Tentatively, I have dipped my toe into the piranha pool that is the real estate market. Yes, I am looking for a new home. Now settled in Brisbane, it is time to forget about renting and buy a place of my own. I’ve been through this before only three times in my life, but my heart sinks as I contemplate what lies ahead.
I had a taste of it last weekend. A few weeks ago, house-hunting friends assured me they’d found the perfect place for me. “Too small for us,” they said. “But perfect for you.” And it was just a few streets away from where I live now, so off I went for the Saturday morning “Open For Inspection”. It was an Art Deco place, split into two townhouses. The outside was painted bright pink. On the steps to the front door, a pink flamingo stood sentinel. At the doorstep, about 40 pairs of shoes had been kicked off. Inside, the owners of the shoes prowled and muttered, while the female real estate agent smiled at all. Her sidekick, a younger woman, took names, phone numbers and email addresses of everyone who arrived to view the property.
Alas, it was not for me. The rooms were tiny, and I had the sneaking suspicion that it might be a place that might – down the track – need quite a bit of maintenance. I’m after something where I can close the door behind me when I’m travelling – no lawn to mow, few (if any) trees to trim – and leave it alone. And there was no garage.
But now I was on the realtor’s mailing list. And the next week into my inbox popped a notice of “Open For Inspection” properties for the coming weekend. I scanned it idly…I’m not quite ready to seriously start looking, but I will be soon. And there, it seemed, was the perfect place. It ticked every box for me, was in a suburb not too far away, close to shops and transport…yes, every box.
I arrived a few minutes after the advertised opening time. My hopes were high. The street was lovely. Could it be as easy as this? As I walked in the front door, the same real estate agent turned to greet me. There were no other prospective clients. “Good morning!” she trilled. “Now…YOU’RE a familiar face!”
“Yes,” I said. “I came to see a place you had open a few weeks ago. The pink place.”
“Of course! I knew I had seen you before,” she said (much to my surprise). From there on, it was “Lee” at every opportunity, as she showed me around the lower level of the two-story townhouse. Then she suggested I head upstairs to look at the bedrooms.
While I was doing this, another group of buyers arrived. I came downstairs, and dodged around the group to go and look at the garage. A few minutes later, they had gone upstairs, and I came back into the entrance hall.
“Good morning!” came the bright and brittle greeting. “Now…YOU’RE a familiar face!”
The young assistant looked like she wished the ground could swallow her up. My face must have said it all. “Yes, I was here a few minutes ago…I’ve just been upstairs!”
“Oh yes, of course, now….you’re….Bridget?”
“No, I’m Lee.”
I didn’t like the house anyway, in the end. As I said to my friend Annette, as we sat over a glass of wine that night on the verandah of the house she’s lived in for nearly 25 years and which had been her late husband’s childhood home, it just didn’t grab me.
“When you find the right place, you will just know,” she advised. “It’s like meeting a man. You just know, in the first few minutes. And you have to love it, not just have it tick the boxes.”
We laughed and had another glass of wine. My house-hunt continues, and I’m in no rush. The right place will turn up, I’m confident of that. And Annette’s right: I’ll know it almost instantly, and I’ll love it.