Buying without Seeing

Searching for a property takes time.  Often, the property the estate agent was so enthusiastic about turns out to be a real turkey and you’ve wasted more hours of your very valuable time but if you live close by you’ve still got the rest of the day.  But what if you are 18,000 kms away and work commitments leave no time to make repeated viewing trips?  On top of that, there are only six months before taking up a new job.   As far as Steen Schultz was concerned there was only one option; to use a property finding service who would do all the leg work for him.

Steen Schultz contacted us in June 2014 explaining that he was being transferred from Denmark to Australasia by his company, for whom he makes windmills.   He would then be doing contract work which would involve fly in-fly out contracts in New Zealand and Australia.  He had friends and family in Northland New Zealand so his preference was to buy there.

His work at the time involved contracts in Greece and Norway and with the distances involved and limited time, it made sense to use The Property Finders.

THE BRIEF

  • A detached house with a minimum of two double bedrooms
  • Near a surf as he is a keen surfer
  •  On a tar sealed road within 30 minutes of an airport
  • No close neighbours as he likes to play loud music, but not isolated
  • Reasonable condition, no major structural changes, but prepared to do a renovation project at the right price
  • Secure, fully fenced yard with not too much garden to maintain
  • Budget up to NZ$250,000 cash

With the brief agreed by the end of July 2014,  we had six months to develop a short list of properties before he arrived in New Zealand, with his new job due to start in 2015.  Prices were on the rise and we knew that it would be difficult with limited funds but there were several areas near beaches and not too far the two main airports in Northland.

THE SEARCH

We identified the City of Whangarei and the more rural town of Kaitaia as the initial search zones, going no further than 25kms from the airports so any property would be  less than a 30 minute drive.  In the time available before he was due to arrive in December we reviewed and reported on forty two properties.  Most of those were in very poor condition requiring too much work to reach the standard he wanted, or were in less desirable areas, or had too many other houses nearby.  For two months over the winter when traditionally less stock is available for viewing, we continued to view properties, the result of which was that most of the areas we were targeting could be ruled out.

To add to the frustration we found the real estate agents in Northland to be very lacking in customer service and several had strange policies which only served to frustrate potential buyers.  For example, we had at least five attempts to view one house we identified early on as meeting the brief.  The first time we got to the property to meet the agent at the agreed time, only to find out he had forgotten to arrange access with the tenants so could not view it.  Then we turned up two Saturdays in a row to view the same house during the advertised open home but no-one was there the first week, so we went on to view some others.  The second week, after a two hour drive to get to the property as we elsewhere on another search,  again no one was there so we phoned the agent who said he had decided to have an open home at another property instead at the same time!  So we asked when we could see it and he said he didn’t know because he was going on holiday for a week or two.

This was just one example of the poor service provided by agents in the area. Others included not being able to locate a key despite prior arrangement for it to be left, or on several occasions, the same real estate company had other properties in the price range but the agent we were currently working with was unable to show us as they was not their own listing, any viewings had to be organised through the principal.  This became very time consuming as we needed to contact each agent individually and try to co-ordinate viewing times within and across different companies.  Imagine a busy person working full time trying to achieve this without The Property Finders help; even if they lived locally it would be a nightmare, but from 18,000 kms away, totally impossible!

By now several months had gone by and with spring approaching more properties were coming on the market. We identified three very suitable houses but by then our client had gone to Greece and we having difficulty tracking him down. But fortunately houses currently take a few months to sell in Northland so we were able to get his views on these three properties.

One in Whangarei had been redecorated including new bathroom and kitchen but he didn’t like the outer cladding as it was of high maintenance materials. The second one in Whangarei had gone under offer before we could get back to the agent, and the third in Kaitaia with a nice outlook and near the lovely Ahipara beach  and the famous 90 mile beach (though technically it is only 70 miles long) he deemed required too much work.

We were at the point of having discussions about increasing the budget which would require him to take out a mortgage, something he preferred not to do, when we became aware that the house which we had been trying to see for ages was now listed with a different agent at a lower price.  We contacted them and they got us in to see it next day.  We provided a comprehensive report on the house, the area, the climate, rainfall and sunshine hours along with a condition report indicating that the only work that needed doing was to refresh the bathroom paintwork.  Though only a small three bedroomed house in terms of square metres,  Steen really liked it and it was just 20 minutes from Whangarei airport and 20 minutes from the beautiful Ruakaka Beach, a beach he had camped by as a child as it turned out.

THE RESULT

With only two weeks till his arrival in New Zealand for Christmas, we made a low offer on his behalf. We knew that someone else was interested and had been to the open home after their initial viewing.  This is a difficult time of year to do business in New Zealand as lawyers and building inspectors, like the rest of the country, go on their long summer holidays.  We quickly contacted to our solicitor and got our offer in first, at NZ$25,000 less than the original asking price when it was first listed with the other agent.  Being a cash offer we were hoping that the other party might not have time to get an offer in before the Christmas closure.  A week later the agent advised that our clients offer had been accepted.

If this search proves anything it is patience and persistence is the name of the game. In today’s time poor environment busy people just don’t have time to waste on slack real estate agents. By the time they focus on their paid work, organise the kids’ activities and walk the dog, there is no time to spare. They are too busy to spend hours on the internet looking at houses that turn out to be in bad areas or down below the road with no sun, or to be messed around by disorganised agents.

That’s our version of events.  Here’s what Steen had to say:

I was amazed at how many houses Chris and Steve managed to look at for me.  Every few weeks I received a full list of every house they had visited with brief details, and then comprehensive details and photos of the top 2 or 3 they thought would meet my brief. They told me if the plot of land or the driveway looked too steep or if the house was poorly sited getting no sun.  I was amused that they discovered that one house that seemed very lovely in a nice tree lined street was almost next door to one owned and lived in by the head of a motorbike gang.  Imagine if I had bought that!

I am so grateful that they took careful note of my requirements and found me the right place within my budget and allowing enough money for me to get the bathroom upgraded as well, which will add value to my asset immediately. 

From my point of view and being so far away and so busy with work I think this was the perfect way to find somewhere to live that I know I will enjoy, without the uncertainty of moving to a new country and not knowing where I would be living.  It just took away all the hassles.

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