The town I live in boasts around 25,000 people – that’s in the city proper – if you take in all the outlying areas there’s many more – in Europe one small city is never very far from the next.
Thomas and I have been house-hunting for over a year now, and so far, no such luck. I can count on one hand the number of houses I’ve actually considered as serious possibilities. So here’s what I’ve discovered about house-hunting in a small Austrian town.
The market is very slow
Houses are often passed down through generation to generation, often with multiple generations living together, which means new houses on the market are infrequent – usually pushed there by death or divorce.
Many of them are massive
I just want, you know, three bedrooms and maybe a small study, a kitchen-cum-lounge, two toilets if possible, somewhere to park two cars under cover with a reasonable patch of grass, preferably not on a steep incline. Many houses here are actually designed for two families, and it’s not uncommon for married children to be living with their parents… albeit on a different floor in a separated living space! For us, with our current two person family and x-number of maybe-children/dogs, we just don’t need 5 bedrooms and 250m².
You don’t buy a house as a stepping stone
In Australia, it’s pretty common to buy a smaller house to start with, or one on the outskirts – maybe do it up a bit with the plan to sell it in a few years and upscale. Here, people seem to buy giant houses, expand their families inside and then keep it forever – well until death or divorce.
Sellers are often private
So often the guy showing you around his house has built it himself (or his father, or grandfather) and you get a complete in-depth tour. There are no open houses where you can just wander round or just have a sticky beak! This may be time-consuming, but it definitely gives you a better feel for the house you’re thinking of buying. And often the private seller is happy to accept an offer on the spot, regardless of whether or not more people may be scheduled to look at it and potentially offer more money. First in, first served.
Sometimes it’s a case of who you know
Like many jobs, sometimes the best houses aren’t even advertised. Which is why we’ve told everyone we know we’re house hunting and often receive calls from friends when they hear a whisper on the wind.
And so the hunt continues
It’s been sometimes enjoyable and sometimes frustratingly annoying. We’ve been to massive homes that would require CB radios to communicate with one another, renovated oddities that served the purpose exactly of the previous tenant but are useless for anyone else, houses rejected simply because we deemed the driveways too steep in winter snow, and cheap houses that we just can’t fathom the amount of DIY that would be required.
Have we found the perfect house? We’ve come close. And we know that we can’t wait forever for it – because it probably doesn’t exist. We might have to create our own perfection in an at-first not-so-perfect place. But right now, we have time. Our small apartment holds us well and as nice as it would be to have more room – we can hold out a bit longer for the right one, whatever or wherever that might be.