Moving: Living Well Within Our Means

This morning I looked at a house. Tomorrow morning Mr. G. will tour the very same house. We will likely make an offer on it.

I might pee the bed tonight, and I’m not kidding.

This is our third house. It’s a big house, it’s a dramatic house, and it’s a great family house, but it’s not my dream house. The night before we moved here I almost wet the bed. I was 35.

My daughter was born during the first week of November in 1998. When she and I returned home from the hospital the weekend immediately after was Veteran’s Day Weekend. A three day holiday. The Friday before the weekend began our toilet plugged up, and I called the apartment manger.

ME: Hi there, our toilet seems to be backed up. Could you call a plumber?

MANAGER: I can come over with a plunger, but I can’t call a plumber until Tuesday, it’s a long weekend and this isn’t an emergency.

ME: How is a backed up toilet not an emergency?

MANAGER: You live in a two bathroom apartment. So long as you have a working toilet, this isn’t considered an emergency.

Five weeks later, my stitches had healed, and we bought our first house. The house was tiny, but I loved it. We were in Van Nuys, because it’s what we could afford. Jane learned to crawl and to walk in that house. We didn’t love the neighborhood. It was safe, but the car dealers would test drive up and down our street. I petitioned the city for speed humps, and got them, a year after we sold the house.

We lived in that tiny house for a year and half. After bumping into one another like keystone cops one too many times, we decided it was time to move. Our next house was a three bedroom, two bath. It wasn’t quite tiny, but at 1,800 square feet it wasn’t huge. The back garden was huge, and the kids and I tended to it like crazy. I had nine foot borders that overflowed with geranium, roses, fruit trees and jasmine. The house was a fixer upper to be sure. When we bought it there was a jacuzzi in the back yard that was full of black water, and had so many mosquitoes in it that it resembled an anthill. We took eleven trees out of the front yard, and it was still shady, but the most important tree that we removed was the one growing through the roof. The flooring and sub flooring had to be replaced, because the previous tenant had a Great Dane that peed in the living room.

With both the first and second houses we bought what we could afford. We bought the cheapest houses is the best neighborhoods. We sold each of them for a nice profit. I worked day and night to make those houses gleam. I purged the houses of everything but the basics, set the table, and fluffed the linens. We got good money for those houses, and we were tired.

The third house (the one we are currently looking to sell) was back to back with our last house. It was a big, ugly smelly house, that had been twice reduced after sitting on the market for ninety days (in the height of the housing frenzy), even though it was uglier than the rest, this house required less work than the others. Fresh paint, carpets and plantation shutters gave a clean, almost regal look. We were very happy here for several years.

And then we wanted a pool.

So we tore down the three car garage and dug a hole. We love our swimming pool, and could scarcely imagine a summer (or winter for that matter) without one. It’s been three years, and we really enjoy it, but now my husband wants land.

Los Angeles is not a town of big lots. We live on a very standard sized parcel, it’s 6,800 square feet. We are now looking for homes in a very tiny subsection of the city where lots range from 10,500 square feet to a half acre. I refuse to live in a home larger than 2,500 square feet. I am tired of dusting my McMansion.

I thought I’d made it very difficult for my husband to find the house. I set up narrow parameters, and we are absolutely unwilling to spend more than we already do. I thought I’d made it so that we would never actually find a house. But I think we have.

My realtor Doug showed me a house this morning that I think may be The One. Mr. G is going to take a look at it tomorrow, and the numbers make sense. It’s within $100,000 of what we can sell our home for, and since we never did refinance to get the lowest rates available, our budget wouldn’t change considerably.

I pinged our Mortgage Broker with the basics (sort of hoping he’d say nope, sorry can’t help you) and I got this reply:

Good to hear from you.. In a nutshell.. Mr. G makes $Xk a month.. If you get a $XXX house and put 20% down ($xxx) you will have $xxx loan amount. In the low to mid 5% range on 30 year fixed you will have a $xxx/mo. 30 year fixed. Don’t forget to budget $xxx/mo. property taxes.. So $xxx/$xxx/mo. is 23% debt to income. Normally the max is 45% debt to income, yours is half that, which is great.. You are well within your needs plus you could probably use the tax benefits…

I am terrified. I am wet the bed terrified. Every time we move, the numbers get larger and larger, the houses keep moving to better streets, with finer details. Pools are deeper, gardens are lusher, gates are higher.

What I’m looking for isn’t a house. I’m looking for a home. I looking to move in and stay put. I’m looking for the house that I’m going to leave feet first. Much like all things good, I’m really scared that I might have found it.

Anyone want to buy a 5 bedroom, 4 bath house that’s walking distance to Chabad?

Comments 6

  1. I found one of my dream houses. The big problem is that it is in a different state. Not a good thing. I am a native Angeleno- love the city. Love most things about it, even the ridiculous stuff.

    But I have to say that I hate the idea of moving and that doesn’t impart my real feelings about it. Got rid of most of our crap and we still have far too much- the idea of packing irks me.

    So, that is probably not helpful, but I’ll say no thanks on your house and wish you well on the next one. It sounds like each move has been good, this should be too.

  2. my old house in my old life was a mini mcmansion.
    my new house in my new life…is a home.
    good luck jessica!!
    p.s…waterproof mattress pad for the time being, eh?! ;)xo

  3. Good luck with the house!! My parents live in a really big house. It’s a pain to clean. I love the house but I’m glad it’s not mine. Our first house was small and we knew we were outgrowing it but we’d put a lot in to it both emotionally and financially so we weren’t ready. Then fate stepped in and burned it down. When we were house hunting I was clear on a few things. I wanted a big yard and I wanted a house that didn’t need work. I couldn’t stomach putting my blood, sweat, and tears in to another house and losing it. I thought I wanted new construction but I didn’t like anything we looked at. Then we found our house. It’s perfect. It’s not too big but just big enough and it has a big yard. Also it’s completely remodeled and updated so I got the non-fixer upper without having to buy the crappy new construction. I really love my house so much I just can’t tell you. When it’s perfect you’ll know. :)

  4. A house is not automatically a home, that is just so true. It took me year to find the one With a little the house you have discovered will become your real home – good luck. But no pool? Is it survivable in LA without a pool?

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