The Search Is Over

After several weeks of house-hunting, we’ve finally committed to a house. We’ve looked for houses at the Eastern and Southeastern suburbs but found that there weren’t a lot of houses there that we liked. Actually, there were but they were either just too expensive or too far from the city. However, we found houses we liked when we headed to the Western suburbs and at more affordable prices to boot.

We decided to just keep our searching in the suburb of Werribee which is about 40 minutes’ drive away via the Princes Freeway from the city. But, it seems like Werribee isn’t such a popular choice of a suburb for some people. Perhaps people thought that it was a bit far from the city but these same people would live just as far from the city except they lived out East instead. So I guess what they were really just saying was that they preferred the East better than the West.

Others also mentioned that Werribee smells of sewerage because apparently, there was a time when the sewerage from the city, which flows to the West, ran above ground and its foul smell travelled all the way to the residential areas. Well, according to friends of mine who live there, there is no such problem in Werribee. One of them, in fact, told me that the sewerage now runs below ground so the stink of the sewerage should not be smelled in the open air.

Anyway, last week, Raquel and I narrowed our search down to two houses in Werribee. They are of similar build and similarly priced. Actually, these houses were in the same neighborhood and just a few blocks apart from each other. Last weekend, we inspected both houses for a second time to help us decide which house to go for.

For privacy reasons, I do not want to reveal the actual locations of these houses on the blog but to help me tell this story, I’ll designate the two houses as the Close house (because it’s at the end of a no-through road) and the Corner house (because it’s on a corner lot).

Now, here are the features of both houses: three bedrooms, two bathrooms (one ensuite), enclosed double garage on remote, and ducted heating. The Close house has a large paved pergola out back while the Corner house had an unmowed and unworked back yard. But, the Corner house had these going for it: evaporative cooling (centralised air conditioning), full alarm system, water filtration system, a bigger living area and block allotment, and a dishwasher.

However, after a lot of hard thinking, we still chose to make an offer to the Close house even if the Corner house seemed to have lots of things going for it on paper. The thing is, the Close house seemed to be better maintained by the owner. It was also nearer to public transportation. It was at the end of the road so we don’t have to worry about cars passing by in front of the car (would be a concern when we have children in the future). It also was a smaller house which meant less space to clean up (can’t afford househelp in Australia, unlike in the Philippines).

Even though we’ve first gazed upon the Close house back in August, it took us all this time to finally make an offer for it. Before I go on, for privacy reasons again, I do not want to reveal the price of the house so we’ll just go with some hypothetical numbers for illustration purposes only. Let’s say the house was advertised as being sold for $115 to $129 (an exaggeratively low amount, I know). I started negotiations by offering to buy the house for $100 last Tuesday.

The realestate agent, who I’ll just refer to as Smith from here on in said that the owner wouldn’t be willing to sell the house at such a low offer. He added that the owner is only interested if it is in the range advertised for the house. Sure, I’m willing to buy the house even at $120 (our original house budget was almost almost twice that actually since we thought we’d be buying in an Eastern suburb) but buying the house for cheaper was certainly not an unfavourable outcome. So I offered to buy the house for $110 instead.

Smith said he’ll pass on the offer to the owner. Now we’re cooking. Later in the day, he called back to say that the owner wanted $120 for the house. Well, at least it was down from $129. Not wanting to seem very keen on the house, I told Smith we’ll think about it and give him a call the next day.

At this point, we were starting to think that maybe we could get the Corner house (the other house) for cheaper since its price range was $110 to $130 (emphasis on the $110 lower end of the price range compared to the Close house’s $115). That night, we really considered everything again but we still ended up liking the Close house better.

So, the following day, I offered to buy at $115. Smith said he’ll pass on the offer back to the owner, as expected. At this stage though, Smith asked us if we were willing to come down over to Werribee to put the offer in writing (to make it more official) and to make a holding deposit of $500 (literal $500 and not the hypothetical amount I was using in the negotiating story).

I told him that if I did put it in writing, I want the contract to specify that it was subject to finance and a favourable building inspection. He also asked me what is the settlement period. I told him I wanted 45 days. That is, in 45 days, I become the new owner of the house and the owner has already vacated the property. He said that the owner would like 60 days and I agreed to it.

Anyway, he called up later to say the owner wouldn’t sell the house for less than $118. Hmm. At this time, Raquel and I were of the mind that the owner would accept the $115 so we were a bit disappointed that the owner wanted more. I told Smith that we’ll have to think about it some more. Later that night, we decided that $118 was good enough and that we’re going to accept the counter-offer.

The next day though, I was very busy at work so I wasn’t able to call Smith early that day. It wasn’t much of a problem because Smith gave me a call anyway. He asked me what we thought of the $118 offer. At that moment, I thought that maybe I could negotiate a bit more off the price one last time even though we were perfectly willing to go with $118. I asked him if the owner would be willing to sell for $117. Also, I re-negotiated the settlement period back down to 45 days. I reasoned to him that we wanted to move in as soon as possible so that we’d pay one less month’s worth of rent for our current apartment.

At this stage, we also got a conveyancer to look over the Section 32 for the property. Okay, let me just explain that a bit for my non-Aussie readers. A conveyancer is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

A lawyer who deals with the legal aspect of buying and selling real property. A conveyancer can also be (but need not be) a Solicitor, Licensed Conveyancer, or a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives.

And the Section 32, also called a Vendor’s Statement, contains documents relevant to the property being sold. It is described in better detail at the Lawyers Real Estate website.

In the end, our conveyancer gave us the go-ahead and we got the house for $117 and with a settlement period of 45 days on the day we put it in writing, as it were. That was just this weekend. Smith had asked us to come in at 10 am to do the paperwork. By 11 am, we were done.

Smith was very helpful in outlining what was involved in buying the house. He walked us through the property’s Section 32 and what would be included with the property (like the carpets and the kitchen sink, for example). He told us that the initial deposit was 10% of the agreed-upon selling price less the $50o holding deposit. The remainder of the cost will be payable on the settlement day.

It was another chapter in my life. It was the first time we bought our own home. It was an odd feeling. It was the same feeling I had when we bought our first-ever car a couple of years ago in Canberra. I don’t know how to describe the feeling except that it sort of felt good.

Anyway, later that afternoon, we brought the Contract Note to our mortgage broker at Aussie Home Loans to get the bank loan process started. There was just a little drama about not getting the discounted interest rate for the loan because we bought the house lower than originally expected. But that’s all resolved now.

And now, we can look forward to a few weekends of doing whatever we want now that we don’t need to go hunt for houses. Whew.

Published in: on September 25, 2005 at 11:04 pm  Comments (5)