To Do (in) Life List Item # 19. Own real estate
A few months back when I started putting together my Life “To Do” List, I included this one almost as an after-thought. As an kid from a from a middle class American family, this step was just assumed. A lot has changed since I left California and now these predictions about our generation not achieving the same life style as our parents are really starting to hit home. I wasn’t as shocked as some at the outcome of last years’ crisis, in part because I’d already accepted that I had set myself back more than just a few years by moving abroad and starting over from scratch. But I still figured I was bound to get there someday.
Over here in Germany it’s also a bit different. The German version of “The Dream” is to build a house, plant a tree, have a stammtisch and sire a son. But also prominent is the idea that you might skip the whole home-ownership thing and rent your whole life. In fact, in the major cities it’s usually more expensive to own and live in your own home vs renting.
In our case, what has really stood between us and owning an apartment though has been the uncertainty of where we’ll be in 18 months. Financial issues aside, it just hasn’t seemed worth it to go to all that trouble for something we would have to turn around and sell in a few years.
Then it finally dawned on us: We do know where we’ll be, at least twice a year, on vacation. In Austria, tucked away in Carinthia is an alp with a little local ski resort where Oliver’s family has been vacationing for over 35 years. Their small apartment, about a 3.5 hour drive from Munich, was our escape whenever we needed some roommate-free time alone. It was where he took me, straight from the airport, when I arrived for my first visit*.
The idea finally occurred to us when we were listening to a friend, in a similar situation, who had just shelved house-hunting in favor of renting, choosing instead to invest in a vacation apartment. With his family growing (at last count, three kids), they were facing significantly increased travel costs just to take a weekend vacation. When they learned their favorite hotel was building bungalows, they jumped at the opportunity to buy one. The hotel would even rent and service the apartment when they weren’t there, allowing them to offset a lot of the costs.
That turned the lightbulb on over our heads.
On our next trip to Austria, we asked around and immediately got a tip about an elderly couple that were looking to sell. The apartment was almost exactly what we were looking for. It was on the right floor, right size, had a great view from the balcony, and was in Oliver’s parents’ building. We’d actually hoped for an old moth-eaten place we’d have no problem ripping apart, but unfortunately this one is in perfect vintage condition. It’ll hurt a little to tear out such lovingly-maintained interior, but we’ll get over that.
From idea to reality, not a whole lot of time has actually passed. The previous owners spent one last farewell vacation in their beloved apartment of 40+ years and handed over the keys in November. This year, for the first time, the whole family, including my parents, spent Christmas and New Years in the Alps, and Oliver and I had our inaugural stay in our new apartment.
So this one gets crossed off the list, a lot sooner than I thought it would be, and in its place I’m putting the renovation, that’ll be another first and a pretty big undertaking.
Yay! I’m pretty excited about this little place and what we’ll be doing with it this year. I feel a bit more like I belong there now, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved in life on the mountain. I’m definitely “still foreign”, but less of an outsider.
PS: I keep mentioning the view and it really can’t be stressed how much it defines the beauty and character of the place. All the hotels and huts are centered around it. My pictures don’t do the place justice. My parents, with their ever present iPhones, kept trying to capture it, but I don’t think they did better than me. When I posted a series of pictures on facebook, my brother wrote and asked me, ‘Why is Dad flipping off the sunset?’
Maybe he got a little frustrated after all. 🙂
Some pictures of the apartment will be posted soon. I’ll be talking about Austria a bit for the next few weeks, hopefully not too much, but I’m a bit enthusiastic right now, so bear with me.
(*Funny story. From the airport we drove straight to Austria to the apartment building. There a bunch of locals in the restaurant on the ground floor spied us arriving. They’d already heard all about “the American girlfriend” and insisted we come in to say hello and have a round of schnapps. I’d never done a shot in my life. But with the rounds coming fast, I felt I needed to represent, held my breath and went for it. I was so impressed with myself for pulling it off without a grimace, again and again.
It was only years later that Oliver’s mother taught me how to discreetly discard shots once I reached my limit. This would have come in handy this night. After getting us away, he took me up to the apartment and went to turn on the lights while I took off my shoes. He came back to find me passed out on the bed, shoe still in hand. I didn’t move for another 14 hours.
A 16 hour flight + 4 hour drive + #? schnapps = bye bye, baby. Very romantic reunion indeed.)