The Story of the House
Moving Day has finally arrived, so I thought I’d tell all you little children the magical tale of how we found the house. On September 1st, the Snook and I headed out for another day of looking at apartments. I was still a little bummed out about losing the (first) Google job, but I was trying to be optimistic. We had a list of half a dozen places to check out, and we thought we might swing by an auction in the afternoon (just to get an idea of how they work). One of our first stops was at Renwick Street in Redfern, to look at some new flats that had just been built. They were fantastic. (I can’t find a link now; looks like they’ve all been snapped up.) Huge 3 bedroom flats, very modern, all very cool. And the price was definitely right. (Under $600K.) It was tempting. We spent the new couple of hours trying to decide whether we wanted to live in Redfern. The location wasn’t great (right off Regent Street), but supposedly the ‘Fern is going to be the next big real estate hotspot. We debated. After lunch, we decided at the last minute to check out the auction in Chippendale. I noticed as we walked over that there was an older woman ahead of us that seemed to be going in the same direction. The three of us rode up in the lift together, and all three of us got the same cold shoulder from the agent when he discovered we weren’t there to bid. I heard her asking him what he expected the property to sell for. I thought it was a decent flat, and if we’d known about it a month earlier, we might have gone for it. Anyway, we decided not to stick around and headed back to the elevator. The woman was in there with us. “So, are you two looking to buy?” she asked conversationally. “Oh yes,” we said. “How many bedrooms?” “Welll… ideally 3, but whether we can afford that in the area is a different story.” “We’re selling a 3 bedroom,” she said. “Would you like to see it?” So she led us back down the street… and straight to our own apartment. Or rather, the apartment RIGHT NEXT DOOR. We looked at each other. “You’re JOKING.”Nope. Our apartment is the last one in our block, and this one (which is really more of a townhouse) is the first one in the next block. We’d actually looked at a few in there to rent a few years back, but they weren’t a huge step-up from what we have now. What we didn’t know is, the end unit is actually far bigger and nicer than any of the others. We knew it had been rented out before to this weird guy who kept pet turtles (he once stopped by to ask if one had gotten loose in our garden), but we’d seen him move out a few weeks before. It turns out that the woman (Carol) and her husband (David) owned the place and had been renting it to the turtle guy for some years. He was a Bad Tenant though, and now it seemed they just wanted to sell it and not have anymore headaches. They were there that day getting the place ready to have new timber floors installed, and she’d headed over to the auction on a whim just to find out what prices were like. We were wandering around in a daze. The place was easily twice as big as our current flat, and it ticked off all the major requirements we’d discussed (lots of outdoor space, decent sized kitchen, great location, internal laundry and built-in wardrobes, etc). The husband filled us in on some more juicy details: no, they hadn’t put it on the market yet; no they hadn’t even signed with an agent yet, so we could deal directly with them and save on commission; yes, it came with *two* undercover car spaces (one of which was already rented out at nearly twice what we were getting for ours). And then they said the magic words: “We’ve been told we could probably get [a price that I felt was probably pretty low, actually] for it, but we’re happy to take [a price that was even lower].” We choked. We needed some time to take it all in. We headed to Una’s for a much needed beer and a discussion.
We hashed it out. “Okay, disregarding the magical fact that it’s right next door to where we live now… What are the pros/cons?” “We’ll have to get a building report done and make sure there isn’t anything super wrong with it.” “It’s at the high end of our budget, but we can afford it. It’s way more than we ought to be able to get at that price.” “Are they nuts not asking for more money? They could easily get another $100K if they put it on the market.” “I get the feeling they just don’t want the headache.” “Maybe they want it to go to a nice family who’ll take care of it.” “I can’t believe we’re this lucky. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? You’re not supposed to fall ass-backwards into the Deal of the Century!?”
We walked back over an hour later and knocked on the door. “We’d like to buy your house,” we said. We all went over to the Broadway Cafe for coffee, and half an hour later we shook hands on the price. Done.
Well, not “done,” actually. Turns out buying a house is a huge hassle, even when you have a sale as simple as ours. We quickly arranged for building and pest inspections, neither of which turned up anything we didn’t expect. I got a great lawyer recommendation and had him start the paperwork. Ma and Pa Snook came down the following weekend to have a look and give their advice. We got our mortgage broker over to walk us through the loan application. The past few weeks have been a flurry of faxing documents and signing forms. A particular highlight was being handed a bank cheque for the deposit (nearly twice my yearly salary) and walking it across town to the lawyer’s office. (“Question: What happens if I fall down in the street and lose the cheque?” I asked the teller. “I was just about to give you that speech,” he said. Evidently I am not the only anxious clumsy person in the world.) There were First Home Owner grants to be applied for, and Stamp Duty Exemptions, and all sorts of things I had hoped to never deal with in my life. But we did it, and on November 22nd, we finally get to settle and call the house ours.
But in the meantime, Carol and David are happy for us to move in early, rent-free. How much luck can two people have? I wonder if we’ve used up all our Luck Allotment for the next twenty years. Anyway, Moving Day is upon us, and I better get moving…