This year, I am doing what every House Hunters couple secretly wishes they had done in the first place: I’m buying a house by myself.
It’s an equal parts terrifying and thrilling prospect. On one hand, I’ve been saving for six years for this moment, and I finally feel like I have the financial and career stability to do it. I’ll have a space I can paint colors only I like, do a terrible job putting up grey subway tiles in my bathroom no one but me can complain about and fill every wall with the prints I’ve collected from my travels.
Simultaneously, there’s that dread in the pit of my stomach saying “But all of my money will be gone!” I picture writing that down-payment check and then seeing nothing but zeros in my bank account forevermore. There are times I wish I had someone doing this with me, putting their hard-earned savings on the line too so that there’s a safety net to catch me if the economy blows up again or I unexpectedly fall into financial ruin. I also selfishly think about how much easier it would be to afford a house I want in the expensive housing market I live in if there were dual incomes going for a mortgage. It’s daunting to know that all the decisions, expenditures and maintenance will fall exclusively on my shoulders.
But for all the fear of doing it on my own, more than anything I’m excited and proud of myself for giving it a go. Here’s a few reasons why I think it’s the right decision.
It may seem an odd thing to be proud about, but I’m part of a heavily maligned generation that in many ways felt the brunt of the recession more severely than anyone else. Our unemployment rates have always been the highest, our student loan debts are the highest in history and the job market has been the most difficult for us to break into. Because of that, very few of us are able to afford buying a house or even qualify for it due to college debt. I’ve been steadily paying off student loans and saving half my income for six years in order to make this a reality, and it’s my turn to take a turn at the American dream.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout this process, it’s that everyone has an opinion on what kind of house I should buy, and what kind of style it should be. My father thinks it should be tiny and that the design doesn’t matter as long as the roof’s solid. My mother laments if the kitchen is anything but gourmet. My friends think it should be the defining statement on my style, and if they don’t immediately think it’s me in house form, it’s a failure. But what I’m learning is that at the end of the day, it’s my decision, my money and it can be as perfect or as much of a fixer-upper as I’m willing to take on. If I want to paint a giant Union Jack flag on a wall (I don’t), I could. And simultaneously, I don’t have to incorporate anyone else’s taste into the house but my own. I love that I can make it entirely me.
Talking heads love to lament that twenty-somethings are the new teenagers, and generally I shake my fist at them and shout, “Oh yeah? I pay taxes and paid off my car!” But then I look down and realize I’ve been yelling from my couch, my hair’s a mess and there are far too many Chipotle wrappers in the bin next to me for anyone to take me seriously. Admittedly, that will likely happen in my new house too. But it will be on my little plot of land that I had to stand up to a bank and vow that “I’m a responsible human who can shoulder this mind-numbing amount of debt” in order to obtain it. It will be in a room that I carefully curated and collected treasures to fill, and I’ll be able to say for the first time that I did something entirely on my own. It’s a powerful feeling and one I’m keen to achieve.
Just don’t judge me if I still call my dad over to fix the leaky sink. I don’t want anyone to think I’m too responsible after all.
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