Buying a flat: the good and the bad

Owning a property is one of those integral steps to becoming an adult, along with marriage and babies. And like the latter two, buying a property is incredibly difficult to accomplish alone (in Cape Town at least). Luckily my parents were kind enough to help me with a large deposit, otherwise I would have seriously struggled. I still wanted to maintain my lifestyle. After all, I didn’t study my butt off to become a professional only to be crippled by debt and have to live like a pauper.

I was lucky enough to get a flat in one of these new developments that are now popping up all over the show (Obs, Woodstock, etc), and here’s my experience:

  1. It takes longer than they say. My block was meant to be completed in March 2017. Hand over only took place towards the end of November 2017… So always take the completion date with a pinch of salt.
  2. Budget for extra costs. Shortly after signing, I was given the option to upgrade some of the finishes (like the counters, floors, have double glazed windows etc). They could easily add up to an extra R100K.
  3. Rather put the deposit in your own savings account to earn better interest. The default option was to have the deposit kept in the lawyers’ trust account, but they offered a measly interest (I think it was around 2.5%). An alternative to that was to keep the money in a normal savings / fixed interest investment account and have the bank issue a property guarantee. I ended up putting the deposit in the FNB money maximiser account where the return was around 7%. It made a sizeable difference given the amount of time it took for the developer to finish building the block (±2 years). If you have a large deposit, it’s definitely worth while doing that. I chose the FNB money maximiser because they guarantee that you won’t lose your capital.
  4. Be aware of the recoupment if you are claiming the UDZ benefit. One of the top marketing ploys is they tell you about the UDZ tax benefit where you can claim up to 55% of the purchase cost as a deduction over 20 years which is not ring-fenced. But they don’t mention the recoupment… ie When you sell your property, any deduction you’ve claimed previously on the property is added back to your taxable income in the year of sale. Of course, there is still the time value of money and if you’re a savvy investor, it is still better to claim the deduction now and pay the tax later. Having said that, the equities market is difficult to predict and if you are looking to flip in the short term, it probably isn’t worthwhile claiming this deduction.
  5. Don’t forget about the primary residence exclusion. Unless you’re uber rich and have many properties, it is probably better to live in the flat and claim the primary residence exclusion (R2m of the capital gain is disregarded on the sale of the property).
  6. You’re buying it new, don’t settle for damaged parts. When I got the keys to my flat, my dad noticed two small chips in the bath tub. The agent suggested they repair the bath tub but my dad insisted that they replace it. We bought the flat new so shouldn’t have to accept anything that is broken or sub-standard. After some to and fro, they eventually agreed to replace the whole thing.

All in all it’s been a good buy. It was quite easy to find a flat mate due to the location. While it sucks to still be sharing an apartment, it helps a lot to have that extra income. And now that my folks are back home, I can finally feel like a proper grown up. :-D

It’s not me, it’s you

Maybe if I say it enough, I will believe it and it will actually be true. Or maybe that is just a whole lot of BS conjured up to make us feel better after a break up. In some ways I truly feel I have given my all, I tried to bridge the non-compatibility issue, tried to be patient, tried to convince myself that I needed to make it work. But after all the trying, I was still sad and angry that he couldn’t meet me half way.

I went back and read some of my older poems and nothing much has changed. Still the same ol’ theme. Take this for example… written 6 years ago and still as relevant and appropriate today as it was back then. Often it does feel like I am the common denominator. Maybe I just keep going for the wrong men… whatever it is, it has brought me back full circle. Back to cooking for one.

It’s funny how the days leading up to a breakup, my mind is filled with negative thoughts and yet the minute it’s final, I want nothing more than to be back to where we were. Maybe I should take a break, but the truth is, I hate being single. I miss having that person whom I can message all day and not feel guilty for interrupting. I miss the cuddles, the contact.

I kind of knew from the beginning that we weren’t well suited for each other. I don’t know why I kept it going – in some ways he pushed for it and mislead me. I let him convince me that it could work even though deep down I knew it couldn’t.

I don’t know how to meet people organically any more. Not convinced that that will yield a different result in any case. I used to think I was too picky and therefore give up too easily, but now I actually think I’m not picky enough and end up settling. Like the bff says, I need to be a reacher. Need to find someone who’s better than me in most regards. I guess this is as good a challenge as any.

The Final Chapter

Not every story has a happy ending, least of all
Someone whose track record is as bad as mine.
No matter how hard I try, how deeply I fall,
The pages turn to dust, as if by design.

Time after time, the thing I want most eludes me.
Night after night, I dream that it will be my turn…
To love and be loved, to eventually succeed;
Instead, I lie awake and watch my dreams burn.

I’ve run countless races, so don’t say I haven’t tried.
My heart’s been broken and mended too many times.
I truly thought he was the one, but once again, denied –
As if winning was somehow a crime.

There were many good things about us, we just didn’t fit.
And so, this is our final chapter. This is it.

The 5 Love Languages

It’s no secret that I’m not very good at this relationship thing. I think not being able to keep a long term relationship is different to not knowing how to love someone. I do the latter pretty well, but somehow cannot lock down the former. Sometimes, in my extremely mopey moments, I like to see what my exes are up to – and they all seem to have girlfriends now. Yes, even the druggie, the alcoholic and the guy who never wanted to leave the house. So what exactly is wrong with me that I just can’t keep a relationship past the 3 months mark?

I’ve done a lot of introspection the past few days and have come up with a few thoughts.

  1. I give up too easily. 
    Even as I tell myself time and time again that I want the next one to be forever, I don’t put in the necessary effort to effect that. If something isn’t going exactly the way I envisioned, thoughts of breaking up start forming in my head. And the minute that process begins, it’s incredibly difficult to get things back to the way they were before.
  2. I’m not the best communicator.

    “Bottled up inside are the words I never said,
    the feelings that I hide, the lines you never read.”

    I’ve never been an open book, so it is difficult to read me. If I am annoyed, I’ll usually keep quiet until it reaches the boiling point… and even then, I’ll act out in a very passive aggressive manner. I think it is because I don’t like having difficult conversations. I often struggle to transcend my feelings eloquently into words. A lot of times, what is obvious to me is probably not obvious to someone else. I definitely need to work on this if I ever hope to have a successful relationship.

  3. I have a different love language.
    According to the website, this is how my love languages are ranked:
    9. Quality time
    7. Acts of Service
    7. Receiving Gifts
    6. Physical touch
    1. Words of affirmation

    I don’t think this list is complete. The one other thing I value is public acknowledgement – It isn’t enough that only your closet friends and family know about me. I want your extended circle of friends to know too. I’m a sharer of photos and memories, not merely a keeper of them.
    I also value gifts and small gestures a lot. A chocolate or a love note goes a long way. I need to know that I am always on your mind, so 1 text a day simply won’t cut it. I have to know that I am a priority in your life, not just a convenience.

  4. My parents’ messed up marriage.
    My parents don’t have a  good relationship – in fact, I’ll say they have the worst kind of relationship: the kind where neither are happy yet they’re forced to stay together. I’ve grown up watching this disaster of a relationship unfold and perhaps this is why I’m somewhat commitment phobic now. I don’t want to have the pathetic ruse of a marriage my parents have. I don’t want to stay in something that isn’t right for me. I want to have the freedom to leave whenever I want to. I feel incredibly sad for my dad, who is literally the greatest. But he’s stuck with a dead weight who is constantly criticizing, never apologising. I’m worried that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that I am more like my mother than I like to admit. The horror.Of course, it doesn’t help that they are still living with me. (Not for long I hope!) It’s hard not having my own space. I think it’s best to stay single for now, and give this relationship thing a proper try once they’ve moved back to China.

Review: The Winner’s Crime

When I was little, I used to sit on the couch and read the whole day. There was little else to do in the small town I grew up in so I immersed myself in lengthy narratives and fictional escapism. It’s been a long while since I’d done that… until I came across The Winner’s Trilogy on Goodreads. It was listed under the fantasy category but resembled romance more so than fantasy. Perhaps that’s why I love it so much. There’s just something about forbidden love that draws me in.

There are many things to like about the series. So much so that I finished the first 2 books in 2 days and have ordered the last installment. One of the things that annoys me about the fantasy genre is its many story arcs and impossible to pronounce names. This trilogy has neither. Each facet of the story is interesting and I didn’t skip over any chapters. In fact, I read every line! The author, Marie Rutkoski, is an English professor who studied Shakespeare. The writing is phenomenal as a result. (None of these fanfiction-turned-author amateur types).

This series really showcases girl power. The female lead is incredibly smart. The dialogues are clever and the plot interesting. There’s never a dull moment. Marie has really captured the essence of the characters and each one is developed in such a way that really makes the readers connect with them. Their world is described with vivid imagery and each character is fleshed out enough to make them relatable but not so overbearing that they end up a nuisance.

It’s a great trilogy and easy to read. The only fault is that it’s SO romantic that it plants this impossible notion of love in my head that I know doesn’t exist in real life. I suppose that’s why they call it fantasy!

Review: Quiet

When I first picked up this book, I thought it was a self-help toolkit that would teach me how to be more out-going, more extroverted. A few pages in and I realised it was the opposite. Susan Cain wasn’t trying to get her readers to be gregarious at parties, instead, she painted a beautiful picture of why the world needs introverts (and had the research to back up the claim).

As a deep introvert, this book was a refreshing and enlightening read. I still wished I could be more gregarious but it’s made me appreciate my placid temperament a lot more than I used to. While the tone of Cain’s writing was decidedly leaning towards celebrating introversion, it was not completely as one sided as one would expect. She presented all facets of the broad personality spectrum and often had interesting anecdotes to share.

It was evident that many years of research had gone into this book and it was not penned by a lazy author. Even though Cain came from a law background, her materials were as psychologically insightful as factual. The gist of her message was clear; the world needed more introverts and that over reliance on the extrovert ideal could yield undesired consequences (such as unguarded risk taking and having bold speakers stunt better ideas of quiet thinkers).

Throughout the book, Cain made one continuous assumption, which was introverts had brilliant ideas lying dormant in their heads and most were simply too shy to compete with the loud mouthed, energetic extroverts. I’m not sure if I completely agree. I feel that often, introverts are quiet not because they lack the courage to speak, but rather they haven’t got anything clever to say. In that case, introversion isn’t so powerful.

Have a listen to Susan Cain’s TED talk:

Four years and one month

Today is my last day at EY. What a bitter sweet moment. I have made so many good friends and memories during my time here, saying goodbye is incredibly hard. I am not an overly emotional being… I was probably the one one who didn’t cry at my valedictory, but today I was on the precipice of shedding a few tears.

Leaving was not an overly difficult decision though. Sometime last year I realised I was not cut out for the auditing life. Not that I minded the work… but the hours were just insane. It was not an oscillation between peaks and troughs… it was rough all the time, and often I would wake up in the middle of the night panicking about work.

“And I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.”
Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything

I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I just wanted to get away. I was even looking forward to a few months of unemployment, living off the grace of my parents. As luck would have it, I received an email from a recruiter. One of those generic mails that I normally trash… but that day, I decided to reply, even though I didn’t really meet the requirements set out in the job spec. I didn’t get that job, but they kept my CV, and a few months later, a new position opened up.

I’m usually not someone who believes in fate and I don’t go around sprouting “everything happens for a reason”. But sometimes it really does feel like that. I have a 2 week break before starting my new job and I am really looking forward to the new adventure. I will miss my friends at EY terribly. My new colleagues have some big shoes to fill.