“This buying a house business, it’s a total leap of faith, a dive into the unknown. In ten years, it could all crumble. Not literally – at least I hope not – mind you, there is the scandal of the homes in Donegal built from defective bricks, mica bricks that explode after a few years, chunks of plaster come away in the middle of the night, kids kick a ball against an outside gable wall and off it comes in lumps, as though it’s made of shortcrust pastry, and the house falls down. Those poor people have discovered they’ve been living in a gingerbread house that’s not worth a penny. One chunky mortgage and all they have to show for it is a pile of dust. I’m not even going to think about that. Mica bricks: nightmare, game-over scenario.
“My first focus is the area: how do you know if it will stay good, or what the neighbours will be like? If it’s a new build, a new estate, then a whole new community will move in. Research says they’re likely to be more friendly than an older, established community, but what if they’re not? What if it turns into somewhere awful: anti-social problems, gangs, noise, street drinking, boy racers. You just never know how an area will evolve. You know all the pros, you know all the cons, but you don’t know which will come to the fore and which will come to naught. I know I’ve just said it, but I’ll say it again, it’s a leap into the unknown.
“Will the rooms be too small when I get my furniture in? Do I need a garage? Is the garden too big? Will I end up hating all that lawn and be better choosing one that’s flagged or decked at the back? Do bungalows sell on? Is that tree going come down in the next big wind and hit the house? Should I hold out for a fourth bedroom? Will the road traffic keep me awake at night? Will the cat get run over? What if they build in that lovely field out front with the views of the rolling hills? What if they put up a wind farm? What if it subsides, or a neighbour accidentally plants knotweed that creeps in under my foundations? What if there’s a sinkhole? What if the walls are thin and the insulation insufficient? What if the roof blows off?
“It’s like Pringles, once I think of one question, then another comes, and another and another. Once I start, I just can’t stop. Do I need a driveway that will hold two cars? Is there enough storage? Would I need to rip that kitchen out or could I get away with painting the units? Could I be bothered painting units? What if I start painting the units and run out of steam and in five years’ time half my kitchen is faded pine and the other half is apple green undercoat and I’ve grown completely blind to it and all my visitors are too polite to say, ‘what’s going on with your kitchen?’
“When you think about everything that could go wrong, who in their right mind would buy a house? How do people do this? How do they decide? How are they not overwhelmed by the enormity of the life choice before them? How do people not climb into their wardrobe, pull the door, and read a book by the light of their mobile phone? I wonder is anyone else tempted to do that, or is it just me? I just want to get it right. I want to make the right choice. I don’t know how.”
There was more, if I could remember I would put it down. She had enumerated more possible disaster scenarios than the sparkiest ideas-generation creative writing workshops I’ve been to. If she could think of it, then it might happen. Risk analysis paralysis.
“I’ll tell you what,” I said, impulsively deciding to share what I had been thinking as I listened to her catastrophe catalogue. “When I was proposed to, when he fell on one knee, when he produced a certain sized box from his pocket, pretty much everything you have just said (except you must change every house problem to a relationship problem) ran through my mind in about 1.5 seconds. My stomach lurched, I had pins and needles in my extremities, a sudden onset of dizziness came over me, I was certain my pupils had dilated to cartoon proportions, I had to force my mouth closed, and I felt as though a rip current was pulling at my ankles. But it wasn’t the moment to put my spin dryer thoughts to words. I had about two more seconds to say yes or no, to take the ultimate leap into the unknown. Life cannot be lived according to scored and weighted appraisals neatly presenting us with and constraints and risks and uncertainties. We’d not leave the house if we knew the full picture. Sometimes you just strap on the safety harness and hurl yourself into the unknown. You can sell a house, not a husband. And houses are like husbands: there will be good bits and bad bits about them, and if the good bits are good enough then the bad bits will become quirks that you’re more than happy to live with. My advice: once it ticks a few boxes, pick one and go with it. Don’t hang around. Just leap.”