Category Archives: Uncategorized

Real estate trends I’ve noticed in 2015 (also, hallelujah, we moved house!)

By: Shubert Ciencia

There is no bigger nightmare than competing for housing in a growing city.

Ever-more intrusive rental applications

Self-explanatory. With a growing population and not enough housing to meet needs, this is what happens.

Shorter tenancies

For some reason, there’s a fair few properties being advertised as available for only 3-6 months, and others are advertised as longer fixed term leases with no mention of possible extension. Weird.

Renting out houses in two parts

Bigger houses are increasingly being rented out as separate upstairs and downstairs floors, self-contained.

More heat pumps

More properties than ever before now have heat pumps installed, which is a good thing. And I’m seeing more frequent mentions of insulation as a selling point… since, you know, having proper insulation is still the bloody exception. Still the minority, though.

The misery is widespread #solidarity

Why yes, I have been devouring everything on the internet related to our property clusterf***. What’s new?

“I don’t want to be a landlord – I just want to own my own home so I stop getting kicked out of rentals.  It just happened again last week and I’ll have to find somewhere else to live, yet again.  It’s exhausting and demoralising…”

- Interest.co.nz commenter

“Our lease is up in April. Not looking forward to this shit. Saw so many places with obvious damp or complete lack of weather tightness last time around. Property managers get outright aggressive if you ask about landlord’s plans to resolve damp, usually saying it’s already solved (despite damp smell and to the touch).

“Bring on WOF, willing to pay more to not get sick from shitty housing.”

- Reddit commenter

“The amount of money I would need for a deposit on a house is astronomical but trying to rent is making me want a house just so I don’t have to worry about renting ever again.”

- Wireless interviewee

Our new place

After 5 years of living on our own (wow, it feels longer) it will be strange to live with others again. The good thing is we have our own bathroom – we’ve moved into the downstairs floor of a house, so we’re largely self contained. And the others aren’t home much.

I am SO excited to have:

  • room to breathe! To swing a cat, even! There’s actually a cat, no kidding. No more constantly tripping over each other. Space to do stretches, play guitar, and just live alongside, rather than on top of, one another. Even if I wasn’t married to a hulk, I hate small spaces. Micro apartments and tiny houses can bugger right off. Unpopular opinion, I know. Lack of living space has caused us a lot of misery over the years.

 

  • a full kitchen! A real stove and oven, and a DISHWASHER (thinking back to previous places where we had a dishwasher, life was vastly improved.)

 

  • a dining table (I have never lived anywhere with a dining space since leaving home)

 

  • a bathtub (in the main bathroom)

 

  • outdoor living space (the deck is epic)

 

  • no sharing any of the following with neighbours – driveway/water meter/bins/yard etc  

 

And we won’t know for sure for a little while, but it seems like a decently warm and dry house. (Fun fact: I now have a new warning sign to look out for, thanks to a random person who was at one of the same open homes as we were. “There’s a bit of dampness – you can feel it in the carpet,” she said to her daughter. Indeed, upon further reflection, there’s definitely something to that). It was a family home for decades, so that bodes well.

I was really not sure I could make it through another winter in our last place. Also, our neighbours were becoming even bigger pains in the ass, and traffic along my bus route was getting downright unbearable. Now my commute is shorter despite having a longer walk at the city end from the bus stop.

Still, there will be no rest until we are owners. Your place is not your own otherwise – you’re at the mercy of leaseholders/head tenants, property managers, landlords. I can’t wait to have a permanent home – one we never have to budge from as long as we make our payments, and that we can truly make our own. I want a heat pump and/or amazing insulation. A spare bedroom. A garage/workshop for him. A pizza oven, that we’ll build in our yard. And a dog. I can’t express how intense my nesting urges are.

I know my property fixation is not good for my mental health and happiness, and I’m trying to get it under control. I almost feel a physical stab every time I hear of someone I know managing to buy their first home.

Example: A former coworker who failed to buy property a few years ago and bowed out of the game, calling it a bubble, has just bought a place. Prices have only gone up since then, so I presume she saw the light and got in while she could. Interest rates can only go up so much before they fall; the same is not true of house prices, and I see nothing that actually points to a real reason for a crash (the way things are going, nothing short of a nuclear explosion would reverse population growth, and we don’t have nuclear plants here).

So: trying to get this real estate thing down to ‘motivational’ levels rather than ‘obsession’. Which should be easier now we don’t live in such a tiny hovel.

Link love (Powered by sweet, sweet REM – no, not the band)

nzmuse link love roundupI am deliriously happy.

I didn’t realise just quite how miserable our living situation was. Thank the stars we’re out.

I’m so grateful for friends, who, when I think back, have made all our house moves manageable.

I’m sleeping better than I have in months. I’m due for a medical appointment soon, and I’m willing to bet money that my blood pressure will be back to normal levels. I feel like I can breathe again.

Life is good, for now.

This week’s links

I must give this a go! How to write a better blog bio in five minutes 

Living out of a suitcase – glamorously 

The importance of slowing down

When good enough is good enough

The beauty of being young: you still have time to get there

Wow. So much for paying professionals…

By: Gabriel

Man, I’ve dealt with some BS in my near decade of renting, but this has pushed me over the edge. Did I say agencies are better than private landlords? Whoops. I take that back.

That’s twice now the property manager has been an absolute twat upon moving out.

Last time around, dealing with them was a breeze throughout the entire tenancy … until our last afternoon. It was literally the day before we flew out of the country, leaving for 6 months. We waited, shivering, in our garage, as the rain started coming down, for the PM to show up for final inspection. Numerous calls to his phone went unanswered. Finally we gave up, placed the keys in the house and left. First thing in the morning, he starts trying to get in touch asking what happened – useless much? No, we are literally leaving the country TONIGHT, we do not have time to come back for a walkthrough – you will have to do it without us. We didn’t get our bond back until we returned to NZ, either – he never sent through the paperwork to me and I had to chase him for it when we came back to the country.

This time around, it was with an even bigger (and thus, ostensibly more professional) agency. Alas, they turned out to be douchebags pretty early on, and every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it kept building until move-out. These guys instruct you to drop off the keys at the office, and then do the final inspection on their own rather than going through the house with you in person. Two days later we heard from them – outlining an absolute litany of basic complaints about cleaning. (The legal requirement is to leave a property ‘reasonably clean and tidy’, which translated to a pretty grey area. However, I can tell you never had an issue at ANY of the many places we’ve lived. We know how to mop a floor and scrub a shower.) They also conveniently ‘forgot’ that they had sold us the fridge upon move-in (for owner had wanted to get rid of it, probably as it was getting older) and more or less accused us of stealing it. Oh, and I’m not even going to go into the dramas they caused in trying to force us to move out earlier than our planned date.

I’ve been thinking a lot about power, and the imbalance of it in the renting market. I’ve already been incredibly stressed out for months on end, and this whole situation with the house has basically doubled my stress levels since the start of the year. I made the decision early on that my priority was getting the hell out of here with as little headache as possible, while knowing the agency was highly likely to make it a hassle based on their behaviour to date.

So often it’s a question of where you can afford the time/money to pursue a conflict. For example, they insisted on going ahead with hiring a cleaner anyway (end result: splitting the bill). As another example: it’s actually unlawful to have a clause in a lease requiring carpet cleaning at the end of the tenancy. However you’ll find these in many, many contracts. I know I have, and gone along with it because in a tight market it’s a miracle if you can get approved for a place at all.

And for bigger stuff … Do you really want to jeopardise your chances of ever getting another place to live, if you take something to the Tenancy Tribunal and have that associated with your name as public record (no matter what the result)?

Cannot wait to be off the renting hamster wheel.

Confessions of a non-shopaholic

By: Nattu

You know it’s time to go shopping when you have recurring dreams about clothes.

I wish I was kidding. I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve dreamt about finding new items hidden away in my closet. (Waking up in every case has been surprisingly disappointing.)

I really hate shopping. I tend to buy stuff in bursts – bundle up the pain, I guess. And it’s about time for one of those, since I haven’t bought anything in about a year. Belt-tightening (figuratively) and all that.

It’s embarrassing how many of my clothes are faded, stained, torn or need to be firmly retired to ‘at home’ status only for whatever reasons. I’m 27 this year and badly need to update my wardrobe accordingly.

Where to start? At the minimum:

  • Black pants
  • Jeans (probably one dark and one light/medium)
  • Multiple cardigans
  • At least one long-sleeved top
  • A non-summery skirt
  • More dresses
  • Black boots
  • Neutral flats
  • Swimsuit
  • A handbag
  • And maybe a soft blazer?

I am really not looking forward to this quest. Fashionista friends, put me in your prayers.

Link love (Powered by anticipation)

nzmuse link love roundup

Here’s a fun one. How much do you wind up paying in traffic fines a year?

I would say we average a couple a year or so. Parking in Auckland is not as tight as it is in other bigger cities, so parking tickets aren’t usually our bugbear. (And by ‘our’ I mean ‘his’ since I don’t actually drive.) Instead, it’s generally cutting into bus lanes too soon when turning, or going over the speed limit. And since we have a history of owning sad old cars (the only kind we could afford) there have been a couple of fines for being between warrants of fitness.

I feel like it’s just one of these inevitables of life if you own a car, one that barely registers on the scale of ‘worth talking about’. That said … a couple of people on Facebook recently posted about getting tickets. One for having no warrant of fitness and being parked on the road as their house has no off street parking – OH HOW I SYMPATHISE – and the other one, well, I don’t recall, except for the fact she thought it was BS. Don’t we all, though?

 This week’s links

I am loving this Slate series, Best Laid Plans, featuring real people and their varied/unpredictable career paths

What it’s like when other people assume you’re white

When married partners have the same career goals

On money and control in a marriage

What’s your tripod of stability?

Thoughts on class and money (with a great comment thread)

On passive income vs crafting your work

Time to quit: pretending I’ll ever learn to cook

Lessons from a decade of work

The importance of rest

Would you pay for this? (Also: we’re going to Japan!)

We're going to Tokyo!
By: Luke Ma

I subscribe to a handful of travel deal newsletters, and among these is Jetstar’s weekly Friday flight alerts.

Normally I scan the subject line and delete right away. But one day in November last year, the phrase “2 for 1” caught my eye.

Even with all the add-ons that budget airlines slap you with, a 2 for 1 fare puts you well ahead! And thus, we’re going to Tokyo in September.

Assigned seats

Would you pay $5 to guarantee you and your travel partner could sit together on a flight?

Personally, I wasn’t sure at first. After all, on our flight from Reykjavik to New York, we didn’t get to choose our seats (either we checked in too late, or I missed that step somewhere along the line) and T and I wound up sitting several rows apart. And that was totally fine. It must be said, though, that this was toward the latter part of our trip , so we’d already spent a ton of time together.

But $10 (for both of us) per flight in the grand scheme of things is not a lot, so I stumped up.

Extra legroom

I am slightly toward the tall end of average for a woman and even I feel claustrophobic in economy class. So I have lots of sympathy for T.

I think it was on one of our short European flights that we got to change seats with another passenger in the exit row, and enjoy extra legroom for free. Let me tell you, that was a revelation!

Anyway, I balked at the $45 price tag for seats in the rows with extra leg room, but T‘s best sad face convinced me. And since it’s not possible to sit together and have only one person get extra leg room, that came to $90 per flight. (I would sit apart to save money, but apparently that wasn’t acceptable.)

It might even be worth it for me. I gotta say, the older you get, the more you’re willing to pay for comfort.

Hot food

The in flight meal menu looked absolutely dire. And this is where I drew the line. No way am I paying for what looks like a terrible attempt at a meat pie, or chicken and rice. Instead, we will fuel up and stock up at the airport before we leave.

Link love (Powered by dramas, and some resolutions)

nzmuse link love roundupY’all, things have been so wrong for so long. Relationships are jeezy when things are easy but bloody tough when life itself gets hard. So many times I’ve wondered if it was worth it – feeling shortchanged, struggling with who’s in the wrong, trying to apply rationality to a relationship and coming up with no definitive answers. We’re told that good things are worth fighting for, but the right things should come easily/naturally. Where is the line between clinging to the Titanic, and being a fairweather partner unwilling to stick it out through the bad?

(I wish life came with a rulebook. I’ve come to realise this is one of those decisions you have to make for yourself on an individual basis.)

As you read this, we should be up north for a wedding and spending the weekend away from home. I wasn’t sure we’d make it to this day, but we have. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger.

On that note, I want to share a couple of posts on brutal honesty:

On letting your guard down

It’s easier to hide behind a good story. It’s easier to crop things and filter things and pretend you are holding the world together all on your own. It’s easier to get validation from “likes” instead of hard conversations. We live in a world where slipping out the back door, quietly and unnoticeably, is easier than it used to be. We have more stuff to hide behind than ever before. More password-protected caves to store our identities inside of.

It all boils down to love and honesty and humility. It doesn’t always have to come in that order. Love to fill in the spaces. Honesty to sew up the gaps. Humility to keep us coming back to one another, more human than yesterday and more flawed than tomorrow will allow.

There’s something really lovely about finally being flawed, and seen, and hopeful.

And a reminder that no couple is perfect

When we start to look up to people, we don’t do it because we think they’re perfect. We do it because we like them, and we admire them. But then we get lost, and we end up comparing ourselves, and finding ourselves wanting—completely without evidence.

 The rest of this week’s links

Danielle and I are in totally the same boat on this – we even work in the same field – just swap Toronto for Auckland. Will we ever own a home?!

Work-from-home days are a lot cheaper for me now that unlimited broadband packages finally hit the market.  But still as Abby points out, there are a few other sneaky costs to consider…

Change is hard. Sometimes shit just happens. Tonya wrote a great post on getting through these growing pains

Does ‘fake it till you make it’ really work as a career strategy? Sam argues that it doesn’t

And I think we could all use a reminder from time to time that you’re not doing life wrong. Really.

 

The stories we tell ourselves

The stories we tell ourselvesThis summer I did a lot of self-reflection – going through upheaval in your life tends to encourage that.

I’ve always considered myself quite self-aware, but a couple of different people forced me to re-examine that notion in the midst of this turmoil. As a result, I found myself totally rethinking the entire trajectory of certain aspects of my life. It’s really quite frightening to re-frame, say, an entire relationship, a career path, or any other key element of your identity. It was eye-opening.

As Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” But I think it’s important to realise that there are also many different ways to connect the dots in your life. Like people see different things in the clouds or in Rorschach inkblots, you can interpret different things from those dots. I’ve only lived one life, and like most (all?) of you I’ve crafted a narrative about it to suit, but I could so easily pull out different points to plot a very different story.

The truth is subjective, and humans are complicated. We talk about a ‘single source of truth’ when it comes to web analytics, but unfortunately there’s no such thing when it comes to life. There are several possible versions of any personal narrative, and I suppose we’ll usually choose the one that paints the best possible picture – as Annalise on How to Get Away With Murder put it, “say it and you’ll believe it”.

I don’t know that the story I tell myself is the truest one. But maybe accuracy isn’t the best measure for these things. What matters is that you can live with it.

The problem with intensification in Auckland

 

Quite simply, we stink at it.

A colleague mentioned to me the other day that she’d walked past a construction site in Ponsonby, where there used to be a row of townhouses – one of which she’d lived in for a few months.

“What’s happening here?” she asked one of the workers.

“The houses were leaky. They had to knock them all down,” was the reply.

My neighbourhood was one of the early pioneers of denser suburban living, with a few different apartment and townhouse developments. They’re flagships, really, and have been the subject of local housing studies.

I have lived in the two main complexes: in one of the apartments, and in two different townhouses – so three properties in total. All have had, or are going to be, reclad. Yep, leakers, or if you prefer, with “remedial issues”. None felt solidly constructed, built to last. Two out of three were cramped; all of them had a weird layout with bathrooms in the middle of the building, with no outside ventilation. And honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of the demographics they attracted.

I used to hope I could eventually buy around here. It ain’t happening. We have looooong since been priced out. Possibly we could afford a townhouse, but I wouldn’t want to buy a place that I wouldn’t be happy living in – and I already know what it would be like, having been there and done that. Plus, the body corps (and of course you have to take those fees into account!) have rules about everything from pets to hanging out laundry. It really would be the worst of both worlds.

Another new development, more or less around the corner, is in the works. I really hope they get it right. Plan the mixed-use aspects, don’t rush it, and for the love of god deliver quality residential construction and materials. We need to break the vicious cycle we’re in.

Link love (Powered by soup and sleep)

nzmuse link love roundup

February = one big fat fail.

Good riddance to you!

May March be healthier, wealthier and awesomer.

This week’s links

The dilettante’s approach to a career

An awesome guide to starting an Etsy business 

How to find out about work-life balance when interviewing

Smart observations on jealousy (timely for me)

How much do you really hate the thing you hate?

 Happy weekends!