A lot of us look at buying a house as the postgrad dream. The ultimate sign that you’re doing this adulting thing right. You may have friends who are homeowners and you look at them thinking, “Wow, they’ve really got it together.”
Bullshit. Lies. All of it is a veil of lies.
Let’s flash back to where it all began. My wife and I decided about a year or so ago that we wanted to get a house when our lease was up. We had stable careers, friends in the area, and wanted something better than our apartment that constantly smelled like someone else’s pot smoke. We would start saving for a down payment, put some money aside for the inevitable projects that came up, all while maintaining our normal 20-something lifestyle near a major city (read: lots of brunch, bar trivia, and other activities that involve drinking).
Come fall, we started spending most of our copious downtime at work on Zillow, sending each other links to every house we found and pointing out all the things we hated about each other’s choices. If you guys ever want to learn all the things your spouse hates about you, look for houses with them. My wife would later (melodramatically) describe this span of time as “the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.” We looked at almost every house in our price range in the entire city as soon as it went up on Zillow. We toured about 50 in person. Some of them were terrible, but a few weren’t.
We put in offers and got them rejected, flashing back to grad school applications. A few were taken off the market within hours of being listed. This feels like your boss telling you that there’s a promotion up for grabs for someone on your team, then inviting everyone to lunch that same day to tell you all that that schmuck Jim already got it before you could even show off what you can do after that sixth cup of coffee. Among the offers that did get accepted were a house that wasn’t attached to the foundation and one that was foreclosed upon the next day. Eventually, we found a house that nobody took from under us, the offer got accepted, and it passed the inspection.
There were a few little things we ran into. Flooding that ruined the carpet in the basement, a gas leak that tried to kill us, a broken 90-year-old floor board. Little annoyances here and there, had to spend more than we wanted each time to fix them, but that’s why we had that rainy day fund. Then things really went downhill and the shit almost literally hit the fan. This is the incident that inspired me to warn everyone to just rent and do the Millennial thing as long as possible.
We discovered water pooling in our basement around the main drain. Knowing this was bad news, we mopped it up and hoped for the best. Then the smell came. Anytime we used water for more than a couple minutes, the entire house reeked of sewage. Fresh shit smell, everywhere. You think it’s bad when Norm squats down in the stall next to you after his 9:30 coffee? Imagine that in your bedroom, while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re making breakfast. Another call to the plumber and we find out that the drain is plugged full of roots, and it’ll cost somewhere between a used ’05 Corolla and… well, a brand new Corolla.
So while we’re in the middle of that, I want to spread the word to my fellow postgrads. Don’t buy a house. If you really want to build equity, follow in the footsteps of the ever-wise Madoff and just get a townhouse. You might live next to some weirdo with a little loudmouth of a dog, but at least you’re a lot less likely to wake up to the smell of fresh sewage running through your vents. And I swear, if I hear one more person chuckle and say “Ha, the joys of homeownership…” I might be writing my next piece from lockup..
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