Day one in our flat, How the living space looked for 183 viewings Roll up, roll up, a white British woman is about to complain about owning a property! Come get a programme to this never-before-heard chronicle of woe! Before I launch into this story (promise I’ll spare you the dreary details and try to squeeze in some jokes at my expense), I just want to start by acknowledging that I’m well aware it comes from a place of privilege. While I have cried many a tear over some of the experiences, I need no sympathy. I’ve got a roof over my head, it’s a very nice rented one. Instead of serving up a sob-story, it is my intention here to provide a cautionary tale which might just stop someone from making the same mistakes we did, or else offer the comfort of an in-the-same-boat companion for others who recognize its sentiments all too well. It is embarrassing to fuck things up in life, but the truth is we all do it at some point.
Thanks for sharing this, Katherine - and I’m sorry this was your experience. We had a very similar trajectory in Scotland (my partner bought our one-bed studio at the height of the Aberdeen oil and gas property market + we sold it in 2019 at a 50% (!) loss…bought for 99K, sold for 56K). Our saving grace was that the mortgage was paid down to the amount we sold for, so we didn’t have to add more money.
Now we live on a small island just off Vancouver, and the average house price is $1.2M. it’s a hard pill to swallow as most of our friends here have generational wealth (something else we should all take about) and have not recently immigrated to a new country.
There was a great episode on the Burnt Toast website that compared money health (is that a term? lol) against diet culture. For example, student debt is ‘bad’ but having a huge mortgage is ‘good’. For me, a lot of my everyday is taken up by ruminating on what we did -or didn’t- do right to have 2 young kids and still be renting.
We went to university, we got ‘good’ jobs, we moved across the ocean. We don’t have generational wealth. Our parents can’t contribute to a down deposit (and even if they could, our relationship makes that moot). We don’t have a portfolio of properties that we’re set to inherit. The cost of living is only getting higher. Childcare for pre-school age kids is in crisis where we are. Working parents (overwhelmingly women) are picking up the slack while fighting the gender pay gap…managing our mental health…slowly realigning our bodies and minds after birthing and/or raising babies/ losing babies/ choosing not continue pregnancies…
It’s a lot. You’re right - a sign of the times, rather than a reflection of us as humans. I’m so happy you shared this. Sending all the good vibes for the completion of your sale 💚✨💚
In France, the market is more regulated but many people in our generation can not buy a home and will never be unless it all changes. My husband and I have decided we’d rather rent in a neighborhood we like than buying somewhere we don’t really want to live just for the sake of owning our home. Not sure how well feel about this in ten years but for now it’s the best we could do…
I am a homeowner in London, aware of my fortune to type that sentence. But I am also American; back home houses sell and complete in 96 hours. Five to six figure sums are parted with almost instantaneously; all parties have skin in the game. But here? At *every* step of the buying process in 2022 I shouted "HOW DOES THIS COUNTRY RUN LIKE THIS".
I also queried my then-new husband, who is British, on his yen to own a home (he booked our first viewing 3 days after we got back from our last-minute-booked-to-avoid-red-lists-during-covid honeymoon). He kept insisting it was the obvious right thing, but never presented any math that made the proposition compelling until of my own volition I started comparing the rent for a 3BR with what we would get with the same mortgage payment, and our desire to have children. But for him no figures merited notice, and mythical ladder loomed in his psyche. In a country long since bereft of the industries that made it famous, it was not lost on me that Boris' first act of the covid crisis was to prop up the housing market with the Stamp Duty Relief. Artificially propping up the only real industry left in the U.K. (house buying and selling) so no one would notice how horrifically he was handling everything else.
I appreciate everything you've written here and even with my own war chest of lessons I have made note of many of your most ardent points.
Thank you for being so honest about such a stressful (and - understatement of century- infuriating) time. I remember reading when you were left with packed boxes ready to move and feeling so awful for you. You’ve created an amazing home now - however long or short the time is - and you should be proud of that. Best of luck for the future..
Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your (very difficult) experience so generously, despite all the anticipated pushback. You did the very best you could do with the information you had at the time, and I honestly think your attitude to such a challenging set of circumstances is totally inspiring. Your boys will learn so much from that. I remember feeling heartbroken for you when you had that horrendous double whammy of your late miscarriage and the buyer pulling out and wanting to scream for you at the unfairness and injustice of it all. But the home and life you’ve created in spite of everything life’s thrown at you (and I don’t think you need to downplay that - it’s a lot for anyone to have to deal with) is so wonderful and I think you and Haden should feel so proud of yourselves.
I am very very lucky to have a house, but Honestly with our mortgage payments, hole in roof we can’t afford to fix, I dream of selling the place every day. Financial bleak hole.
I have often felt like a ‘failure’ for not having the generational wealth to purchase in London so I wholeheartedly appreciated your article here. I could have made different decisions (like you say - taking a different job and bunkering down) but I chose fashion and startups and experiences abroad. All of which I wouldn’t trade (yet! Even at 36!) Home ownership also scares me and I think without my experiences of living in rent-controlled Europe, in far lovelier homes, I would feel even more of a ‘failure’. It’s a peculiarly British thing to want to ‘own’ and I think it says more about the lack of ‘safety’ we feel in the U.K. and the awful rental conditions if you’re unlucky. But a mortgage is also a hefty commitment and not always financially prudent. Having said that, safe shelter is a fundamental need for a human to feel well (Maslows Hierarchy!) so I do think without baseline stability, it’s hard to feel like you’re getting the rest of life right. I appreciate your honesty here because so few people are actually open and truthful about how they afforded to buy too. I applaud you K and wish you a happy completion and happy home times ahead too! C x
This resonates so much! I know we are lucky to even be able to get on the ladder in London, but when we bought our lovely little 2 bed flat (with no garden) in 2017 everyone told us you have to offer asking price, flats are getting snapped up in seconds, most go for above asking price (etc etc etc). So we felt very happy getting our offer accepted £5k under asking. Fast forward to 2019 and needing more space for the family etc thinking EVERYONE makes money in properly right, it only ever goes up. 2.5 long, draining years on the market. Initially on for 15k over what we paid to cover all the costs. Then went down to what we paid, thinking what we paid in equity covered the difference. Then down 5, down 10...down to £25k less (plus all the fees). Meanwhile the price of what/where we were looking went up £100k.
We're now in, we're happy, I know we're very lucky. But hard not to feel hard done by when seemingly everyone for the last 30years bar the one moment in time you could do it made money and we couldn't even break even 😩
As someone who has just bought a 2 bed garden flat in South London this puts the fear of God in me! I'm so sorry this was your experience but I'm glad to hear you're in a good place now. How much do you think your experience was due to the unforeseeable event of Covid and the fact that flats without gardens became really, really hard to sell? I suppose no one ever knows what will happen. I don't care about making money on my flat but the idea of losing money on it is hard to bear. Did you get any feedback on why the flat wasn't selling before covid?
Congrats on getting through the heartbreak and finding a way. Reading this from the states, it struck me as amazing that two parents are both able to do creative indie jobs, and then it struck me why: It's because you and your family can get reliable healthcare, and it took me a minute to get my head around that while reading. So, just popping in to point out that it's another blessing you can count - enjoying the independence of being mortgage-free and freelance with reliable healthcare for the family! We all deserve that.