Is moving house worth it?
Think of a number between one and three. Then add six noughts to it. Now you’ve got a fair view of the cost of buying a family home in Luxembourg.
Most likely it will be a Lego brick disguised as a house if it’s a new build, probably located worryingly close to a river. Otherwise expect to completely gut some seriously 1970s décor (think here hessian wall paper and lots of stone cladding).
This was the stark reality when during the first lockdown, we decided that there wasn’t enough space for us in our hitherto perfectly adequate house. Most pressing, one bathroom and two teen girls do not make for a happy family.
I had almost given up after two years of house hunting in a net catchment area of 20km. Anything decent was snapped up, and the same dilapidated old houses kept appearing on property sites for more money. We were all but priced out of the market, and we weren’t even first-time buyers.
So imagine my delight when I found the perfect house, at an eye-watering price that we might just be able to afford, if we sold a couple of kidneys.
20 minutes for a lifetime decision
In Luxembourg you get 20 minutes to rush through a house before the next potential buyer arrives. It’s a clever system. On the spot, you have to decide if you will bid, and what the magic number will be, or risk losing the property. No structural survey, no chance to see if the oven works, the windows open, and the toilets flush. Just a six-figure sum scrawled on a legally binding document.
So in a snap decision we made an offer and a few hours later it was accepted.
After the initial elation came the utter panic. We would be paying this mortgage into our late 70s – that is if we made it that far.
In less than a week, we were sipping coffee at the estate agents, signing something more official, and getting some sobering feedback on what price we might expect for our humble home.
Preparing to sell involves serious cleaning
I keep my house clean, but I don’t spend my weekends scraping the tile grouting in the shower. I also like to stash empty boxes that once held appliances, electronics or toys. And my wardrobe still contains a sizeable number of items that will never fit me again.
With under a week to prepare for photos (the de-clutter bit) and a few days more until we welcomed potential buyers (the scrub everything part), the Marie Kondo system was too time-consuming. I didn’t stop to see if anything sparked joy. I ran a crack squad military operation involving bin bags and spray guns.
I got to know the guys at SICA so well I thought they'd ask me to start paying union fees, or at least invite me out for a drink on Friday night. I knew exactly which items went in which skips - old computer screens, dry paint tins, and hundreds of empty boxes.
“A hallway is for coats and shoes, not bookcases,” said the estate agent, inspiring us to haul said bookcases into the storage room. My back has been screaming at me since then.
To declutter each room, we shoved everything into the wardrobes. One false move during a viewing, and there would be a landslide of socks, pyjamas and toiletries.
Then came the dreaded conversation with the bank.
Will interest rates rise?
Why is it that when you ask your bank about interest rates, they say they can’t advise you. I thought that’s what banks did best? Instead, I put my trust in Christine Lagarde and her announcement pre-Christmas that interest rates in the EU would not rise dramatically before 2025 (she has subsequently changed her mind I see).
Then came several sleepless nights in which I wondered if the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England had got it wrong. There was no denying inflation and fuel prices were on the rise. Should we extend our fixed mortgage?
At this rate, we would finish payments in time for the first instalment on our burial plot.
In the end we cashed in all our savings, checked under every bed (nothing, sadly) and asked relatives for an advance on birthday money for the next 20 years.
I promised myself that after the unexpected anxieties of 2020 and 2021, I would have a mindful and stress-free 2022. At no point did this include shackling myself to an enormous mortgage and spending every spare moment at the recycling centre.
But here I am – on the move again. If there is a life lesson to be learned from all of this – it is that I should have drafted a strict bathroom rota.
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