We used to own a house.
A really, really nice house.
We hate that house.
For many people owning their own house is the ultimate goal and it was for us too. We were so excited when we realised that we could afford to buy our ‘forever house’ early on and with our first property kept on as a rental, we felt that we’d given ourselves a bright financial future which would easily support our early retirement plans.
But then a new reality dawned. When you buy a house you know that you have to pay for it, hell it’s written very clearly (and tediously) on the huge and equally terrifying mortgage document that you sign. But nobody tells you what else it costs.
For us the price was £240,000 plus our happiness, our freedom and our life.
We kept our ‘forever house’ for just three years and not one day of those years went by without us questioning why the heck we bought it in the first place.
Owning a house isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
It wasn’t the mortgage that crushed us or even the domestic bills. It wasn’t even the extensive repair work we had to pay for after a huge storm hit our town or when THREE of our roofs leaked and had to be replaced. All that can be fixed with money and money wasn’t something that we were short of.
The time the roof on our extension collapsed.
What royally pissed us off was how much time we spent managing the house. Do you have any idea how long it takes to clean a big house? All of Saturday, that’s how long. How often do you think that beautiful garden needs to be tended? Every week in the summer. How much time is spent on the telephone talking to idiots about domestic related issues? HOURS! And don’t even get me started on the amount of time we had to listen politely to lectures from our elderly neighbour about how our flowers needed watering or how she never knew when we were home because we didn’t say hi.
Then there’s the weekly food shop, the window cleaning, jet washing the drive (and the car while you’re at it), the washing and ironing, finding time to cook a decent meal, handling the insurance renewals, separating our waste into 5 different bins (seriously!?), the endless Ikea arguments and chasing the bloody foxes out of the garden.
Said fox and garden after 1 month without being tended to.
We did try to make our lives easier by outsourcing some of these jobs. The window cleaner quit, the gardener only turned up when he felt like it and our cleaner burnt a hole in my dress, broke two radiators with her energetic hoovering and scuffed our new wallpaper two days after it was hung. It was less hassle to do it ourselves.
We started to really resent that house. Everyone who came to visit gushed over its beauty and we could agree that it really was a lovely home, but when we worked hard all week at our jobs and then spent the whole weekend maintaining a house, we began to harbour murderous thoughts against the bricks and mortar that belonged to us and that was the beginning of the end.
The motivation to give it up and travel
One thing we will be eternally grateful to that house for is giving us the kick we needed to chuck it all in and start our travelling life. We’d been thinking about it since before we married 6 years ago but couldn’t quite commit to making the jump. If we hadn’t bought that house we would still be working away in England saving up for a house, a car, something.
Selling that house at the top of the property market also gave us our travel money and so thank you House, for the lessons and for the cash, you we’re a ride but a ride that we were glad to get off.
And any thoughts about destroying our financial future were dashed when we did the maths.
How much it would have cost to stay at home
Look at how much that house was set to cost us in total before we could say we owned it outright in 2041 (not a typo, this is when the mortgage ended):
Total mortgage repayments with interest – £498,000
Estimated maintenance/repairs (based on 3 years we owned it) – £90,000
Utilities and other monthly bills – £360,000
After the mortgage was paid off and estimating the total repair/maintenance/emergency costs:
£948,000 over 30 years.
By comparison if we travel for the next 30 years we would probably spend £324,000 (based on an average spend of £900 per month). These are our entire expenses. If we factored in all of our personal spending to the house sum it would be even higher.
We might not own a beautiful home now and we may well have destroyed any hope for a comfortable retirement but what we have is so much better. Freedom.
It turns out you really can buy happiness and we bought it with the proceeds of our house.