Monday, October 23, 2006

The best of both worlds

Paul and I have been homeowners for over 7 years now, and we're both very fond of our house in the States. Granted, we've experienced our share of typical homeowner issues; flooded basements, leaky ceilings, carpenter bee infestations and the like. Each time we've shelled out a chunk of cash for a service call, we've moaned about the high cost of owning property (ditto when the tax bill, with its intevitable annual hikes, arrives). But the costs are outweighed by the benefits, and we feel very lucky to own such a comfortable, attractive piece of property in an area where we can raise our children in relative safety and privilege. That house means a lot to us, which is why we decided to rent it out while we were abroad rather than selling it outright. We're comforted by knowing that our home will be there waiting for us whenever we decide to return.

In many ways, it's felt like we were going backwards, moving into the London rental property we now inhabit. It doesn't particularly bother us that the space is smaller (in some ways, one-floor living is very attractive with young children). But the fact that we don't get to make our own decisions about wall colors or lighting fixtures and the knowledge that this place is only transiently "ours" is a little unnerving after so many years of living in a house that we own.

Despite the attitude adjustment that this transition has required, being here has also turned out to be surprisingly freeing. It's taken us 7 years to furnish our house, and we're still not through. We debate and discuss and delay through each agonizing decision involved in making our home our own. Not so here, where we've essentially furnished our entire abode in under a month. No red couch in stock? Fine... we'll take the tan plaid. Let's move on. The double bed is unavailable? Congratulations, Julia... you've just been upgraded to a queen size. Let's all go get some lunch. The whole thing has been relatively painless, dare I say even a bit fun, because we know it's all temporary. We expect to leave this all behind in a few years, so why waste time arguing over what kind of wood finish we prefer? Take whatever's in stock and let's go see some sights. In the end, our flat seems to be shaping up quite nicely. Won't it be ironic if we end up preferring some of the impulse purchases we've acquired here to the items we've so carefully researched and obsessed over back home?

This past week, we had a plumber in to look at one of the toilets in our flat, which is not flushing quite right. He tinkered for a bit and then came back with his assessment; this would be a complicated and expensive problem to fix. My automatic response when he said this was the familiar "there goes the slush fund" gut clench I've experienced so often when speaking to plumbers in the past. But Paul laughed when I told him about the situation. "It's not ours, so it's not our problem," he reminded me. Yes, I'll probably have to harass the landlord for weeks to get this issue taken care of. But the headache of paying for the repair belongs to someone else.

I was beginning to feel pretty giddy about this whole transient living thing. "We've got the best of both worlds," I thought smugly, "hassle-free living now and a home to return to in the future." Feeling smug, I should have realized, is never advisable, because it's never a good sign of what's to come. Not even a day later, I received an email from our tenants back in the States. Seems that in a great big flush of karma, the toilets aren't operating properly there, either. A plumber will need to be called again. This time the cost will be ours.

Yep, we've got the best of both worlds, alright. A toilet that doesn't flush correctly, no right to authorize the repair work required to fix it, and a plumber's bill for toilets that we're not even using right now. And that, people, is a shitty situation in every sense of the word.


Blogger Dana said...

Oh Rebecca. I laughed over this: "Won't it be ironic if we end up preferring some of the impulse purchases we've acquired here to the items we've so carefully researched and obsessed over back home?" And cried over the toilets. What irony.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous C said...

Oh, dear. Would you like M to take a look at the potties at the house? He is rather good with them....

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took a bet on how long it would take for you to write this post. Seriously. You won, by the way. Owning a home and renting one at the same time? Totally a recipe for a headache, in my book ;-)

6:56 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Forgive me for giggling toward the end, there? Pretty please? ;)

Happy plumbing...ack.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

You have my sympathy. Entirely. We flooded part of our kitchen last night when one of the upstairs toilets over flowed. There's always something to fix in a home.

The timing of your story is ironic, though, as if all the toilets in the Northern Hemisphere are going on strike simultaneously.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Rosemary said...

I love the karmic aspects to the story -- and so understand. Owning a summer place that we've always rented, I've often experienced the frustration of home upkeep that seems to outweigh the revenue received.

The whole one story living thing with young kids -- absolutely! We had a handyman special house when the kids were young and we pretty much lived on the 2nd floor while we renovated the first. Rolling the kids from dinner to bath to reading and bed was *so* easy and a huge relief for a working mom.

9:20 PM  
Blogger christine said...

sounds like a dodgy plumber.
In london there is only one place i use called 4cs. In my eyes they are the only plumbers. london is a big place and has a lot of companies and some are only out for a quick buck.

good story, made me laugh.

11:55 AM  

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