Today we have the third instalment of Karen and Gene’s story of moving to Tasmania. Today is all about starting the search for a home to buy.
Searching for a new home
Bright and early the next day we had a house viewing lined up. We’d had the wits not to make it too early, which was a good thing, since it took us just a bit of backing and filling to find the address down on the Tasman Peninsula. You can’t really get lost on the peninsula because all roads eventually come back to Eagle Hawk Neck—but you can bumble around a bit with wrong turns and hidden driveways. Even if you have a GPS thingummybob—and we didn’t—give yourself extra time to get where you think you are going.
We toured the house and grounds with the owners, who were doing a private sale. This can be tricky, and in general I’d recommend viewing with an agent who has no personal investment in the property, but in this case it worked out well. It was a charming house with only two drawbacks. The driveway came off a farmer’s lane, and the rainwater tank was on the farmer’s property. This meant that the home owner was always somewhat dependent on the neighbour’s good will, and that’s not something set in stone. We praised the property to the owners but after leaving and talking it over we decided the price was very high for what it was, and those restrictions were serious enough to give one pause. When we talked to real estate agent friends later, they advised against buying a property of that sort.
These same agents showed us four properties that afternoon, all of which were well within our budget and nice in their various ways—one of them had whales and dolphins playing in the ocean across from the front yard–but none of them large enough or private enough. Regretfully, we said no to all four.
We found our next home to inspect by accident. Driving out of our temporary neighbourhood one day we saw a lovely house, solid brick, large grounds, huge garage, two stories with dormer windows, and while it had neighbours, none were exceptionally close. Imagine our surprise when that day’s viewing of real estate agent windows showed a brand new sign, with this house on it, just posted! We viewed the house the next day and it was 85% of what we wanted; and the owners were able to settle and move out quickly. We viewed it again a few days later, but after much thought, decided not to make an offer.
Looking back, it’s clear that had we made a reasonable offer, we’d have been home within 3 weeks or so and other than the cramped upstairs bathroom and the tiny kitchen, we’d have been quite happy with the property. The price was reasonable, and we’d have saved a great deal in storage fees and temporary rentals. On the other hand, there was no view to speak of, and we would not have found the place we eventually bought, which was also 85%, but a different mix.
I think that unless you build your dream home from scratch you will never find a house that is 100%of what you want, unless your criteria are very, very limited.
One house that seemed ideal except for the price being at the far end of our range was so perfect that we made an offer on the spot. It had land, a big work shed, a good kitchen, plenty of bedrooms, no near neighbours and a lovely sunny glassed in room at the back that I could see being perfect for the bony old cat and my large desk, where I planned to write a lot more books.
We would have preferred the agent to just ring up the owners and say “I have an offer of XX, would you entertain it?” Instead he insisted we make a written offer, and by the time this was done and the owners thought it over, a full week had passed—and then they said that they had really hoped to get ten thousand more than the listed asking price, so no thanks, they wouldn’t accept our offer. We found this puzzling—why not just advertise the house at the price they wanted and say “firm”? We’d not have bothered, and not have wasted a week. (Footnote: the property eventually sold two months later for $5000 less than the owners wanted.)
Sadly, both of the properties that were on our short list from the April visit had sold by the time we returned in September. However, the agent who listed them had several other suitable places to show us. He had a good idea of what we wanted, and we were hopeful he’d come up with our dream home.
Hint for prospective immigrants: Don’t give up looking just because you have made an offer on a property. It may well fall through, and you’ve squandered a week of rent without lining up anything else.
Know what you are looking for, and refuse to settle for anything very far outside your parameters. If you have moved thousands of miles to find a place far from the madding crowd, do not even look at, never mind consider, a suburban block. Tell the real estate agent what you want and stick to it. Don’t waste your time and the agent’s time.
Thanks Karen for your insights into buying property in Tasmania. Yes, it is true that almost all agents will insist on a formal offer in writing. You need to know that if this offer is accepted without negotiation and signed by the vendor, then you immediately have a contract with no cooling off period. So be very certain of all of your conditions when you make an offer to buy a property in Tasmania.
We will have the next instalment of Karen and Gene’s story in a few days time. Stay tuned!