I have changed my househunting priorities. It took some doing to get me to this point — six months of fruitless searching and some rather pointedly straight talk from family and a few friends — but I have finally got it through my thick head that what I am looking for doesn’t exist in this area. Or at least, if it does, we don’t have time to look for that needle in a haystack anymore. We need to find a house and soon, and I need to keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be our forever-house.
This breaks my heart a little… a lot… We made this move mostly because we simply couldn’t afford to live in Britain anymore — we were sinking into the red month on month — but also partly because there was no way we could get on the property ladder in the UK. In my late 30s, with a young family and a growing need to get on with the business of settling down, I wanted a house of our own so badly… We left friends, family, and children, the life we knew, and nearly all our possessions in order to make that happen. We turned everything upside-down. And after all that, I am finding it a bit of a mental leap to think of buying a house with the intention of moving out of it again in a few years — living in this limbo for a few years more. I’ve been doing that for so long… I just want to settle.
But reality is what it is and time is running out, so I have changed my priorities. I am no longer searching for a house I like — I am now looking simply for a house that will be practically workable for our family, is in decent shape, in a safe area with decent schools, and is in our budget. I’ve thrown out every other personal preference (except one: no ranches (bungalows) — I do want the bedrooms to be upstairs). These new priorities take the househunt out of this walkable town that we like so much, and into the neighbouring areas where it’s necessary to use a car to get to anything. I ran the searches again in these neighbourhoods based on the new criteria and came up with a list of 17 houses to send to the real estate agent for starters. My mother was impressed, “Wow! You’re suddenly finding a lot of houses you’re interested in!” I pointed out that if you take out of the equation the matter of whether or not you like a house, then there will always be a lot more houses to look at.
The estate agent lined up eight of my new houses on Monday and off we went, him with an air of complete surprise at the list I’d given him and me with a newly opened mind. Eight houses fell flat on their faces — some because they were simply too small to be workable, one because it was a money-pit, a couple because the layout wouldn’t work (bedrooms in the basement)… But in every case, it was practical reasons that let them down, not one because of personal preferences. I had told myself I was going to find the house today and, as we headed home, I was bitterly disappointed.
As we drove back into the area that M and I like, the real estate agent suggested we stop by one more which he’d come across and thought might be worth a look. “Ok,” I said, unable to muster any more enthusiasm than that. But when he finally got the key to work and opened the front door, we both drew in our breath. It was beautiful. The hardwood floors were so shiny that he stopped to check they were dry before we stepped on them. The rest of the detailing was perfect: the crown-molding lovely, the walls spotless, the fixtures chic. The kitchen was brand-new and so striking, with granite surfaces and stainless steel appliances. The house was clearly a flip, and it had been executed beautifully. I went upstairs… and the bedrooms were twice the size of the houses we’d been looking at all day. I came over giddy and lent against the wall to steady myself.
It is priced right at the top of our range — perhaps a little more affordable than the one we decided against a couple of weeks ago, but still a scary stretch for us. Oh, I hadn’t want to be in this position again, liking so much a house I wasn’t sure we could afford! Still, it wasn’t my decision alone… I rang M and asked him to come round after work.
He doesn’t like it. Well, he does like the house, but he doesn’t like the way it is situated, and so therefore he doesn’t like it. That’s it — ixnayed. There is a small part of me that is relieved, because I was wary of the financial stretch it would require, but there is another, much bigger part of me that desperately wants to cry foul that, on a day when I toured a host of houses that I wasn’t allowed to reject simply because I didn’t like them, he rejected the only house I did like because he didn’t care for one aspect of it.
Never mind, I tell myself. It’s a blessing in disguise. Now is not the economically-wise time to be making big stretches to buy real estate. Prudence is the sensible path to follow. And so, next week, the estate agent and I will again pick up that new list of houses, and begin the hunt afresh…