This was not how I pictured myself buying a house.
I imagined being blissfully married, with two reliable incomes, a solid savings history, starting to think about a family, maybe.
None of this was true in 2016.
But the main thing is I now have a stable place to call home. It means the world to me to have a house of my own, after two years of living in a holding pattern. The last few months in particular have been the textbook definition of ‘transitory period’ and I’m so ready to put them behind me.
A few false starts
I lost track of how many houses I saw. Dozens upon dozens. But here are the ones that came close.
The first one I saw was a cute early 1900s bungalow with a country feel, hardwood floors and nice outdoor flow. But conversely, there was no available information upfront about what updates (if any) had been done to bring it up to code, the kitchen was cramped and there was only one minuscule wardrobe (this was a tiny place with barely two bedrooms).
The next one I liked was a similarly country-feeling house, except this one was actually semi-rural, with a septic tank and all! Again only two bedrooms, but it was the location that gave me pause – it was just a little too far away. Plus, it was on a unit title, something I’d rather avoid.
Then there was an unassuming duplex that dropped my jaw once I stepped inside. Perfection in every way. There was even an adorable spiral staircase. The buts: it was two stories rather than single level, attached to another unit, parking was limited, and it was cross lease.
This one ticked basically all the boxes. Liveable off the bat, solid bones, sunny and cosy. Of course there are things I’d like to do but they can be tackled slowly and aren’t major or urgent, and there’s room to renovate.
But how do I actually do this?
I have yet to find ANYWHERE a brutally detailed, step by step guide to buying a house in New Zealand. I had basically no idea what to expect at each stage. There are bits and pieces of info online but what I desperately wanted was a thorough walk-through. I hope to never ever do this again in my entire life … but just in case, I’ve recorded the process for reference. Here’s my experience of buying a house by negotiation in Auckland.
Apply for mortgage preapproval
Meet with broker, do paperwork, gather supporting documentation.
COMMENCE STRESS AND WAITING.
I was applying for a Welcome Home loan, which takes quite a long time to process – two weeks in this case. It was an immense relief when it finally came (I was half convinced I would be rejected, given my usually stellar records had taken a big hit thanks to the whole unemployed partner debacle) and I had a wee lie down on the floor after opening that joyous email.
Start going to open homes
Graduate from stalking listings online to actually going out and seeing properties.
Endless viewings every weekend; scrambling to view new listings after work before they get snapped up. And then emailing my broker about every individual listing that I was seriously considering. Bleh.
Negotiating/Making an offer
AKA welcome to Stressville.
This house was listed as ‘deadline private treaty’ – aka get your offers in by a certain date. That date was about a month out and I could tell it wouldn’t get anywhere near that point. Indeed, after one look around I knew it would go like hot cakes; we got there about 10 minutes into the first open home, and there was already at least one offer in.
Getting mine in apparently involved signing a non binding ‘offer to purchase’ form, which looked ridiculously informal. Scribble in your offer amount, desired conditions … and then text a photo to the agent. I wish I was kidding.
We popped back the following day for the second open home, which confirmed my first impressions. There were even more offers by this time. After this viewing, the negotiation commenced that same evening. It was an exhausting and inefficient round robin over the phone, slowly whittling down the eight bidders to one.
You know, I had all these grand notions about crafting an emotive personal letter to submit with my offer that would dazzle the sellers and help secure my bid … but this didn’t happen. In the end it had no bearing on the situation, and it was only money that talked.
Getting the call to say I’d gotten the house was pretty surreal. Then came a congratulatory text from the agent, and a bit of emoji-heavy banter back and forth.
Sealing the deal
Forget Stressville, now we’re in Stress City.
Hurrah for long weekends. On Auckland Anniversary, I went in to sign the sale and purchase agreement and organise to pay the deposit. The contract was a super daunting document in some ways and yet so underwhelming in others. It wasn’t totally unfamiliar to me, as the agent for the very first house I went to actually gave us an S&P agreement to take away. Then the contract was sent to the broker and lawyer, and the wheels set in motion for the next phase.
Working through the conditions
No rest for the wicked.
The agent provided a LIM report, so I just had to confirm finance and organise a building inspection. Seriously – the longest five working days of my life. And as if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, I had to contend with daily calls/texts from the agent nagging me for updates and reminding me about all the backup offers on the table. Duuuude.
More paperwork than you’ve ever dreamed of
So much you could drown in it, if the papercuts didn’t kill you first.
KiwiSaver first home withdrawal forms.
More bank forms (including a terrifyingly huge number called Priority Sum. I’d never heard of it. Still couldn’t explain it to you, really. Thank god for Google).
Confirming mortgage structure and interest rates.
Getting house insurance.
And income/life insurance.
Organising account setup with the new bank.
The land transfer form.
More bank forms (these ones signed in person at the lawyer’s office) and title form.
Waiting for the vendor’s lawyer to send through the final settlement statement with sum to settle.
A minor panic when it came time to transfer the balance to the trust account, and the lawyer’s deposit slip seemed to have some extra digits at the end of the bank account – as if my nerves weren’t already shot enough!
(I accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies in the naming of the documents listed above.)
AKA the most nerve wracking day of all.
My lawyer had told me not to worry if I didn’t hear anything from her during the day. That would probably be a bad thing – it means something’s gone wrong. Just hang tight.
The first person I heard from was the agent. About 11.30, he texted saying they had the all clear to give me the keys, and could he drop them off to my office? (Um, YES.)
A couple hours later the lawyer emailed to wrap things up. And boom, hello homeownership.
* * *
A garden, a dog, compost, chickens (well, eventually). Farms and bush around the corner, the beaches not too much further.
This is everything I have been dreaming of.