In 2018, my boyfriend and I started saving to buy our first house together, but never did I think it would become a reality in a world where the nation is wearing facemasks and Zoom is third wheeling every virtual date night.
I don’t know whether this was an impulsive decision, or one I’d built towards. I say this because we bought a house pretty much as soon as the housing market opened back up, which is pretty impulsive! But it’s not like we saw some kind of bargain – our dream home we couldn’t let slip away, or like we just ‘added to basket’ on RightMove. We’d had this in our minds for years.
The “Big Step”
The decision to buy a house was also packaged in with the biggest argument of our relationship in a multi-storey carpark, on our way to open our savings accounts – it nearly didn’t happen. Maybe it was a bad omen we ignored, that our house buying journey wasn’t going to be straightforward one. But we managed to resolve our issues over some peri-peri chicken and we began to save for our next big life step. It became our reality quickly but felt miles off back then as two early 20-somethings with part-time jobs.
Towards the end of Feb 2020, we were both still pretty happy living at home with our parents, but I wanted to make this happen. I was always on Right Move and although I didn’t have the funds or felt in the headspace to make that jump, I was definitely getting there.
Then lockdown hit and amongst the chaos and difficulty, I guess I reached for things that felt a bit happier. When I was furloughed in April, it felt like a blessing to have the time to reflect on what we wanted and to make proactive steps towards building that life. So, I started obsessing over financial stuff (well, Martin Lewis really). I taught myself things about mortgages, interest rates, LTV – all the stuff you should learn in school but don’t. I found myself spending my usual working day reading articles, forums and listening to webinars. I felt like I’d been given that time for a reason, and I felt fortunate.
Buying – excuse me, where is the manual?!
I’ll tell you now, the process is not what I expected at all. All the reading in the world cannot teach you how to take life-changing steps during a pandemic. It felt like we were the only people in the world trying to do it. As part of the “Google it” generation – imagine Google not even knowing the answers to your questions and professionals in the field not being exactly sure either. YOU’RE AN EXPERT – please help!
At every stage, it felt like we were being indirectly told to “hold off” but I had this driving force and my instinct was to push for this. I guess some people would say that’s your heart driving your head, but it felt like a bit more to me. It was like both my head and my heart knew it was meant to be and I had to be my own driving force, to make sure I achieved my fate. Although I don’t think I fully believe in fate? Puzzle me that one, maybe we create our own fate?
I guess I’m also driven because I’m hoping buying a house together will bring us a sense of “family” (bleh, cringe – I don’t say those things in real life). I’m not talking about 2.2 kids, a pet and all that you typically associate with “family life” (maybe eventually), but a space where we can have our own personal jokes, our own sentimental songs to play on repeat, cook the food we both love and share our worldviews and priorities.
I felt homesick, but not from a place, from a person, from him
Don’t get me wrong, my parent’s house is great and will always feel like my “home”. My boyfriend’s home is also so welcoming, but when (pre-lockdown) you’re spending half the week living in someone else’s space, it is disconnected from what you find comforting deep down. No matter how hospitable it feels or how good the Sunday roast is. I’ve come to the realisation that what makes my home special to me… the traditions, the smell and the mix of Motown and Trance music (thanks mum and dad), that’s what I want to create for myself. I want to start on my own terms, and I want this to be homely and relaxing for me and my boyfriend as a couple.
Whilst I felt a little like I knew the ending of a film and I was working backwards from this to get everything to fall in line, it took a lot more trust in other people than I expected. I only met the sellers estate agent once and he was wearing a facemask, opened the door and stood on the drive whilst we looked around inside. I left people I only know via email in charge of my life savings, my dreams and the biggest financial commitment I’ll ever taken on. In lockdown, I was missing out on the visual cues that would indicate I could trust someone – I don’t know what these people look like, or sound like, what their expressions or body language is like… but hey, here’s ALL my money! Mad.
Me & Him
Turns out buying a house is not easy to do when you’re social distancing from your partner, emotionally or practically.
Relationships have been impacted by lockdown in a lot of ways – I talked about this with a Counsellor as part of TLC’s broadcasts which you can see here. But basically, I had 11 weeks of not seeing my boyfriend.
Work commitments and family situations meant living in one household together just wasn’t going to happen for us. At first we tried to do a social distancing driveway chats, but that turned out to be harder than not seeing each other at all. I felt the gripping ache for what I was used to, I felt homesick, but not from a place, from a person, from him. So, we tried to talk or text less and reserve phone calls and Facetime for weekends. I couldn’t hear about a bad day at work, because I couldn’t give comfort and a hug like I would instinctively want to do. We also couldn’t easily guess each other’s mood over text throughout the week, as we were each living such different lockdowns, so meant conversations seemed fraught and filled with tensions. When in ‘normal times’ bickering would not start over how a sentence was phrased.
When it was announced that households could mix without social distancing, we still only met at weekends to limit interactions. But still, just being able to wake up next to him felt like my “normal” was returning and that was enough, I got half of the life I lived back. In this time, we managed to have a couple of weeks where we could go house shopping and it was lovely. We were excited about moving in together and it started to feel like we were making our home. Our “one household” home.
I felt a little like I knew the ending of a film and I was working backwards from this to get everything to fall in line
As I’d been a strong driving force behind this, I think that just a small lift that buying towels and cups gave us was great for my boyfriend. It allowed reality to kick in and space for emotions over this big life step together, instead of just communicating in bank accounts and paperwork over emails. We were Lucy and Rob again and not just Applicant 1 and Applicant 2. It also gave us our alone time back, to say what we really felt about the move without worrying our parents would feel they had an empty nest – we had time to be our truest selves together.
Lockdown has shown us that whilst we are capable of being alone and can thrive doing our own things, we love being together. I’d maybe say I’m an introvert and my boyfriend is an extrovert, but having our own space has been valuable to us in different ways. I’ve enjoyed not having to talk to people everyday and he’s enjoyed separate time so he gets excited about things to tell me. An excited vibe is contagious!
One thing I’m happy about is that I’ve learned a lot from this process.
Before my advice would have been - don’t make snap judgements, especially as big a decision as buying a house! But I did. I got the second house I saw on the same premise as when you flip a coin – you realise what side you want it to land on. I didn’t want to buy a house in lockdown, it’s been hard work and not at all practical, but did I want to hold off? No. I wanted to get things moving despite the obstacles and luckily, had the time to overcome them.
I learned… you need to stock up on printer ink! I didn’t realise how much I’d need to print and scan. You have to be pally with estate agents… turns out they’re much more accommodating if you’ve built a relationship with them. And also, don’t ever undervalue your family’s opinions, when you can get a parents second opinion – do it! I wish we could’ve had family view our potential new home, but we couldn’t have that option. I learned that nobody knows timescales and... that there is no magic ball that has the knowledge of if the housing market will boom or crash.
Moving forward, I’m just waiting for the last few things to fall into place to give us a completion date. To give me my next step, our next step, our “one household” home. I’m excited and apprehensive to be moving in with my boyfriend, a big step anyway, but even bigger to do after we’ve spent the most time apart, ever.
My boyfriend and I got together when we were 18 and, in a way, we have learned to be adults together over the years. In the weeks spent apart, we’ve been stripped of our adult lives because of lockdown and I’ve been separated from the person who has helped shape my adult self for so long. It’s like we’re 14-year olds again, spending time with our parents and going on the odd park walk with a friend.
I’m about to jump from a child to an adult and make a home. In a way, the separating of “households” in lockdown has maybe reinforced this whole thing. What is a household? What is a home? Who is your home?
I’m now more sure than ever that given the choice, I know what I want in my household and who I call home.