The Adventures of Alan: When Buying A House, Do Not Pass Go!
By Alan Hancock
Illustration by Peter Clayton
I don’t know if I’ll ever own my own house. My friends and I are all reaching that stage in life where home ownership is supposed to be at the very top of your list of priorities. A few of them, to their credit, have managed to get their feet on the ladder. For me, however, the thought of buying a house seems like a frighteningly adult thing to do. It’s just one step down from starting a family or having the guts to request that a group of teenagers stop loitering in the emergency exit of your workplace.
These are the things that change people.
Once someone purchases a house, their whole conversational repertoire broadens to include in depth analysis of financing, bank procedures, what role solicitors and estate agents play in the process and they absolutely have to tell you about it. It’s like adulthood is a video game and they’ve just levelled up.
Not long back, I bumped into an old mate who couldn’t wait to run me through all the building work he had planned for his newly mortgaged home. You see, they got it under the asking price so now they’ve got a bit of money spare to knock a wall through, get the kitchen done and build an extension. He told me about work specifications, council requirements and permits. I just stood there smiling and nodding blankly like a child recently introduced to algebra.
“It sounds great! It’s like maths but with the alphabet. What does it all mean though?”
I’m completely ignorant when it comes to the mechanics of the housing market in a shockingly childlike way. I don’t even view the acquisition of property as climbing a ladder. For me, it’s like going around the Monopoly board and I was never good at that. It’s just one massive, unending game of Monopoly; the game that everybody hates and yet somehow, is still extremely popular.
Rather like life itself at times.
You’d love to be able to afford even one tiny green house on Old Kent Road but you can’t afford it because your Dad has erected a hotel on The Strand and his exorbitant rents have you nearly bankrupt. How did he get that hotel? That’s right, his dice fell kindly and a Community Chest gifted him an inheritance windfall that paid for it.
He’s used all the knowledge that Homes Under the Hammer has given him to gentrify Euston Road so that seconds after receiving your £200 for passing Go, you’re paying it back out again and your Mum has monopolised utilities and transportation so between them, they have the board sewn up. With each successive trip around a two dimensional London you’re paying through the nose to live and commute and they’ve somehow managed to morph themselves from loving parents into vulture capitalists with an unsettling ease.
My sister and I learned quickly that the longer the game goes on, the safer it is in jail. How’s that for a life lesson?
I’m not sure if that extended metaphor makes a good point or whether I’m just bitter about all those losses, either way, buying a house or playing Monopoly is a huge commitment with an emotional toll that I don’t feel fully prepared to face right now.
To read more Adventures of Alan, click here.