Part One: Paw Paw Poor
My boss says he’s very keen to see the house. He requests that we don’t do any advertising until he’s seen it. He says all of the following:
- Does it have paw-paw trees? If it has paw-paw trees, I’ll buy it.
- I suppose I should actually hand you a deposit cheque, so I can make my intentions clear
- I’ve brought $5000 in cash with me as a deposit…
- We’re keen to buy in the area
He and his wife finally make it up, two days after Christmas, to come and inspect the house. As soon as she walks in, I can see what’s going on. She is either unconcerned by his verbal committments to buy the property, or completely oblivious. It takes about ten minutes, and I realise that she thinks she’s just come to have lunch with us. She never mentions the house. He drags me aside on two occasions and conducts semi-whispered conversations about the $5000 ‘deposit’ (what $5000 was going to do for him I don’t know, as the usual deposit is 10% of the asking price – and we were definitely not selling our house for $50,000) and the fact that they had another house to look at in the area. He does not mention the paw-paw trees (I planted three, just in case). They stay for three long hours and then leave, never having discussed the house at all. M and I go and drink gin.
Three days later we still have no response from him. We take our lives off hold. We put away our expectations. We drive down to Rosebank, NSW and hang out with lovely people and have a great time. I get an SMS from my boss on NYE – it says “Happy New Year! We still haven’t heard from the bloody bank about our loan!” But M and I are now battle-hardened, and decide that it’s just more useless crap. We decide that his wife has said “no way” and he can’t figure out how to withdraw gracefully, and thus has instead chosen to be a complete dick.
After our break, on my first day back working, I call him and ask him point blank.
“What’s going on with the house, are you buying it or not?”
Even then he can’t give me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ – he witters on about finances, his wife’s lack of interest in the whole thing… eventually I crack.
“I’ll just take that as a NO then, and start advertising.”
Part Two: The Freaky American
We get one of our first genuine enquiries about the house, from a woman who has stumbled on our website. She lives about four hours drive away, and is desperate to live closer to civilisation:
Hello, We are interested in the Gorgeous restored Queenslander on 1.25 acres
What more can you tell us about it?
Erm. I created a 15 page site to avoid questions like these, but we want to sell, so I am nice. I reiterate the information that is online in an email. She replies:
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. We were able to look at the photos online and we just love your house. We live in a pretty isolated area with nothing for the kids to do or places to go. We have a son and a daughter who are anxious to move closer to the beach and where going to school isn’t an all day event just to drive to. My husband is giving me the go ahead so let us figure out exactly when we can get out there and I’ll give you a call. We are just in the process of replacing our car so hopefully by next week we can be out to see your place. I really hope this works out as your house is the only one we have seen online in the area that we like. We’ll get back to you soon.
We speak on the phone. She’s a Yank. But so is my mother. She talks forever about the strange synchronicity of our house and her life to date. She was at garage sale and bought a book about the whales of Hervey Bay (the swimming ones, not the ones that move up here to retire); she was at a cattle muster feeding her rescued baby kangaroo and a man stopped to have a chat…he was from Hervey Bay. Staggering. So she went home and googled (though she didn’t use google) Hervey Bay and our house popped up! Revelation. Not only did she fall in love with our house, but our house is number 86 on our street, and, omigod, she has a P.O box back in the states that is actually…wait for it…NUMBER 86!! She says it sounds like destiny. I don’t say anything, but I can think of quite a few other things that it sounds like.
She turns up with her kids the following weekend to see the house. She walks into the house and says;
“There aren’t spiders here are there?”
I want to point out that she is in Queensland, State of the Many Biting Bugs, but instead I just laughingly deny the existence of spiders anywhere in the surrounding area. Yes, we are in a spider no-go zone. Of course we are.
She takes the kids through the house and asks them which room they’d like as their very own bedroom. I start thinking that it’s in the bag. We take her down to the back of the property and she sees a kangaroo go by. She is thrilled, which is fair enough, as she is a kangaroo carer. I notice that her rather rotund son has jumped into my hammock and ripped it straight through from the strain. I keep quiet, as I don’t want to jeopardise the sale we might be about to make. Instead I wreck it by doing something else. I suggest we take one more stroll outside (as she seems to be far more in love with the land than with the house).
Unbeknownst to me, outside has become a war zone. There are foreign correspondents reporting on it. Mosquitoes the size of large mice are attacking from all angles; they land on her and together we watch them suck. She is still suffering the throwback effects of the mosquito borne ‘Ross River Virus’ that she had ten months previously. So this is very timely. M spies a mozzie on her foot, and forgetting all propriety, with the house sale fading by the second, he squashes it with his finger. It’s a homicide. A bloodbath. Then, while we are saying our goodbyes at her car, her feet get bitten by ants. It’s all over. We drink Bacardi and lime.
Part Three: The No-Shows
In amongst these distractions, we have multiple calls from people who ask us a million questions and say that they are going to come and inspect the house. At such and such a time on such and such a day. M and I clean like the hounds of hell (or a couple of hungry Fraser Island dingoes) are snapping at our heels. We are beyond disappointed when these people decide not to show up – particularly when some are due on a Saturday… (thank you Tom & Marie Pearson at 45 Hughes Road, Jimboomba Qld 4280 – E-mail:- firstname.lastname@example.org who say ‘We are looking forward to meeting you next Saturday around lunchtime or a bit after.’ but then, after we have waited at home all day, decide they ‘can’t make it’) and others tell us they will visit around 1pm on Sunday. They don’t turn up either. So our whole weekend is completely wiped out. This happens one time out of every two. We start to hate people in the way that you hate people when you work in a call centre providing technical support to people who don’t know what a mouse is.
Part Four: We Submit.
We sign up with a real estate agent. Not just any agent, but one that has been recommended to us by two unrelated people. He’s called Smithy. He is a selling machine. He talks the talk, walks the walk. We get him over to our house and interview him about what he’s going to do for us. He works with his daughter, and they both sit at our table, saying positive, real estatey things. As you would expect them to. We deliberate over the weekend, during which there are two more no-shows and we think, bugger it – we’ve tried our hardest at this gig, it’s time to give it to someone who can [hopefully] do it better than we can. We sign on the line for a 60 day contract. Two months seems like f.o.r.e.v.e.r. Later that afternoon I provide them with lots of photographs, they come around, put a sign up, take some photos of their own, and it’s done. We are like Everyone Else. We have our own agent, and he is going to Fix It. We go fishing, and hope for the best.
Part Five: The Sale. Not.
Mid-March I am in Melbourne. I have only been in Melbourne approximately ten minutes, and am actually still waiting by the baggage carousel when my phone rings. It’s M. Someone has made an offer on the house. I am hardnosed.
“Tell them five grand more, and they can have it,” I snap, chasing my suitcase and kicking numerous small children from my path.
The phone rings as my friend Lisa and I arrive at her house. It’s M. The woman is in Sydney, and has upped her offer by five grand.
“Take it,” I snap, as Lisa and I try to glue the stone back into my nose ring. “Get the agent to fax the contracts to Lisa’s husband in the city. I’ll sign them and fax them straight back.”
Lisa drives like Steve McQueen into the city. I jump from the car on Flinders Street and run through the streets, dodging traffic, feeling like Michael Douglas in that movie I can’t remember the name of. I find the building, fax the contract, and… thoroughly against my wishes, I begin to develop a buzz of excitement. I’m about to sell the house. We are about to LEAVE QUEENSLAND and embark with some money on the Rest of our Lives. We go to Jock’s birthday dinner. I use the restaurant fax to send through the final contracts. Everything is now hanging on a fax that the woman has to send back… after some prompting from Lisa and her husband, I use their money to tip the waitress $20 (she has done my faxing for me).
“You might have just helped to sell my house!”
She is noticeably awed.
M calls me the next morning to say that the woman from Sydney has got ‘cold feet’.
“So it’s all off?” I ask, feeling leaden.
“Worse,” sighs M, “She’s flying up tomorrow to look at the house.”
We don’t know why, but whenever anyone looks through the house, they Do Not Buy It.
The next day I spend five hours cleaning M’s boat. End to end. I spend the last 2o minutes praying – as I assume that the ‘woman from Sydney’ is inspecting our house at that very minute. I don’t call M to see how things are going, I wait for him to call me. I don’t hear anything until 7pm.
“What happened? Did she like it? Did you meet her?” I am pathetic.
“They didn’t turn up,” says M, through gritted teeth, “They were ‘too tired’.”
I begin pulling out clumps of my own hair. Apparently they are supposed to turn up at 10am the next day. They don’t show. We find out later that they have gone to a lot of other agents who don’t have houses in our area, and have been told that our house is ‘waaaay too far out of town’ and is ‘plauged by sandflies’. The ‘woman from Sydney’ stops answering her mobile when our agent calls her, and then, when he finally makes contact, berates him for ‘not mentioning the sandfly problem’. Cow. We never hear from her again. Which is lucky, as I spend the next five nights plotting how best to kill her.
Part Six: The End of the Line.
Quite early on in the piece, in between The Boss and The American when we were still trying to sell without an agent, I received an email from a woman from Darwin, who loved the house and asked a lot of questions about Hervey Bay, what it was like etc. etc. I wrote back at length, letting her know. She then got back to me, and I have to admit, that when she told me that they wouldn’t be able to look at the house until around June/July, I just thought she was another one of the many people who had written being ‘genuininely interested’ but were never going to take any action. I was also pathetically convinced that the house would be sold by then. So I didn’t write back. Though I did note at the time that the last names of the couple – hers is ‘Carter’ and his is ‘Cooper’ – as we were dwelling on signing with an agency called ‘Carter Cooper Realty‘ – which we subsequently did about a month or so later.
Three days before I have to move back to Melbourne for work, leaving M behind as some kind of ‘Groundskeeper Willie’ to care for and sell the house, we drop the price by fifteen grand. Our time is up. The Darwin people must have been watching the website like hawks, because, despite their house still not being sold, they called our agent straightaway. They are super-keen, and Smithy, (our agent) is cautiously optimistic. We are not. We have done this already. I leave for Melbourne, whimpering as M drives me away from our beautiful house that I don’t know when I’m going to see again. I am in depression. I go into the office the next day and get a call from Smithy. He’s going to send a contract through.
“Hang on,” I say, “A contract? What are they offering?”
“They’re offering what you’re asking for it.”
“Fine,” I squeak, “Ignore me. Fax it through.”
I vigil by the fax machine, having terrible flashbacks to the the time in Hell when we bought the house. The fax appears. I sign it, initial it, stuff it back in the machine and send it back. Then (oh, my blondeness), I read it. They have only put down a deposit of $1000. A THOUSAND DOLLARS? That’s like putting the same amount down to buy a custom built Ferrari. No one would agree to that. Why would our agent have let it happen? Why didn’t anyone ask me? Why do I repeatedly fail to be a hardnosed business person? Now yet another deal is hanging on a thread – they have very little to lose, while we are losing days, weeks, and other prospective buyers. The sale is also subject to them coming to inspect the house (why the hell can’t anyone just buy sight unseen like we did? We did OK!), a pest inspection, a building inspection and, of course, financial approval.
I know that the deal is doomed. We don’t know why, but whenever anyone looks through the house, they Do Not Buy It. Nevertheless, M is in Super Hero mode. He sculpts our acre and a quarter. He polishes skirting boards with angel spit, cleans windows with cloth made of ancient saintly shrouds, douses the bathroom in holy water, wipes down the walls with fairy wings and builds a rockwall that apparently improves the garden by about a bazillion percent. He borrows multitudes of plants from his mother and positions them, Home Beautiful style, around the house.
The inspection day dawns. There is not (get this) a mozzie or sandfly to be slapped. The little creek out the back is flowing and looking picturesque. I know nothing of all of this, as I am in Melbourne, trying not to think about it. A few hours before they are due to show up, a man drives by the house, slows down, backs up and gets out of his car. He says hello to M, admires the property and asks if he can have a tour. M is hesitant, but the house is so clean, and is waiting to be looked at, so he shows the man around. The man freaks out. He loves the house. He asks what the price is. M, hardly believing that it is happening, tells him that the house is under contract, and that the people will be around in a few hours to look at it for the first time.
“How do you feel about a bidding war?” asks the man.
M shakes his head, and suggests that the man bides his time, because in our experience, prospective interstate buyers are flaky at best.
“No way,” says the man, “It’s beautiful, they’re going to snap it up.” He leaves, looking sad and thwarted.
Ah-ha, thinks M, now we have a back-up plan!
Smithy turns up with Darwin Lady and her daughter (who is apparently such a 16 year old bombshell, that both M and Smithy have trouble forming coherent sentences, but I digress…). Darwin Lady adores the house. Adores it. M can hardly believe it; she might be the person we have been waiting for. The kind of person that ‘gets’ our house, in all it’s lightfilled, airy wooden beauty. Her partner is a drummer. Even better. M begins to take hope; he tells her about the neighbours, about the bugs, about the noise that the pump makes…he even tells her about the guy next door being a bit of a yeller. She says that her next door neighbour in Darwin likes a drink and recently drove an excavator through their fence and on to the street. M says that our neighbour just makes a bit of noise, that he’s not involved with excavators.
They stay at the house chatting until Smithy starts glancing at his watch. By this time, M is actually hopeful. They even want to buy our lounge suite, beds, sun room couches, dining table and ride-on mower. M is saucer-eyed with wonder. Finally they depart. M picks up the phone and calls me in Melbourne.
“Guess what happened?”
“They either didn’t turn up. Or…” I ponder, “They turned up, saw the house, and said ‘Oh, this is much smaller than I thought it would be. We have two kids, this isn’t going to work at all.’ That’s what I reckon happened.”
I can hear M’s smugness dripping down the phoneline. I start bouncing.
“What?! Did they like it?!”
“They loved it.”
M then tells me about the visit, the backup-plan man and his impressions of the Darwin people. I refuse to believe him. We both agree that they will probably get talked out of the deal over their next few days in Hervey Bay by people moaning about how far from town Booral is, and how it is a sandfly colony. We cross our fingers, eyes and toes.
Word comes back a few days later that they love it. We are dismissive. Cool and calm. We still have the pest inspection and the building inspection to survive. M comes down to Melbourne to go along to a friends wedding. We have heard nothing about a pest/building inspection, and are getting worried. Again. Finally, after calls from solicitors, Smithy comes through with the news – they are waiving both inspections and will go with the ones that we had done back in December. We are floppy with relief – another hurdle crossed. Apparently their finance is unconditionally approved whether or not they sell their house – and so we wait…
UPDATE: After a one day delay due to the extreme incompetence displayed by RESI Finance, settlement took place on the 28th of June, 2005. Two years and six days from the day we left Melbourne for Hervey Bay. M and I are now stuck in Brisbane for 48 hours while our van gets it brakes and master cylinder fixed. We keep ringing the bank, just to listen to our account balance…
We’re pondering what our next adventure might be…
However, for the next six months, we’ll be in Melbourne, catching up with all our friends, and finishing the little Farrier trimaran, with the intention of sailing to Tasmania in the summer.