Sunday, June 5, 2016

Home ownership

This week marks ten years since we moved into our home. After many years of living in rented flats and having to move, we were finally able to buy our own flat. This made a big difference in my life, and now seems to be a good opportunity to reflect on what home ownership means.

The first thing to note is how difficult it is for most people now to buy their own home. We were only able to do so after inheriting money from Ivor's parents and grandparents and from my aunt. This gave us enough for a down payment and to get a mortgage with a monthly repayment that is lower than the rent we used to pay. So while we obviously didn't want anyone to have to die for the sake of our home, at least we were able to make good use of the money we were given, and I think our relatives would be pleased to know that they had helped us in this way.

The second interesting thing about our home is how we chose it. When we decided to move to Haifa, someone recommended this street as being in a good location. It is close to shops, and also close to buses going to the university and to other parts of the city (this was before I had a car). I remember one day we came up to Haifa to look at the area, before we moved. We walked up this street and noticed that there was a vet, which was useful. We saw this building and the balcony, and realized there must be a good view of the sea from that balcony. A couple of weeks later we were able to rent a flat in a building up the road from here. A while later, this flat that we had noticed from our first visit had a For Sale sign. The first time we saw the sign we were not yet ready to buy, but a few months later, when our inheritance money had arrived, the flat was for sale again, and we went to have a look at it. We knew we would have to do some major redecorating, but we wanted the flat for the location and the view, and had a good feeling about it. So we bought the first flat we saw!

Once we had bought the flat, we started the design and redecorating process. We hired an interior designer who adapted the space to our needs and helped us find all the professionals and items we needed. The redecorating took six months, and it was interesting watching the place take shape. After so long in rented flats, it was good to have things looking the way we wanted. There were some delays and setbacks during the redecorating, and we have had to do more work on the place since moving in.

Owning a flat gives you both freedom and responsibility. You are free of landlords and their possible interference. You are free to decorate any way you want. You are free of the worry that you might be asked to move at the end of the contract. However, you become responsible for looking after your home and making whatever repairs are required. It seems that there is always something that needs to be repaired!

Being homeowners gives you a certain social status, especially in a society where it is difficult to buy a home unless you have a really well-paying job or have help from relatives (living or dead). For a while we had thought we would be renting all our lives, so being able to say that we own our home felt like a social achievement. It might be a rather conformist, normative, or bourgeois sort of thing to feel, but for me the main thing it represents is security and stability, which have always been important to me. The uncertainty of living in rented homes and having an unsteady income from a variety of jobs was finally over.

Ten years is by far the longest I have ever lived in one place. I think that the longest time I had lived in the same home was six years (twice: my parents' current home and one of our rented flats), and I only lived in most places for one or two years. I hope to stay in this flat for as long as possible. There are circumstances that would make it necessary or worthwhile to move, but until or unless they come along, I would be happy to stay here forever.

For me in particular, my home is important as I work from home and spend over 90% of my time here. So being able to design my rooms and furniture to suit my taste and needs means a lot to me. Home is not just where the heart is, it is where almost all aspects of my life take place: work, family, hobbies, friends, and creativity. It also became a stable home to our cats, who had moved with us every couple of years and adapted to our new rented flats each time. I'm happy that Eleni won't have to move again at her age.

I hope everyone fortunate enough to own a home appreciates it, and those who have to rent are still able to make their temporary space feel like a home.

1 comment:

Ariadne said...

What a great article. I hope you enjoy your home for many many years to come. As my parents moved as refugees to Greece they had to rent for years. They finally managed to buy a flat only it was too late for my dad a s he died some years later. I am the lucky one to have inherited it and live in it. I know I am unable to move and that sometimes makes me restless especially now that the neighbourhood has become noisy and very dirty. But I try to see the good point in it , that it is very near the city centre and the beautiful seafront where we walk our dog! I am lucky that this flat is free from loans unlike the summer huse in which I have to pay a huge loan still for the next fifteen years. That gain feels me with fear and discomfort lest I am unable to pay the loan one day and lose the house but on the other hand it is so near the sea and we can swim and spend summers there so I try to work hard for it! I hope you see them one day!AriadnefromGreece!