Sunday, December 11, 2011

House-hunting - getting serious

It was nice to have Mum and Dad here for a few days. We got on well - in fact I've been getting on better with Mum than I've done for ages. My parents spent a fair bit of time eyeing up properties for me; I was very grateful for this because I'm pretty clueless in that regard. On Tuesday they took a look at an apartment I found a month ago (and was still up for grabs) and to my slight surprise they really liked it! It's five minutes walk from where I live now, on the other side of the Basin. The block of flats is hardly a thing of beauty. It was built in the late nineties and looks like a behind-the-goal football stand (which is sort of appropriate because it is right next to a sports ground, just for a different sport). But inside it's spacious and well looked after. It's got 2½ bedrooms on two floors with, to be honest, heaps of space for one person. Talking to my brother, he would definitely say it was a place he "wouldn't want to rattle around in". All the fittings are modern and it's been well maintained despite being tenanted for several years (I could take on tenants if I buy it). Its asking price had been reduced by $16,000 and on Friday I put in an offer for a further nine grand less. It's a complicated business, this whole house-buying thing. I really hope my offer is accepted, not because I'm emotionally wedded to the property but because I want to get it over and done with. If it falls through, there's one (possibly two) in Brooklyn that I'm interested in. Tomorrow is the big day when I expect to find out.

I've been in New Zealand eight years and two weeks and there's still plenty of stuff I haven't figured out yet. Like why all real estate agents, solicitors, insurance salesmen and mortgage brokers are ex-All Blacks. Or Black Caps. What is it about kicking a football that instantly makes you knowledgeable about financial products or legal matters? Precisely nothing, but of course in NZ being a highly successful international sportsman (or woman) elevates you to God-like status. What's more, people trust you. It's completely different in the UK where no-one in his right mind would buy a house from Wayne Rooney. Over there you've got an Etonocracy running the country; here you have an Allblackocracy. I don't know which is worse.

The house-buying process (at least I hope that's what it is) has in some ways been a nice distraction from my other big decision - whether to do more actuarial exams. My new boss is trying to twist my arm. I almost hope he could the whole hog and break it so I wouldn't be able to write the exam. It would feel like the ultimate backward step after the decision to quit my job two years ago. The thought of it - that there's no way out - has made me feel quite down today it must be said.

My boss is five years younger than me. He had told me he was 28. For some reason the subject of weight came up at work, and to show how many pounds he'd lost he dug out an old passport photo with a late January 1985 date of birth, making him 26. However he comes from China where you're considered to be one at birth and a year older at the turn of each Chinese year. He was born just before the turn of the year so by Chinese rules he is indeed 28 and will in fact turn 29 before his "real" 27th birthday (because it's an early start to the next Chinese new year). You get old quickly in China.

On Wednesday night (the night before my parents flew home) we ate at a Vietnamese restaurant on Majoribanks Street. I had beef noodles which were appetising without feeling full. We then played Scrabble again. I won but had far more than my fair share of good letters. Until the end, that is, when I had four I's on my rack. Mum and Dad both had an "I" each, and with no place to put them (no QI allowed in our game, folks) the game ended with only three of the nine I's having been played. I wonder if that's some kind of record. I should point out that Mum consistently took an age to put down a word - she's actually pretty competitive - and we didn't finish till after eleven. I must get an egg timer before we play next.

We had another quake on Thursday morning. A mere 4.2, it was certainly noticeable from my elevated position. I'd call what I experienced a "double wobble".

Bought the flat or fallen flat? I'll find out tomorrow.

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