Real Estate

Property Ladder Angst: How to Deal with the Urge to Buy a Home

published Feb 24, 2015
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(Image credit: Lisa Diederich)

The UK, my adopted home for the past eight years, has what I would call a “home ownership fixation.” When I first moved here, I was perplexed when getting on the property ladder came up in conversation nearly as often as, say, tea or the weather. I’d also wager a guess that there are more reality television shows geared toward buying and renovating houses here than in any other country.

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For a while, I listened to those conversations and watched those shows with amused disinterest. Sure, owning a home would be fantastic, but I was more interested in shoes and travel, and besides — it was hardly something my entry-level fashion industry salary (read: peanuts) would allow. Eight years and a career change later, and I am legitimately obsessed with buying my first home. Maybe it was turning 30, or maybe it’s the fact that my days now revolve around making other people’s homes look fantastic (a strange mix of inspiring and infuriating, let me tell you), but the switch has flipped.

The only problem is: I can’t afford to buy right now. Yes, I make more money than I used to, but I live in one of the world’s most expensive cities, and well — I’m still interested in shoes and travel. But I’ve learned that keeping the following tips in mind can make this “pre-mortgaged” state a bit more bearable.

Focus on why and how.

What I mean by this is: why do you want to own a home, and how can you achieve that feeling, even just a little, in your current living situation? For me, I want to use my passion for interiors for myself, not only my clients. I want buy an ugly, dated mess of a flat and renovate it to stylish (albeit budget) perfection. I want to choose my own furniture and lighting, to paint walls on a whim.

Unfortunately my rental flat came furnished (as many in London do), so there are limits to what I can do with furniture. So I express my style in other ways: I hang art, I style bookshelves, I stock my kitchen with plates and breadboxes as carefully chosen as my sofa will be one day. I also Pinterest my heart out, saving ideas and products for my future home. None of this is ideal, but it does help in those moments of frustration.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

Save… and then forget about it.

Saving regularly is a good habit for anyone with an eye on the future, but especially so when you’ve got a Big Goal. Open a separate savings account for your deposit, and have a regular direct debit set up (mine happens as soon as my salary gets deposited each month, so I’m under no illusions about how much disposable income I’ve got).

Once you’ve done that, learn to live with the remainder in your account, and don’t even think about dipping into this fund for anything short of a level-five emergency. Seriously, hands off— that money’s for future you! Even if your situation changes in a couple years, if you decide to move cities or find out you’re really the Princess of Genovia (fingers crossed), you’ll always be glad you saved that money.

Find your living/saving “sweet spot.”

Financially starving yourself to meet a goal, especially a long-term one, is a recipe for frustration, and may even lead to giving up early. Likewise, saving slowly in order to fund a certain lifestyle will just mean it takes longer to reach your goal, which is also frustrating! Finding the right balance between saving for your future home and loving your life now is key.

My sweet spot is a 2-bed, furnished, ex-council flat located in a sunny South London estate, where I’ve lived for just under 3 years. Owned by one of my closest friends and shared with an awesome flatmate, my home allows me to save while being a comfortable and flexible place to live. Sure, it’s a 45-minute trek to central London, but that commute saves me money, if not time.

Where are you on the journey to ownership? Any tips for those longing to get there but taking their time?

Re-edited from a post originally published 2.24.2015 – TW