The Oldsters are buying a new house (well, new to us anyway). To be honest, it is not something I thought I’d be doing at this point in life. Oh, I knew that I’d eventually buy another house. Where we live is not where we want to end up, so I figured that a new house would eventually happen. But I thought it would be the usual downsize sort of thing that folks do when the nest is empty and you don’t need as much space. But that is not what is happening here.
When we bought our existing house it satisfied many needs. Our daughter was only 1-year-old at the time, but the house was only a few blocks from the school we knew she would attend. It was also only half a mile from my office (we have since relocated our office, so this is no longer an advantage). I could walk to work. It was perfect. Also, even though the house was, at that time, 100 years old, the previous owner had used it as a Bed and Breakfast and so it had been updated both in look and brought up to commercial code in safety. (How many of you have an “Exit” sign over your front door?). It worked on pretty much every front.
But as we aged, as our daughter got older, as the town around us changed, the house that was perfect for us 15 years ago stopped being perfect. So we started looking. I seriously tried to find something that would satisfy my preconceived notion of “downsizing”, but alas, that was not to be. We are moving from about 2,800 square feet to 3,600 square feet to a house that is about twice the price of where we live now. Why would we do such a thing? I’ll outline my thought process.
Let me start by saying that when we began this search process, my head was clearly centered in the space that most of is in the FIRE community would think it should be. Buy/build only as much as you need. Make sure that it is as efficient on the utility front as possible. Closer to the places you frequent is better. I had all of those precepts squarely in my mind when we started shopping. And despite the increase in square footage, and the larger yard, we didn’t do too badly. But the biggest reason we departed from the strictures of the “straight and narrow path” is that this is not just about me and what I want. It’s not just about what I think we should do. Others have their own, and equally valid opinions, and those opinions need to be taken into account. And, as it turns out, those opinions are a bit better than mine.
I remember when I growing up my father told me “son, if you want to be happy in a relationship, marry someone smarter than you”. That system worked for my father, and it has worked for me. My wife is way smarter than I am (a fact which she rarely lords over me – thank you sweetheart). While I was looking for the type of place that Mr. Money Mustache would think was perfect, she was looking for the place that was perfect for the Oldster family. She was right, and we’ll be much the happier for it.
Her thinking was: 1) we have a teenage daughter (who is a little too pretty for my comfort level – do all fathers think that?); 2) our downtown location has started to become a little less safe; 3) we need a place that our daughter and her friends want to hang out (keeping them within our supervision); 4) we need space for my wife to exercise her artistic side (she’s very crafty and artsy); and 5) our current house has no place I can work, no “man cave” as it were. Add to this the fact that the new place is in a location in which it will be much easier to resell than our current, declining, neighborhood. Also, I will again be 5 minutes from work. I could ride a bike to work (hat tip to Mr. Money Mustache).
Now the financial side is a little more complicated. We will probably end up owning two houses for a while as we figure out whether to sell the old place or use it as a rental. We will also have a mortgage again, not too much, but when you’ve been debt free for several years the prospect of debt is, well, unpleasant. The challenge will be to extricate ourselves from the mortgage before I decide to hang up my spurs (I still work, because I like it, not because I have to – which makes all the difference and which will be the subject of another post very soon).
What have I learned (or re-learned might be more appropriate)? Preconceived notions are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions and I need to be more flexible in my thinking. One should constantly be questioning the status quo to see if changes or small course corrections are required. I think one of the dangers of any established system is the predilection for one to stop thinking for oneself. We see that a bit in the FIRE community and we all should be on guard against it. Everything, and I mean everything, should be questioned to the point of understanding. Once something is actually understood, then and only then can a thoughtful decision be made. So, despite all of my previous thinking on the issue, the Oldsters are buying a new, bigger house.
We are about planning the move and coming up with ideas to use the new space as best we can. I’m sure I’ll be posting more on this as it develops.
Until Next Time, FIRE On – Oldster