In the generic term, i mean, by ‘house’ we actually mean tiny basement apartment in Boston. We’re so used to life around here that it’s in many ways, more than we could ever have hoped for for a first home. It’s two blocks from a major crossroads of a central part of the city, beautiful, scenic, and bustling. And while this comes with the obvious compromise of being in a basement, it has outdoor space that makes it not feel like a dungeon. And it was somehow so much easier than we thought it would be.
i mean, it was the first time we put down an offer. We figured we’d lose, handily. We figured we’d get trounced, but at least we’d get our initial mistake-making process out of the way, confident that we would make more than our share. And we were right about both things. We came in second on our offer, but the runaway winner was also enough of a runaway asshole that the seller picked us.
And headlong did we dive into the process of unearthing piles of paperwork and hastily shopping for a mortgage, all the while warning the broker, the loan officers, the lawyers that we were going to ask them a really dumb question and never once letting them down. The thing is, it all went off without a hitch. Sure, there were lots of sleepless nights wondering about what we’d missed, since surely in our haste we’d have to have fucked something up. The most difficult thing was really just making sure our little pile of money was in the right place (and documenting in triplicate our efforts to move it to that place).
It was a two-month-long process, really, but in the end, a half-dozen entities that could have screwed us, in ways we would never know about until it was too late, didn’t.
And then we had keys.
So many keys, it turned out; like eight of them. Later, we learned that we really only needed four of them, and that the color code on them was wholly incorrect, so we’d best make our own.
And we had an empty apartment. For over a month. A fairly dirty one, but we owned it, and all the possibilities therein. Possibilities of expensive problems, possibility of comfy nights of drinking beer under lights outside. i immediately binged on Asana tasks for fixing things, the girl immediately rolled her eyes at what a fucking nerd i am.
It’s an obvious difference over renting, the option of simply fixing it, changing it, redoing it if you don’t like it, and better still when you can get so much satisfaction out of simple changes. A new shower head here, a slow-closing toilet seat there, my ongoing war with beige electrical fixtures. $5 or $10 at a time, you can see it slowly go from that musty, flawed basement, to the sort of place you want to live. And grander plans, of course, fall by the wayside. Probably should have checked the ceiling fixture before buying a fan. Replacing the nasty (brand new) carpet with flooring was more expensive than we’d thought. Assorted forays into actually making something with wood have yet to occur (i’m more of an aluminum kind of guy). But the option is there.
And of course, the flip side is, you own all the flaws. You wash your hands one day, two months after buying the place and notice that the bathroom vanity is made from hideous, cheap wood, because you’ve noticed that it was only partially (cheaply) painted white. Or that multiple light sockets emit foul buzzing noises. Or that the fasteners in some electrical boxes are badly rusted. The idea of how much work you have to put in both for yourself and for your hypothetical future self trying to sell it sets in. And that’s before pipes burst in the middle of the night and air conditioners crap out in the middle of a late summer heat wave.
And all along, you’re not paying rent, you’re building up, slowly, the percentage of the place you actually own (even though, to borrow the tired phrase, you’re still setting fire to the money you pay in interest). But it’s something. And it sure seems like a better bet than the relentless bipolarity of our 401(k)s.
More than that, though, it’s nice to be able to look on my hometown from a distance, and think that a short distance away from the tallest building is a little patch of it that’s ours. And it becomes more so every day. Unless something happens on Tuesday and we have to move to France.