3 Jul 2015

Home Truths - Going, going, gone!

2:35 pm on 3 July 2015

Sleeping on an offer seems to work. So well, in fact, that I've sold my house.

Real estate sold sign

Going, going, gone - amen! Photo: RNZ/Eileen Cameron

The buyer has gone unconditional, but I didn't quite believe it until the sticker slapped itself to the sign out the front of the property. And I still haven't broken out the bubbly. With any kind of deal there's always that small possibility something could go unexpectedly and dramatically wrong.

Now there's another kind of market force in play, and it's all around getting a new place. I've been at this selling/buying biz for almost two months now, and I'm very aware of the estimate that prices across Auckland are going up by at least $20,000 per month. Or around $600 dollars a day. Or $80 an hour. Or $1.30 for every minute I've wasted calculating this.

No matter what you've made from selling, the time you spend looking to buy erodes your profit, and with properties becoming increasingly scarce, you're also limiting your options. So hey, no pressure right?

I'd like to sleep on that too, but sometimes my sleep betrays me, as much as emotion can betray a financial transaction. They say owning your own home is the Kiwi dream, but dreams can be dangerous.

I have standard broadcast journalists' anxiety dreams. Aliens are finally landing, you have no pen, no recording gear, amnesia, and a cell-phone that will only allow angry producers to contact you demanding things you cannot possibly provide, from places you cannot find. You're going live, and your fingers find your lips have been sewn shut. The usual stuff you expect during a day's work.

When anxious about other things, I have a very specific dream. My dog is a mad delight, and I love her hugely, but I don't call her my little white horror just because she sheds white hair all over my black wardrobe like snow on the Port Hills.

Dog wearing a tie

Is this for work? I have dressed up. Photo: RNZ/Eileen Cameron

When she was a puppy she started to bleed from a small cut to her mouth, and she didn't stop. Despite a couple of intense visits to the vets, there she was late on a Friday night, blood slowly pooling on her front paws as she became so weak she couldn't keep her head up. The look in her eyes was heart-breaking.

It was at the emergency vet's in the cold and dark as I carried her, dripping blood all over the white floors, that I found out she'd eaten rat poison and her blood was unable to clot. She was dying.

A blurry weekend at the specialist animal hospital, a blood transfusion and a lot of worrying about how I could have failed the tiny life which was entrusted to me, and she was OK.

She's a dog, she has forgotten. But I never will.

And when I worry about life not work, I have long vivid dreams in which my dog is experiencing the most horrific injuries, and I'm trying to get her to the vet, holding her broken body together while she suffers more and more pain, and slips closer to an excruciating death. I am blocked over and over again by insurmountable barriers, as I fight to save her. As a general rule, I wake up before she dies.

Most of the time, I would only have a couple of these dreams each year, but since putting the house on the market I have been having them with increasing frequency. That being human thing is such a distraction.

So, I almost digress. Almost.

Recently my weekends have consisted of the following:

  • Two open homes at my property
  • Three random visits from potential buyers at awkward times
  • Four auctions I can't bid on
  • Five bewildering conversations with real estate agents
  • 60 kilometres of driving around south Auckland looking at potential buys
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (at least the partridge is tasty)

But now I've sold it's all changed. This last weekend has only consisted of one property-related outing.

I have been summoned to see the Bank Manager. He who owns me.

It's like visiting the headmaster. And becomes even more so when he explains that since I had my finances sorted to buy a house after selling - hell, a whole month ago - the bank has tightened up the home loan criteria. He smiles at me, and I realise I have been up to something very bad out behind the bleachers. Something really dumb.

I'm being reassessed to make sure I still qualify. The bank manager/headmaster tells me that now, suddenly, a lot of people are not qualifying anymore, and first home buyers with no assets are quite buggered. He uses politer language and smiles.

So the new criteria are making things harder for first home buyers, and the new "affordable home" prices are rising. You can see how well the Government's cunning plan to control the Auckland property market is going.

There's that Kiwi dream turning into a nightmare again.

Back in the headmaster's office, there's a surprise spot quiz, in which I have to suddenly figure out in great detail my real-time budget. How much I spend on health, fitness, food and (gasp) clothing and handbags every month. I fear I have failed due to my slightly Imelda Marcos-like running shoe fetish and inability to live on just instant noodles. But no, there's still another smile, and the headmaster tells me I have passed. I am approved.

It's a relief, especially as I hadn't even realised I might be out of the game at this particularly crucial point.

On the upside, he's vetting properties I might want to bid on and I do have two places in mind that are up for auction this weekend. He checks out what range they should fall into, and I feel better armed to keep to the budget.

Not that it's an option. The bank manger's smile is back. His control on my finances is far more effective than Sister Mary Margaret telling me I was going to hell for playing cards at the back of the classroom when I was 15. But there are alarming similarities.

Tomorrow I will uncross my arms, remove my hands from my armpits, where I have been very securely keeping them out of temptation's way, and bid. Or accidentally produce jazz hands. That'll surprise the auctioneer.

Maybe the little white horror and I will sleep on that one too.

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