This is the real estate post… yesterday I reached settlement on a townhouse in Alice. As you might remember, I’d been doing some research on the weekends for a while, thinking of buying into the local market as (1) I was about to be turfed off the Titanic and out of my government housing, and (2) the only real estate I ever thought I’d be able to afford in Sydney was a plot in Macquarie Park (from memory, it’s about $2,000 for a single).
I know that everything’s plunging down real estate-wise in Sydney and Melbourne, especially apartments, but as real estate is ‘land-locked’ in Alice for various reasons, it tends to plateau rather than drop. That’s my justification for buying into the market, anyway; really, I’m sick of moving (3 times in the last 18 months) and it would be nice to have a place to call one’s own.
My hive of frenzied real estate activity (actually, hive of frenzied activity, full stop) climaxed when I saw a townhouse advertised in the Friday paper before the Finke Desert race and long weekend. Thinking I was being very smart, I rang the agent on Fri afternoon and requested an inspection that day. I went round and yes, it was even better than a place on the Eastside on which I’d previously made an unsuccessful offer (and the asking price was $40 k cheaper). Altho not as modern as some of the Eastside townhouses (i.e. the groovy and definitely most expensive part of town), this Southside abode has a view of the ranges from the balcony and directly overlooks the Todd, is relatively sound and has a nice kitchen (as well as being only 5 mins from the CBD). It’s also close to the hospital and the resorts, so I figured it was unlikely to depreciate and that there would never be any shortage of potential rentees, should I leave town (and rental returns were at least 2 % more than the Eastside unit).
I organised to meet the agent on Sunday to make an offer (before anyone else had a chance). She asked me to think very carefully about it, and blabbed on about how the bidding on places had been crazy and well above the asking price during the summer... Well, the market looked like it had quietened down but I wondered if there was another message in her words, apart from ‘give us as much money as possible’. I asked if it was a deceased estate, and she said ‘yes’ so I thought, uh-huh, if I make an offer round the asking price, the public trustee will probably let it go straight through to save himself too much bother. I did just that and was successful in getting the place – and when it was valued by the bank, it turned out that the asking price was the valuer’s price, so that was a relief.
This was all a big relief as settlement could be worked to coincide with when I suspected the final sinking of the Titanic would occur. All this was done by the seat of my pants, skin of my teeth etc, (especially the bit where I gave the bank a defunct work contract, not being totally sure that I was going to get the job for which I’d just been interviewed.) There’s been much agonising along the way, too, but in the end, you just have to bite the bullet and run with it (cliches abounding). There has also been every possible administrative hiccup, but I’ll only regale you with the highlights.
Not being able to see inside the place for 30 days to reassure oneself that it was an ok deal and a livable habitat, I began to forget what it looked like tho I did remember the carpets were particularly disgusting, despite having been steam-cleaned. A lot of floors out here are covered in tiles (chilly in the winter); at the other extreme, people take pride in kitting out their places (especially when they’re back on the market) with slightly booffy pale coloured carpets: not a good look with orange dirt. In the case of my new abode, it was a veritable orgy of pale green: not just the carpets, but the walls, the vertical blinds and general trim. Very 70s, but just as well it’s not pale pink like next door.
So made plans to get carpets ripped out and replaced with wooden surface of some kind. I have a bit of a wood fetish and was particularly taken with a parquetry floor I once had in Balmain (I remember See Kam telling me I’d been born in the year of the Wood Snake – better watch out for borers – and that my name phonetically translated to ‘Lotus Roots’ in Cantonese.) All this took ages of negotiating with tradesman who seemed to be a bit of an NVB. High point was when he got the keys from the agent to measure the place up, and somehow managed to open the flat next door with the key … and measured up their place instead. I knew something was wrong when he commented about the tiles I’d already ripped out and the furniture I had there already. Rang up the agent who was horrified, mortified, etc and seemed to envision former tenant squatting there and pulling out carpets. So we all went round, and, as I suspected, he had somehow managed to let himself into next doors. As a consequence, I’ve changed all the locks … who might turn up in my place otherwise.
Tradesman is now only just starting the floor today…supposed to finish on Monday am so I can move in on Tuesday…cutting it fine once again (I’m also meant to have moved out by tomorrow – but suspect Death Star will be too consumed by other activities to notice). Parquetry was too expensive and too time-consuming so it’s ‘redi-floor’, a relation of the floating timber floor which does seem to involve some wood. They’ve done one floor and it looks good – certainly an improvement on the biliousness of pale green interspersed with large smudges of orange.
Other highly freaky moment – I went round to Ruth’s for dinner a few weeks back and met her flatmate ‘Tom’, a charming, tres sympathetique gayboy who looks a bit like a ravaged Meg Ryan. Made conversation by telling them I’d just made a successful offer on a townhouse nearby. They asked me which number and asked knowing glances when I told them. Turned out that my new place was Tom’s former abode as it previously belonged to his ex … who’d walked off a local landmark earlier in the year. I’d heard the story of Tom’s ex, (how it looked like suicide but wasn’t totally clear) but had never heard his name. The agent told me that the former owner hadn’t died in the house and I’d presumed that since his name sounded like an older person’s that he was a septuagenarian who’d died in hospital. Must say there were some puzzling aspects of the townhouse that didn’t quite go with a septuagenarian sensibility, like the niceness of the kitchen, a ‘distressed’ wood coffee table left on the balcony, a small Aboriginal painting on one wall and the fairy lights in the back courtyard … so, all was explained (not wanting to get into stereotypes or anything).
I was fairly freaked out (especially by some of the resonances with my brother’s end) … Tom made nice in a big way, asking me what I thought of the place, etc, but it put a shade on things for me for a while. I’d been thinking that Tom would be another nice addition for the Elsewhere Collection, and how nice to have neighbours, etc, but: would they want to come round at all, given the circumstances? Since then, Ruth has been saying that we’ll contribute to the gentrification of the Southside – traditionally a down-at-heel, ‘Aboriginal’ area, tho it has many charms, such as its proximity to the Gap and the Todd, not to mention the pub where salsa-dancing nights are held. But … seems I can’t escape from death and gay men. Suspect that bringing my own stuff into the townhouse (not to mention ripping out the carpet) will help expurgate the spirits for me (tho people have been making ‘gay ghost’ jokes e.g. I’ll hear a voice behind me saying ‘oh, I wouldn’t wear that out tonight!’) I guess this ‘coincidence’ is an effect of the small country town thing, too.
Tom v amusing on the lesbian predominance in Alice: said that Alice is known to gay men as ‘Lickerland’; local Aboriginal people speak of ‘Them lick-lick mob’.
So, yesterday settlement was passed in Alice, and I leapt into the property market. Such an Australian obsession, I know, but somehow very comforting to have a mortage at last. Real estate agent, in a sudden maternal flourish, gave me a bottle of champagne with two glasses (featuring golden wattle, of course) covered with cellophane and encrusted with lollies (tho they give this to everyone). Inside the cellophane there was a hand-written card: I was somewhat bemused to find the words ‘happiness’ and ‘investment potential’ co-existing in a sentence directed at moi. Champagne bottle chained into an awesome phallic mini- black plastic canon: truly repulsive and totally redolent of the suburban glory to which Alice aspires. Can’t help thinking the champagne-canon looks like a rather tasteless ad for penile piercing (perhaps the gay ghost will appreciate this).
Woman in the cubicle near me at work is a postgrad living in an old camel wagon in someone’s backyard. There’s no lighting or heating. I don’t know how she does it (she’s 40 odd). The things one does for academia!
Saw former boss outside the local IGA tonight – I’d heard she was out bush, painting, which sounded like a good plan. (I met other former Titanic employees who told me they were still waiting for instructions from the Death Star about what they were meant to be doing). She now has hardly any entitlements left. Seemed chipper but it’s very demoralising. I made a joke several weeks back that she could set up a tent on the lawn and wallpaper it with some left-over ‘Self-determination is ours’ placards. Seems she took me seriously and looked into the matter: it’s $75 per week council fees for a tent on the Council lawns. But even that’d blow her budget now.
Two years exactly today (16 July) since the clot was busted. Can’t believe I’m now running round carrying boxes to move into my first property. Remember Laura (English barrister friend) ringing me in hospital from London and saying ‘So what are you going to do now? Go and sit on a pole in the desert and mediate?’ Well, I don’t have the pole but I do now have real estate in the middle of the desert…