I finally own my first house – so why do I have buyer’s remorse?
Much has been written about “generation rent” and its myriad ills: the ballooning house prices, the unscrupulous landlords with their dingy buy-to-let empires, the fat wedge of millennials who can’t plan a future because they’re financially trapped in a basement flatshare with a ketamine-addled porn fanatic they met on Gumtree. This is a real problem, and it affects millions of lives.
I know this because I’ve always been a member of generation rent. For years, I’ve poured the bulk of my wages into the pockets of a succession of landlords slapdash enough to fit cupboards that fall off walls, or oven doors that spontaneously shatter of their own accord, or carpets that inexplicably become attractive to slugs at night. And it was miserable.
But this all changed last week. On Thursday afternoon I bought my first house. Admittedly, as it’s 2016, it’s a too-small house with a weird layout next to a graveyard 60 miles from London, the city I was priced out of two years ago. But it’s a house nonetheless; a house paid for in compromise and sacrifice and a deposit that took years to scrape together.
Now, bear in mind that this has only just happened, so there’s a fairly good chance that I still haven’t properly processed all the intricacies of home ownership, but so far my main take on buying a house is that it’s horrible and I hate it and I wish I was still renting.
My buyer’s remorse is overwhelming. You know how many times I saw this bloody house before I bought it? Once. I went to an open-house day, spent 10 minutes craning my neck to see past the dozens of other people filling the living room, and made an offer. Ten minutes. I’ve taken longer than that deciding whether or not to buy cake. I once bookmarked a pair of trousers on Asos and spent a full week umming and ahhing about whether to get them. But no. Ten minutes. It took 10 minutes to decide that this house was good enough to make me want to spend the rest of my life in debt to a bank.
What in God’s name was I thinking? I bought it because I’m 36 years old – two years older than the average first-time buyer in London, almost a decade older than the average in Carlisle – and I wanted to pay off my mortgage before I retire, rather than using a pension that I won’t actually have. It isn’t even my house. It belongs to a bank, and I’m going to spend the next three decades buying it back from them half a per cent at a time.
My first thought on looking around the new house and noticing all its weird flaws for the first time wasn’t a happy feeling of security. It was a realisation that I’m one of those “your home is at risk” people now. I’m one of those people who gets yelled at by the panicky man at the end of radio adverts. And, let’s not kid ourselves here, my home is definitely at risk. I’m a freelance journalist in the year 2016, so, realistically, I only have four months left before work dries up and I’m replaced by a Facebook Live video of a toddler balancing on a log.
The buck stops with me now. One of the little-discussed benefits of renting a house is that nothing is really your fault. If the oven explodes or the fridge goes kaput or sludge starts seeping out of the plugholes, you just call your landlord and someone will come and fix it for free. Now, though, that’s on me. Which means that my family is going to have to get used to showering up to its ankles in pubey grot.
And there’s a fishpond, too. An entire fishpond that I didn’t clock during my sole cursory glance about the place, that seems to have been put there specifically to endanger my child. I mean, Jesus Christ. I’m an idiot. That’s the only explanation for this.
On the one hand, this does feel as if I’ve finally made it to the last stage of responsible adulthood, now that I’ve got a wife and a kid and a house. But on the other hand, that’s it. All I have to look forward to for the rest of my life is decades of impossible debt, and the distant hope that there won’t be a property crash 30 years from now that will stop me from treating the value of my house as something I can use to buy food.
Worst of all, buying a house makes me feel like a traitor. It feels as though I’ve let down all my generation-rent friends, as if someone drew a line in the sand and I deliberately chose the side of Kirstie Allsop. I feel as if I have become part of the 1%, and I should ride about inside my boxy, broken-down new home on a pony like the shrieking Fauntleroy I apparently am.
Getting to this point was ridiculous. House prices increased much faster than my ability to sensibly save for a deposit. Getting it together was like trying to chase a moving train. But now I have caught up with it, and jumped on board, and discovered that all the other passengers are nitwits. This cannot possibly end well.