A few days ago, I wrote that we were over house hunting. The searching and the researching and the devoting every weekend to trekking the length and breadth of the city - all this we've been doing since September. Enough already.
And last night, we nailed it.
It was an auction, which I know as an opportunity for either heartbreak or cutting observation, depending on how much you care about the house. We did care about this one. It's the nicest house we've seen in a couple of months, it's in the right area and the right nominal price range...
It's amazing, the things my mind does to me when it's under pressure.
I made use of all the experience I gained at our first attempt to buy at auction. Set a high limit, as high as you can bear; position yourself at the back, where you can see the other bidders; don't bid first, but when you do get going, don't hesitate.
Setting a high limit was easy. The CV was so comfortably within our range that I couldn't believe bidding would go too high for us. But psychology is a funny thing. As we sat in the packed café, waiting for the auction to begin, I kept thinking about resale value, running costs, opportunity costs - all the reasons why we might be paying too much. Was it worth what we'd agreed? - and could we afford it? - really? - really really? Six percent of 400,000 is 24,000 - plus 20,000 to repay, that's 44,000 in the first year, and then Susan is going to have to get the bus to work, that's not a calculation I want to be doing in my head, certainly not now, but I can't stop myself.
Sitting at the back was all very well, but as the place filled up I realised two things. One was that we'd been trumped by people standing behind the back, out on the street and leaning in through the windows. The other was that with ten rows in front of us, we risked invisibility. But one has to have faith in the auctioneer - it's not in his interest to overlook anyone.
Most of the people are not unlike us - young-ish couples, presumably looking for a place to start a family. Directly in front is a pretty Asian woman in her 20s, wearing jeans so low-slung that they're practically a wardrobe malfunction in progress. I avert my eyes, resolving not to fall for this obviously deliberate distraction. To our right I overhear the agent talking to a mother-daughter team - the daughter a straight-haired blonde woman, animated and pretty, but showing signs of the sun-induced premature aging that characterises most white New Zealanders. So they've got their sights on our house too.
A couple of rows in front is a blond guy whom I stigmatise instantly as a wannabe yuppie. He's sipping white wine, wearing the bottom half of a cheap suit, and has just eaten a cake with whipped cream. His figure suggests that he's slightly too fond of cream with his cakes - a professional man in his 20s should be slimmer than that. On his lap is a folder labelled "Congratulations on your new vehic..".
Through it all we wait quietly, patiently. Susan's body language is defensive, but I consciously adjust mine to be more open, and tell myself that I feel better for it.
Our house is first in the running order. The auctioneer mikes up, introduces himself and runs through the selling points, just in case we've forgotten why we came, then asks for opening bids. I know how this bit goes - no-one wants to open the bidding, everyone sits silently. But not tonight. "Two hundred!", shouts the yuppie in a Chardonnay-fuelled voice.
The auctioneer evidently knows the man - that's probably how the parasite got his money, I reflect bitterly - and accepts the offer with more than good grace. The ice broken, several bidders dive in - I can't see them all, there's a column in the way - but bidding quickly escalates to $360k.
Here the auctioneer develops a mischievous streak, calling "Going once, twice, three times" without a pause. Half a dozen hands shoot up - mine among them, but I don't think he saw it - doesn't matter anyway, bidding is going again.
At $440k there is another pause. Maybe this one's for real. After decently waiting for the third call, I put my hand up. At $450k we drop to $5000 increments. At $460k, my opponent bids $1000; the auctioneer invites me to do likewise, but the hell with that, we'll be here all night, I've got to land a knockout punch. "Sixty-five!", I yell. "Sixty-six!" "Seventy!"
There we stop. I start daring to hope we've finished, but I know we haven't. After a theatrical pause while the agent "consults the vendor", the auctioneer announces that the reserve has been met and the house will be sold.
At which the other bidder tries again - another $1000. It takes until $480,000 to shake the bastard.
But it's done. And finally - for the first time in almost eight months - we can look forward to a settled future. We can spend our weekend doing something we actually want to do.
"So - more open homes this Saturday? Just to gloat?" I suggest jokingly to Susan on the way out.
She seems alarmingly keen on the idea.