Ask Alan

Should Caroline take the property plunge or continue renting?

September 2004


I'm 29 years old, single and have a well-paid job in a fairly large city. I feel that I'm at the stage where I should be thinking about buying my first house. However, I'm not sure that I want to commit to owning a property. My question is whether I should just carry on renting or take the plunge and buy somewhere. If so, where? In the city or somewhere outside where I'd have to commute but might get more for my money, perhaps a garden even? I look forward to hearing your view on what could be a life-changing decision for me.


Dear Caroline, the first thing that comes through as I begin this reading is that you are not nearly as committed to your job as you used to be. In the past, your career came first. You were driven to succeed and willingly worked all the hours you could possibly fit into any given week.

However in the past year to year and a half this seems to have changed. You've started questioning why you are doing this. And it's been building and building. In fact, I have you close to turning in your letter of resignation on two occasions. I sense you have it in your desk ready to hand in should it all become too much.

And so it's against this backdrop that I offer my insights regarding your property queries. First, it's coming through that you moved around a lot as a child. And you were always in rented property. You have always dreamed of owning and buying a place that will give you the permanency and stability - roots - you have longed for.

So, renting a property is no longer an option. Now with that said, I do sense that you have already mentally resigned from your job. However, you will need it to secure your mortgage. So, time is of the essence. Drag your feet no more!

The property you have found in the city does not meet your specifications - in fact to me it feels like it's on the outskirts. Also, I don't have it as having the "neighbourhood" feeling that you desired. Go back and check it out over the weekend. To me, it comes through as a ghost town.

Outside, the city I sense there are two properties you are considering. What strikes me as the primary difference is the size of the garden. Interestingly enough, I would say that the one with the smaller garden is the more expensive of the two. You are leaning toward the bigger, less expensive property. I would advise the other.

The bigger has the potential but will require more upkeep, maintenance. You don't, won't have the time for this. Additionally, the one with the smaller garden comes through to me as the one with the higher return on investment. You will get a higher resale value with this one. Most importantly, this one would be easier to rent out. And while you aren't thinking about this at the moment, you will be in six months time.

Regarding the commute, this is an interesting consideration. I must say that I do see you leaving your current job within the next four months. You will spend a couple of months pottering about the house and then I have you travelling.

At this point you will rent out the house. The house on the outskirts with the smaller garden feels very accessible - much more so than the one with the bigger garden. And the neighbourhood it's in, while not what you would have selected now, will have the feel you want in about five years. That's when you will be returning to settle down in it.

Good luck with becoming a property owner - and you're correct, you are in for some very big and very positive life changes!


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