Photo: Mike Baker
I didn’t plan to grow up to be thirty-five, single and living in a share house. Like many kids growing up in the suburbs I assumed I would grow up and buy my own home. That was before property prices went insane, the GFC happened and my long-term boyfriend turned into an ex. Things did not turn out how I had hoped they might but for years I lived in rented share houses stroking the remnants of my childhood assumptions.
It wasn’t until my last landlord defaulted on his mortgage, and the sheriff showed up on my front door, that I said to hell with it and made the decision to kill the great Australian dream of a house, a car and a spouse.
After my landlord’s house was repossessed by the bank I was thrust back into the madness of the inner city rental market and hating every second of it. And it is madness. Don’t let anyone ever try to tell you that paying over fifty percent of your salary for a room in a share is a good idea.
It wasn’t just the obscene cost of sharing with two other people I objected to. Renting always feels temporary, no matter how long you stay in one place. The house is not your own and there is never a moment you are allowed to forget it. Seeking permission to hang pictures, plant vegetables and even keep a bike in the shed, being subjected to quarterly inspections and knowing at any moment a letter could arrive asking me to leave was daily reinforcing the place I called home was not my own. I needed to find a way to get out of the rental market.
I’ve heard of siblings teaming up to buy a house together so why not friends? First I had to set aside some time to put the dream to sleep. I thought laying aside the original plan of growing up, finding The One and buying a house would be difficult and heart wrenching. That I would spend months, even years, wallowing in a miasma of failure and discontent but as it happens it is a lot easier to let a particular hope die if it opens up a shiny new future.
The more I thought about it the stupider it seemed to delay. Why should I miss out on the stable and wealth building option of owning my own home? Surely I’m not expected to live the poor and dependant life of a spinster character from a Jane Austen novel?
I knew my friend Ben had been thinking about buying a place for a while, he had a substantial deposit and a steady income but more than his financial particulars I was confident I had a good measure of his character. Sure Ben is messy, grumpy, handles stress by becoming grumpier and has been accused of being aloof but that’s the worst he gets. I also know the good parts of his character.
I proposed buying a house together over a beer. It took him about two seconds to say yes. He said he was sure he wanted to buy a place and escape the rental market, but not sure he wanted to do it alone.
Ben, like me, found himself single and living in a rented share house in his mid thirties. He was in a new relationship, but as most of us have learnt the hard way, relationships are not a gateway drug to the real estate portfolio of your dreams.
I was worried about telling my friends and family I had decided to buy a flat with a friend. My parents have always seemed vaguely disappointed that I remain steadfastly single while my younger brother has married and is planning a family. To my surprise not one person had a negative thing to say about our plan. Absolutely everyone agreed it just makes sense to team up and buy place with a friend.
I’m not living the life I thought I would when I was child but then again as a child I also promised myself I would ride a pony to work, wear only pink shoes and invent a new kind of laser gun. It took me a while to realise it that holding on to how I thought my life would turn out wasn’t doing me any favours so I took a look around and tried to see what else might be possible.
Signing the papers for our flat that we own together, in good will and friendship was precisely the landmark it should have been. In fact I felt proud and happy and compelled to perform a tacky high five.