Sunday, May 06, 2007

Very Real Estate

Real estate is a genuinely tortuous experiment in testing man's flexibility to change. I'm puzzled by which Great Thinker thought up the idea, I can only imagine it was some disgraced member of the Inquisition who was deemed "too hardcore" and "too effective at his job". Maybe they polled the opinion of every curmudgeon on every street in North America and drew up the plans. You know the curmudgeon, usually with a name that starts with "Old Man..", like "Old Man Petersen". And he has one too many cats/lizards/dogs/miniature hyenas. Never throws anything out, and any frisbee that goes over his fence is lost for sure. And then when he dies, one finds out that he was really a kind hearted soul who painted impressionist artwork for the local dog shelter. Well, if it was a Disney show. In reality, the old man always has an entirely illegal cache of weapons and a taste in media that could politely be described as Miscellaneous And Confusing Pornography.

But I digress. Real estate! It really is just the buying and selling of not only a large (sometimes not so large) often moldy, persistently unattractive wooden box (jammed with bits of rock and insulation and copper wire *); but also selling a good whacking portion of your income.

In BC it's hit an all-time ridiculous high of 52% of gross income committed to mortgage payments. Recommended ratio in a sane economy not rife with speculators and zero down mortgages? 32%. That's a tiiiny bit off kilter. And yet we are all in the roller coaster together. So we just nod and smile to each other, grit our teeth, and say goodbye to those luxuries called 'disposable income' and 'money for food'.

But this isn't just another rant about real estate and the likely bubble we are suffering through in BC. No no, this has to do with real estate overall. I mean, here we are, running about, looking for an appropriate wooden box (or concrete cubicle, in a large tower of other concrete cubicles) and have to decide in less time it takes me to put on socks (an not decidedly nice socks either), if we want to make an offer on it. I think that the process would be a bit slower if the real estate agent spelled out exactly what that meant. Such as, "have you decided on the area, the lifestyle, the commute, where you'll get your groceries, walk the dog, go for a walk, and generally spend your non-working life, and ready to commit the largest portion of your income and therefore make an offer on this box?". I think, if put in admittedly verbose, yet accurate terms, real estate would move just a bit slower. But no, it's not. The question pops up within minutes of seeing a place, "would you like to make an offer?" Like asking if you would like to offer the guests another round of that dreadful punch and lime soda concoction your Aunt Mildred makes that tastes not unlike fizzy dishsoap.

I'm a man of indecision and unfocussed meanderings. Making a focussed decision, deciding for sure to live somewhere, for a good many years, after taking a peek into someone's house? It's absurd. It's not even a good look, usually. Just enough to get a feel of the place. There are no numbers to really consult, find out if you will be happy or miserable in this new box, if it will fulfill all your dreams and needs. If it will jive with that nebulous concept, your "lifestyle".

I honestly think they should just drop 'style' from that term, lifestyle. Because that's exactly what it is, your life. An hour and a bit commute and the ability to stretch your legs in your own place? Or less of your lifetime devoted to avoiding eye contact with familiar strangers but having to live in a squalid, shameful tiny pidgeon hole of a place where you can often hear your neighbors softly clear their throats? It's a tough decision.

So you whinge and you wheedle each other, you think and consider, weigh out options with a miniscule amount of data, and at the end of the day, you might even make an offer on a place. Sorry, decide where the majority of your income is going and where your life is going to be spent. You decide, you make an offer, there's tit for tat, there's back and forth. Maybe the deal goes through, but sometimes it doesn't. Then you are left with the unenviable task of dropping that entire life you've constructed in your mind. That entire life which justifies you spending An Absorbitant Amount Of Money on, and have to reimagine your life somewhere else.

It's tortuous and wicked process, real estate.

*to bring the negative ions through to your electromongonical devices so that you might have a nice smoothy or watch some arbitrary geographical area hit by the latest meteorological nightmare


cfcfree said...

You have mpod as a neighbour?

Niteowl said...

I'll never tell.
*taps temple meaningfully*

The Nighthawk said...

My wife and I must have stolen all the real estate mojo, because our situation though hectic, has had everything line up like clockwork to make it happen. I see by the time of your post (and knowing how early you head out to work), you're going emo on us over this! :(

I have no pearls of wisdom for you, because the fine detail of your post told me you do in fact know what you're doing, and you are considering all the things you should be considering.

Well maybe I have one pearl. If you can get excited about a place, then it's the right place. It can have all kinds of things wrong (or more precisely 'not right', which is in fact much different than something that's wrong), and you'll be able to work with it so long as it has other things that you can be excited about whether it's a view, a layout, a park across the street, whatever.

But you're right about the pressure to do it all now, Now, NOW BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE GETS IT, CAN'T YOU SEE THEM WAITING OUTSIDE!!!

Niteowl said...

Hee hee! Funny NH :) yeah, we saw quite a few, and it was only the ones that we got excited about that we put an offer on. Yeah, we have gone through this a few times :S

I actually have very little doubt that real estate will drop, or stagnate at the very least in the coming years. I mean, over a 100 year period, real estate pretty much just keeps up with inflation. Can't beat the data! :)

But, hell, I'm too lazy to rent for a year then buy again when the market has stalled. I know what I _should_ do, but I'm too lazy to do it :D