Should we stay or should we go?

My flat has some hard decisions to make soon. It was put on the market last August, and since then we’ve lived without being very sure of anything, apart from certainty in the corrosiveness of human greed and the ghastliness of estate agents. The property is no longer being marketed as an ideal development site for townhouses, chiefly because the spigot of easy credit to property developers has been turned off, and no-one can afford to chance what would probably end up being a $2 million investment. I’ve pulled that figure out of my shapely porcelain buttocks, but I’m guessing that’s how much it would cost to buy this property, demolish it, engineer a driveway and construct townhouses on it.

Keep in mind that this is a rental property which has had almost nothing spent on it in maintenance in the past 15 years except for a couple of perfunctory fixture repairs. It’s making money for its owners, but crucially it’s not making enough money.

Anyway, the new strategy is to renovate the house so that someone might buy it in order to live here. I’m skeptical about this for a few reasons – would you pay $600,000 for a large but ugly single-storey house in Kelburn with terminal structural deficiencies? It’s 120 years old, but not in the good oak-panelling heritage kind of way, more in a Don Brash’s dusty old scrote kind of way. They intend to remove the decomposing boards on the outside, fix the rusted roof, paint and carpet the bedrooms, renovate the kitchen and bathroom, and demolish the laundry to build a deck. This removes one of our toilets and most of our storage space, and the deck will be windy. The job will be completed as cheaply as possible. And, oh yes, where are we supposed to live in the meantime?

Apparently if all five of us can find somewhere else to live for four weeks starting in August, we can move back in afterwards. The risk we have to calculate is that the house won’t sell immediately, or if it does, the new owners will want someone to continue living there while they decide what to do with the place. Finding somewhere to stay isn’t an insurmountable problem for those of us with family and compliant lovers in the area, but we’d expect to receive, I dunno, moving costs? There’s been no offer to find us alternative accommodation, which I would’ve thought was normal practice.

The final kicker is that the renovated house will certainly look nicer, but the changes are aesthetic only. There’s no plans to install insulation. Not additional insulation to bring it up to minimum World Health Organisation standards. Any¬†insulation. Would you drop $600,000 on a place like that?

After eight years in this place, and with no alternatives on the horizon, I’m afraid I have no perspective on the situation and I might be missing something really obvious. Any advice gratefully received.

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7 Responses to “Should we stay or should we go?”

  1. mafalda Says:

    As many other situations in life, it depends on how much stress and uncertainty are you able to manage.

    But does the place really worth the pain?

    My advice is: do not be afraid of change; take this is as an opportunity!

    What if you talk to your friends (and flatmates if you like them) and see if there is anyone keen to find a nice, liveable place together? Have you explored that possibility?

  2. Rhinocrates Says:

    I concur, and I hate the very idea of change. Your land- well, she ain’t no lady, has struck me over the years as one of those people who, because they think of themselves as a nice person, wouldn’t even imagine that they could do anything wrong, and would keep on doing the wrong thing serene in the knowledge that only bad people do bad things, and she’s a nice person, so whatever she does is good…

    This moving-back-in-afterwards thing is laughable. She knows that she won’t find tenants and she’ll tell herself that she’s being generous and thoughtful (despite not finding alternative accommodation or paying moving expenses). That’s because she’s __nice. __

    I could imagine too that the renovations would be an excuse to raise the rent. Because that would be __reasonable. __

    Also, four weeks? I’m sure the builders told her that, but when has a building job, in a Wellington winter, no less, gone according to schedule?

    Take her at face value and you will have a stressful, frustrating time of it, with a very dubious outcome.

    I’ve no idea of what the flatting market is like in Wellington now, not having looked…

    It could be worth your while to explore your rights in this matter – see the CAB for example – but can you bear the stress of a drawn-out legal process? Is it more or less stress than moving?

  3. Rhinocrates Says:

    A lot more than $2, 000, 000, BTW. My guess is that the… um, [cough] landperson has consulted some Turing Test failure and been told that the chances of building exciting stylish executive lifestyle inner-city dwelling concepts… I mean apartments (sorry, I couldn’t find a way of putting that particular indicator of idiotic banality, “going forward” in there)… is going to cost a lot of money that will not be recouped in the next five minutes, which is the sort of timescale that these… um, [another cough} beings comprehend.

    No-one looking for a property in Northland/Kelburn will consider even for a picosecond a property without parking space, but the sort of engineering required to ensure the essential parking that your average yuppoid/sucker (Cthulhu, does anyone remember the term “yuppie”?) will demand for their BMW/Audi will be prohibitively expensive and unlikely to be amortised, for… hell, hours , maybe even years or even… what’s that term… “decades”? What are they?

    One townhouse.. well, maybe, if it’s a mansion… but one picosecond later, nah. If some idiot (well, there are plenty of those about.. but there are bigger honeypots to attract them)… my guess is that several apartments or prestigious luxury lifestyle inner-city dwelling concepts individually imagined by a top architectural designer (not, for legal reasons to be designated as an actual architect) created just for the discerning pro-active aspirational can-do professional, going forward (there, done it!) which will have to be thrown together on the site, where they will leak and rot away in accordance with the general metaphysical implication of the Second Law of Thermodynamics will require significant investment to enable the creation of parking space and that is a capital investment quite beyond the means of even the most extravagant masturbatory fantasies of the landthing.

    This needs to be done: design. Demolition. Earthmoving. Construction of driveway. More design – of apartments this time. Construction. Long wait to sell. Longer wait to receive benefits. There are huuuuge capital expenses at each stage, with profit inevitably delayed.

    The landthing, being told of this immutable reality, probably suffered a stroke and looked for the least worst swindle that she could engineer once the dribbling stopped and the physiotherapy started having an effect. **Shinier, Glossier** shack on hilltop with no parking (shh!), close to amenities! “Architecturally designed”! (Whatever that means, but it looks nice in the ads)

    I detect a note of desperation. You may luxuriate in the the schadenfredetastic thought that your landthing is still unlikely to attract any interest in her latest exercise in self-delusion, for what it’s worth (I calculate about 2 centidollars of value for that bit of darkly warm fuzziness).

    She’s desperate. Very. You do have that knowledge to drive a hard bargain, but I reiterate: her scheme’s stupid and she’s negotiating in bad faith anyway.

  4. Rhinocrates Says:

    Oh, and building consents. They’d take forever.

  5. Rhinocrates Says:

    Chapman-Taylor porch, you mentioned a while back? Wonder what the Historic Places Trust would make of that? Unlikely to stop things, but likely to insert a spanner into the works too…

  6. (Makes mental note never to piss off Rhinocrates)

    Yes, apparently a building consent for even minor work takes about six months as a matter of course.

    The porch and window (which leak abominably) would probably be removed before demolition.

    There’s no way we’d accept a rent increase just because of cosmetic work – it’s either a standard of insulation fit for human beans or GTFO.

    When they were trying to shift the section in August on the merits of its potential, the house was described in ads as an “old dunger”. God knows what they’ll call it now.

    The husband seems to be behind this, BTW. I asked him if he planned to try selling it for the price they failed to get last time, and he excitedly informed me that a house up the street has just sold for $950,000. I swear I could see dollar signs in his eyes.

  7. Rhinocrates Says:

    (Makes mental note never to piss off Rhinocrates) Yes, some former employers, now significantly poorer, made that mistake. It’s unlikely in the extreme that you’ll ever do that.

    I swear I could see dollar signs in his eyes.

    Hah! He’s thought that “location, location, location” means street number, but buyers who look at a property would also think, “Hmmm, lessee… townhouses, access… ah, NO.” Eedjit. The funny thing about greedy people is how easy they are to delude, how willing they are to delude themselves.

    Anyway, look, I am really sorry. Personally I hate the thought of the stress involved in moving, the loss of what has been quite a good place (for all it’s grottiness, I gather the price, because of its grottiness, has been lower than the equivalent elsewhere). The views and location in terms of the kind of lifestyle that the kind of people who inhabit it as it is have made the house not too abominable.

    According to everyone I know and care about, 2011 is not turning out to be a good year for all sorts of reasons. Going by the law of averages, you can at least look forward to 2012 as being very boring indeed.

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