Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On Big Decisions and Hysterical Ladybrains

Good friends of mine - I'll call them Hazel* and Catherine - are buying a house together. They're both women in their twenties; this is their first owned home and whilst they're not exactly poor, as the whole house buying thing would indicate, their incomes are sufficiently limited that they don't have a lot of choice.

Anyway, they have more or less completed a purchase; it's a doer upper, that will need significant work both inside and outside, and it's a commute out of the city, but it's both closer and more convenient to transport than most others in their price range, and it has the right number and configuration of rooms for their needs and whilst compromises have been made they're pretty happy about it. It's happened in a rush, and there is So Much To Do, but both of them seem excited, in amongst the terror.

But through the process, there have been Concerns. Doubts raised by people I shall amalgamate into the character of  'Concerned of Titahi Bay'**. Concerned of Titahi Bay thinks that the project they are taking on is too much work. Concerned of Titahi Bay thinks they should have bought in Kelburn or Petone or Mount Victoria or something (for those of you not familiar with Wellington, these are not remotely realistic places for them to buy a house on their budget). Concerned of Titahi Bay is very, very concerned that they are letting their hearts get in the way of their heads, that they are making emotional rather than rational decisions.

Hazel and Catherine are close friends, who have lived together a number of years. They are not in a sexual or romantic relationship, but this is not simply a matter of pooling resources for a few years in order to get on the property ladder before going their separate ways; they are a family and a household and intend to be so indefinitely.

Yup, you've guessed it. Concerned of Titahi Bay is very concerned. Have you thought, Concerned of Titahi Bay wants to know, of what's going to happen if you fall out! If one of you goes overseas! If one of you gets married! If you have different views on decisions about the property!

Yes, yes they have thought about that a lot. They've thought about what would happen if their lives took them in various directions. Or if they fell out. They're intelligent people, one of them has substantial legal knowledge. They've talked about this extensively, drawn up an agreement and each engaged a (separate) lawyer. These are sensible things to think about before making any major life decision, particularly one where your property is intertwined with that of someone else. It's sad - and infuriating - though, that had they been an engaged couple buying their first home, these issues may have come up but they likely wouldn't be at the forefront of people's minds.

They've also thought about the building work required. They've made provisional budgets and weighed the stress and time and money involved against the compromises - chiefly location - they would have to make if they bought another property within their budget. They've set a price range they can afford - not just in terms of the bank signing off, but someone that will reasonably fit into their day to day budget.

My partner and I bought a house about eighteen months ago. It's out of the city - significantly further out than Hazel and Catherine's new house. We don't have a car - aside from not being able to afford that and a house deposit at that time, I can't drive, primarily for disability reasons, and my partner chooses not to. I was shocked by the number of people who decide to tell me I was making a Very Bad Decision living where I do without a car. Leaving aside the limited amount of choice without making significant sacrifices in other areas, they were acting like I had never thought about this before. Like I didn't know that my life would be easier if I could drive. Like looking at transport options hadn't been top of our priority list. Like we hadn't been managing with public transport all our adult lives.

And then there's the whole emotional decision problem. Emotions are absolutely a valid part of any big life decision. They're not on the level of 'will attempting to meet the repayments be a recipe for bankruptcy', but if you're buying a house to live in, and you haven't thought about how you'll feel living in it, you're probably not going to end up that happy. It's not that advice isn't helpful. I've benefited a lot, when making Big Decisions (and I'm sure my friends have too) from people sharing stories, giving local or technical knowledge, or simply being a sounding board to talk things through with. But I wish people would do that with the assumption that the people they are talking to - even if they are women in their twenties! - are both intelligent people who are capable of thinking about the major issues and have priorities which may not be your own, but are no less legitimate for that.

I'll leave the last (edited) word to Hazel:

We've got the "you need to not make emotional decisions" thing from almost every guy we've talked to. Most of the women I've spoken to about house buying have (a) accepted that an emotional reaction to the place is totally okay and (b) assumed that we've, like, thought about that shit. I just really feel that if we were two dudes buying a fixer-upper in [suburb], the things we're getting told would be different and we wouldn't be being accused of having been MAKING STUPID DECISIONS BECAUSE OF OUR HYSTERICAL LADYBRAINS.

* I asked Hazel tonight what I should blog about and she ranted for a bit, and I said "so basically about you and your lifedrama". "Yes," she said. So here it is.


Anonymous said...

Hazel and Catherine. I'm so excited for you. Go for it.

I'm too happy to have come across this story to actually order my thoughts...just know that not only is what you are doing awesome, and how you are doing it, but it's awesomely significant to someone else.

hooray for you both. *Iris*

Nick J said...

While not knowing the prejudices or otherwise of "concerned of Titahi Bay", to be fair I had similar comments made to me when I bought a house a wee way out of town a few years ago, so i'm not convinced it is solely a gender issue.

I did fall in love with the place, but that's important. I still love it, but I of course did my due diligence (valuation, building inspection, LIM etc).

So long as your two friends did this then "concerned" really needn't worry.