My name is Francesca Button
I don’t age backwards, but I seem to do everything else backwards. First I had kids then I got married. First I went to work then I went to University. Now when everybody is keeping their cash together I decide to spend mine.
I bought a house yesterday.
Am I not worried about the recession? Yes I am and at the same time this recession has been a chance. Interest rates came down, my small nestegg did not dissolve or half in value as did the stocks of others, I could bargain on the house, because there were no queues of people offering more and the seller was eager to sell now.
I am buying the house, literally, while the ground it stands on remains the property of the town. Properties in Frankfurt remain expensive, so renting the ground rather than buying it and building or buying a house on it remains a valid alternative.
The one thing that was still holding me back was language. Not German, that I speak well even by German standards, no it was the “Fachsprache” – technical lingo used by Lawyers, courts and in contracts that was putting me off. I did not understand a word. But everybody pitched in: the lawyers, friends, the bank and my family. They pulled apart the language and paragraphs until I could see more clearly. Every possible protection is in place for buyer and seller. By the time I actually signed the contract, plus after a 4 hour long session with the Notary reading out the text and explaining it all, I was calm.
It will take a few weeks for the paperwork to process and the payment of the house is not due until it is all completed. I’ll get nervous again at various stages, but I can now see that the huge mountain of house buying is just a little bump in the road, that can be taken without falling, if you walk carefully. We listened to our advisors and learned from the mistakes of past generations and other countries.
I remember when many people in England, who bought a house like stocks and expected the prices to go up, but had agreed to flexible interest rates, lost their house and more, because they had speculated with the interest rates. This also happened in Italy. In Germany I have rarely heard this happen. Even people who are out of work can arrange with their banks to temporarily lower the payback, or have insurances that protect their ownership during times of duress. Our bank guarantees that our loan will not be sold off and even if this would happen you are protected by laws from unreasonable requests by new creditors. There are checks and balances everywhere. “Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser.” (Trust is good, control is better.)
Sometimes I get fed up with the check and balances. I ask myself if it were not great just to move around a country without having to reregister every time I move. I am amazed by stories of a person disappearing within the United States, who survived without valid papers and was not found out for twenty years. Why don’t we just trust each other? It sounds tempting. You are just you and all you can carry in a suitcase.
I look around. I have two children, a spouse, dreams of learning and hopes for change. I have parents who help me and who I can help. There are stories still to be told, to be carried on, lessons to be heard and developments to be made. If I left it all behind, who would I be?
There are many ways of turning over a new leaf and sometimes you can do that by staying in exactly the same place you are. I don’t blame checks and balances if I can’t.