I'm a millennial who bucked the trend and bought my own house. Now I seriously regret it

Everyone else I know is a member of Generation Rent, and they get to benefit from the freedom of moving round the world while I'm stuck at home pouring money into a 'fixer upper' which probably won't appreciate in value because of Brexit

Amy Lavelle
Monday 04 December 2017 11:39
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'We've waved goodbye to so many dreams by buying this house'
'We've waved goodbye to so many dreams by buying this house'

Homeowner. I feel like this will be the word that defines me, the epitaph that will one day be engraved on my tombstone (even if I fail to keep up with my mortgage payments and end up in a Dickensian paupers’ prison). Here lies Amy Lavelle: she owned a house once.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that this is the position that all members of my generation – millennials, and yes, I’m sure you’ve heard enough about us by now – aspire to, but will never obtain, thanks to an unhealthy attachment to avocados and unicorns.

Well, somehow, I managed it. I have made a sizeable investment in my future. Only I’m not sure it was the right one. If I’m being completely honest, I regret it altogether.

Let me be clear: I’m well aware of how privileged I am to own my own home in the South East and to have done it without a hefty handout from my parents on the way. But in the time it took us to get here (and trust me, it was a long time), the goalposts have changed. We’re in an uncertain climate and now our house feels less like a stabiliser and more like an anchor, weighing us down.

It turns out that my husband and I couldn’t have chosen a worse time to take the plunge and become homeowners. Having experienced every possible milestone and pitfall (months when I had “There’s no way they’ll approve a freelancer!” ready to go should anyone so much as ask how things were going), with paperwork finalised, we were anxiously waiting to exchange.

Then Brexit happened and we had a few days to make the decision to go ahead based on the results – even though we could only speculate about what Brexit could, in reality, possible mean for the future.

Now we’re left facing the very real possibility that the house we’ve poured all of our savings, spare time and energy into might not be worth half of what we purchased it for. And for all that, we barely even own the place – one false move and the bank will happily snatch it back.

The novelty of being able to paint our own walls or hang up a picture without asking permission from a landlord wears off quite quickly in the face of that reality. Our friends who are in a position to buy are quietly waiting to see if they’ll be able to snag a deal and, thanks to recent announcements in the Budget about first-time buyers and stamp duty, are already in a better position.

While I was saving to get here, my generation was busy devising other parameters of success. They’re setting up their own businesses and taking control over their futures in the gig economy; they’re jetting off and travelling the world, investing in life experiences; they’re pursuing jobs abroad and trying out life in other cities, because they’re not keen on the quality of life here anymore.

And they’re doing it while renting. Fed up of being continuously smacked around the ears with the news that they can never aspire to own their own four walls —or even live much longer in their chosen city, in some cases — they redefined what milestones look like.

Dawn Foster on Double Take: Three policies to tackle the housing crisis

Success has come to mean different things than what it did for those that came before us and freedom is a big part of that. After all, when the world is uncertain and the future looks murky, who wants to be tied down to one place? Far better to chase quality of life elsewhere.

I’m realising that by pursuing one dream – the dream of a patch of land and a room of one’s own – we have waved goodbye to others. It’s unrealistic to think you could spend a year living in New York when you have a property to look after. And even the smaller dreams of holidays, time with friends and clocking up a few more life experiences while we’re still young and relatively free of responsibility have been sucked away in favour of weekends spent working on our house, because a fixer-upper (the polite term) was all we could afford.

Of course, those were our choices and that is a part of growing up – but the galling thing is that we don’t yet know if, when it comes to it, the figures will marry up.

So yes, I’m one of the lucky ones: I showed every millennial naysayer and left Generation Rent behind. But now I’m wondering if it was worth it.

Now I’m on the other side, Generation Rent sounds less like a damning indictment and more a savvy choice, the financial equivalent of waiting to commit to that dodgy Tinder date. Unfortunately, reader, I married it.

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