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.