A House Is Just A Box For Your Stuff; Live Outside The Box

When we purchased our starter home in 2010, I was convinced that I wanted to “move on up” in three to five years. But six years later, I know I was right to stay put.

Something – society? family? my inner keeping-up-with-the-Joneses? – told me that I was supposed to buy a small starter house. Then a bigger house, and a bigger house…until, I assume, I had enough space to play quidditch in my living room. I never really asked myself why I wanted the bigger house.

Perhaps I  thought a big home would mean that I had arrived. After starting with a teeny dormitory room where I could touch both walls by stretching out my arms, I would have succeeded once I surrounded myself with umpteen rooms, and an enormous yard.

Things changed on this front long before we set off on our Journey to Financial Independence. I realized I do not need more space to prove anything to anyone. My already generous three bedroom, two and a half bath 1923 “starter” home with a detached garage and a postage stamp backyard is more than enough space for me to evolve and grow. Most importantly, the entirely humble mortgage (we purchased this place for $175,500) means that we have been able to save, and better use our incomes as they have grown past where they were six years ago.

As our lives have evolved, we occasionally discuss selling this home and moving to a rental. We wonder if a rental – a much smaller two bedroom apartment with no yard perhaps – might help reduce our expenses. So, I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for this house, but I do know that if we decide to leave it shan’t be to “move up” in square footage or cost. Rather, it will be based on the realization that the house is just a box where we store the junk we are not currently using. The smaller the box, the less junk we allow ourselves to accumulate, and the less clutter in our minds.

I have, in fact, recently started a slow evolution towards shedding my “junk.” Between emptying my closet of clothes I have not worn in years, and giving away/trashing the “just-in-case” things we have stored in our basement, I hope to slowly de-clutter my house and my mind. The process has also set me on a path to selling used good on Facebook and eBay. It’s early in the adventure, but I plan to bring you good folks up to speed as soon as I have some more juicy experience with the process of turning junk into $$$.

And now, for the good of the Order, whether consciously, or by happenstance here are some things we got right when we bought this house:

Keys and lock the door on the background of solar garden
Your home is the key to your future or to your indebtedness. It all depends on the little decisions.
Look, Look Again, and Keep Looking:

Those dratted reality television shows about home buying always presume that a person looks at only three homes before finding the right one. You are not Goldilocks! There isn’t a house that is too big, one that is too small, and one that is just right. There are a lot of wacky pads out their imbued with a million quirks. One of them will work for you, but like a bargain basement hunter, or a warrior on the Serengeti (Whatever floats your boat saver!), you have to hunt for it.

We looked at maybe a hundred homes over the course of a year before we finally closed on this property. We were lucky because we were renting and had no existing home whose sale was conditionally based on our finding the new house. Either ways, try not to let house hunting exhaustion get in your way. This is your home; your investment. If it feels like a second job, it kind of is. Embrace it, and do a good job. Nothing drives me crazier than people who expect life and love or anything else worth having to be simple and comfortable. If you want comfortable – go get into your pajamas. The good things always involve a little – or a lot of – sweat and blood. But they are almost always worth it (sometimes though you just have to know when to walk away – a topic for another post perhaps).

Like, But Don’t Love Your Real Estate Agent:

Your real estate agent is doing her job. She wants you to buy the dratted house, so that she can add it to her income for the month and move on. On the other hand, you want to have a good relationship with her so she doesn’t dump you when she realizes you won’t buy the third listing you see. But, there is no reason to think that the sun rises over her head. Once you are able to balance this oddly personal-professional relationship, you will be in a better position to advocate for yourself.

Buy Under Budget:

Even though the bank approved us for a much more expensive home, we chose to buy the least expensive house that meet all our criteria. You can do this too! Just because you are approved for a billion dollar mortgage doesn’t mean you have to spend every penny of it. Nor does it mean that you have to spend some of it on the home, and the rest on upgrades or renovations. That is not your money. It belongs to the bank. They would very much like you to spend it all so that you owe them a LOT of money for a very LONG time. Avoid the temptation. Your older self will thank you when she can use the extra $$$ for the more important things in life. Don’t join the legions of the house poor.

Think Like A Seller When You Buy:

I didn’t particularly need three bedrooms when I bought this house or two and a half bathrooms. But, I knew that it is the most sell-able house combination in this town/neighborhood. I didn’t let myself “fall in love” with the house. No more than a store keeper could fall in love with her inventory. I looked at the house from the perspective of the young family I would be able to sell it to, and only purchased the house I knew they would buy.

Negotiate (It’s Not A Dirty Word):

Television shows about home purchasing – admit it, you like to watch them as much as I do – give folks the impression that negotiations are a matter of offer, and acceptance. Wildly adventurous buyers in those shows may go back and forth with the seller once or twice before buckling on the price. Jeez! Who wrote that playbook? It certainly wasn’t anyone who ever got a deal. Negotiate as much as you want, about as many aspects of the house as you want. The real estate agents are earning a fee, and it’s okay to make them work for it as your intermediaries. Make peace with the fact that you may lose the negotiation. We walked away from one house, and lost another during negotiations before we were able to strike a deal on our current place. There is no “perfect” house for you. It’s just brick and mortar (or maybe siding), but either ways there’s always another one out there that will fit your criteria.

Let me know what you did right or wrong in your house search? What wise decisions have you made with regard to home purchasing/renting?



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