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|Volume 11 |Issue 13| March 30, 2012 ||
The Horrors of House Hunting
Nadia Kabir Barb
It has been said that moving house is the third most traumatic thing after death and divorce. Well, never having died (yes I am joking) or been divorced (not joking), I really can't comment on the first two aspects of the statement but can with certainty say that moving house is definitely an ordeal. What is even more stressful than the actual move itself, is the house hunting that is involved prior to finding the so called house of one's dreams. Over the years, I must have seen more flats and houses than I can count on both hands. It is possible to become a bit of a property junkie if left unchecked. Thankfully the house we are currently in has cured me of my addiction to all things property related, although every now and then I have a slight relapse and flick through the estate agents’ brochure that is slipped through my letter box!
Most people are said to make up their minds about a house or a flat within the first few minutes of entering a property and I would wholeheartedly agree with that. Usually you have a set of criteria that you assign for the perfect home, i.e. the location, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, proximity to local amenities, or whatever you believe fits your needs. From my own experience, however, I find that what is most important is the feel of a place when I first walk in through the door and not necessarily the mental list I have prepared. That may sound exceedingly new age and frankly weird but many people end up buying or renting a property based on just gut feeling.
Over time, I have seen many places, ranging from stunning to quirky and to the downright bizarre. One such bizarre place was a flat my husband and I went to see soon after we were married. It is an experience that neither of us has forgotten.
The estate agent suggested that we meet at his office and he would then drive us to the property. Being exceedingly young and inexperienced, we were very excited at the prospect of this 'viewing' as it was the first property we were seeing. On our drive, he gave us a brief description of the flat: situated on the top floor, two well proportioned bedrooms, an open plan kitchen with dining area and spacious living room with great views. Needless to say, we were thrilled at the picture we were conjuring up in our minds. In reality we found ourselves trudging up four flights of rickety stairs to the flat and upon entering we found that the description was far from accurate. Apart from being remarkably small and the decor a throw back to the seventies, what shocked both of us was the fact that completely independent of one another my husband and I felt a sense of unease and foreboding as we walked around the place. I am not usually prone to flights of fancy but there was almost a malevolent feeling emanating from the property itself. We wondered whether there had ever been a murder or suicide which had left its imprint on the flat. We did not wait to find out the answer to our question and did what any self respecting couple would do — we ran! We ran down the stairs, out of the front door and did not stop running until we reached the end of the road. In case you are wondering — we did not end up buying this particular property. Just thinking about it still sends a shiver down my spine.
Sometimes it is not just the property that can be a turn off but the inhabitants. The demeanour of the vendors can have an effect on the sale of a house. People are more likely to buy a place if they like the owners. This is not a statistically proven fact but an observation. I was once shown a house in London, close to where we currently live and the property itself was lovely; however, the lady of the house was not. The agent had failed to mention that the owner would be present during our viewing. I was very much taken with the ground floor and was looking forward to seeing the rest of the house. As we walked up to the first floor, I could hear a shrill voice ordering someone around. We found the owner in her bedroom surrounded by two ladies engaged in carrying out a manicure and pedicure. This was in itself slightly awkward as you feel you have intruded into someone's private space, but she barely glanced at us and continued to screech at the beauticians. This rather odd behaviour set warning bells in my head. The last thing you want to do is be involved in negotiations with a nit picking vendor with a God complex.
Years ago, when we moved back to Dhaka for a two year stint, we were yet again in the position of looking for a place to rent. As there were no agents, it was a process of looking for 'To Let' signs or hearing about vacancies via word of mouth. My cousin decided she would accompany me on my quest to find our prospective home. This said we spent many a day driving around the streets of Dhaka looking for rental properties. On one occasion we passed a house with a vacancy sign on the gate and decided to stop and talk to the guard. He informed us that there were actually two flats and one of the flats was empty. He then suggested that we take a look. We went up the stairs and found the door of the flat wide open so we walked into the living and dining area. What we had not bargained for was the man of the house sitting at the dining table in a lungi and vest having his lunch. He was just as taken aback at the sight of two women calmly strolling into his home unannounced. Moral of the story here— ask the guard which flat you are supposed to be seeing!
Selling a property can be just as traumatic as looking for one. You open up your house and effectively your life for strangers to come and see and pass judgement on. Your home is almost an extension of yourself, where you create a space that reflects who you are and it is galling to have people traipse through your home shaking their head at this or frowning at that and make disparaging comments about the decor or layout. There have been many instances where I have shuddered at the choice of carpet, cringed at the colour of walls or wallpaper and raised an eyebrow at the choice of furniture but what I have learned is to keep my thoughts to myself and not be disrespectful to the people opening up their homes to me. It really is quite simple, if you don't like it, don't buy it or rent it!
House hunting and moving home can be a long drawn out process involving a lot of time, effort, energy and money. Even when you find the perfect place there can be many a hiccup starting from the initial offer for the property to the actual acquisition but even with all the stress it may entail, once you are ensconced in your home, it really is worthwhile.
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