I could write a lot here because planning is broken. I share an office with a consultant planner and he, and I, can look at a residential proposal and know what planning issues are pertinent to any design. We can do this in minutes and when there is an issue we can find the relevant clauses very quickly. I think any competent planner can say yay or nay to a proposal within the hour. This would not be a subjective decision it would be an intelligent, objective assessment. And yet… Time and time again proposals dissappear into a nether world of officialdom never to resurface. I submitted this plan and a month later I was asked for further information, information that could have been gleened in a second with a phonecall. Eventually – possibly three month later – we are told that we can advertise, we do and get no objections (see note below). Then it disappears again. 6 Months later, lets say 5 because I did amend something, we get a planning permit. This with fortnightly courteous phonecalls along the lines of “You guys must be busy, yeah I know, Anyway have you had a chance…”. I find it inexcusable, deeply frustrating and it surely can’t be efficient.
Note: If you are submitting a planning permit visit your neighbours, they will find out about your proposal and you are much less likely to get objections if you visit them and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it the way you are.
Here is a side elevation as submitted to planning. The lower portion of the house extension is a white brick wall like the original house. The wall extends from the interior to the exterior where it becomes a garden wall hiding the neighbouring commission flats. The upper storey is made of cement sheet panels painted different shades of green.
We were now faced with the daunting task of trying to buy the house. In this case the house was for auction and I find this very stressful, my wife finds it less so. We didn’t know much about the tactics of trying to buy a house but we were lucky in having a friend who was a retired real estate agent who could help advise us and who would bid for us – back to him later.
The first thing we did was to walk around the house and check what condition it was in. I had done this many times for others and new what to check for. I wandered around assessing it and trying to measure it by eye without looking too suspicious or interested but I’m not sure I gave off a very successful casual air. In our case we were not bothered with the rear part of the building or it’s internal fit-out; the kitchen, bathroom, robes, lights etc… What was important for us was the structure of the front part of the house, It was solid and all the items that were important to us were in a fair to good condition given the buildings age.
When we got home I started sketching furiously. I love designing houses and seeing what possibilities there are. It didn’t take long to sketch up ideas that showed we could fit what we wanted on the site although exactly where they would fit would take longer, much longer. I phoned up the agent as an architect carrying out a property inspection on behalf of a potential anonymous purchaser and this allowed me to spend longer there inspecting the buildings fabric and measuring items that I thought would be critical. I also looked at the planning scheme covering the area to find out what restrictions would cover the site. Thankfully it wasn’t burdened by some overlays that could have made things harder for us. I also arranged a pre-application meeting with a council planner to discuss what we were considering doing there in the event that we would be successful purchasers. The planner agreed that it was a site with opportunities that we had identified. Finally we met up with the DHSS to discuss site access as per my previous post.
My wife obtained the sales contract incorporating the section 32 document. We read through this and passed it to a lawyer to review. Unfortunately the vendors lawyers were very zealous in protecting the vendors interests to the extent that we almost decided not to bid. Instead our lawyers requested changes to the sales contract in the event that we successfully purchased the property. There was some toing and froing and we had limited success with this. In the end our lawyer told us not to pay any deposit until the settlement date was reached at which point the sales contract would terminate. Because of the unorthodox sales contract the lawyers fees for both the vendor and ourselves were higher.
As the auction date approached we spoke to our real estate agent friend. He asked us what our bidding limit was and advised my wife to bid hesitantly to a point and then quit. If any other bidders were there he would enter the fray. On the day of the auction I had to escape to Acland Street while my wife and her agent went to the action. I couldn’t take the stress. apparently my wife stepped infront of the crowd and bid. She bid to a point and then hum’d and ha’d as instructed before putting on a look of resignation. Then our agent stepped in and starts bidding. The under bidder gave up. Following this our agent goes in to the house with the vendors real estate agent and, because it hadn’t reached its reserve, he had to negotiate. We were very greatful for his role in this since we assumed that you get the house for what you bid or it gets passed back to the owner. My wife and I would have been very uncomfortable being told “you haven’t quite got it, what more can you give, we may talk to the underbidder”.
When my wife rang me to say we had it I felt tremendously happy and excited and lightheaded. Then it all turned dark as I realised we had to sell our own house fast and we would be in a hopeless bargaining position.