To Buy or Not to Buy

20150330_BAS_To Buy or Not to Buy
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The man of my heart and I have a new hobby of sorts: We have started to go to Open Houses for nice one- or two-bedroom condos. A while ago, when we saw a gorgeous small loft for sale, we had the discussion if we should look at places to buy.

Personally, I abhor the idea of home ownership. Firstly, because any long-term commitment tends to freak me out, and it’s particularly bad with financial ones. And secondly, owning a place would give me the absolutely frightening feeling I have settled. I know that’s not necessarily the case, but most fears are unreasonable—and being stuck in one place forever is my equivalent to most people’s fear of spiders, heights, alien attacks or public speaking.

On the other hand, I am a rather reasonable and pragmatic person, and real estate prices in Seattle only seem to know one direction for now, and that’s up. Rents have long reached a level far beyond what I am used to from Frankfurt, which is among Germany’s most expensive cities, and due to a lack of residential properties, prices there have risen too over the past few years. But that’s nothing compared to Seattle where rents increase by a steep six percent on average every single year, the highest rate in the US according to Mr. Google.

So we are looking at places to buy because while their prices are going up as well, once you actually buy one, you just pay it off at the agreed rate. No change there. However, it might be a while until we actually reach this point because we are restricted in our choices by two vital factors—by our price limit (like everybody else) and by my complete ignorance of how the American real estate market works and how or why Americans acquire real estate.

Today, after seeing a place that I didn’t like too much, to my utter confusion the man of my heart talked about resale value and how to increase it. Why would we talk about resale before even buying a place? And why would I update it in a way that might be attractive to others as I am the one who’s supposed to live there?

Turns out we were talking about two very different things, namely an investment versus a home. I have never owned a house in Germany, but usually people buy their place so that eventually, they won’t have to pay rent any more and have a free roof over their heads when they are old and retired.

Buying a place in Seattle would pretty much mean to me: That’s where we are staying. And if we decide to go to Europe for a few years, we’ll just let it to someone. Turns out that’s not even allowed in all condo buildings—another thing I couldn’t have fathomed. It’s my place, so why wouldn’t I be allowed to have a tenant in there?

And don’t even get me started on the fact that every party has their own real estate agent, and that you actually need to hire one the moment you get serious about the house hunting endeavor because you won’t be able to look at most places without having your own agent. That’s very, very confusing to me.

But we’ll see how things develop. For now, I enjoy going to Open Houses on a weekend afternoon and seeing what’s out there and how we might be living. And I guess if we ever see a place in our price range that feels like a home to me and meets the man of my heart’s criteria for being a good investment, things will somehow fall into place and I won’t mind entering in another long-term commitment. After all, the first one—marriage—is working pretty well for me, so why shouldn’t a second one—home ownership—as well?

Olivia de Winter is most of all an avid writer and reader. Though she likes to consider herself a cosmopolitan, she is quite European - or German, to be honest - in many respects.

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