Downer Payments


Someone, at 38 (not me because I’m not so, so old), just bought real estate for the first time. I was going to write “just bought his first home” but that may confuse people or lead them to believe he’s been living with his parents until this age. No, he rented, like most of us do – most of us except people who live with their parents to an unusually late age because they want to freeload until they can buy a home and skip past the renting stage of the path to adult mah-TOOR-it-y.

I share a lot in common with this person. We’re single (and as such single income), sans enfants, and terrified at the thought of being in debt. I think you can lump those all into “afraid of commitment”. The first two by themselves may make up “stuck in childhood” but I think the third adds some signs of sophistication as we understand the risks of money and that wealth and possessions are things we need to work for. We’re also heavy drinkers but that’s neither here nor there. (Or there, either.) What I don’t think I share with this person is the likelihood of owning a home by the time I’m 38.

I’m going to leave out some surrounding discussion on income inequality because that’s not a simple topic and I have more culpability for my financial position in life than I can blame on structural oppression, but suffice it to say that most people can’t, don’t, or won’t buy a home until they do so with a partner. The norm is to be a dual-income household, especially before children, when parents can trust children not to set the house on fire, and after children. Couples often rent together first, splitting the monthly property cost and saving up the rest (or at least one of them does, whoever’s not the bloody idiot) for a down payment not too far down the line. With automated mortgage payments now the norm, it can be timed to coincide with one person’s payday leaving the other’s take-home money for other things. Like further savings. For a better home. Or to fix all the fucking things wrong with the house that drove its price down to the level they could afford. As a single person, I wouldn’t have that second income to depend on.

So while my net worth, technically, kind of, has always been positive, it’s so ridiculously insignificant that I couldn’t think of buying a place to live until a full economic collapse…or, if the past six years still resonates with us, right before a full economic collapse. Remember how our grandparents used to say that when they were young they worked really, really hard for a couple of years and saved up all their money so they could buy their first house in full, with cash in hand? They were terrified of debt too, but didn’t have to save up half a million to buy a place to live.


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