But to give some context . . . we recently moved back into one of the houses we owned and were renting out for the past few years. When we bought our last house, we still owned two houses in the same neighborhood we had lived in before. We knew it was a major stretch to try to keep two homes as rental properties while buying a 3rd home to live in. (And let me just say . . . I know that this is a massive, massive first-world problem. But alas, it became a real problem for us, no matter how privileged a problem it was.) We stretched and scrimped and juggled funds to try to buy the third house. It was a fixer, and we got it way under market value, and it felt like too great of a deal to pass up. We knew it needed work. We’ve always bought houses that were a mess and fixed them up.
That’s one of the ways we’ve been able to afford to live where we do. We’ve done slow “flips” of outdated houses, doing much of the work ourselves. I enjoy this kind of work, and it has been financially lucrative thus far.
However, with this third house, we got in way over our heads. The renovation was much bigger than expected, with us having to remediate some issues we hadn’t expected. We also found that while we could technically afford the mortgage, it was draining our quality of life. We were house-poor. We no longer had a budget for travel or play or really anything but the house. We had never been in this position before and it was beyond stressful. I felt like I needed to work non-stop to afford to live there.
About a year in, we recognized we needed to do something. And all along, we thought we might have to sell one of the other two houses to afford this one. We were okay with this option. But when the reality sank it, we had to look at all three houses and decide which one made the most sense to sell, and the most sense to live in. Ultimately, the house we had just remodeled made the most sense, both financially and personally. We missed our neighbors in the old neighborhood, the mortgage was much lower, and it is within walking distance of the kids’ school. It’s a friendlier neighborhood for kids, with less traffic and younger kids, and going back felt like the right thing to do. And now that we are there, I don’t regret it at all.
But it was a stressful process, nonetheless. We had to sell our house, which was still undergoing the Slowest Renovation Ever since we’d run out of money. We had to float things on credit to finish it up in order to put it on the market. And then, there was the stage of hosting open houses every weekend. Fortunately, a good friend stepped in as our realtor and helped us sell it quickly. (If you are in the Orange County area, I highly recommend him!)
Once the house was sold, we had about 30 days to pack up our belongings, and also to get the new house ready. We did a minor renovation of our current house (I will post more on that later) but fortunately most of it was done before we moved in. I think moving is stressful enough . . . I did not want to make the kids live through another construction-zone mess like we did at the previous house.
Oh, and we also put in a pool. That was another big incentive. Selling the other house allowed us to make enough to do this, and it’s been really exciting for the kids. Although we did punk them a little bit when we first went to look at the house, and showed them the “pool.”
It’s now a giant hole in the backyard that we have pizza parties in. And a giant pile of concrete that of course is now the preferred spot to play.
As for the kids, they haven’t really missed a beat. In part because I WORKED MY ASS OFF packing and unpacking as quickly as possible to have as little impact on them as possible. I had their rooms unpacked with a week, and life resumed to normal fairly quickly. They still go to the same school, they are back in a neighborhood with many friends and familiar faces, and they are chomping at the bit to swim in the new pool.
The one big difference in our new house is that we went from 5 bedrooms to 3, and from about 2300 square feet to about 1400. It’s a lot smaller. It’s been an adjustment to have the kids share rooms again, but I have to say that so far I am loving it. I feel like the structure of the new house promotes a lot of family togetherness. Our previous house was big enough for everyone to sort of “go to their corners.” The kids spent a lot of times in their room there. And the lack of peers in that neighborhood was hard. I watched some of them go from being “outside kids” to kids who spent all day in their room. We spent two summers in that last house and they were the worst summers of our lives because the kids were bored to tears. In this house, they hop out of the car after school and go chasing their friends down. They are in the street all day, every day, playing and socializing. I’m looking forward to a summer here full of friends and kids swimming in the backyard.
It is by no means a perfect scenario, but I definitely feel this was the right decision for our family.