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2012-02-17 - 6:23 p.m.

How quickly things can change.

Okay, that sounded a little melodramatic for something that is a natural follow on from something I’ve already talked about. We’re moving. To Mortdale. For those who don’t know, Mortdale is a suburb in Sydney’s South- two stops on the train line from where I grew up and another two stops from the centre of Hurstville. It’s less than 15 minutes on top of Jo’s current commute (an essential factor in her search criteria), and a little closer to my work than Marrickville is. For what we’re buying (4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 677 square metres, double garage) it’s a lot closer (geographically) to the life that we already know than what I feared we might have to settle for.

I first saw it by myself, on the first Saturday of January while Jo was getting her hair cut. I was convinced enough to organise a mid week appointment to bring Jo and my parents back. There were a few questionable elements that I hadn’t picked up on the first time but it didn’t change the fact that both Jo and I loved it. We made a (deliberately low) offer that week, which was predictably turned down. We went back the following Saturday, this time with a posse of Fran, Andy, Phillipa, Nat, Pete and Marty. We made another offer the next week. It was turned down again, this time with them telling us that based on the interest they were getting they weren’t accepting any offer just yet, as they effectively wanted to see what they could get. Fair enough.

Back again for a third Saturday, this time with Nathan, and this time the Real Estate asks us if we can meet a price (since I’m not really shy about these things, let’s just fill in the picture- they were originally asking $779K, we first offered $740K, then $756K, then they asked us if we could do $770K).
We said we’d think about it. Then got back to them first thing Monday with an offer of $760K. Real Estate got back to me very quickly suggesting we meet halfway at $765K. When it took a full day (first thing Tuesday) for him to confirm they’d verbally accepted, I had a sneaking suspicion they were using the fact that we’d made an offer to try to push other indecisive prospective buyers, so we tried not to get too excited, knowing that until we’d signed a contract nothing was certain.

Building inspection was done late Tuesday. Pest inspection early Wednesday. Thursday was Australia Day and there was a lot to digest in the Building and Pest Inspections (it’s hard to know what imperfections are simply to be expected in a house built in the 1920s and which scream “steer clear”). After seeking many opinions (and enduring much mirth at my retelling of the story ad nauseum at our Australia Day BBQ) we decided it was worth it.
Friday 27/1 we both had the day off (before all this started spiralling into our control we though we’d be hungover and cleaning house), so we got ourselves a bank cheque for the full 10% deposit amount, and by 4pm we had signed the contract.

Nerves quickly turned to frustration. I’m pretty sure that last time when we put pen to paper it was more or less done and dusted. This time we were aware that the signed contracts were in the Express Post on Friday afternoon, and there was nothing we could really do to stop the place being shown again on the Saturday.

By mid to late Monday there was confirmation that the contract was on the desk of the vendor’s solicitor, but there was no word from the vendor instructing them to sign. They’re both in Darwin, in the Army, so maybe it was all innocent, but maybe we were being used as pawns.

Tuesday morning (it’s 31/1 by now) Jo gets a call from the Real Estate agent who we’re now starting to dislike a little (soon to be a lot) telling her that there is another party interested, and the vendor has decided to go with the first party who can exchange unconditionally. In other words, waive our right to a five day cooling off period.

To me this is completely unethical. I’m prepared for gazumping- it sucks, and the time between the verbal acceptance and the exchange is nerve wracking but it’s just something you have to deal with, but the vendor has to look after themselves and a verbal offer is worth nothing. But to have a signed contract and a big fat cheque waiting only for the vendor to exchange and then ask us to effectively change our offer (given that we had signed a contract which included a cooling off period)- not cool. Plus we didn’t have full unconditional approval from the bank, which makes the cooling off a handy safety net for an admittedly unlikely situation. After some discussion Jo and I begrudgingly decided we would waive the cooling off, given that we weren’t planning on cooling off anyway, and our finances were pretty secure.
It got worse. Firstly, our conveyancer, who was not impressed in the first place by this recent turn of events, told us that it was pointless faxing through the necessary waiver certificate as the vendor’s solicitor had still not heard from his client, so they couldn’t sign anybody’s contract with or without a waiver. Clearly the Real Estate was pushing the buttons here. Then at about 4pm or so on the Tuesday our conveyance receives a fax from the vendor’s solicitor advising that they have been instructed to take the highest unconditional offer at 3pm Wednesday. They also made a point of stating that they knew nothing of the phantom second party except that they had been purported to exist.

So, not first offer. Highest offer. As in, maybe you should throw in another $10K just to be sure. Quite a few people asked us if we considered making an offer of $2K less at this point. So while we were thinking “fuck you”, we politely asked our conveyancer to prepare the waiver, make it clear that the offer in monetary terms was not changing, and that our offer was valid only until 5pm Wednesday.

We were advised at about 4.45pm Wednesday 1st February that we were the successful party. And that is the story behind my Facebook post “We bought a house- no thanks to LJ Hooker Mortdale”.

The place itself- despite what I wrote earlier, it’s effectively a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, beautifully renovated double brick house built most likely in the 1920s. The fourth bedroom and second bathroom are part of a dodgy 1960s fibro annex (most likely containing asbestos), and we have grand plans to pull the dodgy bit down (or to be more accurate pay licensed asbestos removalists to pull it down) and open out the back section with French doors and an outdoor entertaining area (sometime before 2050 :)

The driveway runs down the left hand side of the property- you can fit a couple of cars unsheltered in front of the gate, then the driveway runs all the way to the double garage at the back of the property. Someone decided it was a great idea to erect a (removable) clothesline in the middle of the driveway. Not ideal (I mean, yes it’s removable but parking the car and drying clothes aren’t mutually exclusive in my book) but we’ll do something about it soon enough, and in the meantime I’m not too worried about parking my car in front of the gate.

There’s a veggie box in the middle of the backyard which last time we checked contained basil, beetroot, lettuce and either Spanish Onion or garlic. There were tomatoes, cucumbers, a grapevine and a fully enclosed chook pen if we want it (we don’t). There’s also a mango tree with a rudimentary treehouse (or fruit picking platform) in it.

The property backs right onto the railway line. Literally. But the train noise is no worse than where I grew up, and probably better than at our Stanmore Place. And we won’t have taking off and landing planes interrupting our movie watching. And the street is a beautiful suburban street- when I saw the map location before I checked the place out for the first time I was worried that the side of the street adjacent to the railway line might be ugly cyclone fencing, but apart from a minor amount of noise you wouldn’t even know the railway line was there from the street (given all the houses including ours that sit between the street and the trains).

What struck me the first time I looked at it was that it was the first place I looked at that had me thinking “it’s not perfect, but that gives us something to do for the next 30 years”, rather than “renovator’s dream- my nightmare”. It’s instantly liveable, but there’s so much we can do.

We’re going to love this place.

But I’m going to miss this place.


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