Cracker by Damian Christie


Home (Is Where I Want to Be)

Say what you want about Taekwondo champ Logan Campbell opening a brothel to fund his Olympic bid, but at least he knows someone’s rooting for him.

(Sorry, I thought of it yesterday and had to get it out there. On with the blog.)

A couple of years back I stumbled across a site called White Whine – essentially a list of things that white people complain about. One favourite includes:

“Oh perfect, Ben Folds is playing a show in my city while I’m on a business trip in Hawai’i. Goddamn it.”

The sub-title for this blog could very well be an entry on that site:

“Do you know how hard it is to try and buy a first home in the current market?”

Yeah I know, tough life. People are dying, ethnic groups are revolting, and here’s me with the most bourgeois complaint since “Oh great, so now John Key has closed off the Cook Islands tax loophole” (which was admittedly only yesterday, but surely that won’t make him happy with his big business mates, will it, or is having a haven in the Cook Islands like, sooo 1995?). I realise there are bigger problems, but as I said almost four years ago in this blog (any newbie blogger calling me part of the MSM can suck my history) if I was starving in Africa, I’d be blogging about that. As it is, I don’t have flies on my face, so I’m going to complain about the OCR and stuff.

The first house buying thing has been an interesting experience. The massive crash in interest rates suddenly made the whole idea more do-able, even if the banks' equally sudden need for 20% deposit put up a few obstacles for creative hurdling. Everyone thinks it must be a great time to buy, and it probably is if you've got a million or so to spend and can sit around waiting for a mortgagee sale.

But in the first-home range (which in Auckland apparently goes into the $600,000s, at least according to some optimistic real estate agents), there doesn't seem to be much downward movement, and over the past few months, there’s been a decided lack of stock.

Attractive properties are being pounced on –one that listed and had its first open home on Sunday was gone by the time I called to make an offer on Monday morning. This creates pressure which works in everyone's favour but the buyer. A number of houses due to go for auction in a month's time sold less than a day after listing, under a multiple offer situation, where each prospective buyer puts in his or her 'best' offer, and the vendor negotiates with the highest. The pressure of making an offer after having only the briefest look at a house, and still missing out time and time again is quite depressing – and not helped by people saying "what a great time to be buying!"

Then there’s the open homes. Month after month of having the guts sucked out of my weekends (yes it's fun, but so's ten pin bowling, and I wouldn't sign up to do that between 12 and 3pm every Saturday and Sunday for the foreseeable future), racing from one suburb to the next in carefully scheduled 15 minute intervals. I’m sick of leaving my shoes at the door, of sneering at bad furniture, tasteless art and books neatly left open on muffin recipes in the kitchen. And, in one house, an amateur attempt at a 'Body Shots' photo on the bedroom wall which the owners hadn't thought they should take down. They really should have.

After missing out at one auction, and a few unsuccessful offers elsewhere, we found a house we liked the other night. Another auction.

Auctions, I have to say, are not for the faint hearted. This was a long drawn out process – even after all the messing around to get started, the false stops and so forth, even when I was sitting at the winning bid after about five minutes and it was “going twice”, things were stopped. The real estate agent then approached me mid-auction, and suggested upping it a bit to reach the vendors’ reserve. In case you’re not aware how auction rules work, if the auction doesn’t reach reserve, only the person with the highest bid has the right to negotiate with the vendors after the auction. To bid against yourself when you already have the winning bid is just throwing away your bargaining power, basically.

So of course I said “no thanks, we’ll talk after the auction.” I’m told across town that night, a buyer in Ponsonby upped his $900,000 bid first to $905, then $910, then $915 to reach the reserve while the auction was still going. I would’ve thought someone with access to a million bucks might’ve had slightly more sense.

Anyway, the auction resumed, and apparently the “going twice” was just a figment of my imagination as we started again, while the real estate agent went to seemingly. every. single. bloody. person. and asked them one. at. a. bloody. time if they wanted to bid against me. Just in case they hadn’t realised that’s how an auction works, ya know. Finally it was apparent no-one was interested. The vendors dropped their reserve, so the house was ours at the fall of the hammer.

Well not quite. The shitter about buying a home is that, unlikely putting a frock on layby, you can't really go in and try it on, take your friends for a look and so forth before it's all paid for. A late night drive-by doesn't really do the business when what I really want is to try out the shower pressure.

Any number of friends said to me "most people spend more time buying a pair of shoes than they do choosing their new home – their biggest asset." And that's pretty true. I spent more time trying on Nikes last week than I did poking around the foundations of the new place.

So it’s not Ponsonby. It’s not Grey Lynn, it’s not even Point Chev or Sandringham. No, as one preferred suburb eventually gave way to its slightly-further-out-neighbour and every suitable house promised to come with a view of the new Waterview-Mt Albert motorway, priorities shifted and dreams were adjusted to meet realities. It’s a nice suburb, but one that only seems to ring bells with other people who have recently bought or are looking for their first home. Most importantly, it’s a nice house that’s been well looked after. The only downer? Knowing that if I’d managed to negotiate better, they might’ve thrown in the Body Shot too.

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