investing

Hunting for a home part 4: is it better to rent or buy in Belgium?

This post is part of a series, check out the last posts if you want to know more about my search:

Effect of corona on the housing prices

The situation for buying a house hasn’t improved. The amounts of houses on the Belgian markets have increased only after the first wave passed, around September there was quite a large offer. The government created a lot of restrictions of house viewing in October, making it very hard to visit houses that are for sale.

As a result the amount of houses on the market plummeted in October and there is no end in sight.

So the government actually made sure the housing prices went trough the strongest rise in 15 years in Belgium despite a huge loss of jobs. The question is of course what will happen when the economy wakes up after Corona and house viewings are allowed again and we actually start seeing an actual job loss. I could not predict it last year and I still cannot.

I also have to admit I did come across a few houses that I almost accepted to be fine, so then I need to ask myself if I am not just to demanding?

The reason I am so demanding is the large amount of taxes paid on houses. A 6% minimum, but it could go up to about 12% if it is auctioned. Now if its your only house you can substract these taxes when you sell the house later on and buy a new one.

I don’t like to pay taxes.

The catch? There is a limit of about 12500 EUR to that. That means a house price of about 208000 EUR you can buy just fine and if you just live there for at least 5 years you will get all these taxes back if you decide to upgrade. As this is already an upgrade for me (my second home), that means that anything over that I will have just waisted on taxes.

But what can you get for 208000 EUR in Belgium right now? I did had a quick look at the market right now, and it is possible to find older 2 bedroom apartments with even a bit of outside space outside the city center. I would think this should be enough for any starter. Of course if you want to move closer to the city center you might look at a 1-bedroom flat, like the one I live in now.

Rent or buy?

So I re-read a blog of fightofire.com who was in a similar situation and eventually decides to buy after carefully examining the pros and cons. Since its his first home I absolutely agree with him that this was the best decision. He can still upgrade later on and he shouldn’t worry if its not perfect since it probably won’t be his final home.

And normally I would be in favor of buying again. Either a new bigger home, or a second home depending of your situation.

At the same time is the rise in housing prices really so big compared to the stock market? Say if you put 200k in the stock market right now or 200k in a house (that you live in yourself), would there be such a big difference in profit after 10 years? There actually wouldn’t be, given of course that you can put down 200k in cash for the house, which of course is unlikely.

The rise in housing prices (biggest in 15 years) was about 5.93%. This was the biggest in a long time. The stock market goes up about 7% per year on average. Of course you do have tax benefits from your own house, but at the same time you also have costs that can run up highly.

It was not an equal rise either. Houses at the sea had a much higher rise, most likely related to city’s at the beach closing down the beaches for non-residents. Obviously people bought out of fear that they would lose access to the sea. In the city “Nieuwpoort” right at the sea houses went up with up to 42%! And the coastal cities are probably the main reason for “the biggest rise in 15 years”.

Historical earnings are not necessarily a good reference to future earnings

Again this is for personal use as a rental property will also give you rent in addition to the rise, but it does show that from a financial perspective there is not that much difference in Belgium if you take up a safe, constant, passive investment strategy.

There is in any case no doubt that doing nothing will cause you to lose money as the only certainty in life is that the value of money steadily drops.

Buying your second house

  • Instead of paying rent I would be paying off principal, meaning I would be building up capital, and additionally I could leverage the unpaid principal when the value of the house goes up
  • I do believe the value of houses will keep going up, at the very least in the mid term and long term
  • When I moved into my apartment I kicked out the people that were currently renting the place. Don’t worry it were young people and they said they found something bigger for the same price, however when you are 70 and you get kicked out of your house I can imagine its a terrible experience, having your own house will make sure nobody can evict you
  • If you are confident of what you buy and you can live there long term, without a huge loan that will kill your saving rate, it is for sure the best choice
  • You need to keep a large amount of money in the money market as I should be ready to buy “now”, so while you search your money is not working

Renting your second home

  • Renting contract is usually about 3 years, and you can even get out of it (for a fee) even right after you sign the rental contract (the fee can be up to 6 months of rent but drops -1 month every year), so you are flexible
  • I only need to rent what I need right now, not what I might need in 3 years, since I can upgrade in 3 years if need be
  • I can still decide to buy in a few years if I come across a good bargain
  • You can invest all of your money currently in the money market in the stock market without having to worry the stock market will crash in 1 year. The money you have right now can work for you right now.
  • As its your second home you can rent out your first getting a rather cheap upgrade
  • If you bought a modest home for your first home, with a 10 year loan, after 10 years your loan is paid off and this gives you very little risk for renting, as you can keep the difference between rent and income from rent low

What is best for my situation

As you can see I have been hunting for a house for quite long, my first blog about it is already 2 years old. I am frustrated of the amount of money in the money market that is not working for me. At the same time I do believe I am way overdue for an upgrade. My apartment is a one-bedroom apartment in the city, which is great for starters, but in my current situation I am missing:

  • Preferably a garden, or otherwise a big terrace
  • A place to wash my mountainbike and a warm (or at least not to cold) indoor garage to work on it
  • A second room that I can use as office
  • Big living room to receive guests

I do like the location really. I love living in the city, but it doesn’t fit with the other requirements I have. So I would want to live outside the city, but I have no idea if I could get accustomed to the country life. Renting would be a much cheaper test to see if I could then buying. Additionally I am currently single and I would hate to buy something and find out my future partner doesn’t like to live there.

Additionally I can invest my money in the stock market, or perhaps even buy a second rental property where I can look more at rental value rather then emotional value.

Lets run the numbers on renting

How much can I rent my current apartment for?

Beforehand I never considered this idea, but right now I actually want to give this a chance. I currently have three loans as you can see in my yearly update (updated yearly in May) and two of these will be paid back by September, including my morgage on my apartment and one renovation loan. The third will be paid back by February 2023.

So that will give me the financial space that I need to decide on rental. My apartment building contains 4 other apartments similar in size. I happen to know one is rented out for 650 EUR and one for 630 EUR. Both are all in, so I would think 550 EUR is a realistic number I could ask plus another 60 EUR for a garage I have, who are scar and popular in the neighborhood. So that leaves me at about 600 EUR in rental revenue per month or 7200 EUR per year.

How is it taxed?

Taxes in Belgium are pretty special for rental properties. Rent is actually a lot lower then in other West European countries, maybe partly because taxes are low as well.

Every home has something what they call “KI” (=Kadastral Income), this is a fictional rental value you can get for your property. Generally it is believed that it is lower then the actual rental value.

This number is increased with the index since it was created, and then you add another 40% to get the amount you will be taxed.

In my case that would mean (KI apartment + KI garage)* index * multiplier

This multiplier is 40%

Or (583 + 60) * 1,7 * 1,4 = 1530 EUR

Now this is the part you need to pay taxes on. This depends of your taxes. Generally people in Belgium pay 50% taxes + your local taxable amount: taxable amount * tax percentage * local tax percentage

So in my case this would be 1530*0.5*1.067=816 EUR

Complex right? But at the same time 816 EUR per year or 68 EUR per month is quite modest.

But Belgium wouldn’t be Belgium if there was not another loophole. Namely if you move for work related or social reasons from your one and only home you will pay 0% tax.

I have actually used this loophole in the past when I moved abroad for work. This was actually much easier to argue since my work was in another country and I couldn’t possibly drive there every day from Belgium.

Now I went a bit more creative. I live in a one-bedroom apartment so I don’t really have an office space. Since working from home is not going anywhere, I felt moving because I needed a separate office space might be considered a valid excuse for moving. I have asked them this question directly and expect to get an answer within the next days. I would say there is a 50/50 chance they will accept this but it is hard to tell. I will update this blog when I have this answer.

What about insurance?

There is a limited offer of rental insurances in Belgium. Immoweb for example will give a rental insurance, just like Axa bank. Generally they charge about 5% of the rent. Most likely I will be getting this rental insurance just to feel more comfortable.

So what budget would I foresee for rent?

So with a 600 EUR – hopefully tax free – rental income, I would say that if I can find something for 850 EUR I would say that’s ok. Then I only pay 250 EUR every month on living then I would if I would not move and I would feel very comfortable to put 100% of my saved income into the stock market.

I realize its still more then just staying where I am and I could invest even more if I didn’t change, but this would not make me happy. Living now is just as important as living when I am 60. I don’t want to sacrifice my current self for my future self and I will still live bellow my means.

In conclusion..

I never considered rental before, but now it actually makes a lot of sense. I want to give myself a few more months to find a house to buy and at the same time I want to have a look at the rental market and see what I could get for my budget to see if this is feasible.

And please let me know what you think. What do you think of this plan? Do you prefer to rent or buy?

Interested to see where I end up? For sure I will be sharing this in one of my next blogs. The goal is really to move this year, so sign up to stay tuned!

investing

Hunting for a house part 3: will housing prices in Belgium drop for the first time since 1983?

This post is part of a series, check out the last two post if you want to know more about my search:

Unfortunately I need to pause my house hunt just when I have more time to search. I work from home so I finally have enough time to go see houses in the evening, however right now all house viewings are illegal. Buying and selling is still allowed but who would place an offer on a house they have never seen? Private owners that need to sell fast do still allow viewings even though its illegal to go watch, but they are a minority.

I did go see one house when the lockdown still started. It was not very clear yet back then if it was illegal or not, although in all honesty it probably was, and it was a good house. I needed more time to think though and ended up not placing an offer. Something I sometimes regret still, not everything was perfect but it did tick a lot of my boxes.

Now I am just waiting as I see certain measures slowly getting lifted. Something tells me they cannot pause house sales forever but nothing is sure.

The Belgian housing market has seen a surge the last 10 years, but will it keep up now that we are going trough a crisis that we have not seen in decades?

Belgian Housing prices since 2010

Why the housing prices could go up in Belgium

People still need houses

Just like me there is a lot of people that are waiting anxiously until the market re-opens. Realtors claim they have a waiting list of 2500 people for certain houses(!). Once viewings are allowed again all those people will storm the market that could lead to a surge in prices. And even if the market is uncertain if you need a bigger place to live that need is not going to go overnight. People who have children might still urgently need a bigger place to live.

Wages have not dropped much (yet)

The government has been pumping money into the market like never before. Not only in Belgium but in Europe in general. It looks like they have some interest in increasing inflation themselves, and that would keep the current housing prices at the very least stable. In Belgium we have a system of temporary unemployment, additionally the Government gave extra bonuses to people in this system during the lockdown, this actually caused some people to earn more now that they are unemployed then before they were!

In the Belgian paper Het Laatste nieuws we read that Tim had 8 days of technical unemployment during the lockdown, because of that the government gave him an extra 380 EUR bonus, bringing his net wage to 2526, compared to 2174 before the crisis. Its a bit of a perverse system that people who work less earn more, and some people who still work normally work less. I count on it that this system will be corrected soon, as this debt that the Belgian state is accumulating now will need to be paid back sooner or later. But if it will not be corrected and free money is being pumped into the market we do risk a national inflation on much more then just the housing prices.

Realtors deny there will be a drop

To anyone who is willing to sell realtors promise a sellers they will still get a great price for their house. On the statements of anyone who is predicting a drop they continue to deny the drop and claim that the market is still a seller market with much more people eager to sell then to buy. Additionally history did prove them to be right, we have not seen a drop in the market since the 80’s and borrowing money remains to be cheap.

Why the housing prices could drop in Belgium

We no longer have any tax benefits for a first house

In 2019 the Government decided to remove all tax benefits you would get from buying a house. They predicted that this would at least cause a less sharper surge in housing prices then before. I can imagine that this will still have some effect. In my case I don’t care about this right now, as the Tax benefits for a second house are still there. Its a strange effect from having split responsibilities between the Federal and the Flemish states, and I do plan to keep my first apartment so I can leverage this tax benefit and to get some extra income from the rent of course.

We will go into a recession

By now its almost certain that the market will go into a recession. How badly will depend of how long the lock-down will take and if there is more waves of Corona coming our way. Until we have a vaccine we run the risk that things will get worse before they get better. The European commission even predicts that the recession will be bigger then in 2009. In 2009 the GDP of the EU dropped with 4.3%. The bank of America even predicts that the EU GDP could drop with as much as 8%. While the drop in Belgium will be bellow the average drop in the EU it will still be quite high.

Actual unemployment could rise

While the unemployment in Flanders before the crisis was about 3.5% before the lockdown, right now about 1 Million people are temporary unemployed. The question is if people will be able to hold those jobs after the lockdown without government support. At the very least people who were in this system for a while will not be so eager to invest large amounts of money into the housing market. They will want job stability before they make such permanent choices.

Death toll is higher because of Corona

This statement is a bit darker, however it must be said that the last 4 weeks as much people died from Corona then there would usually be deaths in one month. This could lead to more houses entering the market over the next year then there usually would.

At the same time we do not accept any asylum requests for a month already now. This will at least temporary lower the amount of new people into the market, not only in the short run, but I can imagine Europe’s borders being closed until at least September probably will also cause a drop in the mid-term.

Banks predict housing prices will fall

The big banks (KBC and ING) predict that in the worst case scenario that we have multiple Corona waves and lockdown prices will drop this year with 6% this year and 4% next year. Even in the best case scenario a drop of 3% this year and 2% next year are predicted. Which in my eyes is more a market that’s getting more stable rather then one that will drop. Then again its not the first time a drop was predicted and even in 2009 the prices did not drop. The last drop was in the 80’s during the recession.

Banks might be less tempted to loan out money when they get pushed into a situation where they are forced to extend loans for free. Something that the Belgian government have already suggested as a possible measure.

In conclussion..

To be honest under the current circumstances its hard to see that the market would not at the very least stabilize and possibly see a small drop. But its hard to predict what the Belgian government will come up with. In any case there is no point to try to time the market if you really need a house and can afford it just go for it, no matter what the market is like. I’m bad at it, so when I find a house that meets my requirements I will still place an offer. Hopefully the market will re-open soon so I can continue my search!

Did you like my blog post? Want to follow me as I search the Belgian market for a house? Then subscribe and check how I buy (or fail to) a house in these troubling times and hopefully it will give some insight for those who just start or who are just interested to learn about the Belgian housing market.

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Hunting for a house part 2: what you need to pay attention to when searching for a house

This is part of a series: my search for a house

I find writing about my hunt helps me focus what I want and hopefully it will help me make a good decision at the right time. In this blog I list all the requirements and things I look at when searching for a house. If you are looking for a house then I strongly recommend to go trough the bellow list. You might find a lot of things you didn’t think about before that will help you what to pay attention to. Be careful that if you plan to follow the full list it could also make it much more challenging to find a house!

Requirement 1: a garden

My first requirement is that the house needs to get a garden. And how big? If its to small then I will not feel like its a garden at all. If its to big then I will be faced with a large amount of maintenance work. Additionally land is expensive.

Image result for garden small

Right now I am interested in land in the range of 500m2 – 1000m2. Depending of the location I would be okay if the plot was closer to 500 then to 1000. I realize that by putting this requirement I make it impossible for me to find anything in the city, at the same time I do not actually want to be in the city itself. Even if it is nice to have the Christmas market, cinema and shops on walking distance, I am okay to take the car if I need to. But lets not get ahead and talk about the location a bit further down.

Requirement 2: size

The ideal size for me is about 170m2. I know it sounds a bit large, but I figure I can rent out some rooms on Airbnb until I need them, and if I do need them I will be happy I do not need to buy a new house. Buying a house brings a lot of costs with it, so the less you need to do it in your life the better. Maybe its also because I grew up in a bigger country-house that I am more used to space.

I noticed that houses from around 160-170m2 usually have everything I need. A large living room, a kitchen to receive guests, a bathroom with a decent size and three actual bedrooms of at least 12m2 each. Extra’s like laundry room are welcome of course! If I can find all these requirements in a smaller house then this is fine for me to, but I do not think I will find it much smaller then that.

Example plans of a 168m2 house: ground floor
Example plans of a 168m2 house: second floor

Requirement 3: location

Of all requirements determining the location is the hardest. For along time I wanted to be in the city close to everything and friends. It really has something to be able to walk to a Christmas market or a city festival or take the bicycle to visit friends.

Image result for gent christmas market
The Christmas market in Gent (my current city)

My first apartment was actually very close to plenty of my friends. But the thing is they almost all moved away to further locations. Still most of them are only a 20 minutes drive from me, but I can’t walk or bicycle there anymore.

So I should not let the location of friends influence my decision. Now what about family? I doubt any of my family will ever more to the city. My mother and sisters both live far outside the city actually. Although not that far. I don’t see them moving soon.

My mom will probably live there forever, although she did purchase a cabin in the south part of the country where she spends a lot of weekends. My youngest sister is a doctor so in reality cannot really move because of her profession. My older sister expressed often that she wanted to move, although I have no idea where she would want to move. Just somewhere where she has more space.

That being said: probably more then anyone else they would be okay to drive 30 minutes to visit me, so I shouldn’t let them affect my decision to much.

I do feel home in the region I was born and grew up. Out of a strange nostalgic feeling it would feel good to “return home”. The city I am talking about is “Destelbergen / Heusden” and you can see it bellow on google maps. Its just next to a big (more famous) city called “Ghent”.

The main downside is that Destelbergen has no train station. Now I am driving a company car so I don’t really care about that, but I need to face reality that at some point I will lose my company car and then a train station nearby could come in handy.

In that case choosing a location near a big train station would increase my freedom in job opportunities:

These train stations are also closer to the city center then I where I am living now, so that could be an additional advantage.

Lucky Belgium has a good Bus network, so you can take a bus to the train station from almost anywhere. But of course this will make the journey much longer.

But there is one advantage of no train station nearby and that is that you have no noise from trains! And that brings me to my fourth requirement…

Requirement 4: no noise

More then anything I want it to be peaceful. I don’t want to hear cars from the highway or a train storming by when I’m sitting in my garden. I don’t want to hear music when Im in my bed (or worse), or neighbors shouting in the morning. Shouting can be interpreted quite freely here. All of these I had in the past. In Belgium this is not so easy to find. We have the habbit of building a road and then build this road full of houses. We call this lineair settlement. Bellow is a photo of what it means. The large majority of houses in Belgium will be like this. That means that the fourth requirement can limit my options by quite a lot.

Image result for lintbebouwing

Requirement 5: future proof

By future stable I mean that it should be able to withstand any natural disasters coming in the next 100 years. If the current global warming continues then this century water could rise for 3m and next century it could rise for another 5m. So ideally I want something above 5m. That does make it a lot harder to find something since some of the areas around Gent are just 2m above the sea level, but not impossible, there is areas 9m above the water surface.

I use this map as a guideline to check how future proof my house will be. I still believe that mankind will come together and solve this, but when I travel to countries like South Africa, climate change is the last thing on their mind. The only continent that really seems to care about it is Europe, I do not see any country anywhere else caring about Global Warming. The Paris agreements where one small lightpoint in the sky, but it looks like the light is fading.

Image result for overstromingen belgie
I rather not live here

Requirement 6: clean air

I also find it important to live in a location that has clean air. I already spend a lot of time in cities for work, so if I can get out to more fresh air then I should take the opportunity. It falls already together a bit with my requirement 4: noise. If there is a lot of noise from cars the air is probably not so clean.

There has been done a major investigation on the air in Flanders by a newspaper called De Standard, you can find the results here. I actually check this map before I go to see a house

Image result for china air pollution
This location does not look very healthy…

Requirement 7: open or half-open

An open house means the house has no other houses attached to it. Half open means it has one house attached to it. Closed means that there is two houses attached to it.

I would prefer to have an open or half open house. I think it would be the best way to meet requirement 4 to have no noise. An open house is unlikely to be disturbed by neighbors, especially when you are inside the house. Outside the rule of the more garden the less chance you have to have noise can be applied.

Image result for open bebouwing
I could live here..

The main downside is that half open adds 100k extra needed to the budget, and an open house adds another 100k. So a huge bite in the budget, something I might not be willing to do. At least not for my second home. So it is possible I end up with a closed house to be much more safe on the budget side.

Requirement 8: orientation

As I want to grow a vegetable garden I would ideally want my garden to be oriented to the South. If the garden is big enough then maybe it will be less important. If I can’t get it to the South then the West and East would be second best. Last place would be the north, especially in a small garden this would mean that you need to grow a whole different kind of plants.

The bellow photo’s shows the difference. The photos itself are in Dutch, but you can read bellow what orientation its at. The first photo always shows the morning, the second midday and the last the evening.

Image result for tuin orientatie
Garden on the North
Image result for tuin orientatie
Garden on the South
Image result for tuin orientatie
Garden on the East

Eventually West is the opposite of east: no sun in the evening, some during midday and a lot in the evening. As much as I enjoy to have breakfast in the sun in the morning, I spend more time outside in the evening, so in order of preference: South, West, East and eventually North.

Requirement 9: The house structure

If falls a bit together with requirement 2, but it goes beyond that.

Here I look at what the house structure is like. More in a general sense. Most of these things are not dealbreakers as long as the structure can be changed within my budget to what I need. These are things I pay extra attention to when I go to view a house:

  • What is the state of the roof? What tiles are on the roof? Ceramic tiles can last for 50 years or more, so they are my preference. Concrete tiles last only for 30 years.
  • Is there any water leaks? Are the walls and ceilings dry? Is the basement dry? Drying up a basement can easily cost 20.000 EUR. Water leaks to the walls could indicate the roof needs to be replaced, and that can also come with great costs.
  • What about the first floor (and possibly the attic), is the flooring wood or is it concrete? Wood does not carry my preference, only very old houses still have wood. If the first floor has a wood floor its a deal-breaker for me. Concrete makes for a much better structure and if it has wood it can’t really be changed to concrete without tearing down the house.
  • What is the state of electricity, has it been approved?
  • What kind of heating is there? Electric heating is a deal-breaker for me, gas would be my preference, although this could change along with changes in tax policy
  • More importantly plumbing. If the pipes need to be replaced it means the floor needs to be broken open, this will for sure also cause some damage to the walls.
  • What about isolation? Are the walls, floors, and roof isolated? What kind of windows are being used? Isolating windows and walls can be extremely costly. Depending of the roof or floors usually this is not so costly to isolate, although it is quite messy to break open a floor

These are some key points I pay attention to. Most of the above list are not deal-breakers, as long as changing them falls within my budget its not really an issue.

I generally do not look at new houses since they are taxed much higher, and usually have less land to go with them. But most likely they do not suffer any historical problems as mentioned above, so if I could afford it, I would place something new for sure. For now I must admit that this is beyond my reach unless I part with plenty of other requirements.

Requirement 10: budget

If all above was not yet enough, I also want to stay on budget. The idea would be that I can pay it off in 20 years. So I need to include both renovations and purchasing of the house inthere. Very often I go to my excel sheet and start calculating again if I can afford a house I found on the market. I do have a good idea about my budget now. I started low, but now I am more realistic and slowly my budget and the requirements are starting to come together.

Right now I am looking in the range of 300.000-400.000. If its closer to 400.000 that means I would have very little renovation budget. However I noticed that houses closer to 300.000 often do not fit Requirement 1 (=land / garden).

Conclussions

Every requirement I add is lowering the amounts of houses on the market, and increasing the price. As they say when searching for a house… “its always something”, that means you can never be satisfied. So what is it that will make me pull the trigger?? I still hope I will walk into a house and just feel at home. Feeling at home might be the most important requirement of them all. If I feel at home I can live there.

Finding a house was one of my goals for 2019 and will be again in 2020. While I do search and hope to find something in 2020, I do already own a property which luckily takes some pressure off in finding something quickly. At the same time, it risks having such a low pressure that I will not find anything next year either.

Then again if I found it to quickly I would not have much to write about. Subscribe and stay tuned to follow me in my search to find a house!

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Hunting for a house part 1 | why I need a change of scenery

Why I want to move out

Right now I live in an apartment I purchased 8 years ago. At the time I moved from a 25m2 studio to a 55m2 apartment and it was a big increase. It was the cheapest I could find that fitted all my requirements. You can read all details about how and why I purchased this apartment in a previous blog of mine here.

Reason 1: stuff

I am not a big accumulator of stuff, although I do have to admit I have more then 8 years ago. I believe in minimalism, but in my own way. The extreme way is where you find videos on YouTube of people owning virtually nothing. Not because they can’t afford it but because they believe stuff does not make them happy. Or so they say. I would be frustrated if I had to go to other people to loan even the smallest things like a screwdriver.

One other method of minimalism is from Marie Kondo. She has a show on Netflix called Tidying up. In the show she takes everything she finds in one room puts it on a big pile to make people realize how much they have. They then decide what they keep and what they no longer need.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo Poster

My approach is more like this: when I do not use anything for a few years or very I get rid of it. First I will try to sell it, if that fails I will bring it to a Kringloop shop. The shop is non – profit, and re – sells what you donate but at a very cheap price. They usually take almost anything I want to throw away: clothing, hobby gear, books,… In the unlike event they would not like it I would have to throw it away.

Its harder when it comes to items from my childhood or personal items. So I do tend to keep a few, but there is a lot that I did got rid of. One item I recently parted from was my telescope. It was a birthday gift when I was 12. To be honest I never really used it much. It’s also cheap, but it was a time that I wanted to be an astronaut and the memory of my dreams were in that telescope. It was sitting at my mom’s house for a long time, until she decided all my stuff had to go. So it sat in my living room of my apartment for one year. Eventually I decided the memory was not worth the space, and I parted of it.

Reason 2: no garden

I had a big garden when I grew up. Although I never used it much after my childhood and I reached a point where I no longer found outside space to be very important.

Over time my opinion changed, and I am now to the point where I do think outside space is important. Now I would not look to working in the garden as a chore but rather as a relaxing activity. I would enjoy to have a vegetable garden and to think of ways to make it a relaxing paradise. I also appreciate it much

Reason 3: hosting family and friends

When I lived on my 12m2 student room, I hosted sometimes for 10 people. As all of my friends had similar accommodations nobody really minded. When I moved to my apartment I was quite proud of it. I was one of the first to purchase something of their own. My friends waited a little longer and got bigger properties.

It wasn’t until 4 years ago when I suggested to host our yearly Christmas party and the reaction was that my place was to small that it started to sink in that compared to new houses and apartments my friends had purchased I did not had enough space to host people. I do have a very large group of friends, its not uncommon that we have 15 people at our Christmas party and we always have it at someones home.

This is quite opposite to my sisters (and partners), who were happy to hear that I was willing to host a Christmas party this year. But we are a smaller group, so its much easier to do so. The idea is that I host more things in the winter (since I do not have a garden), and they host more in the summer.

Reason 4: the location and change of interests

The activities I do now have changed compared to 8 years ago. Eight years ago my friends all lived in the city, and I usually went into the city to do things. I now shop more outside the city (in malls), one of my hobbies (mountain-biking) brings me more outside the city, and some of my friends have moved away from the city, as has my family.

My friends who do live in the city no longer live near me but most of them are living at the other side of the city.

I used to want to be close to everything, now having space is just more important to me. That I do not have a supermarket, hairdresser, doctor, restaurants, pharmacist and even my work on walking distance are things I will need to live with. Although I expect most of them I will have on biking distance.

Reason 5: looking ahead

While I am currently single, I know that my one bedroom apartment would not be big enough if I did meet someone. You could say it is better to wait and buy something together, but at 35 most women I meet have a house of their own already. They like their independence and are not eager to step into a real estate adventure with someone else.

I myself have also figured out what region I want to live in. I do not see myself move to the other side of the country. I enjoy living around Gent and in Belgium. It does have some downsides, but the benefits strongly outweigh those.

And if I would meet someone who does not have a home, I would be happy that she moved in with me. I have no issues sharing whatsover.

Reason 6: neighbors

I live in a small apartment with one bedroom. That means that I have neighbors at both sides and above me (nobody bellow). I must say I am happy with them. They are friendly, and we do try to help eachother when its needed.

At the same time the walls are not very thick and I do hear them from time to time. My left neighbor has the urge to shout on Sunday morning. I do not understand why but she does. Sometimes I hear my neighbors when going to bed. Not until 2 AM, so I really cannot complain that much.

I do prefer absolute silence when I am sleeping. and having less neighbors would go a long way to that. That’s why I know I will need a house rather then a bigger apartment.

Join me in my search!

So the course is clear. I know I will need to search for something bigger. I will post about my search here from time to time so you can follow me in my joys and frustrations, that hopefully will eventually lead to me owning a house.