Laura and I have been struggling for the last few months over whether to buy a new house. And not just any house, but one very specific house that I’ll talk about below.
This is really out of character for us and I can’t believe I’m saying this, as I swore our current house would be the last one we ever owned. I honestly hate home ownership and in my perfect-world scenario we would NEVER own a home (which just isn’t realistic in our neighborhood/school district, but it is my “perfect world” fantasy).
Yet here we are, struggling nonetheless. We’ve changed our mind so many times the past few months, it’s crazy! At one point we started the mortgage application process and were literally seconds away from telling our real estate agent to put in an offer and then we somehow backed off and stopped the process entirely.
I write this article mostly to solicit some input from our readers, and to show you that even though our family is usually very focused on our pursuit of financial independence and living well below our means, that sometimes factors above just the dollars and cents of a situation plays into a major life decision.
Our Current Home:
We bought our home in 2005 and it has served us quite well for the last 11+ years.
It’s a four-bedroom house on a quiet cul-de-sac in a great part of our upscale Richmond, VA suburb.
We got really lucky picking this location originally and we absolutely love it. Since we would struggle to leave this one tiny little elementary school district, that means at most we’d move about 2 miles to the other side of the district.
And wow is our house cheap!
The expense portion (interest plus taxes & insurance) of our mortgage is less than $800 each month. That’s not a misprint and it doesn’t even factor in the tax benefit we receive for the mortgage interest deduction, which drives the cost down further!
For less than what it would cost to rent a tiny one-bedroom apartment we live in the best part of town and have a beautiful 4-bedroom home with a wide expanse of lawn for playing games outside with the kids.
So what’s the problem?
We would love to have neighbors with young kids that we could hang out with regularly.
Our “neighborhood” is essentially non-existent, as we live on an isolated street with 10 total houses, and we are much younger than the vast majority of our neighbors and have little opportunity to interact with them as they don’t have young children.
Our house is also just a bit too small; our girls are growing up and will need their own space in the not too distant future, and we also have plenty of out of town visitors.
While we’ve made it work thus far, we’ve always had it in the back of our minds that this house might not work for the long-term.
But then our rational side always kicked in and said that it was just prohibitively expensive to move with the absurd 6% real estate commission, closing costs, moving costs, etc. We would essentially be burning $20,000+ of our net worth just to move two miles down the road, which was not an appealing thought at all.
The Pine Run Temptress
So what could possibly change our minds?
The perfect house for us.
The community we have always targeted for a future move is called Pine Run. It’s in the same elementary school district as we currently live in (essential) and this house is a 2 minute walk to the actual school so we would walk our girls to school every morning and would have the playground and fields within easy reach when we wanted to play outside.
The house is also literally right across the street and around the corner from some of our closest friends, so our quality of life would likely increase significantly. Laura and I both grew up with incredibly close neighborhood friends who our parents kept as lifelong friends, and this would be our opportunity to have that.
We literally could not pick a better location if we were allowed to drop a house anywhere we pleased!
And the house itself is perfect for us: It has 4 more rooms than our current house and would allow us to setup a 2nd living area for the girls to have friends over, a separate area for our many overnight guests plus there’s a huge 1,000+ sf two-story garage that can be finished to add even more living space. Oh and I can’t forget the hot tub that’s included with the house as well!
And the price is right for the size and location of this house. It has some quirks that are appealing to us, but that might not be for other potential buyers, so it has actually languished on the market for a number of months and the sellers are getting antsy.
So why are we not buying this house today??
Laura and I are low-key people and the horror-show of stress that would be in front of us the next 4-6 months is proving an impossible hurdle to get over.
If we could just magically sell our house, buy this new one and move in seamlessly, we’d be fine taking on the extra debt and monthly mortgage payment.
Though it isn’t a tiny amount, we’re fine paying ~$500 extra per month to live in this new house.
But oh man, is it just awful timing:
- There’s a huge construction project going on literally in our current backyard. A 40-home community is being built right behind us and they are in the heavy construction phase right now. I can’t imagine how much this will depress our home price and slow down finding a buyer.
- Laura and I are both self-employed and because of this actually getting the mortgage will be more of a hassle than we would have otherwise thought. That’s especially true if we don’t sell our home before buying this new one.
- Our current house needs a lot of work before we sell and while we always planned to slowly do it, the thought of having to make a lot of repairs in a short period of time is daunting.
- Paying a 6% real estate commission is an awful prospect. If the time ever came, we always hoped to sell on our own schedule, not be in a rush and be able to do it FSBO to allow for a big savings on this commission. But the need to sell in a hurry would nearly eliminate that possibility.
- Selling a house in the winter is not ideal timing at all.
So we’re in this frustrating position where we would move into this new house tomorrow if we had the opportunity and we believe our quality of life would likely improve significantly overnight, but the thought of going through everything required to make it happen is keeping us awake at night in a cold sweat.
We are not people who really “want” for anything, so this odd limbo position we’ve kept ourselves in for the last few months is really frustrating.
Every time we finally think we’ve put it to bed and decided not to buy the house, it somehow pops up again after a discussion with our friends or a notice of price reduction and we have to re-think the whole thing again and wonder if our inaction is a huge mistake.
While I generally put zero thought into my house and would have previously laughed at my own self for saying this: This is the perfect house for us and there’s a good chance we’ll regret not buying it.
But the short-term pain and uncertainty is proving too much for us to handle and we almost certainly will NOT buy it.
We’d love to get some feedback from you: What are your thoughts? Are we being stupid even considering this? Stupid for not pulling the trigger?
Is this just a vapid discussion from an upper middle-class family looking to manufacture a ‘crisis’??
What would you do in our situation?