House Hunters International, Billfold Edition: East London, Vol 1
Normally I’d never have started dating someone who lived that far away. Of course, people deal with long distance relationships all the time; dating someone who lives on the other side of London isn’t necessarily a big deal. But when I discovered this guy lived a solid hour and a half away from me, still in London but at the far end of an unusually fidgety train connection, I won’t lie: I was thissss close to calling the whole thing off before it even started. I mean, back then I was the kind of person who would regularly go weeks without leaving East London, the gritty, fun area that’d been my home for seven years and and the only place I really wanted to be.
What happened instead was that this guy and I got along so amazingly that instead of the 90 minute trek breaking us, we got married after knowing each other only four months. Yes, that’s nuts and you shouldn’t do it, and yes, it was a brilliant idea. There was only one thing that was less than ideal. Because I rented while my new husband owned his flat, it made sense for us to live there at first. So I did something I never thought I’d do: I moved to the far reaches of slick, dull West London.l
Fast forward to today, a year and some later, and we are preparing to put this right: we are buying a place in East London.
The reason I’m starting this house hunting diary with this little love story — that of me and my guy, plus of me and my hood — is because it’s the only reason I’m doing this. I really, really, really want to go home.
The cards are stacked against us. We want to buy in a “cool” area of one of the most expensive cities in the world. The latter fact has affected our ability to save. Plus, we’re both freelancers and banks really seem to hate that. We could rent of course, but we have an opportunity to buy, something we’ve all been told is a “good thing.” It seems silly not to at least to try, right?
Now that we’ve just started dipping our toes into the property hunting pool, I’m intermittently super-excited: we could be moving soon! And then come the moments where I’m pretty sure hate everything in the world. Now, before you make a voodoo doll of me and stick pins in it for daring to complain about a process I’m so bloody privileged to even be contemplating. I KNOW. I’m a lucky bastard. My only defense is that almost everyone who has done it will tell you that buying property is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. It’s madly bureaucratic, brutally expensive, and endlessly time-consuming. I want it done, but at this point I’m pretty sure I have more control over the weather.
At first, I tried to be indifferent, breaking down the process into steps like a tedious yet worthwhile work project. This worked for a few weeks, until I succumbed to the curse that will get everyone who tries to buy property: I became a bore who could talk of nothing else. So much time! All that money! Sooooo many feelings. Meeting with friends right after viewings became dangerous, as I’d go on about transport connections and potential kitchen renovations until their eyes started to water. I’ve stopped doing that now, more or less. It helps to have an elastic band around the wrist to snap when the urge sets in.
So that’s where we’re at right now. My husband and I were sitting in a pub after seeing a couple of terrible properties the other night, trying desperately to not talk about house hunting and enjoy Friday night like normal people. We were sipping in exhausted silence when my phone pinged with a message from a friend, who I had forgot to respond to earlier that day. I quickly tapped back: “I’m sorry. I need to be excused: I’m house hunting and I no longer know who I am.” My friend, who’d gone through the same process last year, responded immediately: “You’re excused.”
To Be Continued!