Friday, June 25, 2010

Dare I hope... is over??

For the last nine months my life has been hell. I have careened from one disaster, heartbreak, disappointment and misfortune to another, all without a break in sight. But all of a sudden, in the last seven days, things seem to be turning around.

My beautiful house in Cape Town has been empty for six months. We have lowered the price and turned down two absolutely insulting offers and have started to consider renting it (at a loss) just to have some income from it. We refuse to sell it at a giveaway price, but we can’t afford for it to sit there, empty, sucking money in the form of mortgage payments and garden upkeep.

Our rental house is a disaster in itself. Not only is it substantially smaller than our house in Cape Town (despite being advertised as bigger) we have battled hordes of mosquitoes, stinging wasps, arrogant cock roaches, swarms of flies, horrid rats, and the house being overrun by biting spiders…plus 8 water cut offs, countless power failures, a hot water heater periodically overflowing and sending water cascading down the chandelier in the stairwell and making a cataract of the stairs (not to mention pouring out the eaves and cooking the plants in the flower bed below), repeated failures of the driveway security gate, a brush fire right behind the house, two garbage strikes and a landlord who doesn’t give a sh!t as long as his rent is paid. We want out of this house so bad be can taste it, and the keys to the house we have purchased should be in our hands no later than 1 September. But, true to his self-serving nature, our landlord has little interest in allowing us to terminate our lease early…have you ever wondered about people who are willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces??

This guy…I’ll call him Dave…did not call out exterminators for 3 months, despite my being eaten alive by the bugs. When we found a rat, however, that was the final straw. We sent him a letter threatening to break our lease if he didn’t get someone out to control the vermin and that seemed to motivate him. When the thermostat on the hot water heater went bad and overflowed water half a dozen or so times in the matter of a few days, he refused to return our calls after his father came out and looked at it (while the tank was not actively overflowing) and said it was ok. Um…we pay the water bill here, and for the electricity to heat that 200 litres of scalding water that is making steamed hydrangeas in the front yard…but, Mr. Penny-wise and Pound-foolish Dave couldn’t seem to see that although it was our money pouring out the eaves, it was his ceiling and rafters that were getting soaked and risking dry rot.

So finally, we find a house and get our move-in date. We tell Dave we will find him a replacement tenant to take over the house when we move out. Mr. Dave, without a second’s though, knee-jerks to “Your lease is until the end of December.”

We are experienced landlords…we’ve had rental property for five years…Dave is not. What part of “replacement tenants” does he not understand? What part of “nobody house hunts over Christmas, Dave…if we don’t start looking for a tenant now, you’re gonna have an empty house and no rental income starting 1 January” has not registered in his brain?”

The man does not do subtle. I finally had to write him a letter, carefully couched in terms a 10 year old could understand, explaining why it would be to his advantage to 1) allow us to move out in September, 2) advertise and show the house for him (he lives 1000 miles away) and 3) screen the prospective tenants and send him the details on the good ones so he can check their credit and references and interview them by phone. I cannot believe someone had to explain to him that it is easier for him for us to show the house since we are actually living in it (and we have lots of experience with this). I cannot believe he had to be told that a 12 month lease with new tenants (at a higher rent!), beginning 1 September is better than making us stay on for four months and leave him with an empty house in the middle of the holiday season.

Well, it worked. He reluctantly agreed for us to advertise and show the house and refer tenants to him, and so last Friday I put two ads up on the internet. Within a hour I had a hit and the couple turned out to be perfect! Talk about luck! They are even willing to pay a higher rent than we are currently paying, they love the house, and eagerly sent in their documentation for credit and reference checks. It’s been a week. The landlord’s wife “forgot” to set up the interview between the tenant and her father-in-law who lives in town here. They have told me the prospective tenants are acceptable “in principle” but I have to wonder just what they want…they’ll pay more rent, they have excellent credit, she liked them on the phone interview…why do they seem to want to hold us to a lease that now disadvantages us both?

But, the good news is, there are more people eager to see this house and we got ideal tenants instantly, instead the extended periods of malaise we have experienced in the property markets recently.

So, next, one of our tenants calls from Cape Town and wants to break her lease. Hubby tells her “No. You must pay until the end of your lease or find us an acceptable tenant as a replacement.” The very next day I get an email from a woman wanting to rent the cottage, responding to an old, old ad she found on the internet!

My poor, beautiful house in Cape Town languishes. We have had half a dozen agents showing it. Finally we cancelled them all and went with a guy who is the 7th highest booking salesman in his international real estate firm…and he’s having no luck. Everybody says it needs maintenance (it doesn’t) or the garden is too big (so why are they viewing a place advertised with a 1400sq m garden?) or it is too expensive (it is worth R2.1M and we are listing at under R1.8…there’s R100K worth of imported French oak floors!!)

So, today my friend Sally’s newsletter goes out…we have put an ad in her newsletter. In the course of three hours we get an email from the agent saying he has shown the house to a couple who love it, and I get two calls from people who saw the ad in the newspaper and are eager to see the house! So from six months of disinterest to three interested parties in a single day!

My foot isn’t fully healed, but I am able to cook now (it was agony to stand in one place, like you have to do to chop veggies and work at the stove…I just couldn’t do it without making my foot worse), and even get around without my cane, unless we are going to walk a lot. I am still wearing the hideous arch-support Nikes (why can’t they make sleek, elegant, feminine athletic shoes? Why do they have to look like something one of the Transformers might wear??) but the last two nights I got a decent night’s sleep without taking pain meds at bedtime. It is still swollen and tender, but obviously on the mend.

So, with all these positive events coming together in a mere seven day period, dare I hope my curse has been broken and my life will resume its relatively quiet, sedate, satisfying pace?

Or is this just the lull before the storm?


  1. Oh SV, let's go with the broken curse premise. It sounds like a number of things are untangled. I am so happy for you. Norine

  2. You need to mentally and emotionally release your house that is up or sale and to visualize the new owners signing the documentation at settlement. Everyone smiling. Next you have to forgive that louse of a landlord and release him, too. Forgive yourself and every person, place or thing that's ever pissed you off. Really. Let everything go and bless them and you. Surround yourself with protective light and give thanks for what you have in your life. Smile a lot and start writing as if all of this is behind you and you will see fast and vast improvement. I shall also pray for you and for Diving Order.

  3. Don't you think you've already been through the storm? This is the calm AFTER the storm :-)

    I'm glad things are looking up!


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