Real Married: Home

Morning, readers, and welcome to the next Real Married installment.  Esme’s written about all kinds of things for her column, and this post is particularly meaningful.  On the surface it’s about bricks and mortar but it deals with feelings of failure, the expectation of being married, and how to cope when your story doesn’t play out the way you wrote it in your head.  Something to which I think we can all relate.  

Over to you, Esme: 

 

I really feel like we should be buying a house. That’s what newlyweds (do we still qualify for that status?) do, isn’t it? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a mortgage that you really can’t afford and the keys to the ‘first step on the ladder’. I think it goes something like that, anyway. We want to buy a house, we want to start decorating and personalising and (shock!) putting pictures on the walls where there isn’t already a nail. I’ve moved around a lot in my relatively short life and I would like to make a base for a few years in one place, without thinking ‘are they going to renew my contract?’. Damn it, I want a home for me and my husband to call our own.

 

Recently, we got that opportunity. At first it didn’t seem like an opportunity at all – it felt like a massive kick in the stomach. Our landlady said she was selling our house. Our beautiful, wonderful house that we had been told we could stay in for at least another year and then think about maybe, possibly, buying. But no, she needed to sell it NOW. She told us how much she wanted for it and we laughed. ‘That’s a bit above our price range!’ we said. It went on the market for £100,000 more than we could ever contemplate paying. It was then that we realised we needed to look for something else.

 

We tentatively looked into buying somewhere. The bank said yes, we found somewhere we loved. It was the perfect first-time buyers’ house – not too big, new enough not to need too much doing to it, everything we needed and wanted. We made an offer quite a bit below the asking price and it was accepted. We tried not to get too excited, until we had to completely give up on that and started planning how we were going to decorate. The kitchen would be pale duck-egg blue, the bedroom a soothing green and I wanted purple for the living room. We sorted the solicitors and received a letter with a contract exchange date, just a few weeks away. We pencilled dates onto the calendar and decided when we would give notice on our house. We told everyone that we were moving.

 

And then the bank changed their mind.

 

Or rather, they decided that Tom’s salary just wasn’t viable enough. Apparently doing a PhD just does not cut it in the mortgage world. We had known it would be a problem and the bank we were hoping to borrow from was the only one that would use his salary (we thought) and had rates that we could afford. Our hearts broke a little, we had lost the house and we knew that there was nothing else we could do.

 

We felt like we had lost our home, the possibility of a real home. And we were losing our rented ‘home’. We felt like we had failed the first real married life test (you know the one, it’s like Monopoly, only with real money) and we just did not know what to do. And we felt stupid that we felt like that – why did we need to buy a house? Why did we care so much?

 

Writing it down like this makes it feel like a story. But it isn’t, it’s what happened to us. I wish I had a happy ending for you all, but I don’t. Right now we’re holding onto our rental house for as long as we can continue to bury our heads in the sand, and ignoring the fact that we will have to leave it. Soon. It really is a wonderful house, but it’s lost its edge – all we can see are the pictures in the wrong place, the awkward kitchen storage and the too-small bedrooms. We’re craving space to make our own. To try and alleviate that, we’ve made a commitment to make our next rental place as ‘us’ as we possibly can – mainly by investing in some workable storage solutions and maybe some good quality furniture. Now that we know that we won’t be able to get a mortgage until Tom’s finished his PhD and got a ‘proper job’ (!), we have to learn to forget this dream for a while. It hurts.

 

We’re trying to take something good out of this experience, because that’s kind of our family motto – try and make the best out of every situation (we hate the ‘everything happens for a a reason’ one, because sometimes bad things just happen to good people).

 

And because it wouldn’t be an Esme post without a list, here is our list of the good things that came out of us failing to buy a home:

We didn’t spend any money.

We know what we want a bit more.

We know our finances really well now.

We can work really hard to try to get the thing we want.

We, actually, don’t need a building to make a home – just being together is enough.

A French Martini and tapas really does make it better.

 

So there you go. Who knows that the next few months are going to bring. Right now we’re playing the ‘we could move anywhere!’ game. Any suggestions?

Categories: Life Experience, Real Married
35 interesting thoughts on this

33 Comments

  1. Alex
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Esme I’m so sorry to hear about this, but at least your list of good things shines some light on a shitty situation.
    We would love to buy the house we live in, we have lived here for a few years and made it as much our own without touching the building/basic inside of the house. It’s frustrating, there is so much this house could be, and so much we could bring to it in terms of creating space indoors/outdoors. But you can’t can you, cos it’s not yours!

    We need to start looking into buying, the landlords were happy for us to buy it but we don’t have much in the way of savings post wedding so are trying to build up our house fund. In hindsight I would have had a much cheaper wedding and been closer to the house. Hindsight eh what a bummer it is!

    I think we need to go to a bank and actually see what our options are and then I too can have a nifty list like yours, at the minute I don’t have any idea what the bank would lend us or what deposit we would need.

    I hope it all comes good for you and Tom, love reading your posts xx

  2. Becca
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Completely relate. London isn’t big enough. We have an OK deposit. We both have good jobs. But we can’t afford anything inside Zone 10000 i.e. Scotland.

    Bit of a long commute.

    I just tell myself it will happen and until it does, we have each other
    We moved from a flat which we loved to a new build. We can put up pictures but its not our sofa. The kitchen isn’t ours. But its a home and its ours. It will happen.

    When it does we’ll move out to St Albans because thats on the list after first step on the ladder!!

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I recently found a house we could afford in SW London (just afford… JUST). It directly backed onto a sewage plant. Ucky. London is pain in the ASS.

      K x

      • Becca
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        We live in Crouch End (aka leafy North London) where it costs £550k for a two bed period basement flat that has a proper second bedroom. WTF?!

        We live in a new build where a two bed costs £300k. Incidentally also near a Sewerage plant but we are at the park side and leafy views which is lucky. If I had to look at other people’s poo I would cry.

        • Becca
          Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

          Like someone else said….the only way we can buy in London is via inheritance and if we move further out. We decided to spend what we wanted on the wedding (because people will always ask why you’re having a wedding when you could use it for a house deposit …personal choice…personal choice) and will buy a house later.

          When later is I don’t know.

        • Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          WTF indeed! That’s loony. We live in Richmond, and a 2-bed flat in a new build development at the end of our road last year sold for £500k. I went to see it before they sold it, and it was TEENY. Completely. Insane. The only reason we can even afford to rent in Richmond is that we live in an ex-council flat right by the tube line. It’s the bit of Richmond that Richmond doesn’t want you to know about!

          K x

  3. Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    oh, good luck to you guys! We had similar long drawn-out wranglings over mortgages etc (freelancers/academics) but we did make it in the end. Then we found a house, offer accepted, mortgage agreed… and the ridiculously insane chain system let us down, the sellers never found anywhere to move! 3 months turned into 6 months with no end in sight… So we had to walk away and go with another option. Its smaller but it a slightly posher area. I’m still kind of waiting for it all to fall apart again but fingers crossed we’ll have a (wee little hobbit) house soon.

  4. Steff
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    It sucks to lose out on a house because of circumstances beyond your control, I know exactly how you’re feeling. To have planned your decorating, visualised the BBQs with the kids and dogs running about in the garden, mentally introduced yourself too (and drank Gin with) the neighbours. It’s gut wrenching to have all of that stolen from you.

    G and I have been house hunting on the side since the wedding in December and, because of the bizarre silent auction style of buying in Scotland, lost out on a few places that we really liked. Eventually we found somewhere we LOVED and everything fell into place. We move in a week tomorrow but we’ve only just told everyone (big bro finds out tonight) because we were both still waiting for the catch, for something to go wrong. I’m still on tenterhooks even though the flat is completely packed up and ready to go. I can’t get excited until I actually have those keys in my hands, at which point I will be like a child on Christmas morning!

    I hate to say it because it’s such a cliché, and because it makes me sound smug but I’m a total believer in that good old phrase “what’s for you won’t go past you”. It’s either not the right time, not the right place or there’s something even better waiting for you just round the corner. When you find the one that’s for you you’ll know all about it. Just relax (I know, boy do I know it’s hard when you’re somewhere you don’t want to be), enjoy where you are in life just now and know that someday, when the time is right, it’ll be your turn.

    Sending you and Tom positive house hunting thoughts through the t’interwebs xx

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      We are also in Scotland and also lost out on what we thought was our dream home because of the silent auction thing. But fast forward 6 months and we found our new place, not as glitsy but bigger and in a better area and a good project for us. Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else and when we drive past “the other one” we joke about how we would have been bored within 2 months of living there with no DIY to do and don’t feel any regrets.

      I too am a big believer in “whats for you won’t go past you”, you’ll find your own perfect home when the time is right.

      xox

    • Esme
      Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Steff. I hope the new house is as wonderful as you want it to be xxx

  5. Kate S
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I do feel for you. But on the bright side, I’ve known people who have rented places that are fine with you decorating, making your mark on the place.

    We actually have the opposite problem. We (well, more me really) were desperate to own our first home. We thought we were being sensible, buying a stepping stone house that wasn’t going to stretch us. No, it wasn’t big enough to have kids in but that’s ok because we weren’t thinking about them then.

    We bought the month before Northern Rock crashed. Now we’re starting to think about kids and we’re in a house that can’t possibly house them. Or the second dog I want ;) And we’re too far in negative equity to get out.

    So I’m kind of in the opposite boat. Renting seems ever so appealing right now!

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      This is our position too… My husband and I both bought houses months before the crash, both at five year fixed rate. Since the crash not only are we in negative equity, we are both making enormous repayments which we’ve had to somehow keep up through both of us being made redundant. It’s put us in mammoth debt and our relationship under a lot of pressure. Bloody lenders, that’s all I can say! Hang on in there Esme… I can only echo Steff’s brilliant comment above in that it will right itself eventually. Sometimes the hardest routes have the biggest pots of gold at the end.

      Px

      • Kate S
        Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        It’s a right kick in the mammaries isn’t it? Well done you for keeping your head above water though.

        Luckily we were only on a 2 year fixed deal so went down to the SVR after that which was lower. Only problem now is, we’re at the mercy of a changing rate and our incomes can’t really cope with that uncertainty. I’m dreading the Bank of England rate rising.

        • Posted June 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          Mine goes onto variable for the first time next month…just in time for the rates to start going back up! Kick in the mammaries (heh!) indeed. Crossing my fingers we all get promotions/uber-jobs so it ceases to matter! Guitar shaped swimming pools all round!

          Px

          • Posted June 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

            Crossing fingers for you x

            • Becca
              Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

              I know someone who did that. They rent out their flat and then use that money to rent a bigger house in a less salubrious (spelling?!) area. They tied their tenants in to the same length of term as their bigger house so they don’t have the worry of being tenantless.

              Worth a thought?

              • Posted June 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                We do rent one out, but the rent doesn’t even come close to covering the mortgage payment on that property! Even if we rented them both we wouldn’t be able to afford even a small flat. The interest rates were sky high when we bought! We do rent the top room in the house we live in to a lodger too, but whenever we’re between lodgers (which we are now) we fall deeper into overdraft. Not ideal, but there you go!

                Px

  6. Posted June 21, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Aw, that sucks. I’m so disappointed for you. You know my thoughts on the whole renting/buying thing already Esme, but I’ll add the following to your list:

    - If your boiler breaks someone else has to fix it.

    - If life throws you a curve ball, you are only a notice period away from somewhere new.

    - If people ask why you’re still renting, you can just tell them you’re being Parisian. Everyone likes being Parisian.

    - Once you’ve signed on that dotted line, the Big Bad Bank will have you by the balls for the next 25 years. Enjoy the freedom while you can!

    Here’s hoping you find the perfect rental flat for you very soon my dear xxx

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      You are my hero Kirsty.

      Best line: “you can just tell them you’re being Parisian”

    • Esme
      Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      It was 30 years for us :)

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I love this comment. Being Parisian FTW!

      K x

  7. Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Oh Esme, I really feel for you two – it all sounds very disappointing.

    That said, I do agree with Kirsty, and it makes me cross how here in the UK owning a property is such a symbol of success and being proper grown ups. I have a good job that I’m good at, and yet it’s in an industry that is famous for low salaries, and combined with having an actor husband that means we have no chance of being able to afford a house (especially not in London) unless someone dies and leaves us some money. And personally, I’d rather rent for the rest of my life than have anyone else close to me die (unrealistic, I know).

    But then that’s set against a hugely flawed rental market, with little or no regulations to help tenants. I was bemoaning yesterday to M how we’re expected to look after our flat and the garden as if it’s our own, and yet we’re not allowed to do something as simple as put hooks on the back of the doors for towels and dressing gowns. No wonder we look at buying a house as such an important, aspirational thing to do.

    All that said, a rented house or flat can still very much be a home; it’s just a case of finding the right place (exhausting, and frustrating, I know, but so is buying!), and doing what you can to make it yours. We made being able to put pictures up a priority when we were looking, and are lucky enough to be in somewhere freshly refurbished so we could put them up wherever we liked, which was good (though that of course comes with its own worries when you put the picture hook in and it chips the paintwork…), and buying pieces of furniture that you really love helps too – I feel much more at home now that we live somewhere with our own furniture, rather than crappy bits that someone else has chosen.

    Hope it all works out really well – I’m sure it will! x

    • Esme
      Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Such a great comment, thank you Emma xxx

  8. Posted June 21, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    A lovely post – I am glad you see the silver lining.

    Whilst we have savings for a house deposit our work actually means we CANT buy – not unless we want to buy and sell every few years. With the Mr having recently moved away for work I’m alone in the flat and I hate it. I’ve bitten the bullet and found an amazing flat to move into in August hoping that it feels like MY flat, not ours that i’m all alone in.

    I’m looking forward to try and make a rental homely. Wish me luck!

    L x

  9. Katie
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Great post Esme.

    My husband and I don’t own a property, we live in a property owned by his parents, and can paint the walls and change the carpets. It’s the farm cottage, and his parents live in the farm house. My husband works on the farm, and we don’t have to pay any rent. Eventually, we’ll be swapping properties with his parents.

    So far, I’m sounding boastful and terribly lucky. Sorry. I would love to buy a property, and pay a mortgage, and achieve that goal of home ownership, all on my own, rather than relying on an inheritance. Alas, I don’t earn enough to have a mortgage on my own. My husband prefers to reinvest his drawings into the farm.

    I think, in the UK, we put success and property ownership together, which is a great pity. It shouldn’t be such a big deal. I love Kirsty’s list on benefits of renting.

    xx

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      My friend is about to do exactly that – move from a farm cottage on her fiancé’s parents’ farm and into the big farmhouse. It’s an amazing house, and to be living somewhere like that at age 30 seems like a dream come true, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility and hard work. So I don’t think you sound boastful at all; it’s a huge undertaking and a massive commitment to live in one home essentially for the rest of your life. I don’t know that everyone would take that trade-off, so good for you! And in the meantime, enjoy painting those walls – the prohibition on decorating is definitely the biggest renting drawback for me…

      • Posted June 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        I know some of us talked about this on Twitter a while back but I’ll say it again: it’s been so heartening to know that it’s not just me/us in this situation.

        Last year was a HUGE year for getting angry about renting/trying to get out of it and buy somewhere/not succeeding – and coming to terms with renting and that way of life! As Anna (Skin & Blister) said, we need things to work differently in this country so that renting somewhere is more like it is in Europe – much longer contracts e.g. several years rather than having to rent somewhere one year at a a time.

        I’ve got to the point where I’m actually pro-renting (if, fingers crossed, you can find somewhere good) because of the whole two-income trap that often comes with a mortgage. I like the flexibility we have at the moment and there are other good points everyone’s mentioned – I’ve learnt to try to be at peace with renting rather than getting cross about not being able to decorate etc.

  10. Peridot
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    You’re absolutely right – what makes a house a home is the people in it and the happiness you experience there rather than the name on the deeds. Which is not to say that it’s not disappointing to have lost the house you’d mentally moved into – people always say ‘don’t get too attached until you move in’ but HOW can you want to shell all that money out for something you don’t feel an emotional attachment to?

    Hope it all works out well for you and you find a lovely new home to move into.

  11. Posted June 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Completely missed this earlier because of frantically busy morning but I feel your pain. I can only really reiterate what Steff said, the right house for you will come along, at the moment you feel overwhelmed by your missed opportunity but missing this opportunity just means that another can come up instead, and maybe that one will be the perfect one. Hang in there.

    K x

  12. Kate
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I really agree with all the posters about the British being really hung up on owning their own home. We are really lucky in having our own house (albeit in a slightly ghetto fabulous area in South London) and although I love being able to decorate and change things I certainly see the downsides as well. Being limited in where I can apply for jobs is pretty rubbish and now I’ve just found out I’m pregnant (aggghhhh MASSIVE shock, the 6 months in post after this one is freaking me out!!) it’s going to be really difficult to work out childcare with my >1 hour commute. And once you’ve spent a long time rennovating somewhere it really hurts to move!

    You should definitely relish being able to pick anywhere you like to live and not feeling tied down for the moment and then when you do get the dream house it will be all the more perfect.

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      ahhhh congratulations Kate! hope you get everything sorted- i’m sure it will all somehow work itself out!

    • Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Huge congratualtions, Kate!

      • Kate
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Thanks! It’s too early to tell anyone in real life so it definitely hasn’t sunk in yet – feel like I’m lying everytime I say it!

2 Trackbacks

  • By Real Married: Needing A Home on July 24, 2012 at 7:02 am

    [...] month I talked about how Tom and I lost the opportunity to buy our first home. After I’d written it, I realised that I felt as though we really had lost our home – [...]

  • By The woes of house hunting « Esme Wins on July 31, 2012 at 9:53 am

    [...] house to rent is a strange process. I talked about how we got to the stage we’re at now on Any Other Woman, so I won’t repeat myself here (I am only just starting out and don’t want to loose my [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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