Mercury (Hobart) - Property
MY HOUSEHUNT TOIL
My 18-month search for a home almost broke me – but thankfully, I stuck with it, writes real estate-obsessed netball champ and 2018 The Block contestant Bianca Chatfield.
EIGHTEEN months of househunting comprising about 100 inspections, daily searches and notifications online, and at least 20 auctions with prices far exceeding the price guide.
Throw in a wild Covid rollercoaster ride that strangely sent the property market skyrocketing and you have a seriously frustrating year and a half.
Can anyone else relate?
I can finally report, things can turn around. My househunting officially came to an end with a very last-minute Thursday night auction over the phone during our most recent Melbourne lockdown – but more on that later.
After selling in December 2019, my search for my next home came with plenty of optimism. No more apartment living – I wanted a stand-alone house or villa or townhouse, somewhere Bayside in Melbourne’s southeast, ideally Elwood, maybe within a 5km radius from there if it was the right property.
I was fairly sure I knew my nonnegotiables as I started to filter my search: a home with two to three bedrooms in liveable condition – so not a total knockdown, but with opportunity to add value by renovating or improving the floorplan, while I was living in it.
Off-street parking was important, but seemed harder to find with inner-city terraces.
I’m on record saying I enjoy looking at houses, so I won’t pretend the whole 18 months has been a drag.
The first six months were quite enjoyable – although in hindsight, I was living in lala land, inspecting properties out of my price bracket thinking I’d snatch a bargain.
Once we were plunged into lockdown – the 2020 version – the fun turned to fear. With limited properties on offer, and the lack of ability to inspect the ones that were, I had to stop and reassess.
My work was up in the air, there was uncertainty around my pre-approval, and no guarantees what would happen next.
Once Melbourne started to reignite and my pre-approval was confirmed, I was ready to buy more than ever – living in a one-bedroom apartment with my partner, Mark, was wearing thin.
But what I was looking to buy seemed identical to the rest of the city – at least, it felt that way.
Every open for inspection seemed like a line up to get into the MCG on Grand Final day.
On just about every first inspection, FOMO was driving my competitors to corner real estate agents and offer far more than the advertised price. And if the property made it to auction, I was often out by the first bid.
The homes I had envisaged myself living in were selling for $300,000$400,000 above the quoted price brackets every single time.
The whole process really started taking a toll. I thought about giving up and signing a 12-month lease, hoping the market would calm down.
I asked as many experts as I could what would happen next and no one really knew.
Eventually the old FOMO got me as well – I didn’t want to miss out because I was locked into a lease.
So in late 2020, I invested in a buyer’s advocate. I made an SOS call to Nicole Jacobs of Whitefox Advocacy, who I met as a contestant on the 2018 The Block, to find out exactly how she could support me and the costs associated.
My work often involves sport, and therefore consumes my weekends, so that had to take priority over the all-day Saturday househunt. I needed my own brains trust to strategise what I wanted, needed and should be focusing on.
This isn’t an ad for buyer’s advocates, more a genuine realisation I was in over my head and tackling the market with my time commitments was getting impossible.
Nicole set me straight quite early about my unrealistic attempts to buy so close to the city, where I was up against hordes of downsizers with much bigger budgets than mine.
I initially rebelled – apparently I needed a few more missed inner-city auctions to fully take Nicole’s advice on board. And while the process was still frustrating at times, having someone in my corner with more knowledge of the market and property values made it easier to really nail down my negotiables and non-negotiables.
Ultimately, our little team got the job done. But more on that next week.