September 26, 2021 Daniel Pleșa

Buying a house – the path to self awareness


Buying a house it’s an important decision for most people, and this process forces you to look into the plans you have together, get to know each other better and hopefully deepen the relationship. It’s a bit ironic to me that there is a rigorous financial check done before buying a house, but there rarely is an emotional check, between the partners.

Where you live influences a lot about your life: where you’ll work, how you spend your time off, who your friends/neighbours are, how many kids you can have and when, even how often you get sick.
You can either choose where you live by buying a house, renting or building your own.
30 years ago in Romania for example, it was more common to build your own house, while nowadays the main option is to buy.

But the process of buying a house is in itself a personal rollercoaster. It can actually turn into one of the most powerful self-awareness tools, as well as deepen the relationship with your partner and help you establish a clear vision about your future.

My dad had a credo. “In life, you need to do 3 things: build a house, have a baby and plant a tree.”
Building a house usually came first. He’d earn some money, marry and then at the edge of the village or maybe in a different city, he’d go buy some land, and build a house.
He didn’t just delegate the building process, he was heavily involved in it, working side by side with specialised workers. This contributed to a great sense of satisfaction at the end, which translated into (i assume) a deeper more meaningful relationship with my mom.

This, however, was 30 years ago. Nowadays, building a house is not that common anymore, especially if you’re living in one of the big cities, where buying a house is kinda the only option available. (Ofc, renting is also an option, but assuming you don’t want to rent forever, there always comes a time when you want to look into buying).
But buying a house can be a crazy insightful process. On steroids. Let me tell you what we went through.

The process usually starts off with a need planted a while ago, like a seed, unnoticed, and grows until it reaches the surface. “We need more space”, or “I hate that noisy neighbour that always plays loud music exactly when we’re trying to fall asleep", or “I’m done with walking the stairs all the way to the 3rd floor”- reasons can be many. Let’s call this phase 1.

Once the need is acknowledged and agreed upon with my partner, we entered phase 2:
“We’re just looking”
We occasionally started sharing available houses on the market with each other, where I might share something almost double the price compared to what she had in mind, while she’s sharing houses that are far from the city center, but with a massive garden.

After a few of these exchanges, we had a talk and entered phase 3:
“We need to align on what we want.”

Sunday morning, we went for a coffee, and had this “housing” topic on our agenda. We wanted to align on the criteria for our new house, that’s important for both of us.

Few minutes (or hours) into the conversation, we realized it’s more than that.
We now entered phase 4:
“What do we want in life and where do we see ourselves in the next 10+ years?”

Now we’re talking! We realised we needed to discuss what's important for us, and WHY, letting her know that I really wanted a garden because that's what home feels like to me, while she lets me know that she wants 3 bedrooms because she wants 2 kids.
Oh boy...It's a lot, I know!

But once we reach what feels like a good agreement, we start viewing properties again, this time with fresh eyes. Sometimes we’re even communicating with each other only by eye contact while the agent explains the latest renovations, because we are aligned, and aware of each other’s needs and dreams.

Time for phase 5:
"We like this one, and we’d like to place a bid on it.”

During all these past house viewings, we played with future projections to see how our current life would (or not) fit into this new house. We compared houses and tried to give a certain score to location, size etc. We were overthinking, went through FOMO, we changed our mind after sleeping on it, we did infinite recalculations of what our *ehm actual *ehm budget is...

And finally we found a house that we both love. At the beginning of this process, we agreed that if its not a FUCK YEAH its automatically a NO, because every tiny aspect that might bother one of us now, it would become 10 fold over the years.
This one is a FUCK YEA!
We placed a bid. All we wanted here is to be ready to get the house without feeling we overbid while at the same time be ready to not get it without feeling we could've added more.

This will help reduce second thoughts afterwards by the order of magnitude.
We realised during this process that a new house most probably won't fix the problems we hope a new house would; it would actually make it worse, because previously we had the hope of a new house helping and now that reality is here hope is gone darling. Might sound quite pessimistic, but I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you find yourself in a similar situation, talk to your partner, and align before.

Looking back, now that we went through the process, and this time with a bit more self awareness, here’s how the story unfolded.
My wife and I wanted a bigger house primarily to have more space. This was mainly driven by me, because I felt the house we had was always fully cluttered. By going through the process of looking at different houses, talking to each other about the why behind our needs and preferences, we realised that in a bigger house, it would only be a matter of time until it would become full as well. Upon digging deeper, I realized that I actually need my personal space, it can be just a room or a corner, that is mine and I can keep untouched as i want. And because in the current house I don’t have that, I have the tendency to feel like the entire house is full of clutter, because I perceive the entire house as my personal space, for the lack of just a room or a desk of my own.

At the same time, she needs more space because most of the things she owns have a story behind them (either a gift from a friend, memorabilia from a place she traveled etc) to which she’s emotionally invested in and that's why it's difficult to let go of them right away. So she stores them in the house to “buy more time” for the emotional attachment to loosen its grip, and eventually to get rid of them.
So we went for a bigger house, but this time with a deeper understanding of each other's motives. And it wasn’t just about “more space”. It was about me having a personal, clutterless little office room, while she can have the freedom to store things before doing audits and getting rid of unnecessary items.