Why I will not buy a house in today’s property nightmare

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Australia’s property market is bonkers.

Nothing makes sense.

Everyone’s pretending we’re not in a bubble. But we are.

For instance, a decade ago house prices were generally over-quoted and people offered the vendor several thousand dollars less than the asking price. Now, a house advertised at $445,000 will sell for over one hundred thousand dollars more than the initial quote.

I know this because several weeks ago, in stupefied disbelief, I watched this actually happen at a local auction. And this was a house I’d hoped to buy. Not a chance. It wasn’t even anything flash — three small bedrooms, a tiny kitchen and one compact living room.

Recently, I went to an Open for Inspection where I spoke to a middle-aged woman who said she and her husband were concerned they’d never be able to buy a house. “We’ve put in offers for a few properties, but we’ve missed out. I’m worried we’ll have nowhere to live when we’re old. At every inspection there are crowds of people. We need to buy now because I read an article that said there’ll be no houses in Melbourne for under a million dollars in 10 years.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked. “It sounds like someone’s said it to create anxiety and to keep people in the market so house prices stay high.” She didn’t answer. Perhaps she thought I was nuts.

Who knows?  Maybe she’s right.

House prices in my home city of Melbourne do seem to be heading that way. And all the inspections I attend are thronged with people.

In any case, what I do know is this: I’m weary.

I’m weary of the crowds and the ridiculously underquoted prices designed to get people in the door only to have them engage in a gruesome bidding frenzy.

I’m weary of the Real Estate.com ads that promise “a home of romance and beauty” with “vintage charm” and “a terrific alfresco decked [sic] pergola”, and I’m especially weary of sentences with words like  “home ownership” and “investment property” and “negative gearing.”

I conclude from all this that it’s time to retreat.

But it’s hard to step back when real estate agents say things like: “Even in this crazy market, the worst thing you can do is give up looking … don’t be tempted to give up completely and go back to renting. It won’t get any better for buyers in the foreseeable future.”

But I need to walk away. I have house-hunt burnout.

I need an exit strategy before I get what’s known in the property industry as GOMO — Grief On Missing Out. Psychologists say it’s similar to clinical depression or being jilted at the altar and it’s caused when a buyer has his or her offer rejected multiple times.

GOMO gives me enough incentive to devise five exit strategies. I value my sanity.

Exit Strategy One: Mantra

“La propriete, c’est le vol!” (Property is theft), said French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and I think he was on to something. PJ’s observation is given added weight with comedian George Carlin’s addendum:“Nobody ‘owns’ anything. When you die, it all stays here.”

George happens to be dead, so he knows what he’s talking about.

Good as it is, however, this mantra is insufficient on its own. This is because Dr Freud observed that:

“We cannot, indeed, imagine our own death; whenever we try to do so we find we survive ourselves as spectators. The school of psychoanalysis could thus assert that, at bottom, no one believes in his own death, which amounts to saying: in the unconscious every one of us is convinced of his immortality.” ~  Sigmund Freud, Reflections on War and Death. 1918.

Therefore, because people think they’re immortal and because I’m a person, too, then according to Dr Freud I don’t really believe that property is theft and that I can’t take it with me. So this exit strategy will fail unless I combine it with at least one other strategy.

Exit Strategy Two: Surrender

No doubt Winston Churchill was admirable and brave and noble when he said, “We will never surrender!” But his exhortation is misguided when applied to today’s property market.

What’s more, surrender is viewed with horror in the property industry. “Grit your teeth and go for it,” says a headline in the real estate section of my newspaper, because house-hunting in a rising market requires a “military-like strategy and persistence.”

Since when did buying a house become a war? And what if you’re a pacifist?

In any case, I prefer “Yield to overcome.” It’s less exhausting.

Exit Strategy Three: James Altucher

This man’s the best blogger on the planet. As an antidote to the allure of home ownership, I read Why I am never going to own a home again  when I feel myself faltering.

I love you, James. You’re the real estate industry’s worst nightmare.

Exit Strategy Four: Philosophy and Mysticism

Philosophers and mystics are generally wiser and more perceptive than most economists, real estate agents and mortgage brokers. As such, I seek their counsel when it comes to things such as love and beauty and mortgages. These people say profound things like, “There is only Now” and “Time is an illusion” and “There is no past and future” and “All is One,” etc.

So, if the past and future (which don’t actually exist) are both happening now (which doesn’t exist either) then maybe I’ve already bought a house somewhere in this non-existent temporal flux. And if I’ve already bought a house, then maybe I can relax because I’ve probably paid off my mortgage and bought ten negatively geared investment properties as well.

Exit Strategy Five: Computer Goddess

I love my PC. I feel omnipotent. With one keystroke I can erase, delete and mark-as-spam all my real estate tormentors: Real Estate.com, New Property Listing newsletters from Dennis and Wendy and the weekly market updates from Donna and Brent. My inbox is much more congenial without these evil-doers and their enticements.

Bonus Exit Strategy

Now that I no longer spend hours on-line looking for properties to inspect and then many more hours actually inspecting them, I have time to do much more constructive activities such as watch stand-up comics on You Tube — especially George Carlin, Louis CK and Eddie Izzard – and visit friends and cook nice food for my family.

And one more thing. I borrowed a book from the library today. It’s called How to do Just About Anything. Instead of my usual high-stress-Real Estate.com-Freaky-Friday-afternoon-search for forthcoming auctions and open houses, I’ve learned how to do the Macarena and how to peel and cut a mango.

These exit strategies will never buy me a house (with the possible exception of Exit Strategy Four) but they’ll save me from GOMO, extreme debt and financial servitude.

And if you, too, are caught up in this property madness, consider a strategic withdrawal. Use some of my exit strategies or devise your own.

If we all do this, things might just start to make sense.


James Altucher.com
Grit Your Teeth and Go for It.

Housing blues in red-hot market, Sue Williams, The Age, November 9,2013

How to do Just About Anything, Reader’s Digest, 2012



About the author

Claire Bell is the health and wellbeing editor of Midlifexpress. She is the author of Stone Age Secrets for Mind and Body and Comma Magic. Print and ebooks available on Amazon.

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