Caroline O'Donoghue: Eleven fraught conversations about buying a house

My boyfriend and I are trying to buy a house. “Trying” is a relative term.

Caroline O'Donoghue: Eleven fraught conversations about buying a house

My boyfriend and I are trying to buy a house. “Trying” is a relative term.

We haven’t actually worked up the courage to attend a house viewing yet, but we’ve had a lot of conversations and done endless online free credit checks and mortgage calculators just to see that we are, indeed, allowed to buy a house.

I’m a little too into the mortgage calculators, I think.

I keep imagining that I will run the numbers and the pop-up will say “Are you insane? Do you think YOU can own a house? You’re a baby.

You don’t know even how to hand wash wool properly. You didn’t know who Colonel Gaddafi was until YESTERDAY”.

To my amazement, the pop-up doesn’t say this. It says “yes, ok, you can maybe buy a house, within reason”.

1. You need two people to buy a house, the cash cow, and the cash pig. The cash cow, in this instance, is Gavin, who has a good salaried job that can be tapped steadily over time. I am the cash pig.

2. The cash pig is slain once for their deposit, and then they’re tapped out. They fall on the mercy of the cow. Because my job isn’t salaried, cash arrives in irregular bursts. It’s irritating to live on, but makes it much easier to save, and the fact that you’re almost always in lean times means you never get a taste for a more luxurious life. It helps that I have always been a weirdly neurotic saver, the kind of kid who still had their Communion money by their Confirmation year.

Pig and cow venture forth, trotter and hoof joined in solidarity.

3. Except it’s not that simple, is it? No, it never is. How do you maintain equilibrium if one of you is more out of pocket than the other? “But we’d work it out so that you would pay more monthly, so it would even out over time.” We both nod, satisfied by this.

4. But what if we break up? What if we break up? We don’t want to break up! Our barnyard alliance is beautiful and solid as a tractor. But you’d have to be insane to not consider these things, especially if you’re about to blow your life savings with someone. Would we sell the house? Would one of us move out? How would the dog feel? Who would explain it to her?

5. This is not the only terrifying hypothetical conversation we have. You have to have a lot of them, if you’re planning on doing this.

“Two bedrooms,” we begin. “Two bedrooms and a little garden for the dog.” We have been talking about this second bedroom for years: the master bedroom will be converted into an office with a huge beautiful desk in the centre, and we would both set up shop on either side.

There would be a small pull out couch, for guests. After ten years of writing on kitchen tables and cafes, the idea of a dedicated office space in my own home is unbearably tantalising. But what if we have kids? Then what happens to my office?

6. We are then, unfortunately, in the What If We Have Kids territory, and endless back and forth of “well, we have to think about it” and “of COURSE we have to think about it”, and “oh, god, do we have to think about it?” and “look, we’re both agreed that maybe someday, but not now, surely” and “no, please, not now, surely, we’re in our thirties, practically babies ourselves”.

7. We are then so overwhelmed by the children and the potential break-up and the distraught dog that we start veering wildly out of control, wondering whether we want to buy at all. Our lease is up in June. Maybe another year? Another year to decide how we feel?

8. “We could move to Toronto!” I suddenly volunteer. “My cousin lives in Toronto!” Queue several discussions about whether Toronto is really that much colder than here, and whether the Canadians are making too much of it.

9. “Glasgow!” the cow moos earnestly. “We could move to Glasgow!” Queue several discussions about whether Glasgow is really that much wetter than here, and whether the Scottish are making too much of it.

10. Realise that, with innumerable possibilities before us, we are incapable of making a decision. What we want, ideally, is for someone else to make the decision for us. We want a deux ex machina: a sudden job offer from Sweden, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that means we absolutely have to move to Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, wherever. We want divine intervention to trump our vague intentions.

11. “There’s always renting for another year,” he says, finally.

And despite the fact that I’m tired of lining a landlord’s pockets, tired of worrying about my deposit everytime I hang a picture up, tired of changing my address only to change it again in another year, I feel relieved. “There’s always renting,” I repeat, strangely soothed. I lay down in the straw. The cash pig lives another day.

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