I’m sitting among boxes. The white van we’ve hired is sitting at our new front door, empty.
Our new house is full, but our things are strewn everywhere.
There’s a huge amount still to do. Our sofas still have to arrive. Our bed still has to arrive. Our mattress still has to arrive. Then there are TV stands, lamps, bookshelves, wardrobes, dining chairs (and a table), toilet roll holders, soap dishes, shelves and the rest. Now we’re in, we keep finding things we need to fix.
I’ve previously always lived in rented properties. This is the first house I’ve ever owned. It is the first property I have to fully furnish. I have no experience or conception of how long that will take, or how much it will cost.
But I’m happy. My partner and I have been very lucky, in that – contrary to other writers who contribute words and frustrations to these pages – our house-buying journey has been reasonably frustration-free. The first house we viewed was the first we fell in love with. It was also the first house we made an offer on, and the first for which an offer was accepted. Now, it is ours.
I feel like the housing market in Aberdeen is advantageous at the moment, but I suppose that is always relative to what you want, where you want to be, and how much money you might have. When I first moved here, 20 years ago, a friend and I rented a two bedroom city centre flat for £350 per month. Imagine that.
Aberdeen then got much more expensive, and has since retreated. It appears to me now that the market has somewhat softened further, following Covid, as high interest rates push people to sell, and to perhaps move somewhere more remote, and cheaper.
I go into town most days via Great Western Road, where there appears to be a huge number of for sale signs on beautiful houses which cannot be shifted. The solicitor who showed us around the property which is now ours told us we would be the first to make an offer. Full of late Victorian character and situated in a quiet city centre street, but unsellable, until us.
As I understand it, this is not the case in Glasgow. It is certainly not the case in Edinburgh, whose high rent rates went some way to inspiring our house purchase in Aberdeen. “Why pay someone else’s mortgage?” Certainly not at that price.
I feel lucky – after 20 years of adulthood unable to afford a house
We’ve been moving for a few weeks, the white van currently at my front door representing the last push. We were in the fortunate position of not having to rush.
Having been in the less fortunate position of having to rush a move several times in the past, I’m glad I didn’t have to this time. It’s given us time to get to know the house, slowly.
I feel the weight of my privilege, knowing how hard it can be for so many others
We’ve been learning which doors stick and which floorboards creak. Trying to decide which imperfections we can live with and which will have to be sorted or repaired. When is a crack more than a crack? Will the furniture left by the seller “do for now”, or will it just, like everything else, become ours?
I feel lucky. I have spent 20 years of adulthood not being able to afford a house, and now I can. I feel the weight of my privilege, knowing how hard it can be for so many others.
I’ll try not to worry
Aberdeen teeters on the cusp of another energy boom, apparently. We shall see. Oil licences being promised doesn’t mean oil licences will be signed. No matter what the UK Government says, the world is turning toward renewables. For the first time, I ask myself: “What will this do to the value of my house?”
Will it keep the market buoyant and, one day, mean I might get slightly more back than I put in? Or will it send it soaring, leaving another generation unable to afford a more permanent home until they’re nearly 40?
Soon the boxes will empty, and books and shirts will find themselves on shelves and hangers. Everything will be tidied and straightened and sorted behind my front door: my very first. I’ll try not to spill on the sofa, and I’ll eyeball others if they don’t use a coaster.
And I’ll try not to worry if interest rates don’t come down, or if house prices don’t go up, and be comfortable in my house, on my street, in Aberdeen, which I feel very lucky to have.
Colin Farquhar works as a creative spaces manager and film programmer in the north-east culture sector