Why She Bought a House
Part 1 in the She Bought a House series
Are you thinking of buying a house? I’ve wanted a house of my own probably since I was in my 20s, but always thought it was a far-off dream. I wish, in some ways, I’d bought much earlier. If I had, I would’ve owned a home in Seattle that could be worth…. I guess I don’t want to think about it.
Owning a home isn’t so lofty a goal as I once thought, nor is it a life sentence like I once thought. People buy and sell houses all the time. I used to think buying a house was for when you had a family, a career, and knew what you wanted to do with your life. While those things are still reasons people buy houses and are big factors, they don’t have to be.
It helps to have a job you’re planning to be at for awhile, in an area you’re going to be okay living in. Other than that, all those other things don’t need to be in place - in my opinion.
Rumor has it, lots of other women are becoming homeowners all on their own too.
Reasons I bought a house
Rent vs Mortage
I’ve been renting since my 20s, when I guess I’d say rent was affordable. And now nearing my 40s rent just continues to rise, now outpacing mortgages. Every time I’d hear what a friend pays for their house they bought 10 or 20 years ago I’d become infuriated. Some people pay half what I pay for an apartment for their home.
On top of that, rent is only getting more expensive, so in the end, do I want to keep paying rent to a place I’ll never own, or would I rather pay it toward owning? I guess I’d rather pay that money toward myself. Even though, technically, now I’m just paying it toward bank interest, but it’s still going toward me.
While it’s a gamble of course, like the stock market, I’m banking on home prices rising as well and therefore my home rising in value. Just like the stock market.
There’s a sense of “adultness” with owning a home. This is my space. This is my land (well, do we ever really own land? It’s not “mine,” but I am its steward for now I guess). I can plant a garden. I can not plant a garden. I can put up a skate ramp in my garage or my driveway.
I can paint the walls!
I can refinish the floors if I want to.
I can swap out cupboards.
I can improve a space!
I guess I’m competitive so I look at the house and the yard the way the previous owners had it and add to my list all the ways I can make it better.
Those are all the reasons I bought a house. Now, here are all the things I didn’t expect.
There’s that one thing that pushes you to jump. To take the plunge. Mine, for better or worse, was my need for a big distraction. I’m not sure if I’ll go into this further or not in the blog, but I stopped blogging for the better part of a year because of major depression and the heavy weight of hopelessness about a future. This was brought on by a particular event, a relationship, and that’s my trigger.
For the purpose of this post, let’s just say that, when I looked at my list of future goals, this was the only one I thought I could actually make happen. So, why not.
Not exactly the bells and whistles and glorious fanfare I thought might come with embarking on this milestone, but I had a need to fill up my time with utter distraction. This was my saving grace and shove into the fire. I thought not doing this would be riskier in other ways.
Again, not my best advice for those contemplating buying a house, to use it as a way to distract yourself from utter despair, but it’s done the job. And for that I am grateful.
Unexpected baggage that comes with a house
As a bright-eyed, idealistic new homeowner, I didn’t expect a lot of things to happen that did. Let’s start with just the basics:
Previous homeowners can leave a place dirty
As a renter, we’re expected to leave a place clean and tidy, and when we first move into a new place, we expect that management has prepped the space by making it clean and “move-in ready.” We’re used to the walls being painted with new coats of paint, the place has been scrubbed down, and is free of trash. I mean, generally, this is what we are used to as renters, unless you’ve got really shady management.
Buying a home is a different ball game.
Previous homeowners don’t have any incentive to do any of that for you, unless they’re naturally considerate people or you negotiate it into your contract. The homebuying process moves so fast and it’s filled with a lot of emotion and gambling, this detail moves down the priority list.
While it’s something I mentioned to my realtor that I wanted the place professionally cleaned, there were other things that were higher priority to put on the table, and this wasn’t one of them. So, unless you get the conscientious and considerate folks, be prepared to clean up:
Trash from previous owners.
Mine left trash in the recycling bins, tossed under the deck (a cooler and other garbage), out in the alley, in the trash bin, in the yard waste bin, in a pile at the front of the house.
Random belongings from previous owners
BONUS if it’s something you can actually use, like a hose or paint or yard tools.
Otherwise, you get to deal with getting rid of that weird piece of yard art or broken lawnmower.
Previous homeowners can lie
Whether it’s just a coincidence things the owners said worked suddenly don’t as soon as you move in or they flat-out lie, you’re still stuck with it. Unless it’s something major that would make the whole contract void, like if I found out my house was a former meth lab, then you, as the new owner, get socked with the repairs.
Your saving grace here is: GET A HOME WARRANTY
Hopefully your realtor gets this for you, and thankfully mine did, but this is essential especially for appliances and other big stuff that could wind up costing you a lot of money.
The previous homeowner at my place said everything worked. She was actually there when we did the walkthrough and told me to my face everything, including the washer and dryer, while they’re not pretty, they work.
They don’t work.
At least, not enough to actually be functional. Semantics, right?
Dryer – turns on and makes a very loud thumping and bumping sound.
Washer – works great except the rusty top of it leaves rust stains on your clothes.
Dishwasher – kinda gross inside but works, just not great at getting dishes clean, leaks water on the floor, and is missing the kickplate in front.
Oven – doesn’t heat up enough to actually cook anything.
Stovetop and microwave work!!!
Stranger Danger: Meet Camper Guy!
Just like renting, you don’t exactly get to choose your neighbors.
Let me introduce you to Camper Guy.
The previous owner mentioned that a homeless guy lives in the back alley. To me, this meant a hobo-type character may wander through sometimes. No big deal.
What this actually meant?
There’s a broke-down camper in the alley directly across from me that’s boarded up, looks condemned, and gets a frequent number of visitors at all hours dropping by in the pitch black and banging on his camper for…. I’m going to guess drugs. Not sure why you’d drop by in the pitch black or pouring down rain to chat about those Seahawks, ya know?
So, security is a top priority: locks, security lights, surveillance and alarm system. Plus, meeting my other neighbors, who all warned me about Camper Guy, so we can all keep an eye out for each other.
Lots of effort = Tiny reward + Big pride
The next thing I’ve learned is everything takes longer than I think it will take me to fix it.
Chapter 1: Shower curtain rod.
This took an entire movie (so, 2 hours?). But this was my first fix as a newly minted homeowner, so that’s my first dollar bill! I was giddy with do-it-yourselfness.
Chapter 2: Bathtub faucet that sprayed water everywhere.
YouTube plumber guy said I just needed to twist mine off and twist a new one on. No big deal.
This took me a total of:
1 YouTube tutorial.
1 trip to Home Depot.
2 re-watches of YouTube tutorial.
Several texts to friends about why YouTube tutorial isn’t working.
1 trip back to Lowe’s for faucet that actually fits + 1 friendly customer service lady who returned it anyway despite not being able to find my receipt (probably because I must’ve bought it at Home Depot and didn’t remember).
1 pipe wrench.
1 very excited Me getting to use a pipe wrench!
Chapter 3: Ugly broken, half-missing vertical blinds removal
There’s a sliding glass door in my kitchen (it’s half-broken too), but it came with a lovely busted set of those vertical blinds that I’ve always hated even when they are clean and all there. So I wanted to replace those with curtains and a curtain rod.
I went to Ross where I found a really good deal on a curtain rod and a 4-pack of curtains. I was excited to put them up and get those broken things out. I got up on the step stool with my screwdrivers to get the screws out and pull them down.
This is what actually happened:
Used the screwdrivers to turn and twist the screws to the right, then the left, then the right, then the left.
Realized the screws were stripped.
Got pliers to try to get them out. No go!
Got an electric drill to try to get them out. No go!
Got a crowbar to pull the whole entire apparatus down. That’s a go!!!
Felt surge of power and vindication with crow bar in hand and ugly, broken vert blinds at my feet.
Granted, putting the curtain rod UP was another nightmare, but I think you get the picture.
So, while everything takes longer than you think, and things just don’t seem to go as perfectly as they do in the YouTube tutorial, when you do fix a thing, there’s nothing like it. Until you’re a homeowner.
Hope you all had a great weekend!