Millenials, do we even want to own homes though?
“There’s nothing like the feeling of walking in to your first home” our mortgage broker sighed wistfully, as he pushed the hefty piles of paper towards me for my signature.
But as I walked into my newly purchased property, exhausted after scrubbing my disgusting, cockroach-infested old rental to the bone, I only felt confusion, apprehension and fear.
I am that rarest of creatures, a millennial who, through hard work and many acts of God, owns her home. But when I come back to it at the end of the day, I don’t feel young – I feel old and tired.
This week, another property mogul – Tim Gurner, this time – has said young Aussies should give up their creature comforts and knuckle down to save for a home. But as I lie awake at night in the home I’ve already bought, considering the crushing mountain of debt I have built, I often wonder – why the hell did I do this to myself?
So I own a piece of ground – I mean, great, I guess. From the second I bought the damn thing all it’s demanded of me is more money. There’s rates and renovations and responsibilities pounding down my door all over the place. A lot of the time I reckon I’d rather be with my mates who rent, pounding schooners at the pub – and not just because my partner, our two dogs and I are constantly at each other’s throats in such close quarters.
Rather than living the Aussie dream, I have a rising feeling I’m just a victim of it. And a dumb one at that, because I worked incredibly hard to be here.
Unlike so many fantastically knowledgeable billionaires, I tell the secrets of my success to anyone who asks, for free, without requiring attendance at thousand dollar seminar held in a cheap hotel. I partnered up young, we hardcore saved with two incomes – and even with all that, the bank of mum and dad had to come through with a loan.
As a property reporter and as a millennial I completely understand the outrage that builds every time some white dude with daddy’s money tells us all to knuckle down and give up life’s little luxuries to purchase a property. I mean, I did it, and I know how hard it is. How impossible it is for people who, unlike me, can’t borrow money from family. How impossible it would have been for friends who own property if they couldn’t have lived at home while they saved a deposit.
Everyone deserves a good whinge and I’m always happy to listen to friends struggling to buy. But often when I hear one of my mates lamenting the state of the property market, quietly running through in my head the average house prices for the suburb where they currently live, I quietly think to myself: “are you sure you want my life?”
Sure, you could give up literal joy and get a foot on the property ladder, and it would (apparently) set you up forever. But is it worth, like me, only really beginning to live at some distant point on the future?
I get it, older generation, when you say that buying anything is about sacrifice. I’ve always been a saver. I eagerly tucked away the $6.75 an hour I earned at my first job when I was 14, and at every other poorly paid job I had through university, and at every poorly paid job I’ve had since. I wore hand-me-downs from my middle sister and shopped at Vinnies well into my mid-twenties. I turned down nights out, holidays, meals – I’ve never seen free food, or a free tote bag, I haven’t nabbed.
I figured it would all be worth it, when I could plunk down my 10 percent to own some bricks and mortar.
But there’s something I didn’t quite realise about owning a home. Something they never seem to include in the “young tycoon buys suburb” style write-ups boomers love to forward to us 20-somethings.
Even after you’ve scrimped and saved, you just get to do it some more – and especially when you’ve just scored a Sydney-sized mortgage.
I get that I’m an idiot for not realising this sooner – I’m sure all the boomers will call me a millennial snowflake, or a straight up moron, and in some ways I agree. But even boomers, I think, can see the downsides to the home ownership dream, in their day and in the present day. If many of them were in a modern man or woman’s androgynous loafers, staring down a million dollar average price, and could have seen in a crystal ball all the things they’d be giving up to own a home, would they still have plunked down the dosh?
I’m not so sure I would.
The three grand or so I pay every month to the bank is the money I would be using to explore the world, to actually go out on a date with my partner, to take even a minute off from working and side-hustling.
But I don’t have that money. The bank does. All my dreams are on hold ‘til I’m older.
Don’t get me wrong, other millennials. I can already hear you. “You already own a bloody home, you don’t get to whinge.” Fair crack. It’s not that I don’t understand the supreme privilege of my position. I promise that along with being ambivalent, I’m also grateful. I know that I am basically a unicorn. A unicorn who lives in a falling down one-bedroom house, but singular all the same (yes, I swear, it’s a house with one bedroom – nobody will ever believe me that it’s a real thing).
But in so many ways, I’ve traded my youth for it.
I’m not saying millennials shouldn’t keep raging – we should. We’re being gaslit by the older generation, who bought homes when uni was free and wages were rising and when the city wasn’t so sprawling that a “budget suburb” meant a two hour commute to work.
And I’m not even saying that boomers shouldn’t keep telling us to save money for things we want – though it’s time they admit that the property market is fundamentally different than it was when they were younger.
I’m just saying that it’s time we stopped pretending that saving for a home is the only hard bit, and that there isn’t more to life than just getting your hands on a plot of land.
Millenials, I say ignore the boomers and enjoy spending your money on whatever you damn well want.
Like me, they’re probably just jealous.