28 March 2015

The Humour of Househunting

We have just returned to Miri from a week's house hunting in Ipoh.  I wrote, a few months ago, on how to go about finding your perfect house and this week was certainly a useful roller-coaster.

We had arranged to meet with four different estate agents, one on each day to view a range of houses. We had asked to see a minimum of five per agent as we know from experience here in Miri that agents in Malaysia think nothing of showing just one or two houses to try to lock in the deal on a property that they need to shift.  My husband had spoken with one lady the week he was in Ipoh and she said straight out that she never showed more than two properties as people didn't really know what they wanted and could just settle for what she showed them. Hmmmm....

This beautiful property is not quite in 'move in' condition.
This is a general, worldwide problem with estate agents; their priority is, quite rightly, to shift properties not match you to your dream but they can be self defeating in the way they go about it.  I remember looking at apartments in Venezuela where the agent wanted us to look at properties above the allowance ('oh but if you complain to the company they will pay more for a good house, the boss' family need a good house etc etc'), she got quite offended when my mother refused to play along and insisted the allowance was a non negotiable.  I spent an afternoon in Suzhou, China (for a posting that did not happen in the end) and none of the houses I was shown met with any of the criteria I was asked to specify.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the need to be flexible and have lived in some bizarre properties as a result of this, but why give a list of options if you cannot meet any of them?  The agent who lets our property in the UK keeps showing it to the most unsuitable of people then gleefully reports that they have had x no of viewings a week as though that, instead of actually letting the property is the measure of success.

House-hunting, wherever you do it, needs a sense of humour.  One of the Ipoh agents told us that she had the perfect house for us, 5 minutes walk from the office, 20 minutes drive to school, in a garden area in the centre of town.  We were very excited and looking forward to seeing this property which sounded ideal.  When we got there, however, it was a building site; it had no walls, it was literally just a roof with supporting columns.   The agent told us that we could specify everything about the house and it would be finished in the next 3-6 months.  When we explained (again) that we were looking to move in 2-3 weeks she looked rather crestfallen and said she could ask the owners to expedite the works!  My husband and I had to make sure that we did not look at each other, we would have burst into a kink of laughter and we were desperate not to hurt the feelings of the agent.  In fact one of the most stressful things, for me, about house-hunting, is working out how to reject unsuitable properties without being rude.

Some work required.....
We sent the agents a list of what we were looking for and we did see a range of houses but out of a total of 18 houses only 1 was suitable for us.  We said no to the one with the termite infestation and no cooking facilities (the owner would allow us to install an oven and hob at our own expense!) and the two properties where we would not be allowed our dogs. We also said no to the house with no parking and the two bed one bath apartment (beautiful but not really suitable for a family of 5+2). We looked at a few that were absolutely stunning but were not yet fitted and furnished.  We were promised that it would be done to our specification in the two weeks between signing the contract and the move but I have been burned by a similar situation in the past which resulted in a month long hotel stay while the work was done.

A perfect view.
An aunt of one of my husband's co-workers came up trumps and found the perfect spot for us, a lovely 5 bed villa with a garden, set by a lake in the mountains and a short drive from school and work.  We can watch families of monkeys play on the other side of the lake and the garden is filled with songbirds.  The owners are making some modifications (installing an oven and stairgates for us) and we should, fingers crossed, move in soon.

I have added this post to Amanda Mulligan's (life with a double buggy) Expat Life Linky - click to read more fascinating expat posts from around the world.

Expat Life with a Double Buggy

Click on the picture for more posts on the challenges of expat life.

Ersatz Expat


  1. I did not househunt in the same country as you, but I can relate. In Germany, the specifics are rather similiar as in France. But sometimes, you "fall" on some owners or estate agents that have really strange habits. One wants to be paid in cash every month and also the deposit, etc, because she was an old lady and don't trust banks and their tranfers... And an agent was trying to tell us that a staircase wasn't dangerous for kids and needed a very small reparartion (a whole changement, more so...)
    I just discovered your blog via the link up, and I'm eager to read more.

    1. Thanks Eolia - I love learning about how my normal differs from my host country but sometimes I do have to laugh or I will scream. Sounds like you have had some similar experiences. Looking forward to reading all about them.

  2. I cried so much when house hunting in England. None of the houses we saw were my ideal house because we simply will never be able to afford my ideal house in this country. And by ideal I don't mean over the top extravagant - just a good sized house with closets, a place to park the car and a back yard big enough to kick a football around. Sigh. We ended up buying a house only my husband had seen! The house you've found sounds just great. Hope the move goes well :-) #ExpatLifeLinky

    1. I have the same issue in the Netherlands - and we would face the same thing if we went back to the UK. Just somewhere 'normal' to put the washing machine would be nice!


    2. Yes English houses are pokey when compared with American ones, it must have been a shock and UK house prices are just crazy.

      My parents did something similar to you. Back in the 1970's their employer required everyone to own a house in a 'stable' country so they bought a UK house from a friend at a cocktail party in Nigeria and then did not see it for months. Our UK house is a 2 bed flat in the North West, lovely but not really ideal for a family of 5 plus 2 pets.

      Amanda I recall the joys of the Dutch galley kitchen and the washing machines in the basement. My washing machine is outside at the moment (very common in Malaysia) so I can only dream of an indoor one! Does your kitchen have the curtain on the elastic under the sink? All my Dutch family have this instead of a cupboard door and I was never able to work out why.

  3. House hunting, no matter where you are, has to be one of the most exciting but unbelievably frustrating and stressful things that exists! There are always compromises but I think some of the examples in your latest adventure may go a tad far - walls would be my minimum expectation :-)

    Thanks for linking up #ExpatLifeLinky

    1. Yes walls are useful - I must hand it to the agent though for sheer gall and inventiveness in trying to shift a 'wallless' property. Inspired!

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