The Backpage: Buying a piece of the sky 11



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We have bought, effectively, a piece of sky. This is known as “buying off the plan’’ because “buying a piece of sky” is not seen as a particularly catchy marketing term.

Like many others, we have decided to downsize and move from a large suburban house to a near-city apartment. If you were considering a similar move, then the first thing you must do is find an appropriate piece of sky.

Existing apartments are too old, too small or poorly located.

You want to be centrally located, which is one of the reasons you’re moving from the ‘burbs, so you buy a piece of sky.

Before you do this, you visit the display centre and look at a model of the building.

“That will be us” enthuses your partner, pointing at two toy figures standing on a balcony the size of a stamp. I look at her and marvel at the power of the female imagination.

You are then ushered into the display unit, an apartment created to show you what you are buying, except that it doesn’t unless you are equipped with a female imagination.

It looks very small after a five bedroom house so you try to measure it. Naturally, you are not carrying a tape measure so you invent several new units of measurement.

One is The Arm, this being the distance between your elbow and the tips of your fingers.

“How wide is it?’’ yells my wife from the other end of the display apartment.

“Seven arms’’ I reply crawling across the floor in between other couples and counting the arm lengths.

“How long is that?’’ she insists. “I’ve got no idea’’ I reply, “but it’s not as long as three Really Big Steps,’’ Really Big Steps being the other method of measurement being employed.

“How about that fridge space?’’ she calls. “Hang on’’ I yell, taking a biro from my pocket. “Okay. I’ve got it now. It’s 10 pens across”.

“How much is 10 pens?’’ she asks. “About three arms,’’ I reply.

You then drive home and convert arms, really big steps and pens into centimetres and realise the reality of downsizing.

“Lots of people do it. It will be fine,’’ you say, hoping you sound more confident than you feel.

Every week you drive past the construction site and stare at the slice of sky which your building will occupy.

You visit the display apartment 20 more times armed with a tape measure, even though by now you have discovered that it’s nothing like the one you have actually bought.

I look at floor plans which make no sense to me. I have a mental condition which probably has a name, the symptoms of which are the inability to transfer a floor plan into a reality in your mind.

I give up trying to imagine what we’ve bought. The entire process, I realise, is a giant act of faith.

We’ve paid an awful lot of money for an apartment I can’t visualise in a building which doesn’t exist. Fantastic!

Finally the building begins to rise from a hole in the ground that approximates the Grand Canyon. You keep getting drawn back to the site, parking opposite and staring at it, willing it to rise faster.

It becomes an addiction. “Where will we go?’’ I ask as we ponder going for coffee. Let’s go to the site’’ says my wife.

The building becomes taller by the month. Finally our floor appears. We can see OUR deck and windows. It exists.

My wife has decreed that none of our furniture will be appropriate. Everything must go. Even the fridge is the wrong size.

“The beds?” I ask. “They have to go. We’ll need ones with storage beneath them,’’ she says. “Oh,” I say.

Lounge? Wrong look and shape. Dining room table? Wrong look. Outdoor furniture? Wrong look. My barbecue, which I love dearly? “Too crappy. Get a new one,’’ she says.

The good news is that the mower and whipper snipper will be consigned to oblivion.

The not-so-good news is that we now have to sell our house and find somewhere to live while our piece of sky materialises into the wonderfully modern, desirable and ever so chic apartment we imagine.

“In nine months time,’’ I say on our 123rd visit to the site, pointing at the concrete shell, “we’ll be drinking champagne up there.’’

“Let’s go home and practice,’’ says my wife. “Done!’’ I say, taking one last look at our slice of pie in the sky.


Have you been in Mike’s situation before? What happened?

Mike O'Connor

Mike O’Connor is a Brisbane-based motoring writer, travel writer and columnist. He’s driven hundreds of different cars, travelled widely and mingled with famous people, none of whom, he confesses, can remember meeting him.

  1. We are doing the same. What amazes us is how worthless our possessions are. The things we value and looked after for years are not wanted, even on freecycle. We have to get rid of most of our stuff. I have seen many older people move into a unit and take all the big furniture with them. It can make it almost impossible to get around, especially if they need a walking frame later on. Good luck with the move.

  2. Lovely article! Very Brave! I don’t think I could ever buy off a plan. Heard too many horror stories!

    3 REPLY
  3. I would NEVER, NEVER buy off the plan. We have seen too many disasters. Buy existing, they are usually cheaper and the older apartment are bigger. My daughter lives in an apartment block about 25 years old. Her friend moved into brand new building. My daughters apartment is much bigger and she has not had any trouble. Her friend has had to move out and her landlord paid for her accommodation as the plumbing was not right and flooded the apartment. I think she spent more time out of that apartment than she did in.

  4. I bought an investment property off the plan. It was fine it enabled me to buy my own home which I now live in.

  5. Would never buy off the plan. Heard too many horror stories of things that can and do go wrong. I prefer the “what you see is what you get” approach.

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