After days of viewing shacks we were almost resigned to living in someone’s garden shed for NZ$ 400/pw with $3 knocked off if we mowed their lawns. We had registered with every Real Estate Agent within a 100 kilometre circumference of Auckland, since Husband nurtures some idealistic theory that the real estate industry is in the business of sourcing the perfect property and matching it to the ideal tenant.
Having had more exposure to Real Estate Agents in my short-to-medium life I know their business is actually to test your reserves of patience and restraint. Therefore I continued to browse www.trademe.co.nz daily, conducting preliminary searches on rental property with keywords: ‘private’, ‘quiet’, ‘not in any way a hovel’, and further narrowing the search with ‘3 car garage’, ‘no mutant teddy bears’ and ‘cow-free’.
Trademe turned up a wide variety of options and after a while I became adept at deciphering the adverts. You might think a property listing featuring a single photo of a bathroom is simply bad marketing. So did we, until we viewed a couple of these places and found it was in fact good PR. ‘Fully furnished’ = a rusty toaster and range of three-legged chairs. ‘Incredible views’ = but the house is a squat. ‘Good TV reception’ = there’s a transmitter in your backyard.
One morning, I stumbled across the advert for Turanga Road. The pictures looked wonderful – not one toilet shot among them. As we drove through Waitakere, I knew the house would have to be a hole in the ground to turn me off (and if it was an insulated hole in the ground, I was in).
The house was about 4km up a dead end road surrounded by bush. Although on the edge of the Waitakere Reserve, it was only 20 minutes from the centre of Auckland. Husband remained non-committal until he saw the garage taking up the ground floor. He was so touched he barely even noticed the yellow and maroon colour scheme.
The landlord/caretaker, Darren, informed us three couples had offered on the house, with another three viewing it that evening. Obviously we were going to have to turn on the charm. This wasn’t a big issue for me, but Husband has a daily charm ration, which is finite within half an hour and better applied in short, intense bursts over extended periods.
Considering we spent three and a half hours conducting a xxx-rated full-frontal Charm Crusade, Husband did exceptionally well – I was very proud of him. My techniques involve tossing my hair around and blatant flattery. Husband goes for bribery and lashings of manly mirth (he also tucks his hands in his armpits, but I think that’s more nervous tension than charm specifically).
We had one fumble, when I asked Darren whether his friends/owners would have any problem with our repainting the house. I thought he’d be delighted, since the paint job was about ten years old and looked a bit patchy. And the colours were psychologically abusive.
Instead, Darren looked at me as if I were in the process of biologically propagating a horn in the centre of my forehead.
“Paint it?” he said. “Why- well, I- I hadn’t really thought about it. I mean, if you wanted to- you know, as long as you don’t paint it something horrible like- like black and purple. I suppose it would be all right.”
I’m thinking, “DUDE, it’s flaccid maroon and egg-yolk yellow,” but Husband stepped in firmly and said, “No problem, we love these colours. Don’t we Niamhie?”
“LOVE them,” I confirmed, nodding vigorously. “Sorry I even asked; I was deranged momentarily.”
After a couple of hours of chat, Darren agreed to let the house to us, which thankfully meant we didn’t have to resort to a headlock. We stuck around another while to sabotage the remaining hopeful tenants, and meet his wife, Ingrid.
Apart from the brawny colour scheme, the house is intelligently designed and eco-friendly. A self-contained water supply derives either from the roof or the nearby creek. There is a deck off the living room opening onto bush and glorious views of the Henderson Valley, and we have our own waterfall by the front drive! The encroaching bush and a colossal tree that must be over a hundred years old is held back by a retaining wall out front, which cost $75000 and apparently nearly finished the owners.
It is about as far from Dubai as you could imaginably get