Rethinking the Dream Chronicles is a special feature that highlights people that have rethought their dreams in some form or fashion. Frank is one of those people, and his story is similar to my own. He and his family got fed up with the constant upkeep and expense of owning a house. He came to the realization that all his time and money were going into the house he had very little quality time left over to spend with the family. Read on to see what he did about it. Please welcome Frank to Rethinking the Dream Chronicles…
I want folks to know that it’s ok – for whatever reason – to downsize. I found Rethinking the Dream very helpful. It helped me realize that we were not alone in “rethinking the dream”. I think there are a lot more people out there who want out and are scared to make the move. Is it socially acceptable? What will people say? I was at the point that I didn’t care what others said. I had to look out for the best interest of my family and our sanity. I think many people need a site like this to help feel validated in their decision. I know I did.
My story starts in 2008 when our family of 4 (me, my wife, our son who was a junior in high school and my daughter who was in 2nd grade at the time) was getting cramped in the 1200 square foot house we had bought several years prior. My son and daughter were having friends over. Kids would be sleeping all over the house and I could not enjoy my early morning weekend cup of coffee without steping over kids. We decided we wanted a bigger house so our kids could enjoy their friends company and I could enjoy my coffee.
We found this great 4br/2ba house in a great neighborhood. The neighbor to my right had kids my kids age. In fact, my son later graduated with his daughter and his son is in my daughter’s class. The neighbor across the street happened to be my wife’s cousin and the neighbor to the left had a daughter who was in school with my daughter. It was perfect. We were very neighborly. We had cookouts once a month, halloween parties, 4th of july parties, etc. Who could ask for any better!
This house was at the high end of our budget but we made the mortgage payments work. However over the past 6 years, the note has crept up about $600 a month because each year we never had enough in escrow to cover rising property tax and insurance payments. What started out as an easily manageable $1200 a month note turned into an $1800 a month note and is slated to go up again. It was only a matter of time for something to go wrong and we could lose this house and be left with nothing. The mortgage payments were made on time but there was no money left for the inevitable air conditioner replacement that could come at any time. Also, my son graduated college and moved out on his own. The house is really way too big. We could deal with the big house but not the payments or anticipated repairs.
The first Sunday after we moved into the house, my wife started washing clothes. When the washer drained, water came up in tubs and from underneath toilets. Thank God it was laundry water so at least the house smelled Tide fresh! (it wasnt funny at the time). So on day one, we hired a plumber to blow out the drains. I should have heeded that sign, but didn’t.
We have had to do several repairs on the house. New water heater, some new AC Parts, plumbing issues, etc. I have a home warranty that covered most things, but I believe that these warranties are all a scam. It’s just a way to spread out your costs over time. Spending the money on the warranty meant not saving that money to take care of repairs.
The biggest use of the warranty was on plumbers to keep drains unclogged. Maybe once a year, we were having major line issues. The breaking point for my wife came on Christmas Eve of 2013. A toilet got flushed and water once again came up into tubs and from below toilet. It didnt smell as fresh this time. We had company coming for Christmas Day and no bathrooms! Home warranty company was called…they were no help. Called the City to come out and see if problem was on their end. They came out and cleared a major clog in their line. In the midst of doing that, one of the workers stabbed a gas line in my yard which caused a leak. Next thing I know there’s a backhoe digging up my front yard to fix the gas leak. Called our own plumber, who came out Christmas morning. After several hours of snaking with different size machines, our problem was solved. (Christmas present from Plumber was he only charged me $250. There are still some great people in this world). We cleaned up the house in time for dinner that night. My wife was a wreck. She wanted to call the realtor then. I would hear nothing of it.
Then in April, I had just finished mowing the grass. I was sitting in the front yard drinking a beer with the dog looking at the dirt pile (from the gas leak repair) where the grass still has not grown back and was thinking, “what am I doing?” Why are we staying here spending an entire paycheck on the mortgage? Then my neighbor across the street drives up to his house pulling his two sea-doos on a trailer. And it hit me! I am a slave to this house. We have no extra money for anything and I still have 20years left on this mortgage. Please don’t think I’m materialistic. Far from it. Seeing my neighbor enjoy quality time with his family made me think that we have no quality time. I walked inside and told my wife to call the realtor. We need to get out. She was estatic. The sign was up the next day. 10 days later we had a contract.
All of this is where I think God intervened. The dirt pile, the sea-doos, the quick contract…all signs. There have been several other signs along the way since the contract was signed that helps me know that we are doing the right thing. Little things that have just fallen into place with selling the house. Things like minor repairs that the inspector said had to be done. I had a couple of corner eaves that were rotted that needed to be fixed and some electrical upgrades that cost me $800 in all. Much less than I thought it would cost. Again, God taking care of things. Not to mention the fact that our moving sale cleared out everything we needed to get rid of!
My wife told me that she wasnt sure how much longer we could afford the mortgage payments. We were making it work, but the cards were about to fall. We were able to get out with a full price offer and will walk away with some cash to pay off some things and really put something aside for that rainy day.
I am looking forward to not worrying about yard work, repairs, high electric bills, no home warranty payments, and outrageous mortgage payments. I hope to send you good news after a month in the apartment. My wife (a teacher) and daughter are looking forward to spending their summer by the pool.
Here I sit the day after our moving sale and less than a week until we leave our 4br house for a 2br apartment. My wife and I and our 14 year old daughter and our Boston have decided that we no longer want to be a slave to our house.I must say that I am excited that immediately we will recognize a cash flow increase by getting out and renting. The thought of actually being able to enjoy life rather than working 80 hours a week to just cover the mortgage is liberating. That’s no way to live.
All but a few of our friends and family think we are nuts. A few actually get it. But others can’t believe we are giving up our home. My wife started in December wanting out. I didnt want to hear it. Then in April, I think God intervened, and I went to my wife and said call the realtor. She did. We listed it. Had a contract in 10 days and will close on Thursday. God wants us out of here. Who am I to disagree. I hope I don’t offend anyone mentioning God, but I believe that He puts us where we need to be when we need to be there.Our moving sale happened yesterday. Hoards of folks showed up and within 3 hours everything that was for sale was sold save a couple boxes bound for goodwill.
As I watched one family cart off my possessions on a trailer, I realized how junky and old our stuff was. Not that everything on the trailer wasn’t useful, it just had seen better days. And I felt liberated!! Why do we feel the need to keep so many things!!!
I don’t believe downsizing is for everyone. If you have unlimited money that you can continually sink into repairs and upgrades, then maybe it isn’t for you. But if you are a slave to your house and are one missed paycheck away from losing it or are one broken AC repair away from not being able to afford repair then get out now.
I sold while everything was working. I’m out. We will probably look to buying or building again after dust settles. But we are going to catch our breath.
All this being said, I want to say that your blog has helped me keep my sanity through this journey. Hopefully I can post great news about apartment living in a month.