Some friends of ours in Prague went off house hunting this weekend. They are planning to buy a property out here, to live in for a few years, with the further potential to rent it out as and when they move on. A sensible investment decision.
But one which I don’t think I have the relaxed nature to make.
Whilst I accept that, with a favourable mortgage deal and buoyant property market, the financial benefits of buying in Prague are highly likely to outweigh renting, I cannot imagine ever understanding the legal or mortgage systems here well enough to be comfortable making that switch. It is an area where I fear the language barrier is great to overcome in the foreseeable future. My tax returns alone are enough to give me nightmares and leave me waking in the small hours worrying about whether I have sent the right forms to the right departments. Sometimes I have nightmares that I (and the financial adviser who sorts it all out for me) have got it wrong and the bailiffs come to take the kittens away in lieu of full payment. Whilst I am (just about) able to let that go with my tax returns, I don’t think I could chill out enough to do it with a whole mortgage. In my mind, the margin for error is just too great.
Anyway, I love where we rent at the moment. Property prices in central Prague are much lower than where we lived in London and our apartment is palatial in comparison. We have a reliable landlord who comes and fixes stuff when needed, and came around (twice) to explain the central heating system to me in November when I was cold and grumpy. It takes seven minutes for me to walk to work in the morning. This is all quite rosy.
I am aching to buy a house though. It must be that ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ thing. Somehow it has been drilled into my generation that the best thing you could possibly do with your hard-earned cash is put it into property. However, this is an emotional decision for me, rather than a financial one. I want to have a little house of my own. Where I can interior decorate to my heart’s delight, have feature wallpaper, pick out carpets and put up shedloads of pictures wherever I want.
The main problem (aside from the fact that neither of us have anything as helpful as a trust fund, or anything as sensible as vast pot of savings) is that I cannot decide quite where I would buy. I spend a lot of time fantasy house buying. I am not alone in this – I know a number of people (exclusively women, why is this?) who do the same. I am a global fantasy house buyer, obsessed with Foxtons, Primelocation and (more recently) Svoboda Williams. I have previously requested the further details of properties in places as far-flung as New York (both in Brooklyn and the Upper East Side), the Isle of Skye, California, St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, Wargrave, Wimbledon and Hackney.
Hubby pointed out the other day that the prices of some of the properties I was fantasy-viewing far exceeded any figure that we will ever spend on a house. I looked at him aghast…has he not seen the rules of fantasy house buying? There are no rules, no financial restraints and absolutely no reality check required.
The Czech property market is a great one for fantasy house buyers. Due to (rather sad) combination of economics, no “National Trust” equivalent and an incomplete restitution process, it’s full of tumble-down old castles and massive stately homes available at incredibly low prices. Will this in mind, I invite you to see the object of my most recent fantasy house hunt…
If an English (wo)man’s home is her castle, this could definitely be mine, thanks very much. This property dates initially from the 11th century, when it was a fortress, although most of it was converted in the 18th century. It has over fifteen bedrooms and 32,000 sq/m including grounds. Is anyone else thinking ‘house party central’?
It is, in my view, a snip at just over one million US dollars. I checked today and the equivalent sum could get you a large semi with garden and garage in Wimbledon, or a lovely but compact apartment on the Upper East Side with a balcony the size of a postage stamp.
Sadly, even in fantasy house buying, location is everything. Whilst perfect and practical in almost every other respect, this is almost an hour by train from my office. I do like a regular lie-in and for now at least, a seven minutes commute is something I will not compromise on.
The (fantasy) house hunt continues…