Houses are expensive. No, scratch that, property is expensive. No wait, living is expensive. Let's be real here, life is expensive, just breathing costs money.
On TV, when people in reality shows (or in sitcoms) buy a house, it's normally a pretty happy affair. It's shiny, bright, and exciting. The scent of possibilities coats your screen. There's the scene of the newly married couple picking out wall colors, the wife smiling angelically at her husband.
Yeah, those rosy scenes lure you in. You can see the kitchen with the island in it, the large living room, the library. Or maybe you're the little cottage type, lost in thoughts of the small space surrounded by trees and a quiet sunny day. Buying a house is the dream, the thing you are meant to shoot for. Having a little plot of land to call your own, a place that is yours, that you can paint whatever way you want, decorate whatever way you want; hell fuck, utterly destroy if you want.
That rosy scene, and the feelings that accompany it, like much of the American Dream, is complete and absolute crap. What they don't tell you is that that happy new couple just took out the largest loan of their all too brief lifespans. The default mortgage timeline is 30 years. Thirty. Years. That's a third of your life time. You can become a parent, bury your parents, and quite possibly become a grand parent in that time. You are paying a literal fuck ton of money for an extremely long portion of your life. I'm not even sure if you can think in terms of 30 years, you'll have wrinkles and graying hair and who can picture that? But then you get one and it becomes the one true constant in your life.
But it's yours right? You spent all that money, you can at least enjoy customizing your house right? Ha. Nope. Nopenopenope. A big ol' nope walked into your dream house, trashed the living room, broke your toilet and left sugar all over the kitchen; ants hastily building their army, prepping for the glorious raid.
So there's this thing called zoning. As a person who majored in city planning, zoning is not new to me. It is a necessary evil, otherwise you end up with really fucked places and situations like people living next to industrial waste. I get it. However, houses are zoned, and to do things to your house, often times you need to apply to your city for a permit. Permits cost money, they aren't cheap, and they take time to go through all the proper channels. To avoid this, a lot of people just go ahead and modify their property without getting the permit. This generally ends in one of three ways:
A) You do the modification and if you're lucky, you won't have option B happen which then means you get fined, and you have to apply for the permit anyway, which if not approved, option B occurs anyway.
B) The city finds out and you have to tear the renovation down, or keep getting fined until you do, or get the permit. These aren't itty bitty baby fines, no, this is like $500/day (not ubiquitous, check with your city for actual numbers)
C) You leave it for the person whom you sell your house to deal with.
As the buyer, let me tell you, those third option people can fuck right the hell off. Fuck you, die in a fire. You see, in order for the buyer to BUY the house, it has to be appraised, and then the city finds out all the weird shit that has been going on in it. Then the BUYER has to deal with all the fines and permits, and the seller gets off scot free.
Yeah. That's a real thing.
On top of all that zoning shit, there's all the maintenance costs, as most places have issues like the roof has problems, the drywall is rotting, the foundation has shifted, etc. It just gets more expensive the older the house is. And well connected neighborhoods in the US have old ass houses.
Finally, there are the closing costs. Closing deserves it's own post. But suffice to say, add another $20k to your house cost.
You know what sucks? I went into this process knowing it would be the triple E (exacting, expensive and exhausting), but a lot of this extra crap came as a slight surprise. You spend so much time meticulously researching laws and permits and fees, that you just feel angry and scared and like you're being swindled at every turn. That's what makes me the most angry, that this period of my life, the act of moving into my first home and building a life there with my fiancee, a time that should be exciting and warm and bright and filled with possibilities is instead coated in long hours of not being able to sleep, kept awake by the thought of all that debt. Instead you're anxious, angry, scared.
But that's the American Dream. A nice thought, but ultimately a nightmare.