Home Sweet Home: The Big Decision
Should I stay or should I go?
That was the big question. Less than a year after my divorce, I found myself in a do-or-die situation with our family home. Since our home environment had stayed exactly the same for the most part, my children seemed to handle the transition to only one parent living there much better than I expected. No school changes, we went to the same grocery store, and keeping the every-day routines of our life consistent equalled stability.
this situation wasn’t without financial and situational challenges, particularly when those challenges mean a 100% increase in the mortgage payment in a down market. These decisions ultimately landed on my front door step, and to describe my state of mind as completely freaking out isn’t overstating things. Once I cried out the unfairness of it all, the facts remained the same. I could not afford to live in our home by myself. I could change careers, but the new paycheck demanded travel and a larger amount of time away from home than I could justify. The market wasn’t great at the time, but something had to give. We had to sell our house.
What came next amounted to the Choose Your Own Adventure of Home Ownership. I’d never sold a house on my own. Thankfully, a knowledgeable and trustworthy real estate agent mapped out the landscape. The first meeting, he gave me a list of things to consider both for selling my current home and buying a new one. They weren’t short lists, but they helped me prioritize my wants and needs, laid out what steps I needed to take in the process, and ultimately provided me with peace of mind. All of equal value!
Want vs. Need
When house hunting, most of us want more than we can afford. My list of needs included schools with excellent programs from elementary schools through high school. I wanted a community where my kids could ride their bikes to friends’ houses, close enough to work, and an investment that would recover the check I knew I would have to write to get out of our current house. I wanted family space, but not too much space. Square footage is the most inexpensive thing you can add to a house, but then there’s the heating, cooling, cleaning, and furnishing that space. In our current house, we didn’t ever set foot in about 1,400 square feet of the thing. That meant I didn’t need that much house. I’d always wanted to redo an older home, so this opened up possibilities in neighborhoods I probably wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. With my list in hand, I hit the internet, and spent lots of weekends driving around neighborhoods to scope out the possibilities.
After neighborhood recon, I had an idea of what I was really in the market for. This saved both me and my realtor time. We set another time to meet at my current home with two goals:
- Review my list and get cracking on the new home search.
- Walk through current home and figure out what needed to happen to get her market-ready. (This included scheduling a target date for hitting MLS.)
Once we had a date and a fix it list, I started working on knocking those things out. I packed up whatever items we wouldn’t need for the next few months and put them in storage. I hired my mom’s cleaning lady to help me deep clean the entire house. I mulched my flower beds and replaced the potted plants out front. Anything that needed some touch-up paint or grout got it. I also gathered up all paperwork showing renovation work, improvements, and upkeep on the house. In case someone asked, I was ready to go. The house hit the market two weeks later. One month after that, we had a contract. And one month after that, we closed. Given the situation, I file this in the Win column.
Peace of Mind…Priceless
Looking back, these three months land up there in the Top Three Hardest Parts of My Divorce. That includes the part leading to the divorce. My home held memories of birthday parties, Christmas mornings, and pretend Dancing With the Stars episodes where my kids danced and I played Carrie Ann Inaba, always giving them a 10. Handing over the garage door opener and my front door key took a little chunk of my heart with it. One more step away from our life as a family of four, but one step closer to building our future. I still get choked up as I’m writing this when I remember how terrified I felt in making these life-changing decisions. Finding a great realtor and doing my homework paid off in the Peace of Mind Department too because I never felt like I was making these important decisions alone. I made informed decisions with professional guidance, paving the way for a solid future for my children and myself.
Five and a half years later, I’m writing in my renovated mid-century home where I’m connected to my community, built new routines that feel like old ones, and provided my kids with opportunities to grow and become resilient when life throws a curve ball. We learned that nothing is perfect, but the opportunity to make the most of one’s situation is always an option. Our home was a smart investment. The property value has doubled, and we have built equitable memories together in this place that feels completely ours. There’s no place like home, but home can be anywhere if you set your mind to it.
Happy House Hunting!
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