I am currently in the exasperating middle of a third round of house hunting in Colombo. On the positive side, hunting for homes means meeting new people and getting a peep into current trends in a society. It gives you insights into the property market and its posh nooks and creaking crannies; a handy tool in a tedious party played by dull, incoherent men and jaded women.
Three days of house hunting could also leave you frayed, confused and on the brink of taking a reckless decision to spend that extra bit.
I am chasing an apartment, and in Colombo, independent houses are cheaper than apartments. My unmatched experience in the matter tells me that’s because apartments charge service fees, are usually located near conveniences, hires emaciated men as security guards and employs still more emaciated, old women to keep the premises clean. You do all that yourself if you rent a house.
Positive or not, now I also know – the opinion had been shoring up -- that the Wellawatte area of Colombo is one big, noisy market place with hurriedly built noisy apartment blocks with rooms within rooms, hideous colours on the walls and the smell of fresh idli and sambar smeared on them. Colombo is divided into 14 zones and Wellawatte falls in a cheaper one.
On the land-side – as opposed to the sea-side – the Wellawatte lanes are narrow, congested and rows of apartments are punctuated by the occasional pretty house with a red-tiled roof, survivor of an earlier era of a better laid-out life.
Most Sri Lankan house-owners loathe renting their apartments to Sri Lankans. No, faith is not a factor. It has more to do with local tenants clinging on to property, owners looking at better returns from foreigners and most expatriates, with certain exceptions like Arthur C Clarke, returning home after a few years.
In that sense, I am a welcome commodity in the property market till I open my foreign mouth and reveal my outlandish budget. For the owners, its just disappointment, but for me, it’s just pushed me a little closer to the cliff of recklessness.