pessimist seeks to cloud our sunshine moments because they're envious. If they can’t be happy, why should anyone else be? I am not this person.

My belief in Karma - my Great Mental Balancer often comes in handy when I am feeling negative. Occasionally I do dump my negativity on others and afterwards I feel obligated to pay forward the attention I've been favoured with by attending to someone else's negativity. This is not a fun past-time and reminds me not to do it to others too often.

I recently received some great advise about listening which has made the chore much easier to cope with: “Sometimes people don’t want you to fix anything. Sometimes they just want someone to hear them.” Incredible. If you aren't wracking your brain for a method to fix their problem, then you are really listening to them.

I always seek to diffuse misery, yet misery loves company. A truism often encountered in long-term workplace employees. Ever notice how the two most sour workmates always hang around together. On the flip side, being surrounded by positive thinkers could be pretty tiring too. 

You'd think you’d LOVE never to be unhappy ever again, wouldn't you? I don’t. How could you appreciate the special times of unadulterated pleasure if it's on tap 24/7.

Be kind when you can and think happy thoughts, people; just make sure to top them with a healthy amount of cynical sprinkles.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Digging ditches

I've been helping my brother dig ditches and lay pipe on and off for the last week or so. Probably the hardest I've had to work since the Great Pack Up and Move and has helped me drop several more kilo's.

We did all the work by hand to cut costs, digging through clay, shale and a million tree roots, and so what if I could barely move the next day after each session. I'm sure Jules can tune out the groaning.

The job was only
necessary to drain a much bigger project underneath the house. Oh yeah, we all know how much I love crawling around under houses. Next task is to remove another 5 cubic metres of dirt before the block layer and concreters turn up. I can barely wait for the next weight training exercise.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Comfort Zone or Stagnation

In the past I have always found a certain level of uncertainty in my life acceptable. I've never seen the point in planning out a career path, with goals highlighted along the way. I usually get itchy feet in the 2nd or 3rd year of residing in one place, even if we break it up with holidays away.

Therefore the long stay in SmokeTown has effected me profoundly. I accumulated stuff that I found difficult to let go of. I got comfortable in a niche that had enough positives that they outweighed the many negatives of the place. And the "remote" location disconnected me from society and robbed me of my ability to learn and take chances.

I am going to change this trait if I can. I don't want to be cutting edge, but I most certainly don't want to be left behind.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Blog rediscovered and reopened with a self inspection ..

I don't know if you're still with me after such a long break... Luckily I don't mind talking to myself, and I definitely need a space to brain dump as the past few weeks have been extreme.

Jules and I have been through many lifestyle changes in the past 13 years and we're lucky these experiences help us get through the inevitable screw-ups and mishaps.

Our latest change in circumstances involved leaving a stagnating town full of small minds and large ignorances. If that sounds arrogant or superior then so be it. I want to be superior to some of these people, and arrogance can be healthy if it serves to keep your head above the prejudiced dregs you must swim in.

Already I'm discovering plenty of garden variety wankers in this new place too, but being anonymous again makes a huge difference. Being blissfully unaware of my neighbours deepest secrets, distressing tales of woe and details of their illnesses and family crisis's is great. I walk through the super-malls and no longer need to scan faces to turn away from anymore.

It was interesting to watch myself stress and fume during the many problems involved with the move, (perhaps not fascinating to Julie who bore my aggressiveness with her usual calm). I felt totally overloaded and continually checked myself for cracks indicating an inability to cope. As the situation worsened, I stayed focused on fixing each problem and not dwelling on the cause. I got through it intact but have no desire to run another pressure test at that level for a while. I'm sure the possibility is always there.

When I was younger I'd deliberately push myself to find my physical limits. I'd work until my body collapsed, and when recovered, I'd see if I could better the record. However I think a mental collapse would be far harder to recover from. A broken mind doesn't heal the way muscles do. I fear this type of damage more than losing a limb.

I know our mind's are tempered by adversary, and it's not a bad thing to be stress-tested on occasion, especially if the eventual rewards outweigh the angst. We all like to laugh about our most trying times - some time afterwards. Those of us who don't are doomed to sob over failures in secret, in the dark. Thankfully I'm yet to experience these types of failures.