#projecthouse: a creative approach to buy a house


I have wanted to buy a house for a long time. And I am certainly not alone in this. Nor is it any new that there are few to no affordable houses in my region. But I don’t want to give up and I’m now trying the creative approach. On Instagram (@bridget_alcione) I already shared some stories about what I am working on and it turned out that many people were curious about more details. Hereby: I will share some blogs about #projecthouse. Will I succeed and find a house?

Since I believe in the personal approach in everything I do, I decided to also use that approach to search for a house. After all, that is how I approach my sources and how I recruit my customers, it simply works best and suits who I am and what I believe in – a human, pure and open approach.

I wrote a letter about who I am, that I also dream of making a house into my home like the owners to whom I am addressing my letter and that I also want to give something back that will hopefully compensate for the lack of space I have to outbid the rich kids around here. The contents of the letter are for later. I first determined my strategy for who would get one.

Even though I’m no longer under the impression of being able to buy anything in my city – which has unfortunately already been completely gentrified – I still try to write to some homeowners on the edge of the city who I know are near the woods (I think that peace and quiet of nature is fantastic) and the house value is still somewhat close to what I could afford. This project started a few weeks ago with mapping out the routes. I printed out a map and then marked the streets with houses as I just described them.

Photos can be deceiving, I certainly don’t need a villa, but this house is one of the last ‘forest houses’ that a social housing corporation ever built in a neighborhood close to mine and – as far as I know – have been sold or will be demolished when someone moves out. Many of these houses are small, old and have a lot of overdue maintenance, but I would be as happy as a child if I could live here. It has a chimney, the forest is all around you, and it has such a nice atmosphere in the neighborhood. Well, the chances are small, but one can dream, right? 😉

Grandma-style lamps

If you know me a little, you know that I like working in a structured and efficient way, so I added a legend with a color for the street options and a color for the houses that I have already sent a letter.

The project is done in batches: I deliver fifty letters at a time and I carefully choose each house. I cycle through the marked streets and see which houses look a bit outdated (read: are probably slightly cheaper) and I mainly look at houses with an ‘old-fashioned’ interior. Brown oak furniture, ‘grandma-style lamps’ that you often pull down on a cord, white dog statues in the window, you know the drill. The thought: an older person probably lives there and those people are more likely to want – or to have to – move than younger people. Of course I’m making some assumptions here, but you have to in order not to make it a feasible project.

The letter

Back to the letter. So it contains a personal story as well as some promises: I will keep the fireplace or wood-burning stove neat and tidy in the hope that I will find a house where someone lives who is also attached to his fireplace or wood-burning stove. It may not be the best for the environment but it’s my little sin. I do different things to limit my footprint, so everyone has their own way of dealing with that.

In addition to my love for the fireplace (which is supported by a photo of myself in front of a fireplace and the ending with the hope of one day being able to relax there as a homeowner), I talk about how I would like to have a dog but don’t do that now because I don’t have a garden. Besides the fact that I can adopt one myself if I can move to a house with a garden, I especially offer to take care of their dog (or other pet).

I think that still having a pet may be one of the reasons why the current resident does not want or cannot move. Dogs or other pets are often not allowed to go to nursing homes. When I find someone like that, I kill many birds with one stone (not literally 😊) and it gives me the feeling that I can give something valuable back that cannot be expressed in money: your precious pet is assured of a warm, loving place in its own familiar environment. Visiting arrangements are of course optional if desired. 😉

Fifty at a time

Now, why fifty letters at a time? The chance is of course relatively small that you will receive a positive response from someone who really wants to respond to your request/offer. But would I receive multiple responses, then I find it very difficult how to deal with them. I don’t know exactly why, but it would really overwhelm me and I want to keep it manageable for myself. So I’ve decided to distribute fifty letters once a week.

Everyone asks me ‘did you get any responses?’ I get that. After the first round I soon received a text message; ‘Dear Bridget, we would like to help you, but that is not possible because this is a rental property’. A smile appeared on my face, because yes, this was a calculated risk. In the neighborhood where I would like to live most, there are some houses that used to be rental houses, some of which are still rentals but most have already been sold, the difference not visible from the outside. Anyway, I thought the text was really cute.

Glimmer of hope

During the second delivery round something happened that could have come straight out of a movie. Once again I saw a house that looked exactly as I described above: net curtains, two of those old-fashioned lamps, some porcelain figurines on the windowsill. I put my bike on the stand and walked to the mailbox. A car had just parked in front of the house and a woman got out. I hear “ma’am” behind me. I turn around and she looks at me.

“Our neighbor is no longer with us,” I hear her say. Ouch. In the original Dutch phrase it sounded a bit ambiguous and could also mean she moved. But I sensed she had passed away. “You mean she died?” The woman nods, “yes.” I feel a somewhat sad, depressed feeling over me. The transience of life always comes more to mind when it becomes so concrete. At the same time, I now feel the need to explain what I want to put in the letterbox, as otherwise it may look very strange continuing after this ‘warning’.

I tell her about my project with the letters. ‘Hmm, then maybe you should just put it in the letterbox. She had been renting it for a long time, as the first tenant since it was built. Little has been done to the house, but perhaps the owner now wants to sell it to you.

A house in the neighborhood where I really want to live, a bit outdated and owned by someone who will certainly no longer live there. “I’ll put it in. So you live next door?’ The woman nods. “Yes, I have three children, I don’t know if you want to live next to that.” The irony. I don’t want children, but I also know that I am a minority and will therefore find plenty of neighbors with kids. And that’s okay, everyone has their own choice.

I certainly don’t dare to hope for it yet, but meeting the neighbor felt somewhat special. Especially because she approached me so proactively. I mean had I seen someone wanting to put something in the letterbox of one of my neighbors who passed away, I wouldn’t bother to speak up. Perhaps it is something that the family still needs anyway. Besides, it’s just none of my business. Anyway, if this is my future neighbor, I’m blessed: she was very nice.

Did you manage?

How did you buy your house? And did you have to be creative for that? All tips are welcome. And I’ll keep you posted in the coming weeks, as well as share some other angles. Such as investing your savings in stock/index funds, something I was only able to fully understand later in life and which I deeply regret not having figured out earlier. Your savings devalue every day and – in my opinion – investing is the only way to prevent that. Of course in a responsible manner, something I can tell you about how I do it and why I have the confidence it’s the right way for me, it’s just a bit late. And this is of course not or will not be investment advice, I am not qualified for that, I can only tell you what I do and why I started doing it. And maybe you feel inspired and can figure out yourself if it’s something for you and preferably earlier than I started it. But that will come in a separate blog soon.

To be continued…

For tips or responses, I have created a special email address that I have included in the letter: huisjevoorbridget@gmail.com

A bit of background

I’m pretty determined, always have been. If I really want something, I will work hard and get it. But after years of working hard I started to have some doubts about buying an affordable home. Somewhere in 2015 I realized: I have to find a house to buy, so that my money will no longer be blown into the air on rent, which I mainly use to pay other owners for their investments. But at the time I didn’t earn enough for a mortgage with which I could actually buy a house. When I started earning more in the following years and thought ‘now it could be possible’, prices suddenly rose rapidly. Even though my salary was increasing, I was constantly one step behind by the increase of the housing prices. And then two steps. And then three, as the housing prices suddenly went sky high and my salary didn’t.

I am now 33 and it still hasn’t worked out. I think that is a symbol for a generation that is no longer managing. Or at least not alone, like me. And I think it’s super important to be able to buy something on my own. It’s independence. Doing it on your own if you want to.

There are simply too few houses and that drives up the price, even more than average in my region (Eindhoven) due to the extreme growth of the economy here and the recruiting of expats. Frustrating. I just want a simple house. It doesn’t have to be big. I do have three wishes: a garden (fortunately almost all houses in this region have that), a bath (or the possibility of building one in the bathroom, something that works almost everywhere in my opinion) and a fireplace or wood-burning stove. For the latter I would at least want a working chimney. It seems like a modest and realistic wish list to me.

I now hope to stand out to house owners in a creative way with my personal approach to offer the current resident something that cannot be expressed in money. In any case, I will be forever grateful if I can get a house somewhere. And until then, I am also grateful that I have a (rental) roof over my head, which is also not self-evident. The vast majority of people in this world are worse off.

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