I’ve read multiple blog post about people who have widely varied (and sometimes very passionate) opinions on real estate. Some people think buying a home and paying off debt is the only way to go. Others chose to rent and invest all of their extra cash.
However, most people will agree that buying more house than you can afford is a truly terrible idea. And Mr. Cents and I agree wholeheartedly…..because we did it. We bought a house that was more expensive than we should have. In fact, it was one of the reasons why we left the east coast for a cheaper cost of living area.
I remember the “logic” behind our decision. We were renting a little townhouse, because the housing prices in our area were too high. Buying wasn’t feasible even though we were both had good jobs. After the 2008 market crash, prices started dropping like crazy…Still way higher than the national average, but lower than we had ever seen. Also, we had a family member who was living with us, and things were feeling a bit cramped. And we are adults, right?! Adults buy houses.
Then, the articles came out after the market crash. “INTEREST RATES ON THE RISE! BUY NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” I started to panic. We needed to buy immediately. Otherwise, we would never be able to afford to live in this area, and we’ll be stuck in this rental FOREVER!
So we started house shopping…We drove around some of the neighborhoods we liked and found a lovely home on a half acre lot. My husband loved it. It was older but had been well kept. Had a large backyard with multiple gardens and a lovely porch. The rooms were small but still decent-sized. Three bathrooms. Lots of yard. But it was about 80K more than what I wanted to spend, and I didn’t like the small rooms. But Mr. Cents loved the neighborhood, and we both liked the gorgeous backyard….so we put in an offer.
Worst Mistake Ever.
Now folks, let’s keep in mind that Mr. Cents and I had never purchased a home before. We were starry eyed and hell-bent on adulting like we thought we should. We didn’t not think this through. We did NOT take into the account the following issues:
- Buying a house is expensive. We didn’t have enough for a full 20% down payment so that meant our monthly payment was higher than we expected. Especially when buying a house that was 80k more than we planned. We almost doubled what we were paying in rent.
- Old houses are old. That means that they leak air conditioning during a muggy summer and suck the warmth right out of your bones during the winter. Our electric bill doubled from the townhouse, and that was during the good months! I remember one particularly bad month when the electric bill hit $550. That was after regulating our thermostat to the point where the inside of the house wasn’t comfortable anymore. I turned into an old man, yelling at people to “TURN OFF THAT LIGHT!” “SHUT THAT DOOR YOUR LETTING OUT THE FFFFF AIR! WHAT AM I MADE OF MONEY?!!!!” It was unpleasant. I remember the one winter that we tried to lower the thermostat to like 65. The actual temperature dropped lower than that, and both Mr. Cents and I started to get sick so we had to bump the temp up.
- Houses require maintenance. Most people know this one. However, most people probably don’t seriously underestimate how MUCH maintenance a home requires. Not like us…oh no…we were not prepared for the shower that caved in because whoever installed it used expandable foam to hold it up. Or the time lightening struck our well pump. Or the time the giant tree in backyard broke in half and smashed one of our flower beds (not the house, thank goodness). It was one thing after the other.
- Taxes SUCK. This we knew it was going to happen, but we were still surprised by how much of our monthly payment went to property tax.
With the mortgage and our other bills, we couldn’t get ahead financially. Even with two good salaries, we were living pay check to pay check, and we felt like we were drowning. After a couple of years of house-poor living, we decided to call it quits and look for a way out. We started looking for job opportunities outside of our high cost of living area. My job offered me an opportunity to move to spot in Texas with a significantly lower cost of living, and I took it.
Thus begins our journey to be debt free! Buying that house was probably the worst financial move we could have made, but it was good for us in the long run. We needed to learn the hard way that what everyone else says is normal isn’t always best. If we hadn’t bought that house, we never would have looked for a way out. Never would have found blogs about living debt free. Never would have even thought that early retirement was a thing. These days, we are making positive changes towards reaching our financial goals. For the first time in a long time, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train of financial hardship. Its just a way out.