Thursday, January 20, 2011

Also, real estate agents suck

Today I had to deal first with a random cold-call from a mortgage broker, whose "mate" (a real estate agent who showed us a place last week) told him we might be in the market for a "good deal on a mortgage". I don't recall telling the agent he could pass on our phone numbers to his mates so that they could advertise at us, but thanks anyway.

Then I had the following call:

"Hi, it's [random agent] from [generic agency]."
"I'm calling about [address]."
"You emailed me about it last week, so I'm just returning that call."
"I'm sorry, I've sent a lot of queries to real estate agents lately: can you remind me what I asked you?"
"I don't know. I'm just getting back to you."
"But I sent you an email. Don't you have it there?"
"No, sorry."
"Could you perhaps find it and reply to it by email?"
"I'll call you back."

The way to my heart is apparently secret rooms and bay windows

We've now looked at 20+ places, and have identified four that we might actually be interested in. To put this in some perspective, there are currently 94 properties for sale in our price-range in the region we would consider buying in. The problem is, each of the four we like has a serious flaw. Do we hold out for perfection?

On the one hand, you might argue that we should definitely hold out longer, because if four out of the 100-ish on the market right now are great, then given the speed of turnover in this city (properties are usually on the market for less than three weeks), more great ones should pop up soon. On the other hand, these four have all been on the market since we first started looking, i.e. nearly four months now. Nothing approaching the awesomeness of these has shown up in that time. (On the third hand, why the hell are the properties that rate so high on our scale of awesomeness precisely the ones that aren't selling???)

Anyway, here's a sneak preview, should you happen to care, along with pros and cons.

Three-bedroom ancient monstrosity, oh my:

This place is 4.5 km (2.8 miles) from university, has the biggest lounge and kitchen of any of the houses we've seen, and has a beautiful garden with a whole lot of weird little outbuildings that have been used as chicken houses, greenhouses and an artist studio. According to the building report, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it at all, despite it being over 50 years old. On the other hand, it has no heating (yet), no cooling, and yeah, that picture in the top right is the kitchen. (Oh dear.) It also has no plumbing for hooking up a washing machine (WTF). Geekman doesn't like the exposed brick "feature wall" in the lounge (top left), and both of us worry that that room would feel like a school hall, and be impossible to keep warm.

Three-bedroom-in-a-park, and yes it's mainly about the windows:

This place is much smaller than the one above, and really the bedrooms are kind of ridiculously sized. But potentially we could knock out the wall between two of them and make a large one. It has the most amazing bay windows in the dining room (pictured) and one of the bedrooms. The garden is gorgeous and has mature fruit trees. It backs onto a national park. On the other hand it's about twice as far from university as the one above. But on the third hand (or whatever I'm up to now), the route is on bicycle paths through parkland all the way. The biggest problem with this place is that the building report lists a LOT of small issues that would each cost no more than a few hundred or a thousand dollars to deal with, but that together add up to about $20,000 of work, not to mention being annoying to have to deal with.

Two-bedroom plus secret office, but the body corporate fees of DOOOM:

This place is perfect except that it has the world's tiniest kitchen (it looks big in this photo, but that space is doubling as the lounge too. Oh, and the body corporate fees are twice what any other townhouse I've seen charges. (The two properties above are free-standing houses, but this one and the next are not, which is nice because we wouldn't have to do our own external maintenance, plus townhouses have better energy ratings, but sucks because of lack of control over anything much, and because of the fees.) It also has three bathrooms for some inexplicable reason, despite only having two bedrooms.

But! It has a secret room! And the bedrooms are reasonably sized, the whole place has heating and air-conditioning, lots of storage space, and a little private garden/courtyard as well as access to a communal herb garden and outdoor areas. It's only 2km from university (1.2 miles).

I am so in love with this next place I want to marry it but it doesn't like my hypothetical cat:

This is the most awesome place ever. It is a similar distance from university to the previous one, but the route is entirely on bike paths through parkland. It is huge and funky and I have frankly never seen anything like it before in my life. I WANT. It also has a secret criminal mastermind lair! The kitchen is a tiny bit smaller than we would like, but the three bedrooms and lounge are enormous. There is even room on the landing to have a desk and bookshelf and pretend it's an office. The only flaw is, perhaps, a fatal one: it is not possible to have cats in this building. And one of the main reasons we are considering buying a place is to get a cat. Gah!

The lowest asking price of the four places (the no-cat place) is 25% lower than the highest one (the bay-window parkland place). Ancient Monstrosity is part of a deceased estate, so perhaps they are more likely to accept a low offer. Body-Corporate-Fees-of-Doom is kind of weird, as it went on the market last year at a stupid-high price, then was withdrawn, and now it is back on the market for auction, and the lower end of what the real estate agent tells us is really quite reasonable (and puts it lower than any of the others in this list.) As for No-Cat-Ville, we happen to know about an offer the seller accepted (which then fell through), so we have a fair idea that they would take a bit under asking price as well, making THAT one the cheapest.

Advise me, O internets! How do we make this sort of decision! Or do we keep waiting?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No wonder his research is about two years behind schedule

Colleague: "So I have these Word files that contain lists of data, and they are in this format." He shows me some short Word tables. "Do you think it would be possible to put the data into Excel?"

I copy and paste it right out of the table into a spreadsheet. "Like that?"

"Yes!" he says. "Wow. That's great!"

"How many of these files do you have?" I ask. "A few hundred? A thousand?"


"So it would only take..." we both say at the same time.

I finish the sentence with "5-10 minutes" as he says, "about a day's work."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today is full of cunning traps

Me, to real estate agent: Have you had a lot of interest in this property? How many people came through on Saturday?
Real estate agent: Oh yeah, yeah, you know how it is. Yeah, there were a few. Some people came through.


Real estate agent: So how much do you think you would pay for a place like this?
Me: "Yeah. Yeah, you know how it is. Yeah, I'd pay a bit. I'd pay some money for it."

I see your cunning plan

Geekman, via text message: "Do you want some coffee and cake?"

Me, "What sort of cake?"

Geekman, "Actually, I don't have any cake."

Me, "That's okay. I'll just have coffee. Shall I come over to your office?"

Geekman, "Yes. Can you bring some cake?"

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Geekman, while I am massaging his feet: "This is a win-win situation!"

Me: "I don't think that word means what you think it means."

Geekman, waves one foot: "Win." Then the other. "WIN."

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Listening to the radio just now, A Winter's Tale came on. Hah, I think. I know that song. I had forgotten about it completely, though, for years. Why do I know it? Oh yeah, we used to sing it at school, at Christmas assembly and in choir at Christmas time. I start humming along.

But wait! What is this? The words! They are different!

The normally formatted text below is the original. The bold italics show the version we sang at my (supposedly non-religious) school.

The nights are colder now.
maybe I should close the door,
And anyway the snow has
covered all your footsteps
And I can follow you no more.
The fire still burns at night,
my memories are warm and clear;
but everybody knows
it's hard to be alone at this time of year.

It was only a winter's tale,
Just another winter's tale,
And why should the world take notice
and see how the world takes notice

of one more love that's failed?
of love that never fails

It's a love that can never be
It's a love that will always be

though it meant a lot to you and me
and it means a lot to you and me

on a world-wide scale
but on a world-wide scale

we're just another winter's tale
it's just another winter's tale

All I can think of is that our rather religious choir conductor (who was the principal's wife)*, interpreted the song as being about the birth of Jesus, and objected to the idea that the nativity was "just another winter's tale", so changed the words when she taught it. I can't believe I only discovered this now!


* And who also managed to get an anti-evolution video shown as an "extra credit" activity during the period when we were learning about Darwin in our science curriculum.