Sunday, October 29, 2006


Let me say that in... most... countries, 95 percent of the built environment is merchandise. It's not architecture. It's merchandise." What separates the two is art - art that springs from logic, from taking into account what Murcutt calls the “‘ings’ of things. The entering, the arriving, the greeting, the progressing, the communicating, the preparing, the eating the discussing, the leaving, the sleeping the loving, the caring, the touching- and all the senses,- the smelling, the feeling, the seeing, all of these things."

This is a quote from a Listener interview with an architect called Glenn Murcutt.

Sadly the kind of houses that are within the price range I can aspire to in the next year or two are not only artless merchandise but the shabbiest kind, the housing equivalent of worn-out and unloved second-hand $2 Shop merchandise. They are still terrifyingly expensive. It’s amazing how quickly one can come to think of $130,000 for a scungy one bedroom unit in the seedy part of town as a bargain when there is nothing cheaper to be seen.

I am giving myself a crash course in real estate, investment and personal finances. I’ve been hyped up by the books that tell me I can make millions in just three years, until I come down enough to realise what they really mean is it’s relatively easily to owe millions. I’ve been depressed by the sober investment books and their tables that show me how much I could have made if I had started being more sensible with my money 20 years ago or even five. I’ve done goal setting exercises and imagined the next forty or fifty years of my life: how I want my life to be and what I will have to do to make that real.

My housing goal is to live out my life in a home that embraces the particular ‘ings’ of the life I enjoy, aspire to, and anticipate: my dreaming, my creating, my sharing, my thinking, my developing, my reading, my cooking, my eating, my learning, my meditating, my stretching, my sunbathing, my loving, my growing old and eventually my dying. Unfortunately it will probably be necessary to invest in some very artless merchandise along the way to that home. And before I put my foot on the first risky rung of the property ladder I've decided to sort out a few things about my current money situation.

One of the things to sort out is my banking, so this morning I telephoned every single bank in the phone book. I was staggered by the differences between them and feel an evangelical urge to encourage you, dear reader, to make sure you are getting the best banking deal you can. Especially if you are up for internet banking, you can get the best bargains: no fees, no minimum balances, high intrest easy access savings accounts.

For the record, I am an internet banking user looking for a flexible, high intrest savings account that would be starting with a lowish balance, and a low or no fee day-to-day account. The winners were Westpac (which as of 1 November will be NZ incorporated) and ASB (Australian owned).

My banking survey was not only educational but quite fun, as the call centre folks are very helpful when you are a potential customer rather than a disgruntled one. It's amazing how many don't know who owns their bank/employer. I felt sorry for the lady at Superbank who told me they were closing for business at the end of this week, and that she would be out of a job. I was disappointed by National Bank who were utterly inflexible when I offered them the opportunity to match their competitors and keep me as a customer for another 10 years.

It took me a little over an hour to talk to nine banks and when I do open my new accounts I will be rewarded by saving $13 a month in fees and an increase of 4.25% in the intrest rate on my much more flexible savings account. Not a bad return for the time invested in research.

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