This could be a terrible mistake

The Swede and I should buy a house.


The jury seems to be out on the fiscal security offered by home ownership in Perth. Scott Pape’s Barefoot Investor often reflects that bricks-and-mortar is for the starry-eyed who believe in the Great Australian Quater-Acre Dream. My mate Alana swears by the rule  “shares not shoes”. Presumably this financial plan also extends to “shares, not shingles”, as she lives in Europe, where a quarter-acre block equals a hobby-farm. Alana is much smarter than I, and used to do complex mathematical equations on butcher’s paper for stress relief when we lived together as undergrads. (The butcher’s paper meant she didn’t have to turn a page to review the sums, apparently.)

On the other hand, I read Douglas Adams books and smoked.

The Swede, who likes to think he subscribes to a European lifestyle despite recently securing Australian permanent residency thanks to some drone in the bowels of DIAC with a rubber stamp who slapped “approved” on our hard-earned 882 partner visa application, is probably less driven on this subject than I. (Yes, I appreciate that sentence was disjointed. Stay with me here. It’s not like I’ll be getting a stack of readers anyway.)

He’s happy with the central business district warehouse dream we are living, where Perth’s once-dead heart is slowly lumbering into something akin to vibrancy. Despite the fact almost every worthy store in King St has gone bust since we moved in…

Over the past year or so, we have studiously saved something resembling a 20 per cent house deposit. Or a luxury car. Or a really, really extravagant holiday. Or a year off work. Or a LOT of shoes. Presumably, we should probably do something with it.

Despite all the doomsday yarns in the Slimes and print property sections, the hard-luck stories of mates who bought a land package in a suburb I’ve never heard of, and Scott’s weekly rant about dodgy property investors peddling the dream, I can’t bring myself to put this money into something I will never see or experience.

Even the Slimes column today by News Ltd’s National Economic’s Editor Jessica Irvine talks up the relative benefits of renting and compares the Australian rate of home ownership to the financial basket-cases of Spain and Greece – and she’s not even in WA. Reading it, yet another pang of uncertainty shot through, feeling not quite, but almost entirely, unlike a stubbed toe. Not to mention the personal affront that I do not somehow conform to the “Generation Rent” moniker she has happily slapped upon 20- and 30- somethings… those in the grey area between Gen X (me, as a child of ’79) and Gen Y (like my mate Jess, a child of ’86).

A house deposit worth of blue-chip stocks, or an investment property that’ll end up rented out to losers who will just break the hot-water system, just seems… smart but boring.

Like the column in the Herald Sun commuter mag mX headed “Boring but Important”, where they run snippets about the American debt ceiling or the GST carve-up, that’s where buying Dominos and Berkshire Hathaway and Coca Cola shares would fall. Australian home ownership, I guess, is more a headline act, but could end up crunched as a brief in the “Doom and Gloom” column, alongside Indian rail crashes that kill 1300 people and Italian cruise ship liners that sink.

Incidentally, the Swede is uncertain about this blog palaver. So exact details will be on the vague side I guess.


4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Speaking of city becoming revitalised, a friend of mine (who is an owner of Ezra Pound and Love Thy Neighbour) is trying to get a funky little bar up around the corner from us. If it’s the sort of thing you’d support, you can lend your yay vote here –

  2. Tough call, but if it helps I saw your old place in the Sham up for sale again last time I was there. Perhaps you could buy that… though the commute might be a little tricky.

    I reckon if Australia does go down the impossible to own route we also need stable long, long term rentals like they have in some places in the US and Europe. If not I think ownership still has it over renting just in knowing you can’t be evicted and if you want a green spare room you can bloody well have one. Incidentally green paint tends to dry quite a lot darker than it appears on the tin!

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