After holding out for years, Claire Trevett discovers the desperate reality of buying a house.
Two months into my househunt, a friend assured me it was like childbirth: as soon as you got one, the pain was forgotten.
As a journalist, I have written and read many stories about first-home buyers.
It was time to become one.
My investigative effort took eight months in a Wellington market that had apparently just seen what had happened in Auckland over the preceding decade and wanted a piece of that action.
It proved an exercise in misanthropy.
After eight months of searching I loathed real estate agents, I loathed investors shopping at the same end of the market as first-home buyers.
I loathed other home-buyers for paying too much for homes that were not worth it.
I loathed sellers for choosing sales methods to pimp their profits.
I also loathed people who were not selling, because I wanted their houses.
I held a particular horror for those people who bought cheap places, did a cheap and soulless renovation using horrendous fake wood flooring and cheap cabinetry and then sold it on at a vastly inflated price as having all the mod cons.
As time went on, I started to loathe public servants, ever-increasing in number and paid well so they could afford to outbid me.
At one point I loathed Sir Peter Jackson, holding him responsible for driving up prices in my preferred area – east of Wellington – because all his Weta staff also wanted to live there and could afford to.
I loathed the ways of selling. I loathed tenders, which push prices up because desperate people who have lost out before go higher than they ought.
The only person I did like was my lawyer – he was the only one on my side. Now I have his bill, he too is off the list.
I realised early on that the system was stacked against me. I wondered more than once why anyone thought home ownership was a good idea.
I hated open homes.
I spent most of them sussing out the competition rather than the house.
I needed Kirstie and Phil.
I was late to the market, well into my 40s by the time I decided to buy.
That was partly because my era had much stiffer student loans than the young ones now enjoy and I had not chosen a lucrative career path. The tougher LVRs did not help matters.
There was also my refusal to admit I lived in Wellington, despite having been "just visiting" for the past 12 years.
The new valuations issued by Wellington City Council in the middle of my search did not help.
Technically they should not have affected the market. But they have a psychological impact.
They give sellers greater expectations.
In some areas, the new RVS did indeed match the actual values of the real estate.
In others they were inflated. For the space of approximately an hour real estate agents in those areas recognised this, making it apparent the place might not sell for its new RV.
But for a long time it has been ingrained in both buyers and sellers that a place is worth more than its RV. So after that hour, places yet again started selling for over their RVs.
Housing Minister Megan Woods had also become a further addition to a home-buyer's checklist.
One now needed to assess whether a home with any vacant land near it would soon be crowded out by a KiwiBuild development.
One house in Titahi Bay backed into a lifestyle block and a reserve.
It had asbestos cladding but it also had a lovely feel. It had serenity.
It looked out over a lovely valley and the harbour inlet with the motorway running along it.
On the other side was a distant view of Mana Island. I imagined sitting on the deck watching the sun set.
Then I envisaged Woods banging up terraced townhouses on the grassy valley and blocking the serenity.
I put in a bid at my top dollar - more than the real estate agent websites had estimated its worth at. I missed out to an offer the agent said was significantly higher and unconditional.
Sour grapes have inevitably followed, and since I liked that house a lot and had thought I would be able to afford it, they are very sour indeed.
So Woods, if you need to boost your KiwiBuild home numbers in a hurry there is a lovely block of land in Titahi Bay ripe for compulsory acquisition. You know my number.
This weekend I will move into my new house, a 1940's ex-state semi in a suburb I had vowed loudly I would never live in.
But by the time it came up, I had been looking for eight months in other suburbs I had also vowed I would never live in: Wainuiomata, the Hutt, Porirua, out in the wops, up the Kapiti Coast, houses up stairs, down stairs, in their nightgowns.
I had put in several offers and was beaten every time by fools paying too much.
A certain competitiveness had crept in by the time my one did come up. It proved my undoing.
The open home featured the predictable influx of millennial couples, the flock of bearded men with trousers pulled up too high to show their hairy ankles and dreams of keeping chickens and beehives.
It was like Lord of the Flies - and I was going to be Jack.
The red haze swept over me.
This time I was determined to be the fool.
The offer that secured it was way over the valuation. The bank was not impressed and the offer had to be revised.
It was still enough to beat those young ones who were not yet fools. Give them time.