Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Some tips for house buyers

As Yossarian states in “Catch 22,” “all wars are fought over real estate.”
Property has always been the single most coveted commodity on earth and for most of us, buying a house is by far and away the most expensive investment we will ever make. The cost of a house these days is truly frightening, though not as scary as pulling back the bedclothes and finding a deadly black mamba coiled up ready to strike. Yet how many of us truly examine our prospective purchase with the proverbial fine toothcomb before putting pen to paper?
Here in Dublin 15, because of our expansionism and incessant search for lebensraum, we can lay claim to being the house-buying capital of the world. As such we would know more than most about what to look out for when purchasing that des res.
Most people in “Property World” – a mythical kingdom inhabited by people with clipboards and an ability with adjectives that defies logical comprehension – will tell you that the most important things when purchasing a house are “location, location, location.” Quite how a single house can have three locations is difficult to fathom, but I suppose the general point is that you should try and choose a house that has a location. Whatever you do, never buy a house that doesn’t have a location. It will only bring you heartbreak and you’ll keep forgetting where you left it.
However, one man’s meat is another man’s cheese, particularly if the other man is pretty stupid. To some people living next door to a public house would be a living hell. To others it would be sheer heaven. Living facing a green is desirable to some people, but not to those who are allergic to green. Having a house near a bus stop is great but not if you have to keep picking used bus tickets and hastily stubbed-out cigarettes out of your garden.
What I’m trying to say is that buying a house is fraught with dangers and lack of thoroughness when inspecting the property can bring about untold misery further down the line.
For example, most of us bring out microscopes when examining paint on a light switch cover but how many of us would check for molten lava erupting through fissures in the garden? Geysers, too, and gaseous emissions are a surefire sign that the house is built on a volcanic fault and my advice in this case would be to choose a house a bit further down the road.
The house may look sturdy enough but have you ever tried to take a bite out of it? The practice is rare nowadays but in days of yore, builders often constructed property out of gingerbread to cut costs. Fanciful? Check out The State vs. Cheapskate Builders, Supreme Court 1698, and the real reason for the great caster sugar shortage in the Caribbean at the end of the seventeenth century.
In Iceland along the southern road between Reykjavik and Hafn there is a little shack built at the bottom of a cliff surrounded by massive boulders many time its size that have become dislodged from the heights above. It is colloquially called “The Optimist’s House” and Paddy Powersson up there run a book on when the fateful boulder will fall. For those of you with a nervous disposition, it would probably be best to give this sort of house a miss.
The same applies to house-hunters attracted to a property which is perched on top of a cliff prone to severe wind and wave erosion. Thankfully there are not many such properties in the Dublin 15 area but if you should come across one, take a trip down to the Royal Canal first and borrow a bargepole. And then be careful not to touch the property with it.
That tiny ant languidly crossing the kitchen counter may seem innocuous enough, but the buyer beware! An acquaintance of mine once came home to find ten thousand termites curled up on his sofa making caustic comments at “Big Brother.” When they refused to hand over the remote control, he was obliged to phone Panasonic to find out how to change channels manually.
Get your solicitor to check the deeds of the house very thoroughly, lest your prize possession should turn out to have been built on an ancient native American burial site. Again, the chances of this occurring in Clonsilla or Ladyswell are quite remote, but it is a small price to pay to avoid having vengeful war-painted braves rampaging through your sitting room walls at three o’clock in the morning.
Older residents may recall a similar occurrence at Cut Throat Cottage in Porterstown in the nineteen forties. The new owners tentatively pushed open the attic door and belatedly discovered that it had been cursed by the High Priest to Rameses II in 1275 B.C. The ensuing plagues of locusts and scarabs had an adverse effect on house prices in the area for the next twenty years.
Most of us employ the services of an architect to prepare a snag list when buying a house but how many of us think to get in touch with Astronomy Ireland? Its all very well to find out that your soffia board needs a second coat of paint but it becomes pretty irrelevant if you find out that a meteorite is due to obliterate your house and all life forms within a fifteen mile radius in twenty years time. If you feel gung-ho, at least check out the small print on your insurance to see if you are covered for space debris.
Of course, not all potential hazards are preventable. Wherever you choose to purchase your house, you can never be sure that in twenty years time the runway of the second Dublin airport will not bisect your kitchen. This will cause mayhem at meal times and you may be obliged to eat out.
Or maybe some blindfolded planner in Fingal County Council will joyously stick a pin in your house to mark the site of the county’s incinerator which will send twenty thousand tonnes of food packaging a year up into the ionosphere. Nothing you can do about it, I’m afraid, though you may get a reduction in your service charges to compensate.
The point is that buying a house is always something of a lottery though you’d be wise to avoid plumping for kids’ birthdays and anniversaries. A quickpick is usually best though even here, you could end up living next door to someone who likes to play “Lionel Richie’s Greatest Hits” at all hours of the day and night.

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