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Is there any pursuit that causes you to become so completely unhinged, as insanely competitive and as financially irresponsible as buying a house?
Gambling on horses might be the only illogical pursuit that comes close, but at least we are encouraged to feel reassured by the fact that buying property in the current lava-like market is no real gamble at all.
Unlike investing in shares or some other unexciting “securities”, buying a house involves dangerous levels of emotional involvement and a powerful FOMOA (Fear Of Missing Out Again) effect.
I imagine there must be people out there who go shopping for a house, fall in love with the first one they find and buy it without any stress or disappointment, but I’m yet to meet them. Perhaps they live in Woop Woop.
In our crazily competitive property market, the more commonly trodden path seems to be making offers on several houses, sometimes over several months and missing out on all of them because someone had more money or was willing to spend more of it than you.
If you’re particularly unlucky, as we recently were, you might attend an auction, go through the exciting/terrifying bidding process and then be pipped at the post.
This is an experience that makes me feel some sympathy for people who get almost to the top of Mount Everest, only to be told they have to turn back (still, you can climb that for as little as $50K – a relative bargain).
Finally, after picturing your new life in so many new houses and going to the point of mentally placing furniture, mapping out walks to local schools and coffee shops, basically moving in before you’ve made the purchase, you get close, again.
This time, you mutter to yourself – like someone who licks windows or obsesses over rings of power, as a hobby – “This time, it will be mine. Mine!”
And this is where your sanity steps out for a poorly timed stroll. Your desire to have the house, to win, finally, completely overwhelms the sensible part of your brain that knows there will be other houses, and they might even be available at better prices.
Unfortunately, at this point, usually helpful friends will step in to say hugely unhelpful things like, “if you really want it, it doesn’t matter what it costs, just pay”. Or, worse still, “don’t worry, even if you pay over the odds, in a year, you’ll have made that money back”. I’ve been half expecting: “could I interest you in this Ponzi scheme?” As well.
These scraps of advice are almost as annoying as the things you’ll say to yourself, like: “that’s it, there’s no way I’m paying more than X (where X equals a very large number) for this house; it’s just not worth it, no matter how much I want it.”
Only to find, a few short hours later, that you’ve bid, over the phone, well beyond that figure, as someone else who you’ll never meet – but you really hope actually exists – keeps pushing the price higher.
All the while, that non-sensical part of your mind is telling you that, no matter what it costs, you can’t miss out again.
I must admit, I’d like to blame this on my fevered and febrile male brain, which is unhealthily attracted to all forms of competition and winning, but if anything, I think my normally more sensible wife was even worse than me.
I can’t imagine any other situation in which we would throw so much money at something, in such a short amount of time, while using phrases like “knock them out” and “crush them” in reference to some other poor couple who, just like us, really wanted this particular home.
I’d like to tell you that this story had a happy ending, and it did, in a way, because we finally bought the house of our dreams.
Sadly, like many people who’ve done so in the past few fevered months, the overwhelming emotion when we got the good news was not so much elation as self-flagellation. “Oh my, what have we done?”
Fortunately, that has largely worn off now, and I can enjoy the feeling of success at any moment by calling up the Domain ad for our new home – with its glorious “Sold” banner – at any time.
Now we just need to sell our house …
This article was adapted from one originally published by Domain. It has been republished under a Creative Commons license.