House envy

Sometimes I wonder what it would like to be a homeowner.  And by that, I mean just settled in a place where I am in control of  the paint colours and landscaping.   I’m getting on in years and retirement age is closer than I’d like it to be and one of the things I had assumed when I was 30 is that I would own my home by now. Of course, I had also assumed I would have given birth to a couple of kids before I was 40 too and be starring on a hit show. Maybe it’s because my parents were immigrants who placed owning a home as being the number one symbol that one had achieved success and stability.     Or maybe it’s because I’m idealizing what it would be like in the same way I did about having a child.  Everybody else has got one, why don’t I?  Why am I always the late one to the party?  I get to look on FB and see postings from others about their new places and even hubby was all depressed because his stoner buddy just bought a place in Squamish.  Like, even THAT guy can somehow manage it.  Of course, his mortgage is more like our rent, but we’d have to move an hour up the highway and that’s just not us.  Sometimes it’s just a bit much, you know?

Years ago in the TTC days we got pre-approved for a mortgage and went looking for a place. We looked at one development and talked about how many bedrooms we really needed, how the elementary school and day care was conveniently located across the street, etc.  It was pretty exciting.  It was a little off-putting to look at a place from a model, but that was the trend (and still is).  We even found a house that we thought was just perfect for us except the yard was super narrow and it was way out of the city.  Unfortunately, a couple months later, hubby was laid off from his so called secure government job and that was that. Better jobs came along, but IVF treatments and adoption expenses took care of our little nest egg. I didn’t really need a house if I didn’t have children, right?

I’ve often blamed myself for not having a more thriving career or even a regular 9 – 5  job to soften the landings from the economic blows.   However, I did make it clear from the beginning of our relationship that I would always be in a creative field whether it was acting or directing or whatever.  Trust me, sometimes I would pray to wake up wanting to be an accountant but it never happened.  I still had my p/t notetaking business that paid well but it was never steady.  And I disliked it enough to never try to build a f/t business out of it.  I’m a highly social person and typing for hours one end in silence is a little stultifying. Living with an actor  is always cool when you’re working but not so much when you’re not.   I had fought long and hard and sacrificed so much to not be like everyone else.  We have had many fights conversations about this over the years and at one point, I was willing to give up my career for a more stable full time job.  Oddly enough, I could not seem to get a regular job.  I remember filling out retail applications and never even getting called for an interview.  And when I did find one, it was for minimum wage and it involved shift work and hubs told me to forget about it.  He enjoyed having me around too much for our spontaneous trips to the movies and whatnot. Yeah, mixed messages for sure.

Once I realized that Boo would start school soon, I just felt that ache to want to fit into the community and put down some roots.   Maybe I’m just watching too many home renovation shows, it kinda gets to me.  (I also used to watch all those parenting/baby shows too. I’d imagine the terrible things I’d utter once in labour and the first moment I would get to hold my baby.) Even when we were in our first long term apartment, I wanted to paint and put in new lighting fixtures and hubby would have no part of putting our money into someone else’s property.  It’s tough living in this city.  Years ago, I lived in a condo and this lady would ignore me just cause I was a “renter”, not an owner.  Right after people ask you where you live, it’s do you rent or own?  It’s quite common for people to ask you how much you pay in rent!  A few years ago, one snooty neighbour actually said, “Oh, this is Deathstar, she lives in Ms. Blank’s apartment.”  Seriously, you ass, that’s not how you introduce someone!   shouldn’t call him an ass, but he’s dead now and I found out his family owned his condo, not him.

It’s the strangest feeling to want to pull up bushes and plant something else or put up a fence.  We have conversations like, “Well, if this were ours, I would get rid of that and put ___ there” or “I’d never put in such cheap, flimsy tile…”  Renting certainly does give you some insight on what NOT to do in home renovations.  We don’t foot the bill but we certainly live in the consequences.  We’ve moved 3 times in 4 years and it’s been financially tenuous since the recession.  DH’s job situation continues to be precarious and certainly if we did own a home, we’d be SO screwed.  I am so grateful we don’t have to deal with that!  The median price for a detached house around here is just under a million or maybe $800K for a fixer upper.  And I’m not talking about a fancy estate either.  If you want a modern space with fancy appliances that will cost over a million for sure.  With both of us being self employed, there are no guarantees.  And if hubs is stressed out now, imagine how much more he would be if he did have the responsibilities of a homeowner.  We would have killed each other by now. Right now we are spared the property taxes, maintenance costs, plumber fees and renovating costs.  We just make a call when there’s a problem.  And right now, none of these things are OUR problem.

I think it will happen one day, somehow, some way. I think I’m more motivated now to really make that happen.  I’m more realistic now about life in general.  And I do realize that nothing is permanent, things come and things go.  It’s just stuff.  I already possess the best things in life. My health, my practice, my family and my friends.

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6 thoughts on “House envy

  1. I will tell you a secret: even if you owned a home and liked your home, you would likely wonder how other people are affording their homes or why they have a nicer one than you have, etc. It never ends. That said, homeownership is great when all is going well. And when all is not going well, you often wonder why you didn’t stick to renting.

  2. Holy Expensive! Even with both of us working ft we would struggle to own where you are. I get home envy too because we live in an old house that’s not very big with a small yard. But we love the city location and the pull of the bigger lot or house isn’t enough to make us move to the burbs. Sounds like you have the same thoughts. I agree with Mel. It doesn’t end, the envy. Or the work. :p

  3. here from the round-up. $800 000 to a million is very expensive for a house. My city is pretty expensive, but that’s more so. It sounds to me like there is wisdom in choosing to not make that kind of financial commitment. It’s true that there are trade-offs no matter what. Much better to make a decision based on personal/family goals vs. an emotional “everybody has a house (or a bigger house) so I should too.” In my city people seem to have a notion that once you have a kid, or two kids, OMG you need some gigantic house in the suburbs. To me that makes no sense: a child means more expense, less income and less flexible time. So why would I want a bigger house that means bigger mortgage payment/more time and expense/more chores (speaking of what I’m avoiding this very minute)/more space for crap we don’t need/more maintenance/longer commute time. As you imply, envy is often based on a superficial judgment of how lucky other people are. But I wouldn’t want to make the trade-offs that they have made.

  4. I agree with Mel. We bought what is definitely our dream house. Not a mansion or anything…just a cute little place, built in the 30s with great architectural features and fantastic landscaping about 10 miles from mid-town Manhattan (also, we’re neighbors with Larry from Three’s Company which is one of my all-time fave shows). Yet about three times a week – for any number of reasons – I wish we were still renting.

  5. Our generation has been conditioned to believe that home ownership shows ‘you’ve made it’ and that since home values tend to appreciate (mostly, you know, until the bottom falls out), they are a good investment.

    That said, we live in a pricey part of the country, too. If not for the financial help from my estranged parents (help we would not have gotten if it weren’t for the guilt they felt from buying my sister a home in New Zealand) we wouldn’t have been able to afford our home. And, it’s not just our mortgage…property taxes are 15K, home owners insurance is another 2K annually, AND we have to pay for private school b/c the public school system here has been effed up since the 1960s even though that is where some of our tax dollars go. And, any time something goes wrong (we are likely to need a new dishwasher in short order and a bulb broke off IN one of the can lighting fixtures and we can’t figure out how to get it out and we’ll need a new roof in a couple of years) it is practically borrowing Peter to pay Paul to get anything done.

    Do I love this house? Yes. Do I like that we own it and therefore we have full decision making responsibility? Yes. Is it sometimes more stress than it is worth? Yes.

    And, just so you know and depending on where you live, the landscape of home ownership is also changing. So, it’s not the status it used to be in that renting/leasing is seen by many to have financial advantages (most of which you’ve named).

    I rented for 16 yrs before buying and as with most things life, there are two sides of every coin. Now, given our severe drought, we wished we’d gotten more house/less lot and even have considered moving again. But, properties have rebounded here and we’d have to spend more than we could get for our house to get into anything else.

  6. There are pros & cons to renting & owing… I can remember how horrified dh’s aunts & uncles were when we got an apartment when we first got married, instead of buying a house. But we had absolutely no money at the time, and even after FIL was generous enough to give us some money for a down payment, it was still a few more years before our combined incomes were enough to let us carry a mortgage. (Of course houses were a lot cheaper then.)(But then again, our first mortgage was 11.75%…!)

    BIL is currently pulling his hair out (or what’s left of it, lol) trying to figure out how his two boys are ever going to afford houses in the GTA. I don’t know what the answer is but it sure is a problem in these big cities. :p Good luck to you. :)

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