Nothing Is Permanent — A Lesson in Home Buying

I failed you last week. For the first time in since June I wasn’t able to post. I do have a valid excuse. I was doing field research. It wasn’t intended to be as such. It just sorta happened. The Dude and I decided we were going to buy a home. And because we tend to make a major life decision and then get it over with as soon as possible (hence the six-month engagement), we dove in hard and fast.

In the first week after we decided to become real adults who no longer pay rent we met with the mortgage guy, met with the realtor, saw three houses, fell in love with one, began the process of putting in a competing offer on Perfect Place and then came to and decided that rushing into a decision just because someone else wanted the place didn’t feel right.

In the second week we saw four more places, fell in love with one, ran through the place again with my parents because I still need my father to validate my decisions, put in an offer, and then accepted a counter. That’s right we bought a spot in two weeks. We don’t like to waste time. Granted there’s a few steps before it’s actually ours and I don’t want to jinx this thing, but after hours of neurotic Googling the myriad of ways this could fall apart over the next four months, I think we’re relatively okay...sort of...I think.

Aside from revealing that I was brimming with more worry than I ever even realized, this process brought up a number of ponderances and one major lesson. The most prominent takeaway of the home buying journey was the realization that nothing is permanent and those that are, are more important the passing ships or passing brownstone walkups in bad neighborhoods.

It’s a common theme I’ve found in the past few years. Decisions that were once considered waves we’d ride until our deaths are suddenly not so lasting. Employees are little more loyal than the employers that cast them out the moment the market turns. Even our career paths themselves seem to be temporary situations.

We now have startup ramblers and dream homes and bigger, better family dream homes and empty nest lofts. We’re allowed to migrate from home to home as our lifestyle changes.

This is a very new concept to someone who essentially grew up in the house she was born in. In a room that remained untouched until about two years ago. In my adult life, it took two layoffs to realize that I don’t need to/won’t be able to stay in the same job for 30 years like my father has. To me, everything has been permanent. A thought that is a bit paralyzing as you go into the home buying process.

Somewhere in the two weeks I managed to break through that thinking. I had to. My neurotic “but what if it’s not 100 percent perfect and what if we have a kid who likes to jump off lofted spaces and what if I want to get a standalone mixer that I’ll only use once a year?!” nonsense was putting us in a weird place. Especially when combined with the stress of unusually long work days and evenings and weekends filled with social engagements and showings. It was a wicked combination compounded further by the fact that I was waking up for 3 to 4 hours a night fretting about countertops.

The Dude got pretty tired of telling me everything was going to be okay (but he hid it well, sorta, not really). He reminded me that we could change what we wanted to because, after all, we’ll own the joint (or at least the air space, a concept my parents could not fathom).

Once my nerves had calmed about the only pseudo perfectness of the space, I launched into the permanence of the debt we were signing up for and imagined us paupers feasting on ramen in a spacious living room completely void of furniture. A persistent worry despite the fact that our mortgage broker told us we could afford twice the home we were willing to buy.

All this made for a tense couple of weeks, but we got through it without any real arguments, just a lot of annoyed reassurances. Now, on the other side of it I have some perspective about the dangers of viewing impermanent decisions in a way that impacts permanent relationships. Granted major life moves of the career, kid, roof-over-our head, financial type are always going to come with relational strain, but it still wouldn’t hurt to trust The Dude more often.

Especially when he says “everything is going to work out.” Because it always does. Thanks ironically (is that right? I don’t know anymore Alanis Morrissette continues to wreak havoc on my concept of irony) to the permanent fixtures in my life, from him to my parents even to my curmudgeonly but caring brothers. Essentially the one lesson I’ve learned in this process has nothing to do with oddly intricate real estate laws but the understanding that the solidarity of the permanent will always trump the worry of the impermanent. So stop over thinking that ugly burnt orange wall. Dammit.