We have FINALLY bought a house. After two years of hunting I feel like a rodent who has given birth to an ostrich. We have spent MANY weekends looking through at least 756,870,324 houses, studying floor plans, learning about the way property works here in NZ and attending many auctions to understand the process. We have neglected the kids or dragged them along.
Etienne likes houses with dark, thick carpets where there is room for a snooker table in the garage – sweet dreams. Jules likes houses with a garden big enough for a dog. In the end we were down to three properties, two were great investments but only the third was a great place to stay (and not such a brilliant investment) – and that’s the one we got. Light carpets and unless the dog can fit under your bra strap it ain’t gonna be a happy pet in this garden. But both kids just love it.
So we will be living 700m down the road. Same neighbourhood, same schools, same friends for the kids. Karen’s “must have” list just flew out the window: “ocean view” – add R750k; “forest view” – add R500k. So we bought an ordinary house in extraordinarily good condition with many great interior spaces and buggerall view of anything except its own driveway and the house immediately in front of it. It is almost invisible from the road being on a pan handle (or “right of way” as it is known here).
Admittedly it is only 230m from the water’s edge – but there will be no sunset cocktails on the balcony overlooking the (non-existent) crashing waves. You can see the sea and its proximity if you go to Google maps, select the pedestrian and click this link as your starting point and the destination is 38 The Parade, Bucklands Beach and then do a street view to look around. There are these little alleyways all through the neighbourhood to help people get to key points (schools, buses, shops, the sea front) quickly and easily. It is 220 m to the nearest bus stop, 2.3km to Jules’s school, 2.2 to Et’s – and that is also the distance to the nearest bottle store (no coincidence).
It was not an uncomplicated birth either – first many dollars spent on research and legal preparation, then a failed auction, then late-night meetings, then deadline-driven counter-offers and lots of haggling. Finally in a tense final hour where Karen was on the phone at an auction for house number 2 we got the green light from the agent that the deal was done. I think exhaustion got the better of all parties, but finally a bouncy 3-bed with lots of storage space was delivered. AGPAR score of 10.
Here’s a link to the estate agent’s website (pretty amazing info hey?). Now our little house does not compare to Anne Hathaway’s cottage in terms of cosy comfort or quaintness. In fact the Saffers will think she is a tad ugly from the outside. But here in NZ the issues are rainwater and how to keep it out, and sunshine and how to let it in. Many houses are built of wood with either terraced weatherboard (looks like an armadillo) which is ours, or brick, or a smooth finish (“cladding”) which is pretty but not necessarily so good for the rain. The latter is often treated with suspicion by most Kiwis because the building rules were relaxed a little too much around 1998 – 2004 and the resulting houses are called “leaky homes” because the water gets into the wooden frame and rots it. There are entire suburbs which are riddled with leaky homes and they have depressed prices and not much interest from the public. So ours might not be the swan of the real estate world, but our toes will be dry and rot-free (sorry, not a nice image).
Because we will be going back to SA over Xmas we have negotiated a delayed occupation date (called “settlement”) of 1 February, so we can start packing now and we will still rush like ants the night before.
In the meantime it is bank negotiations, lawyers, movers etc. We have sworn a blood oath not to do this again for at least 425 years. But there were some interesting sounding properties that could be good investments when our SA property is finally sold [thinks while scratching chin and avoiding Karen’s glare].