We just sold our first house, which we bought in 2003 and have been trying (off and on) to sell for three years. We’ve been renting it out for part of the last three years.
I have been pretty good, I think, about staying positive about the fact that our house lost 25% of its value over 8 years. I have blamed the housing bubble, but in truth, it was many things that contributed to it losing value: the neighborhood has gone downhill, the basement has scared people more than we’d expected, and we just paid too much for it. Some of these were things we could have predicted, some weren’t. I try not to beat myself up about it too much: after all, I can’t do anything about it now.
I keep having these FEELINGS, though. I feel like a chump, mostly. What if, in a year, they turn the recently (as in, they tore down the derelict houses right after we accepted an offer on the house) empty lots across the street into a park? That would have made the house much easier to sell. What if the buyer makes a few cosmetic changes and sells it for what we bought it for… or more? I mean, I feel like a chump most of the time anyway, but this has the potential for making me feel ultra chumpy.
On the other hand, the selling of the house is a huge load off my mind, and the value of that can’t be underestimated too much. I’ve avoided looking at jobs other places because I didn’t want to deal with long distance landlording or having to sell two houses when we moved. The current house is less of an issue, I think. It’s nicer, in a nicer neighborhood, has a finished basement, and we have done a lot to it (although one of those things made it into a two bedroom house instead of a three bedroom house.) Also, we owe less on it as a percentage of what we paid already, so we probably wouldn’t face the same problems.
I’m not looking to move soon, but knowing I *can* makes me feel less trapped, if that makes sense. It is also nice knowing that if a perfect job comes up somewhere, I can at least envision going for it.
I’ve been asked before if I would advise buying a house, and my advice varies. It depends on how likely a person is to stick around, how likely one is to fix broken things themselves, and what they want out of home ownership. It’s not necessarily cheaper than renting once you figure everything in, on the other hand, it is quite nice being able to have a place you won’t get kicked out of with a 30 day notice (that’s happened to us before – not pleasant). It is also quite nice being able to do whatever you want to a house, to customize it to your desires, and to know it is yours.
What I don’t recommend, after our errors the first time out, is to buy a house just to buy a house. What I wish we’d done is looked for a rental and a house at the same time and got whichever came first. Part of the reason we were looking is that we had 4 cats and needed a place that would allow them; hard to find from a landlord, but not impossible. We didn’t even look at that possibility, though. (To be fair, finding places back then was a bit harder. Craigslist exited, but wasn’t a one stop shop to find rentals in Lincoln like it is now). Maybe it would have ended up the same, but we could have given it a shot. One more thing I’d advise for new house buyers is: find a real estate agent with lots of experience. We went with one who had never helped someone buy a house before, and I think it’s part of why we didn’t get a great deal on the house.
In the end, we came out OK. We “lost” about $20,000 from buying to selling the house. Renting a comparable house probably would have been at least $12,000 more than the cost of the mortgage and fixing things for the years we lived there, so the loss isn’t quite as much as it seems. And we got a cat out of the deal: our cat Zipper was adopted after living in our yard for a while. (As an aside, that house was terrific for cats – mother cats brought their kittens under our porch, strays came by all the time, it was pretty nice.) I’m glad we bought a new house when we did, despite the bad timing. I love our new neighborhood, I love living on the south side of downtown again. I’m glad we had the experience of being a landlord. I will remember forever fun parties, lovely walks to work, and the pretty flowers.
Goodbye, little house.
I wrote this post before the closing intending to post it after (I was kind of superstitious about posting about the closing before it happened.)
The closing was easy, sign our names about 10 times and that’s it. We got a check for around $1700 and will get a little more when it gets out of escrow. We went swimming, and then Geoff bought a bike with much of the proceeds, and then we rode around, to the Lincoln Bike Kitchen, to the grocery store, to get ice cream, and to look at the construction in the Haymarket.
It was a fantastic day. Really, really great. So I’m not feeling all that bittersweet anymore.