A glimpse of normalcy


Very normal Norwegian house at half price. There must be something wrong with it. Then again, that is what people think about me too, no doubt.

I was, like most days, studying the “to let” pages of finn.no, a Norwegian online marketplace that overlaps with a lot of newspapers as well as having some unique adverts.  And unlike newspapers, it is updated when something is sold or, in this case, rented out.

This time I got the great idea to check in Evje, a small inland town in the neighboring province. My workplace lies quite close to the province border, and there are frequent buses that fit well with my commute schedule. The bus ride is about 1 hour (in practice longer when roads are icy in the winter).  But the extra time is not a problem for me, if anything the opposite:  The commute is the only part of the day I am forced to just sit still, so I tend to spend it reading or meditating. Even napping, on my way home. I would have to get up half an hour earlier, but that would also mean I could spend half an hour with delta waves in brainwave entrainment, which would more than compensate.

(You can obviously not completely replace sleep with meditation and brainwave entrainment, as sleep serves a multitude of functions. But you can definitely replace some of the sleep beyond five hours.)

Enough about that, I was amazed to see that someone was willing to rent out a quite large house for little more than you pay for a small apartment elsewhere.  I know that Evje has had some rough fortune after the military closed down one of Norway’s largest training camps there, losing over 200 jobs and a lot of trade.  But the town turned out to be quite resilient. Strategically placed as a trading center for the largely agricultural inland area, it has attracted new jobs to replace most of those lost, and the population is virtually unchanged (not counting the military recruits, obviously).  So while I did expect rents to be lower than in the coastal boom zone, I did not expect something like this.

Checking out the municipality’s web sites, I saw that they also had a link to houses for sale. This is something I usually ignore completely.  I am not proud of being one of the few working men in Norway who does not own my own home at the age of 50, but I am not ashamed of it either. I like to be detached and without worry.  It is one of the few things that both comes naturally to me and is encouraged by my religion. Well, not renting in particular, but being free from worry and attachment to earthly things.

Anyway, I was surprised by the disparity of prices.  Apartments and some houses are almost as expensive to buy as down by the coast, but then there are some homes for sale that are ridiculously cheap.  One in particular was in a price range I have not seen in this century and well into the last.  Admittedly it was described as needing some work, but at least the paint was not peeling off, and I am not exactly the type that need to live in The Shiny. And so I started to briefly consider buying instead of renting.

That would probably be a very bad idea.  It is true that for each passing month, there is more money left after I have paid my bills.  In fact, something like half of the after-tax salary is just lying around unless I can be bothered to buy a new computer or something.  I simply don’t have many expenses other than rent and food and my flat-rate broadbands.  (Yes, I have 3 broadbands:  One at home, one at work and one for my mobile phone. You have a problem with that?) So, theoretically I could live with a loan this size, if I could get it.  Which is not entirely impossible, since Norway has resumed its boom and banks are throwing money after people again.  But I really doubt this is going to last.  Interest rates are probably going through the roof again at some future point, well before I can pay off a loan.  In fact, the loan would last for approximately my life expectancy.  Which is another reason why it may be a bad idea to start buying houses now, at a life phase where others have paid off theirs.

So, most likely I will still continue to be unique and suspect.  But as a single male, I am suspect anyway.  Which is also why I probably won’t get to rent any of the nice places unless my guardian angel violently chases away all competition.  You never know, he just might. I have seen stranger things.


PS: This episode makes me think about a saying here:  “There are times when it is not enough to run faster, you have to have started earlier.”  You cannot just decide to buy a house without first having saved up money.  It is the same thing with invisible property:  You cannot just decide to be a spiritual person one day.  First you have to save up and you have nothing of substance to show for it.  All you have is hope, and if it is not something you really long for, this is where you give up.