I was, until very recently a home owner. A serial home owner and bonefide navigator of Home Depot, the paint store and even Angies List (aka training pants for renovators without a clue who don’t trust anyone).
I bought my first apartment when I was 28, high on a $7,000 bonus and eager to become an adult by owning something. My car was leased, my outfit was still on my AMEX card but I thought I needed to own a place in order to declare my adulthood. So I wasn’t in a relationship, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be having a family any time soon and owning a house seemed the reasonable ‘next step’ as I headed towards 30. Fast forward 10 years and I notice now that people who buy a place not because they want to but because they don’t have reason not to, generally are doing it through a lack of imagination and societies subtle social cues. ‘Oh, you STILL rent?’ was a conversation I’d been party to on several occasions and as couples paired off, it seemed that the first house payment was made before the rice was washed out of the wedding underwear.
So in the absence of a mate, a bought a place. Then sold it to move in with a guy. Then we got married and we bought a place (because that’s what you do), and then we sold it to move for work. Then we bought another place (because the marriage was falling apart and that’s what you do), and then I sold it (he having long scooted off). I bought a singleton palace of practicality – the duplex. But after a few years of furnishing, finishing and listening to my neighbors arguing on the other side of the wall, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a ‘grown up house’ all on my own. Two floors, 2200 sq ft of 1898 Victorian decrepitude. Buy it and he will come. Thank you Kevin Costner.
No he didn’t.
Which is a pity because I could have used someone with some heft, a spare power drill and any knowledge of landscaping, irrigation, drainage, roofing, insulation, heating AND cooling, plumbing or wasps nests. And that was in less than a year. I had dinner with a friend who had flipped a few houses and asked for an honest assessment. ‘Fish or cut bait?’
He laughed and said ‘ if you’re asking, you already need to sell’
I drank more wine and privately thought he didn’t understand my passionate desire not to fail. I would make the damn thing work. Even if I had to spend my entire 401K to do it.
Then, $38,000 in, drowning in debt, sweating buckets because my cooler broke and yet eerily smelling moldy due to the drainage issues in the basement, I met a guy. A handy guy. A farmer no less. Not that he was going to help me fix anything, but he sure gave me a reason to reconsider my home ownership plan. We rapidly fell in love, he invited me to move to be with him, we planned our Christmas vacation and our marriage ceremony. I finally had the push I needed to get rid of the money pit so I listed the house and sold in 2 days.
Even he seemed surprised and a little concerned. But we pressed on. I started rationalizing furniture and we measured and mapped out our future living room during one of my visits. 7 days later he was gone. The following day my house closed. I wasn’t a home owner any more.
Today I live in a third floor walk up 1 bedroom rental apartment. Its not adult by any stretch. I have a whiteboard on the wall and a bike in the living room. With the addition of a Dali poster I’d be all but back in college. I don’t own a dining room table any more (I eat off my knees) and
I should be embarrassed, humiliated even at the poor decisions which led me here. At 40 I have nothing to show for it. I have scars and stories but no real estate. My single friends shrug and say ‘no biggie’, my married friends are horrified and embarrassed for me. My American dream is looking decidedly shabby. No house, no husband, no kids, (and not even an Porsche to compensate).
But if being a grown up is really just about real estate, do I really need to be ‘grown up’? If being an adult means spending every weekend at Home Depot and lying awake at 2am worried about whether my shingles will make it through the night.. then I’m happy not to be. I sleep just fine these days and I can finally afford to eat out again. Good thing now that I don’t have a dining table.