The numbers game

full_1362591884shutterstock_99567884It’s been a while but I’ve been busier than my absence suggests, especially in terms of keeping my house. My mission has bought me into contact with some of the most maligned professions known to humankind – lawyers, bankers and worst of all, real estate agents… and I’ve got to say, each and every one of them has been a pleasure to deal with. I did not expect that!

Rebecca Clewley, principal lawyer at New Skies, helped Matthew and I buy the house in the first place. In fact, without Rebecca, we never would’ve gotten it. The house was part of a deceased estate being administered by the NSW Trustee. The sale was being conducted on a first come, first served basis. The Real Estate Agent handling it was particularly useless and obstructive and was jerking us around with threats of other mythical buyers doing this, that and the other. In the end, it was Rebecca’s expertise, experience and intuition that had her racing across town with our paperwork to rendezvous with me at the office of the NSW Trustee. I waited in her double-parked car while she sped up the steps and into the office to make our offer which was accepted… only minutes before another prospective buyer was due to arrive! Phew!

A very exciting beginning to what was then a very exciting chapter. It was with a feeling of misplaced shame and a senseless sense of failure that I contacted Rebecca again to let her know it hadn’t ended as happily as it started. I explained that I’d like to keep the house if I could but that I didn’t know what it would take or where to begin. She was so compassionate, kind and generous with her advice that for the first time, I started to think it might just be possible.

Rebecca put me in touch with her contact at the bank. I’m not one to spruik the big financial institutions nor do I think the personal characteristics of an individual should be attributed to their employer but even so, Matthew Wyatt, Branch Manager of the Pitt Street branch of NAB should be made employee of the decade! From my very first tentative conversation with him, I was put at my ease. He broke everything down for me with such candour and confidence that it was now starting to seem even more achievable!

Rebecca and Matt worked together seemingly oblivious to the fact that I was still under the impression that I needed a miracle – turns out, they concocted two for me to choose from. Option #1 is a one step process involving me buying Matthew out on my own. It is dependant on me finding a substantial enough income to prove to the bank that I can make the repayments (sub-miracle still required). Option #2 builds on the first in the case of me not finding said income and involves a very kind sister willing to lend her name and proof of income to the cause (though not the income itself). Either way, on the very theoretical numbers we’d run, it was now looking downright likely!

The next step then was to pin down the numbers. The bank ordered a valuation and I went about what I was sure would be the most unpleasant task of all, contacting Real Estate Agents. I needed to get both a rental appraisal (for the bank so I can refinance as a rental property and switch to an interest only mortgage) and a sales appraisal (so Matthew and I can decide on a fair price). I had been collecting Real Estate brochures as they came through my letter box thick and fast for weeks. Now the time had come to use them, I prepared a standard email and sent it out to the lot of them (even the jerk who sold us this place).

I decided to go with the first three to respond – Prue Halcombe from Belle Property Newtown, Sharlene Purser from First National Marrickville and David Rees from Ray White Newtown. Prue came fully prepared with a bound booklet containing all the sales of similar properties in the area over the last 12 months. She was so professional yet so warm that I felt I should give her a hug when she left. Sharlene felt like a long lost friend, so much so that by the time she’d left, I’d almost forgotten why she’d come. David bought a colleague, Rebecca, to make sure that I got the most thorough appraisal from both a rental and sales perspective. What I had expected to be an experience akin to grating my eyeballs with a razor turned out to be more like a picnic with Care Bears! I tell ya, there is definitely something to approaching life with an open heart, even the scary things – especially, the scary things!

As kind as everyone has been though, the numbers are still frightening. I could have proceeded with Option #2 at this point but with a little time still on my side, I’m holding out for the full miracle – to do this on my own, in my own name (and save the additional fees and stamp duty!). With all the numbers plugged into the banks equations, I now have the magical figure they need me to show them as income. Considering I’m not prepared to give up caring for my nephew after school, I’m restricted to part-time hours to earn it in. Panic set in when I realised most of the jobs out there that fit the description were soulless admin positions that required me to dumb down my resume as much as my ego would allow (and my ego’s pretty pliable these days). Still, when ‘Senior Policy Advisor’ becomes ‘Admin Officer’ in order to beg for jobs I don’t want and which threaten to entrench me back in a world I vowed not to return to, my heart sank despite the constant mantra “it’s just a means to an ends, it’s just a means to an ends, it’s just a means to an ends”.

Whilst in despair on the phone to one of my sisters, I signed up to LinkedIn on her advice. I filled in the bare minimum as we spoke with the intention of coming back to it. We were still talking by the time I published my profile which consists in its entirety of my name, a photo and the title ‘writer’. This scant description was then sent to everyone I’ve ever sent an email to in my life. As the connections came in, it was like a ‘This is Your Life’ of friends, acquaintances, tradies and a string of people I’ve made travel enquiries with. It wasn’t long though until I got my first message from my ex-boss, Fleur Heazlewood.

I worked for Fleur years ago at the iconic Australian clothing company, Bonds. She was head of mens under and outwear. My sister, Bec, was head of babies and kidswear. They have maintained a friendship since and so Fleur and I have stayed vicariously in touch through Bec. Now running her own successful executive coaching, mentoring and leadership consultancy, Fleur contacted me directly to see if I was able to help her rewrite her website in line with the her companies new direction. We met to discuss the project, the scope of which was further reaching and far more exciting than mere copy-writing. I was as eager to get involved as she was to get moving with it. I explained that my only limitation was the time I could dedicate to it given my need to find a job to meet the banks requirements. We parted ways on the understanding that she would send me a full brief upon which I would provide a quote for my freelance services.

It occurred to me in the days that followed that perhaps there was a creative solution to be found in all of this. After all, at this stage, I only need a couple of payslips for the bank… and Fleur’s project really needs and deserves a decent chunk of time dedicated to it … and if I am able to offer a lower rate for more hours to arrive at the banks magic number … well, that sounds like a genuine win-win situation to me! I mulled it over as I waited for Fleur’s brief to come through but impatience got the better of me and I put my proposal forward anyway… and Fleur accepted!

I am now a proud and permanent part-time employee of Executive Evolution by The Stolmack Group – for a month at least, probably two and perhaps into the future. Time will tell but for now I couldn’t be more thrilled by the perfection of this outcome – to have the opportunity to create my own solution, to contribute my time and talents towards a project I find meaningful and most importantly, to have created it by embracing who I have worked so hard to become. It has been my highest ideal to be able to keep my home without compromising my greater goals and I am so grateful to be moving towards the life I want to live in a home that I love.

Next step: time to talk to Matthew…

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