Both Mr Earwig and I, prior to this momentous shacking-up occasion (and no, we're not going to get married or anything silly—why waste good money which could go towards great pieces of furniture, on something that says 'we're committed' in any way more powerful than co-signing a thirty-year payment plan does), lived in the inner city, close to the beach. That, there, is not affordable property. So when it came to deciding where to buy, I had to opt (and co-opt) for the hills. If I couldn't live near the water in the manner in which I deem is the only suitable way to live near the water—see here or here—then I needed some other sort of nature as a substitute. I couldn't do suburban tract. So we chose to look in the Hills. The Dandenong Ranges. Google images of that: it looks spectacular! You'll be in no doubt as to our decision. Except when you start to think of any of the following: bushfires, bugs, spiders, snakes, meat eating birds. Eh! You can't have everything! Oh, and the last, the kookaburras, sound scarier than they are, and are beautiful to see and joyful to hear.
Every weekend we would find a house we loved. At first we thought that the hills' eccentric lack of auctions was in our favour. We would simply negotiate with the vendor and settle on a price that made everyone happy and we'd have a house in no time. I know! Naïve eh? We didn't count on: the Hills' affordability being a magnet for everyone (especially when Spring came around); real estate agents, or greed. Let me tell you, in hindsight, an auction is a much better, open and honest way to buy a house. A private sale—at least here—is basically a blind auction where you don't know how many other people (if any, are they making this stuff up?) are bidding, or how much their bids are. Effectively it's a guessing game and a gamble. A gamble we lost time after time. Now, sitting in our perfect house—the very best house of them all—it seems worth it, but at the time there was a lot of frustration, annoyance, anger and tearfulness. The sensible advice is to know what you want, know what you are prepared to pay, and know your market. But advice is idealistic. The area we were looking in is relatively inexpensive compared to the over-inflation of the burbs: people selling homes in the suburbs and relocating here had so much more to spend and could blow 'expected prices' to pieces and still feel they had a good deal. Typically honest (not) Estate Agents, of course, adjusted the asking prices so that they gave people a realistic idea of vendor's expectations (again, not).
Fed up, we blew part of our deposit and booked a holiday to Thailand. As it approached, we decided to stop looking. But there was this one little house I kind of fancied seeing. And another we thought we should revisit. Our flight was Saturday. On monday we looked at both. We decided to put a bid in on one that was brand new but oddly designed. It had an upstairs and downstairs sections, but no staircase between them. We figured we could put one in and so we made an offer in writing. While the vendor ummed and aahed, we researched staircases. They came back asking for another five thousand dollars; we decided we had made a mistake and a staircase would be expensive, if at all possible, and we pulled out. (That vendor ended up dropping his price seventy thousand dollars in the end, and still not selling! More fools them: for the sake of five grand they could have had it off their hands!) One Wendesday we made a single offer on the other little house. On Thursday, with no arguing, no greediness, no hassle, it was accepted. On Friday we put down a holding deposit and on Saturday we flew to Thailand. From Thailand we organised a building inspection and a bank loan and the full deposit.
All up, as far as we can work out, we looked at around ninety-three houses before we found this one. Houses with fire bunkers in the garden, and plots so steep you couldn't walk down them; houses where the water tank was filled by the neighbour who was on mains, and houses where you co-owned a sheep to maintain the lawn. Ugly houses in beautiful places, and beautiful houses in terrible locales. Houses that looked beautiful on the internet but smelled like catteries in real life; houses that I needed to twist arms to get to see but turned out to be magnificent. Houses that we didn't try for because we thought they would never be in our budget and houses we thought were a rip-off and sold anyway. Forty-five degree driveways, doorways to underground storage areas from the loungeroom, en-suites built into cupboards; bizarre body corporates. Even a house with a coffin in the loungeroom. My best friend just won the first bid she gave on any property to get her amazing new home. At the time I would have loved to have that happen for us. Now I realise it was part of an adventurous eight months we will never forget. And worth it in the end: I don't believe in fate: but sometimes I am given pause in that disbelief.
Four: Ice Cream Honey. The closest I have to blue suede shoes. And please don't step on them. Irreplaceable. These were purchased in New York City. And there is no longer an Irregular Choice store in NYC. At the time I thought they were rather plain. A staple purchase. Now I think they are comfortable and they make my feet feel beautiful. Less is more people, less is more.
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