Friday, March 26, 2010

Are we expecting too much?

With yet another unsuitable house viewed yesterday afternoon, it occurs to me to wonder if the problem is our expectations: are we expecting too much?

In terms of an agent we expect the following:
1) Don’t waste your time, our time, or the time of the sellers. Show us houses that fit the criteria we give you;
2) Don’t be selfish or greedy: share with your colleagues and show us houses they have listed if they fit our needs, even if you have to split the commission with them;
3) Recognize that the upper limit of our budget is for a “perfect” house: i.e., a house that needs no immediate expenditure for work to make it ready for us to move in. That means if the house is listed at the top end of our budget and the bedroom wall needs to be pushed out two metres just to get our furniture into the room, we cannot offer full price for it, we have to offer full price minus the cost of pushing out that wall or we simply cannot buy the house;
4) Respect our needs…don’t tell me I “have too much stuff” when I say the house is too small or that I need to “downsize” my collection of pots, pans, and utensils when I say the kitchen isn’t big enough or that “the owner likes it this way” when I opine that something is not to my liking. Just listen, take the information under advisement, and use it to refine your next recommendation;
5) We have R2mil to spend, give or take a couple of hundred thousand. Don’t condescend or treat us like paupers…it is a generous amount of money and it will buy us a decent house…we have time, we are preapproved buyers, and we will keep looking until some estate agent wises up and shows us the right house at the right price. If you want a percentage of that preapproved chunk of money our lender has promised us, go find us a house that suits our needs…don’t try to shove us into just any old house you are eager to sell. I want to buy the brick-and-mortar equivalent of a gently used second-hand Mercedes ML, not a brand new Ka.

In terms of a house, these are the inflexible minimum requirements:
1) 3 bedrooms, one of them large enough for my large, heavy bedroom suite of six pieces of furniture;
2) 2 bathrooms, one of them en suite with the master bedroom and with a shower, preferably larger than a 1m x 1m cubicle;
3) Either generously sized staff quarters or a granny cottage on the property. Our maid came with us from Cape Town and we need sufficient space to house her and her family. I do not consider one room barely bigger than a double bed and an outside toilet to be sufficient space for even one person, and some of these sellers should be abjectly ashamed at the conditions in which they expect their live-in helpers to reside! It is this requirement that has us looking at more expensive houses, as only they have granny flats or staff quarters.
4) No cluster houses, no houses on panhandle lots, no houses backing up to a freeway, shopping centre or industrial park, no houses on busy roads.
5) Adequate security, please! That means a functioning alarm system, security gates, locks that work, and intact boundary walls at minimum.
6) Fireplaces, pools, air conditioning, water features, covered patio and other amenities are nice, but they don’t make up for the lack of a large shower, space in the kitchen for a double fridge, automated garage doors, remote controlled driveway gate, or room for a washer, dishwasher AND a tumble dryer, and we don’t consider them necessary. We won’t turn down a house because it doesn’t have a pool or the patio isn’t covered…we will turn it down if the fridge won’t fit into the kitchen or there is no shower in the en suite bathroom.
7) Please, no houses that don’t have at least a modicum of decent room flow! I don’t want to open my front door into the dining room; I don’t want to walk through my closet to reach the bathroom; I don’t want my mother-in-law to have to walk to my room to get to the guest bedroom; I don’t want to carry a hot, heavy pot of food down a hallway, through a dark “TV room,” and around a corner to reach the dining table; I don’t want to pull into my garage on a rainy day, the boot of my car full of grocery bags, and have to lug those bags, in one of our torrential downpours, across a courtyard or lawn, down some steps, past the pool, through a security gate that I must stop and unlock with a key, and then up to the front door which must also be opened with a key, all in order to just get the groceries into the house. I want a house that has had some reasonable consideration to traffic flow put into its design…I will have to live in it every day for years and I simply do not see myself living happily in a house in which the rooms have been stuck randomly together!
8) An adequate-sized kitchen is not negotiable. It doesn’t matter if it is poorly laid out or has insufficient cabinet space…I can sort that out with a good kitchen designer. But if the room is too small, we are talking major money here to add on foundation, walls, roof, and plumbing in addition to new cupboards, counters, appliances, fixtures and flooring.
9) Trees. I want a mature garden with trees to shade the property. This is Africa and it can get bloody hot here, and trees are cheaper than a/c, they filter pollutants from the air, give off oxygen, and look beautiful. I want shady trees and I simply will not buy a house that doesn’t have them.

So, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath (one with shower) house with large kitchen, adequate space for our live-in maid (newer American homes often have “in-law suites” which would be perfect), double garage with automatic door openers, adequate security, and a quiet, tree-shaded location…that’s the bottom line. It sure doesn’t seem like too much to expect for a couple of million bucks, now does it?


  1. Hello there,
    It's so good to see you posting again. No you are not expecting too much. Looking at house after house can be discouraging but hang in there. The right house could be the next one you view.

  2. Hey there.
    Glad you are posting again. When we were looking for a house, our only requirement was for a decent 'flat' for my mom, with a house of minimum three bedrooms and two bathrooms! That's it. It took us over a year to find the right property, but it was worth it, we have been very happy there for almost four years!

    Good luck, you are right not to settle. You will eventually find the place you are looking for.

  3. I don't think you're asking too much. You are asking to not just house one family, but two. I don't know about South Africa, in America my 3 bedroom, one bathroom home is valued at $120,000. I would think that you could get five times or more of what we have for that price.

  4. I accidentally rejected the following comment from Melinda:

    Hey SV! I think your requirements are perfectly reasonable! Those are roughly the same requirements I had when Les and I were looking for a home several years ago. It did take us a while to find a house that met most of our criteria but it took a long time and a lot of hard work.

    My sister says the key to happiness is to lower one's expectations! But I think your expectations are pretty reasonable, as I said.

    I thought you found a house? Are you looking again?

    Take care!


  5. We have an offer out on a house but it hasn't been accepted yet. The seller has until the 30th and, because of the way houses are bought and sold here, nothing is written in stone until the mortgage is granted and the conveyancing attorneys are in possession of the cash!

    So, until we actually HAVE a house, we continue to look. If this seller turns us down (or ignores us like the last guy), we want to hve something else lined up. Going to see 2 houses on Sunday...sigh...wish it was over!

  6. Good luck with the continuing search!
    When we have looked to buy a house in the past, we have also been bewildered by what the agents have taken us to see, and the state the owners let the house be viewed in! You state your budget, and the agents only take you to view houses at the top end and above - regardless of the fact that it doesn't have the double garage you need, or it has a pool that you specified you didn't want. In the end, we built to our own design - but that's a whole other (scary) story! Keep looking, eventually you'll find the one you want.

  7. Hi SV,
    Can you not find one professional realtor who has access to a MLS type product? Everyone I know who has found a home has found one good realtor and values that relationship. I sounds like the realtors you are running into are unable to be professionals in any environment and they think anyone can "sell". Whew! I think you have more fortitude that I have :-). Somewhere along the line I've missed out on the most recent offer. I'm interested. Norine


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