Diary of a Home Owner – Part 1

I ended off 2012 by buying myself a garden unit in a complex consisting of 24 units. I’m pretty pleased with myself – being 28 and owning my own property. I was told by a number of people older than me that they wished someone had advised them to buy property when they were in their 20s. I know that most people my age are more worried about having a flashy car and going clubbing, but I really couldn’t care less about all that. There are more important things than having a good time.

So I started a new job at Trans Union SA in November 2012, after nearly 3 years at the head office of Telkom in Pretoria. It was the right time for a job change for me, and I think it was time for a new beginning. Ever since I moved to Gauteng from Durban, I was always stuck in Pretoria. Well, Centurion. Most of the people I knew were pretty far away and I’d have to set a whole day aside to see them because of the distance. It really wasn’t worth travelling all the way to Johannesburg just to be there for 2-3 hours.

Even while going through the hiring process with Trans Union, I had a very good feeling about it and I knew I was going to get the job. I don’t know how; I just knew. So before I could even get the offer, I started looking at property in Johannesburg. I never really considered Randburg because I didn’t really know it at all. Sandton was way too expensive, and some other areas were a bit dodgy and I couldn’t see myself living there. Distance was also a big factor for me because travelling from south from Pretoria to Johannesburg is an absolute no-no. Depending on the time you leave, you can spend at least an hour in horrendous traffic. If there’s an accident, you rather not bother going to work cos it can take you anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours. I did that trek from November right up until about 3 weeks ago when I finally moved in to my new place. It got to the point where I actually started hating traffic. With a passion. I’d be swearing every weird move I came across. It was literally driving me crazy. In the last 2 weeks before I could move, I started leaving home at 5:50am, so that I’d be at work by 6:30. Even then, there was some traffic. The only way I could have totally avoided any traffic was (I think) if I left at 5:30am. But that was just too insane for me and there’s no way I’d be able to be up at 4:30am in order to do that.

But anyway, back to the whole house thing.

I found the property on http://www.privateproperty.co.za and enlisted the help of an estate agent, who I scheduled an appointment with one Saturday morning to view the place in person. Now, I had seen a couple places before that and of course didn’t like any of them. A few people had said to me that when I found the right place, I’d know as soon as I walked in. With this place, I knew.

When I walked in, the first thing that got my attention was how bright it was. There was light everywhere – the kitchen, the lounge, and most importantly, the bathroom. If there’s one thing I hate in a house, its a dark kitchen and a dark bathroom. That was taken care of here. There were some minor things that I noticed that needed attention, but the main thing was the bathroom. It looked like shit. Even though there was natural light coming in, it had darkish tiles and was the most outdated looking bathroom I had ever seen in my life. It was small and the shower was tiny (another pet peeve). I don’t know how the hell they fitted a bath and a shower in there, as it was so cramped. I knew straight away that I’d redo it, but only if the seller would accept the price I was going to offer (considering the approximate amount I’d be spending doing the bathroom).

The surprising thing for me was that it had a store room. That is something you don’t find anywhere, so I was really pleased with that. Although, the shelves were buckling from having so much weight on them. I brought that to the attention of the agent. There was also a little broom cupboard. However, there were shelves in it packed with stuff, with not enough height for a broom to stand up in. But nevertheless, it was narrow enough for me to call it a broom cupboard.

With a few other things I noticed in mind, I had another good look around and was happy with the place overall. So I told the agent that I’d think about it and get back to her soon. It was not long before I decided to make the offer.

Once that was done, the money-spending and the hassles started. I had made a list of the things that were wrong, and sent it to the bond and transfer attorneys, as well as the agent. The seller had to do some of the repairs, which he agreed to do. He didn’t have a choice, anyway. I was lucky to have received a bond from all 4 major banks. After I chose the one I wanted to go with, I had to wait for them to do a valuation, which could only happen in January because the tenants were in Durban and the dumbass seller didn’t have his own key. I waited in agony, but was glad at how great the lack of traffic was because of the festive season.

I worked through the festive season, by the way, since I had only just started the new job. It was a great way to get things going on my own though. Its nice having your own space and time to find your feet.

After paying the bond and transfer costs, which actually amounted to more than the difference of the asking price and offered price of the property, I was pretty down and depressed because I still needed to pay around the same to get the bathroom done. Finally, some time around 13 Feb when the tenants moved out, I was able to go see the property properly, now that it had been emptied. It was also a wonderful chance to meet the most arrogant pain in the ass, the seller, in order to get the keys.

I am a very quick judge of character, and there are few people that I’ve met who I can describe as arrogant, but this man topped the list. Since the house was empty, things were much clearer. Since my father was with me, he was more on the ball with asking questions and highlighting new problems that weren’t noticed before. All the seller would say was “there was a list and this wasn’t noticed before so I’m gonna have to see whether I should do it”. Man, I wanted to slap the guy.

You’d think that people are generally honest, but what I’ve learned is that its the total opposite. Everyone out there is just trying to use you and take a shortcut. I think that because I am a young, single girl, he thought he could take advantage of my naivety and try to sneak his way out of things, but the idiot doesn’t know me. I may be young, but I’m not stupid.

Long story short, I got the guy to do everything. Learn about the law, dumbass. Its called the National Credit Act, and it was designed for buyers like me to protect us from dishonest sellers like you who try to cover up problems with a quick fix in order to get away quickly.

The thing I don’t get is why everyone tries to rob everyone else. Don’t people have any shame left? How can you sign a document saying that there’s no dampness when your kitchen counter and bathroom vanity has rotting wood? Not to mention the broom cupboard that has black, stinking, rotting shelves from the geyser that leaked from the upstairs unit? Did you have another explanation for the flies?

Don’t get me started on the stove. The thing was an ancient, white, free-standing piece of shit that looked as if it was part of an action movie scene where the set had just gotten blown up. The dials had no markings so there was no way to see which dial was for which plate, nor how high or low the plate was. It was a mess. I refused to use it. The only way I could get rid of it was to buy a new stove, which was a given. I felt so filthy to touch that stove that I didn’t cook a single thing on it for over a week.

During the last week in Centurion and the first week of moving in, I was running around after work with my father trying to look for tiles and accessories for the bathroom, trying as much as possible to stick to the budget that the contractor had given me. It was the most exhausting 2 weeks I had ever had because combined with the traffic I’d be stuck in, I’d still have to go home, fetch my dad, shop for stuff, then come home and pack. It was madness.

Eventually, after my bathroom was ready, I got the same guy to replace the kitchen counter under the sink where the rotting cupboard was, and he put on a black post-form top, which didn’t match the rest of the counters. After quite a debate, I got the seller to pay for it (he agreed for it to be deducted off the occupational rent). Now, the only way I could sort the stove out was to replace the rest of the counter tops. But I couldn’t really afford it. By some miracle, my dad happened to make friends with a man that lives in the complex. That man is actually a handyman and does these things on the side. So he charged me next to nothing to redo the rest of the counter tops and fit in my new stove, extractor (which was non existent) and oven. I cannot express the joy I felt once that stove was installed and the other one was out of my sight. I felt clean again.

Anyway, I just realised that I crammed the last 4.5 months into something like 2000 words.  There’s many things I still have to say but I think that will have to wait till the next post. I’m just glad I finally have some time to blog again.

Hasta luego, for now.

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