Did you notice my sneaky little one-liner at the end of yesterday’s post saying that we are now homeowners (translation: we just bought a house) or were you too shell-shocked by my cavalier attitude to baby-making?
So, yeppers, yours truly is now a part-owner of a suitably tiny apartment on the top floor of the building next to ours, with a patch of roof above so that we can pretend that we are the kind of people who like to have friends over for a BBQ.
With regards to the latter, we – or at least, I – are/am not. I am too lazy to have people over if it requires anything more than the least effort and sweating over coals that refuse to ignite and pre-marinated meat that takes ages to cook does not fit my criteria of hassle-free entertaining. But who knows, now that the previous owner is leaving the BBQ set, we may feel compelled to use it.
In case you didn’t get it the first time, I – erstwhile earner of Rs 5,000 a month if that and frequent possessor of a bank balance of Rs 10 while nevertheless managing to go to the pub every weekend and even buy people poorer than her drinks – is the owner of a some million (HK) dollars home in an uber expensive foreign city. How weird.
Anyway, finding the perfect home is not as much of an emotional rollercoaster as finding the perfect couch or TV stand. V and I are surprisingly in agreement about what we want.
c) Nice view
d) Close to MTR
e) Shortish building (so he can feel like he’s in Bangalore, I presume, because I don’t really know what the virtues of stumpy buildings are except that they may not possess a lift and you will lose weight walking up).
a) Sea view or mountain view
b) Swimming pool
c) Allows pets
e) Close to MTR etc
Ok, it doesn’t sound like we are in agreement at all… but actually when we saw flats, we both pretty much liked the same ones. So there were no screaming fights this time.
The only problem was the HK property market which is … craaaazy. Last year, we were lucky that V had to leave for India on work so that we were saved from buying an apartment at what turned out to be the peak of a market gone mad before everything came crashing down with the financial crisis.
Now, while there’s supposedly a recession on, the property market in Hong Kong is on the upswing again. Interest rates are down and people are still skittish about the stockmarket so they must have something to bet on.
We would have started househunting sooner but V had had surgery on his leg and wasn’t up to it. However, we didn’t think we’d be in any danger of being caught in a property boom.
The actual househunting, however, brought us down to earth. V and I have always been slightly in love with the Western end of HK island that we lived in when we first came here. V had a small two-bedroom (think one tiny bedroom and a closet) in an old building with the most awesome sea view ever.
However, he wanted to move to a bigger place and unfortunately, we couldn’t find anything else in the area that suited us. Kennedy Town then was an oldish Chinese locality where few people spoke English. Apartments tend to be small while those who have converted two small apartments into one big one rarely sell.
The exception are two new buildings targeting expats, which offer miniscule apartments at massive rates. We have always dreamt of living in the cheaper of these buildings, mainly because of the seaview. Today, the area is quickly becoming very hip. Which is good for future appreciation, though I quite like the authentic Chinese community feel.
With the recession on, we thought we might be able to afford it. Alas, owners are holding out for another boom, asking for huge sums. We were at a stage when we were making offers on apartments in the building without even seeing them.
So, we began to look at other areas and ended up finding Ze One in the building right next to ours, which had been renovated quite nicely. Although V kept saying we should buy a flat and do it up ourselves, I, for one, find it hard to see the possibilities in dreary and filthy spaces even if I know that all they need is the fresh coat of paint. I need at least the fresh coat of paint to be able to see what I can do with the space. That’s why interior decorators have jobs… and that’s why I’m not one.
Basically, we made offers on some three houses and this was the first one that came through on our price, by which time we had convinced ourselves that we really wanted it. Then V’s friend at work told him that he should insist on a meeting with the landlord face-to-face to negotiate.
It was very bizarre. We went to the house (because I wanted to see it again) and then we tried to engage the owner in a discussion about price. At which point, he told the agent in Cantonese that we should wait in their office because he couldn’t say no to us in person.
So basically we head down to the agent’s office while one agent stays with the owner to relay his comments to us over the phone. He says no to our offer and we then discuss and make a counter offer. Then we wait for nearly an hour while the owner convinces his wife to sell (or so they tell us).
Finally, at 9 pm we head home. At 10 pm, the agent calls us and says he’s going to bring a contract over and we should sign it and then he’ll go over to the landlord and present him with an almost fait-accompli which will hopefully convince him to sign. At nearly 11 pm, the agent comes home with the contract. Then we realise we need to see some document. Agent departs to his office to print out document. We sign at nearly 12 am. One minute later and we’d be pumpkins.
Agent departs to landlords house. His parting (but double-edged) words are: “We must close this tonight because that’s when the owner will be weak. Tommorow he will change his mind.” Which could very well apply to us too but we’ve already signed.
At 1 am, he calls to say owner has signed. At 1.15 am he comes over with signed documentations. In the wee hours, we have become the owners of a house.
Joy to us. Now can we please go to sleep.