QUIT: Our Little House

ceiling last straw

This crack is now a gaping hole. :/

[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end.  I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]

 

Witness: the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Two weeks ago, we got a letter from our homeowner’s insurance informing us that our entire roof needs to be replaced or we won’t be able to renew our coverage in the fall.  Last week, we had a slew of contractors out to give estimates, and on Friday, I mailed in a written agreement to the contractor we’d chosen so we could schedule the start of the project.

The next morning, I woke up to find that our kitchen ceiling had split in half and was doing a fair imitation of Niagara Falls.  And, as an emergency repairman from our new contractor (note: solid choice in contractor!) patched the leak on the roof to hold us over till a new one could be put on, the husband and I both watched as our ceiling did a slow-mo “it’s gonna collapse I know it’s gonna collapse aaaaand there it goes!” freefall.

This is clearly one of the larger downsides of owning a home, but for us, it was the last one.

We’ve known for a while now that buying a house was a colossal mistake on our part.  We did it because we were newly engaged, and that’s just the next step you take when you’re an adult.  But since the husband’s health has declined and we’ve lost half our income, it’s become abundantly clear that the whole “renting is pouring money into other people’s pockets” thing is a load of crap—at least for us.

So it is with heavy heart that we’re beginning to discuss the ins and outs of selling our little starter home.

Why Renting Makes Infinitely More Sense

Sure, if you plan on staying in a house for the full 30(+) years it takes to pay off a mortgage, then maybe it’s a “good investment.”  You’ll have equity and all that shite.  But we never intended this to be any more than a starter home, and now that it’s clear that owning a house is the absolute worst thing for us, financially and day-to-day-life-wise, the concept of an “investment” is a moot point.

We don’t have the money it takes to pay for incidental repairs, or the physical capacity it takes to maintain a house on our own.  The husband can maybe help me out with a load of dishes for 10 minutes, but he has to set a timer or else he’ll be in too much pain from standing for so long.  Now that we’re both home full-time, we’re managing to keep our yard from looking like the overgrown condemned house on the street, but barely.

We are not the kind of people for whom home ownership is, by and large, rewarding.  And, we simply can’t afford it anymore.

For the amount of money we currently pay for our mortgage and utilities, we could get an apartment with the exact same amount of square footage (we have two half-floors right now that we rarely even use) and the much-needed benefit of knowing we’ll never have to mow a lawn, snowblow a driveway, or pay for a leaky faucet again.  Just coming to this realization, as we studied the gaping maw that used to be our kitchen ceiling, lifted a weight off my shoulders I hadn’t realized had been there.

We’ve got a few things to get in order first, so sale isn’t imminent, but it will be happening.  We’re thinking it would be smart to list in the spring, because it’s easier to sell a house in warm weather and because then we can take advantage of a new garage sale season to have a giant moving sale and get rid of all the stuff we won’t need once we go into an apartment.

Nonetheless, the decision has been made. I’ve got a year left with my little house before it’s time to say goodbye.

What Sucks About All This

All in all, I’m beyond relieved to be getting rid of this responsibility (and money-suck).  But, as with any Quit, there are some things about it I’ll have to come to terms with—some I’ll come to terms with after a while, others not so much.

We’d just (apart from the jerk roof) gotten our house to the point where everything was the way we wanted it.  After 6 years, we’d done many of the major repairs (goodbye, indoor/outdoor carpeting in the kitchen!) we wanted to do, and I even just this month finally finished turning my monstrosity of a front yard into the patio/minimalist “garden” (3 shrubs and 2 flowers) I’ve longed to make it after many summers of shame each time I pulled up to our house.

For the first time in 6 years, I can walk through every room of our house (except the husband’s man cave and tool area in the basement, which I pretend don’t exist) and feel 100% content with the way things are, no further changes needed.

And now it’s time to go.

Well, one year from now—but still, it’s bittersweet.

How can I get rid of one of these sweeties?

How can I get rid of one of these sweeties?

But the worst by far is that most apartments don’t accept pets.  We have two dogs—a 60-pound lab and a 15-pound terrier.  I am stupidly fond of them, and they are my babies.  With a lot of hunting and sweet talk, I’m hopeful that we can find a place that will take the terrier.  But the lab (who is the sweetest, most ridiculously docile animal you will ever find) will probably have to go live with Cordelia’s Mom.

This is not nearly as bad as having to give her away to strangers or turn her over to a shelter, I know, but it’s certainly not good.  Imagine you had no choice but to downsize, and the only way you could do it was by giving away one of your kids.  Not cool, and not at all an easy pill to swallow.  Every time she wags her tale at me, I want to punch myself in the face.

So.

At least I’ve got some time to reconcile myself to this Quit, which is good, because it’s not going to be an easy one.

I’ve already spent the last few days since we made this decision alternately wandering from room to room sighing at how cute things are and staring sadly at my dog until she probably thinks I’m a psycho.

I know we’re making the right decision, but unlike other Quits I’ve done because I really, deep-down wanted to, this one is half-want-to, half-forced.  And the repercussions are a bit heavier than just admitting I like Maroon 5 or being better about my email habits.

We are making the right decision.  I know that.  But the right decision isn’t always the easy one.  And while I’m normally the one telling you to buck up and work with that, I’m going to be off telling myself that for a little while…

 

Where do you stand on the whole own vs. rent debate?  (Words of wisdom and perspective also accepted.)

 

Never miss a post! Sign up here and get a free copy of Your Guide to Calling It Quits.

  • We bought our house, and it has gone great so far. We got a GREAT deal on our house, and rent for a small apartment would be more expensive than our mortgage (mortgage plus property taxes, maintenance and insurance combined).

    • I’m happy for you that it’s worked out so well! I know that for many people, home ownership *is* a great thing and a big step in their lives. Unfortunately, with my husband’s health/work situation, it’s just not reasonable for us anymore.

      • Thanks! I agree though, it doesn’t always work out so perfectly for others. I hope everything works out great for you 🙂

  • Melissa

    I vote for the condo idea, myself. You get the good parts of home ownership (painting things however I want, not worrying about taking months to find a place that’s fine with my cat/s) with the good parts of renting (someone else mows the damned lawn, replaces the siding and the roof). Granted, you need to deal with the condo association, but they’re not all bad. I’m slowly winning the Boy, a confirmed renter, over to the idea.

    For the dogs, you can find places that will allow everyone. It might take a little longer, but it’s doable. I’ve never had to surrender any of my animals for any of the 14+ moves I’ve done as an adult, and I know several people who’ve done it with large-breed dogs. It just takes a little time and extra research (work with a realtor, it’s VERY helpful for that sort of thing).

    Giving up a home is always hard, even when it’s something you wholeheartedly want. (A dear friend just sold her house because she’d collected too many bad memories and just was sick of living there… she STILL cried when she signed it over to the new owners and gets grumpy when they change things.) It’s your HOME and leaving it is scary. Remember to let yourself grieve for it.

    • We wish we’d thought of buying a condo to begin with. Unfortunately now, with my husband out of work and me freelancing, I doubt we could qualify for any type of mortgage to buy a condo–not to mention the HOA costs. It’s looking for us like renting, at least for the time being, is the best way to go.

      We’re hoping we can rent a floor in a house or find a private renter who will be o.k. with the pup situation. We’ll certainly do everything in our power to.

      You’re right; overall, this decision is a big relief and one we’ve been toying with for a while. But actually realizing you’re giving up your first little home (when it’s JUST FINALLY RIGHT, grrrrr!) is never easy. But, such is life. There are comings and goings, and I’m glad I have some time to get used to this one.

      • Debbie M

        I thought of buying a condo, but backed away quickly when I found one whose condo fees had temporarily gone up a lot because someone was suing them. Too little control over how much to pay.

        Meanwhile, try to save up in case you can talk someone into letting you have pets by putting up a big deposit.

  • Carrie Paulo

    It’s been a year and a half since we “quit” our home of 8 years. It WAS meant to be our “until the kids graduate from school” house and life had other plans. Health complications for my husband and eventually a job change for me (another “quit”). It’s tough and there is much I miss even still. Grieve, yes. But concentrate on those positives. Downsize some more (hold out for a place that lets you bring both your kids) and rent much smaller! Save money to put so much down on the house that your mortgage is low enough that you can handle any repairs that might come up. Maybe if you don’t feel like you’re sacrificing because you have to, but because it’s in line with a goal you have set, it might be easier.
    http://notesfortomorrow.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/townies-again/

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. I can empathize with you.

      There are definitely pros to go along with the cons, and any transition in life is tough at first. But in time, I know I’ll be able to adjust to a pro-ier viewpoint. The words of comfort and commiseration definitely help. 🙂

  • Reg

    Congratulations and welcome to another transition! I believe that if you SET THE INTENTION, you WILL find a rental that is perfect for your family – including BOTH dogs! You deserve the best, so intend the BEST! You can do this! Happy Hunting!

    • Thank you, Reg. I do believe that, once I get down to it. I’ve always felt that the universe will provide if you’re open to it and willing to work with it. (I’ve seen it happen time and again, so I’m allowed to be all woo-wooey about it.) 🙂

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    I take exception to “the lab … will probably have to go live with Cordelia’s Mom.” Geez, you make it sound like she’s being condemned to hell! You gotta know that your Dad and I will be very happy to take care of her, especially since we lost our own big dog a couple of months ago. You know how well we take care of our dogs, and we will take care of yours. And maybe even let you come visit, if you’re nicer to me in the future.

    Having vented with that, let me say this: home ownership is not for everyone. We only bought our house because we had kids, and of course, at that time we were young enough and energetic enough to take on all the accompanying headaches, and to enjoy the thrill of being able to do whatever we wanted to do in our own home. But once a house stops bringing that joy, and once the owner is unable to maintain that house, I agree it’s time to give it up. You’re making the right decision, and in the end, I believe you will be much happier.

    I do agree with some of your other commenters, however, that if you could manage to buy a condo, that might be a better option. Most condos will allow you to at least have small dogs, so you could take the terrier if you can’t have both. Actually, for that matter, many professionally managed apartment complexes will also allow very small dogs like your terrier.

    As usual, you know I’ll help you in any way that I can.

    • I did not make it sound that way! I’d be very sad to see her go, but I never made it sound like she’d be condemned to a life of misery. (If anything, I’d just be horribly jealous of you for having her!)

      See my above comment re: condos. It’s a nice thought (and one I wish we’d have thought of at the beginning), but no longer feasible given our situation.

      It’s gonna be tough letting go of this little house, especially now that everything’s basically “just so,” but I know it *is* the right time.

  • I would second Melissa’s advice in terms of not giving up hope that a place will take both lab and terrier until you’re really staring down the door. I know you’re not considering putting the lab in a shelter but it does sound like you would miss your buddy. It’s very nice that you have your mom as an option – I know it’s heartbreaking to place an animal in a shelter, no matter how good the shelter is (and infinitely worse if the shelter isn’t well-run and well-resourced and therefore can’t give the animals positive outcomes).

    • Yeah, the more I get (awesome) encouragement from you guys, the more confident I feel that we’ll be able to find a place that will accept our entire little family, as is. People do it more often than I realized. I appreciate the support. 🙂

      • Cool! Good luck with everything! I hope everything goes your way when the time is right! 🙂

  • Danielle

    I’m glad you realized home ownership isn’t for everyone. I lived in a house, and an apartment, and really it all depends on what you want, and what you can deal with. There is also the option of co-ops, or condos, depending on where you live. As for the dogs, I’ve been fortunate to find apartments in NYC that allow dogs. Supposedly my building allows small dogs, but I see beagles, bull dogs, pit bulls, etc.
    If you could, please find a place that allows the dogs. Yes, your mom is able to take your lab, which is awesome, but in a way they are your kids.

    Good luck, I know it’s hard but it will all work out in the end. Now, you’ll have a more manageable space to make your own, just right 🙂

    • Thank you. I can’t say how much the encouragement and support means to me. I am definitely re-heartened to find a place that will accept both pups. I’m feeling more and more confident that it can be done.

  • Carolyn Roosevelt

    We’ve always rented; the right time to buy around here is always ‘ten years ago’, and I like the value and flexibility. The deck is stacked against us in many ways — my state has a rental deduction, but the federal tax doesn’t, which it should, imo: it’s being taxed as the landlord’s income, so I’d like to pay it with untaxed money. And I consider it a royal shafting that the Medicaid lets homeowners keep that asset, but I wouldn’t be able to keep an equivalent amount. So I may regret my inability to commit to a huge debt and a huge risk at some point in the future.

    • Good for you for sticking with what works for you. “A huge debt” and a “huge risk” is basically what home ownership comes down to for us at this point, too. We’re just not in the kind of situation, financially or energy-wise, where most of the “pros” of owning apply to us. To each his own, and as long as you’ve found what *your* own is, that’s all that matters.

  • G’Morning, Cordelia!
    {{{Hugs}}}

    I’m with you on that “Quit the home-ownership” road, more out of feeling forced, I think… My 4-bedroom townhouse will soon-ish be 1) sold as part of C’s estate or 2) foreclosed or 3) blown up in frustration with one or the other above situations. No matter which option pans out, your courage and clarity continue to be an inspiration!

    It’s never an easy decision, but as you said, “The *better* decision isn’t always the *easy* one”.

    About the puppies: I’m totally with Reg on the woo-woo ~ Make a list (or a mind map) of both your deal-breakers and your “nice-to-haves” and let the Universe know what you want! (and Don’t forget the budget numbers!)
    ~ For both your rental AND your sale!

    More {{{Hugs}}} 🙂 ~

    • Haha, I’ve considered the “blowing up in frustration” options myself, at times. (Yet another reason to get out before I do something rash.) 🙂

      I feel *much* more comfortable now with the notion that keeping both pups is totally doable. We have time, we have family to stay with for a few months after the sale if need be, and there’s no reason we should have to compromise our little family because of this change. Full steam ahead on the woo-woo!

  • Even in super-tight rental markets (one had a 0.3% vacancy rate), we’ve always had good luck with having a dog. You might have better luck with rental houses, if those are available, than apartments. Sometimes, meeting the landlord and establishing a rapport and *then* mentioning the dog helps a lot. (Our current landlord made an exception to policy and let us have our 100-pound dog.) In addition, now that you’ve been a homeowner, you might be a more attractive tenant to landlords because you understand about the costs involved in wear-and-tear on a house. Good luck with your search!

    • Yeah, I’m definitely starting to lean towards house renting after considering things. More leeway, and more room, without the hassle of actual ownership. Hopefully our own years as homeowners *will* work in our favor. Fingers crossed!