Ms ZiYou Housing stories
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Nature or Nurture: a tale of two housing stories

I’ve shared with you my housing buying story when I bought my first property at 19. After my first home purchase I traded up a few times and the property market has been very good to me financially. However, I know this is not everyone’s experience. My brother is also on his third property – but with dramatically different results from me. What caused these differences? Nature or nurture?

Getting on the ladder – first home

His first property was actually a lovely flat itself. It had a great sea view and had a lovely location, or at least appeared to. Given he was buying at the bottom rung of the market, there were not a lot of choices. Nonetheless, it became apparent he had not done enough research into the area – it was around 15 minutes away from where we grew up, and in an area he knew well from going out in the evening. But what makes a great place to go out in the evening, does not necessarily make somewhere ideal to live.

On paper this flat was perfect. Great view, great view, good location for someone young who didn’t mind being near the evening action. But the devil was in the detail. His neighbours. He hadn’t checked out who he’d be living beside, and it turned out they were not ideal neighbours. In fact, they were the worst possible neighbour; loud and aggressive people who seemed to be intoxicated and under the influence of other drugs.

The reality of living there

Unexpectedly he hated living there once he realised who his neighbours were. It was miserable and he wanted out. So the flat was put back on the market after a few months. At the same time, he spotted his ideal flat, back where we grew up. But he couldn’t immediately sell the first flat, so he had a dilemma. And given the shocking living conditions, my parents stepped in and helped him out financially so he could buy the second flat. Since he was keen to get rid of this flat asap, he sold the flat for less money than he paid for it, as well as paying all fees and charges for both buying and selling.

The next place

Ms ZiYou ihouse windowsAfter being bailed out by our parents, he settled into the second flat, which actually was a great place to live and met his needs for a good few years. He liked living there, and it was a good and safe place to live. However as the started to make progress in his career, he was considering moving out and buying another place. And then the issue with the second flat came to light: there was a structural challenge that the survey picked up, that made it un-mortgage-able. And hence dramatically this saviour second flat became a problem. He now had a second lemon on his hands – a flat that he would struggle to sell again.

This time another workaround was found, with my parents again stepping in to help him out financially and give him money to cover the loss and provide a deposit for a new place. And a new build home was purchased, who agreed to take the flat in part exchange. He is now happily living in the third place; and it’s a nice house this time, a bit bigger than before. However, as it’s a new build it was certainly overpriced, and I wonder what will happen if he wants to move again in the future.

Sibling ComparisonsMs ZIYou comparisons

After that very long anecdote, I find it interesting to compare his experiences to mine. How have I managed to be much more lucky with regard to housing, but he has not and has to be bailed out by our parents several times? We were brought up with the same amount of white middle-class privilege, so why was my journey better?

I don’t believe it’s down to luck – I believe it’s down to research and decision making in this case. I am an over-researcher and am really happy to put in hours and hours to get things done. If something doesn’t feel right, I will re-evaluate and spend time working out what is concerning me. I’m very happy to take risks, but I need to understand what they are and have a backup plan if the worst case scenario is realised.

My brother has the opposite approach. He favours the quick decisive approach and wants to spend as little time as possible on things that don’t interest him. He has plenty of time for football, going to the pub and chooses to prioritise them over tasks such as house researching. Simply put he is not interested in spending extra time on things he doesn’t want to do. He doesn’t believe in research and struggles to link his effort levels to the need for parental bailouts.

Retrospectively

A good few years later, it’s fascinating to evaluate why this happened. Why what I think it’s essential, he feels is overkill and unnecessary. And the nature or nurture debate is always a good one to bring up in sibling comparisons – surely this is a clear winner for the nature argument? I’d suggest that his decision-making skills are questionable and he doesn’t have the foresight to imagine what a place would be like to actually live in. But am I being too harsh? While I would be horrified to have to accept even one parental bailout, he finds it acceptable. and is comfortable with it.

Nature or Nurture

I find the intersection between nature and nurture very interesting. I’m sure we can all agree that life itself is a real combination of these – and the complexity abounds as different people react differently to nurture. My brother and I received a similar level of nurture and the same housing buying is king argument from our parents. Yet we have approached house buying in very different ways with very different outcomes. My decisions have led to a net gain of ~£180k and he has lost money and had to be bailed out by our parents.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Do you and your siblings approach decisions similarly?
  • What di do you think of parent’s bailing out offspring?
  • How do you think the intersection of nature or nurture impacts choices in life?

Thanks for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter. Looking forward to your thoughts and ideas – all are welcome. 

25 comments on “Nature or Nurture: a tale of two housing stories

  1. Structural problem that made it unmortgageable?? Did he not have an inspection done before he bought the place? That’s insane and scary. Even so, I’m not sure I agree with your parents stepping in multiple times to bail him out. He didn’t *need* to move either time for life safety issues, so I think I would have just let him figure it out on his own.

    1. Yeah – on the second flat the initial inspection didn’t pick it up and it was all kinda subjective and in the surveyor’s personal opinion. And made much more complicated because it was a flat. It wasn’t in any way dangerous and he didn’t need to move, so not really sure why they bailed him out.

      So I’m assuming you’ll be letting your son work things out himself?

  2. As a parent myself I have done the bailing out but at a much lower level of finance but I think I would struggle to do so in the circumstances you describe. We each must be responsible for our own decisions, good and bad, and deal with what they result in, crappy neighbours and all. And your brother is testament to the rule that if one doesn’t get to learn the lessons from one’s mistakes you will keep making them as someone will always be there to fix it.

    My brothers and I are similar in many ways but my younger one is more likely to ask for support/get bailed out than I – not that it has happened often by any means and not to the tune your brother has. I would rather starve than ask for help! Which of course isn’t sensible either!

    1. Hi Tuppeny – yeah, sounds like you and I are alike – I’d rather starve than ask for help too.

      And yes, I don’t think bailing him out is really helping him long term – he’s not exactly poor, he earns a decent salary and lives in a LCOL area. I just hope he finds a good girlfriend that can run his life and make sensible decisions for him.

  3. My siblings and I are very different when it comes to financial decisions. I find the whole nature vs nurture topic fascinating. My sister recently “borrowed” from my parents to get windows on her house upgraded. She is 48 years old and in a good job. I was horrified! All my siblings seem to think that our parents’ money will ultimately be their money so they might as well have some now. I find the whole thing really uncomfortable and I don’t know where their attitudes came from when we were all brought up the same.

    1. Wow…..I’m with you and in shock that your sister borrowed money for an upgrade. Have people forgotten how to save?

      And yes, it’s fascinating how siblings that were brought up together differ so widely.

  4. First of all, congrats on your house buying story. Really is a great achievement. I reckon your brother should have ‘sucked it up’ on that first property. Rather than sell, maybe he could have stuck it out for a few years whilst saving for a new deposit (and performing due diligence on another place). Then, rent out the first place (has the seaview and location, so perfect for short/mid term rentals?) and take out a mortgage on another. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    The bailing out is not a good thing, no one can learn from mistakes that way. Sure, I’ve made my own and had to ride it out. I’ve kind of done the reverse to the bailing out thing. I actually gave my parents a deposit for their holiday home and I’m paying the mortgage on their main home (paid off next year). They get to live in a nice area and maintain the place, I take advantage of their ‘house buying story’ (which has been successful so far, better than my story) and it’s structured in a way that my Sister won’t know I’m getting a bigger share than her. She had her opportunity to buy in, but chose an inflated lifestyle. Each to their own.

    1. Hi – thanks for the congrats – a lot of it was luck!

      And yes, my brother certainly did bail too soon but he’s not known for sticking out tough situations.

      Congrats on your reverse bailing out situation – that must be unusual and fabulous it has worked out well for both of you.

  5. There’s three of us and interestingly, we’ve spread across the spectrum – me being the one who bought a house and paid it off, my brother has almost paid off his house in 25 years and my sister who owes more on her house 25 years later than she did when she bought it.
    My brother and I will end up reaping the most from the crazy housing bubble Melbourne has experienced over the last 20 years, with me deciding to geoarbitrage 3 years ago and selling my house for a profit of well over a million dollars and then buying in a lower COL suburb. It’s further out, but it’s next to the beach. I estimate I’ve saved myself at least 10 years of having to work by that move alone.
    My brother is intending to do a similar thing and move further out (but inland) to be near his grandchildren.
    My sister? She says that she’ll be working till she dies. At the moment that’s a bit of a sharp, snappy line, but I can’t help thinking that it’ll seem not so funny when she’s pushing 70…
    Our parents were frugal, especially my father. I hated it growing up, but when I was broke with 4 small children to feed, I was so glad I had those lessons to fall back on! Maybe it’s a matter of circumstance, as opposed to nature vs nurture?

    1. Hi Frogdancer – that is indeed a real spread amongst your siblings – and wow, that Melbourne bubble seems massive – you have done amazingly well.

      Yeah, working till she dies does not sound fun, I do worry about people with that attitude.

      Perhaps it is just circumstances and being in the right frame of mind to appreciate things.

  6. Frogdancer’s comment about his sister working until she dies made me laugh (it’s all you can do in these situations I’ve found, otherwise they’ll just drive you nuts).

    My sibling has trotted out a similar line about not intending to retire. Other gems include “we’re better off renting” (in the short term in a strict cashflow sense perhaps…) and that they’d decided that it’ll not really be worth my sister in law ever working (their kids will be in their 30s by the time she hits state pension age?)……. The prizewinner has to be, though, on the subject of not bothering saving or worrying about pensions: “oh, well, life’s just a lottery anyway”.

    There does seem to be a remarkable number of instances out there of siblings with polar opposite approaches to money despite the same upbringing, so I’d have to say that I think it has to be more nature than nurture overall…..

    1. Indeed, life is just a lottery! However, I quite like my odds of living beyond pension age.

      I noticed that right; not many people are saying they have similar money mindsets as siblings – edging towards that nature as the key driver.

  7. There are four of us and we are SO different but also didn’t quite get raised the same because of age differences (my sister is 11 years older). But when I look at my own kids, they went to the same schools, same babysitters, same parents…and they are very different when it comes to a lot of things including money. Nature vs. nurture!

  8. Your brother has been unlucky, since there are undoubtedly people who would do little/no research but end up being lucky with the properties purchased. However, had he made the effort to do his homework (like you), he would not have been in a situation where luck played a part, and would have had a successful property story like your own.

    Being bailed out by your parents might mean that he’ll never change as he can continue to take risks, knowing that ‘things will work out if it goes wrong’. What happens when your parents don’t have the funds for the next bail out – would he turn to you?

    We’re fortunate in that no-one in the family has had to be bailed out in any way by Bank of Mum and Dad. Although there have been loans from said ‘bank’, like a real bank, all loans must be paid back in full, as are any other loans/IOUs between various members of the family.

    This might not work with all families, but we’ve just found this to be the most fair way, so there is no favouritism, no animosity, no arguments – it’s good that we all think the same, it would be a nightmare if one of us was different! The first (and last) time I asked for a loan? It was to buy my first car when I was 20 years old! When I was struggling with debt, that might have been another time to ask for a loan but like you, I would have rather starved than ask for help and admit that I was cr*p with my finances!

    1. Indeed – he’s certainly unlucky and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next. I still maintain he needs to marry a sensible woman to make this sort of decision for him!
      I know I am very unlikely to bail him out he’s lucky our parents are very comfortable financially – who knows, maybe he has learned his lesson. And frankly, he has no need to move from his current house.

      Your family seems to have a good system with IOUs and loans – very sensible and fair.

  9. Let me guess – your brother’s younger than you? Younger siblings do seem to have the life of Reilly, especially if they’re male. I sincerely hope he doesn’t find this sensible woman, for her sake. Sadly, he probably will, then he can continue to be an irresponsible manchild for the rest of his life.

    Interesting that you say he ‘unexpectedly’ hated living there once he found out who his neighbours were – I should have thought that would be a given from your description of them! I’ve always made it a rule before buying a house to not only speak to any neighbours either side, but to the neighbours on the other side of them too; the latter often give a more accurate picture.

    1. Hi Maree – thanks for reading and responding. And yes, my brother is younger but he’s not quite a manchild – he does usually manage his life well and is much better than me at many other things. Besides, he is going to care for our parents in their old age.

      1. Well, if he’s planning to do look after your parents, then I can see it might feel he’s entitled to the money. That is if he actually does it, though – as the eldest child and only girl, I realised quite early on that this was expected of me, but when I moved away, my brothers had to chip in.

  10. I spend a lot of time buying, but never paid attention to who the neighbors were. Or could have been hit with the same structural issues. I think bad luck did haunt him!

What do you think?