Category: Housing

Where do I get started buying a house?

Buying a home – especially your first – can be both exciting and terrifying. How can you ensure that your search for the house of your dreams doesn’t turn into a house of horrors?

When my husband and I bought our first place, we felt in the dark – and came close to making a pretty big mistake. Fortunately, we learned a lot from the experience, and things worked out well in the end – we found a place we loved that suited our budget, paid off our mortgage in under 5 years, and that was what started our journey to financial independence.

But before we look at what you should do when getting started buying a house, let’s take a look at what to avoid: Continue reading “Where do I get started buying a house?”

Is it harder to buy a house these days?

Increasing house prices is one of the most frequently discussed – and worried about – topics.

One of the most fascinating items on display at the British Museum is a 13th century mortgage, carved into a stone brick.

Dated Sunday 11 June 1217, and written in Sanskrit mixed with the local dialect in Nagari script, the enormous brick records a mortgage against a loan. (I suspect that if you took out enough mortgages, you could build a house out of the mortgage bricks!)

Continue reading “Is it harder to buy a house these days?”

Do we need a spare room?

We are currently staying in the delightfully quirky ‘Hotel Re’ in Singapore, which, like many hotels, has a large ‘function room’.

It has often amused me that, by definition, function rooms are frequently the only rooms in a building with out any designated function until one is inserted into them. ‘Dining room’, ‘bathroom’, ‘bedroom’, ‘office’ are all obviously purposeful.

Of course, in homes, there’s often the ‘spare’ room – used for storage, for an occasional study, as an additional bedroom for guests. But how necessary can a room called ‘spare’ really be?

Continue reading “Do we need a spare room?”

Whose dream home is this anyway?

Imagine going to McDonalds and seeing someone – let’s call them Bobby – order a Family Favourites Dinner Box – four boxes of fries, four burgers, four Cokes, and a box of nuggets. It’s such a calorific meal, that even when shared between four people, each serving still contains over half of your entire daily allowance of kilojoules in a single meal. Bobby sits there, eats a tiny fraction of the meal, just enough to make up a single serving, and then throws the rest in the bin.

Why? It’s not like there weren’t plenty of smaller options on the menu. It’s not like there wasn’t a homeless person out the front who might have enjoyed a meal. It’s not like it was the least expensive option available – in fact, it was one of the most expensive.

If Bobby told you it was to look successful and fit in, you would most likely be perplexed.

Continue reading “Whose dream home is this anyway?”

How can I calculate my energy use and save?

We’re suckers for research, and enjoy running our home as a personal research lab. One of the biggest things you can experiment with is energy use. Reducing our electricity, water, and gas usage is one of those many intersections between frugality and conservation.

Before we started this experiment, our average usage was 8.22kWh per person per day (lower than the American average of 10.9kWh, but higher than the Australian average of 7.26kWh). I found this ridiculous, given the tiny size of our apartment, the fact that we don’t have airconditioning, a washing machine or a large fridge or a big TV or many other power-hungry appliances that a lot of households do. And we have (unmetered) gas for our cooking. Certainly, there are efficiencies of scale (a family of five and a single person both need to run a refrigerator, it costs no more for eight people to watch a TV than for it to have only one pair of eyes fixed on it). But perhaps the secret was buried in the design of our tiny apartment?

Continue reading “How can I calculate my energy use and save?”