So, virtual hands up all of you who, during your search for the perfect house, job or boyfriend/girlfriend were told my many a smug friend ‘When you find the right one, you’ll just know. And you will find the right one…don’t worry’. And who also, upon hearing those words, after months and months and months of finding wrong one after wrong one after wrong one wanted to wring the neck of the smug person uttering said words? To all of you with your virtual hands up, Amen brother/sister! I was with you.
And I say was. I say it in the past tense when it applies to the house hunt, arguably one of the most painful of all the hunts. In the man hunt you tend to have some amusing and enjoyable experiences along the way. In the job hunt you can generally find something to tide you over in the meantime (and some would say the same with regards the man hunt… ;-)). But the house hunt seems to be something else entirely, especially for those amongst us blessed (or not) to live in our fair nation’s largest and most expensive of cities.
I can’t tell you how many articles I have seen and watched about the difficulties of buying a house in Auckland. I can only imagine how bored home owners in other parts of the country must be by all this. ‘Just move on already!’, they must be saying. ‘It can’t be that bad’. And to an extent they are right. The fact that we are house hunting at all generally means we are lucky enough to quality for a mortgage and be able to afford to have some place of our own. Which, let’s remember, is a privilege a great proportion of the world’s population will never have.
But, finding the right place, within your budget, is still no easy feat. I started looking when I returned from London in September 2009. And I finally moved into my place just a few months ago. So, to quote that girl from the Tip Top ad, it didn’t happen overnight but it did happen. And I looked at A LOT of places. Most of them, not great. There was not a single one where I walked in and went ‘yeah, this is the place for me’. Oh, aside from one that was $100K over my budget and had about a gazillion people at the open home (so no, not the place for me after all). I looked at apartments, units, houses, baches. I looked in St Johns, Mt Albert, Titirangi, Ponsonby, Parnell, Sandringham, Western Springs. My only requirement was – I had to be able to bus or train to work in about half an hour. And I had to feel safe.
And whenever I would complain to my happily home-owning friends they would say ‘yeah, we’ve been there’, and then the perennial ‘you will know it when you see it’. And I would internally shake my little head and say ‘yeah right, and small pink animals might fly’. But believe it or not, and don’t hit me for saying this house-hunters, but they were right.
I was just about ready to put an offer in on an apartment – a perfectly tidy, perfectly nice, perfectly characterless apartment that I would have grown sick of in about a year. But it was a good investment and would mean I could stop living at my Dad’s and become a grown up again. And in a twist of wonderful fate, that night – just after receiving an email from Dad saying ‘I think you should reconsider – I can just see you being happier in a unit with a bit of outdoor space and some sunshine’ – I got an email from a friend with a link to an ad on Trade Me to a unit for sale in Point Chev. A unit that had all the things I wanted when I set out house hunting – wooden floors (don’t ask me why), heaps of natural light, and walking distance to a beach (I wasn’t fussy about which one – just after 5 years in London I wanted some sand and shells nearby). And here it was. But was it too good to be true?
The next day dawned rainy and cold, and I organised a viewing for that afternoon. And, would you believe it, as soon as I walked in, I knew. This was the place for me! And it really is! As I sit here now in my lounge still warm from the heat of the day, I am one of those smug, annoying people who really did ‘just know’.
So what advice can I give those of you still hunting? Three things really. 1) Be open to different options. I had no idea where Point Chevalier was when I started looking around, but I love it now. 2) Be patient. I had the amazing luxury of being able to reside with my lovely father while I hunted – and neither he nor I expected it to be such a long hunt. But if you can make it work for you do – the wait will be worth it, and will save you rushing into something that isn’t ideal. 3) Don’t give up. A few times along the way I thought ‘screw it, I will just rent forever and that’s fine’. And for some people it totally is. But I knew I was sick of paying other people’s mortgages and wanted to get on the property ladder sooner rather than later.
So, I hope this is of some use to someone out there in the interweb world…And in the meantime, I am just hoping that this annoying catchphrase, and my three tips, are also as applicable in the search for the perfect man 😉