There’s a house two doors up from mine that, mentally, I have already moved into. It’s a five-bedroom, end-of-group, which in a neighborhood of rowhouses means it’s got the most space both inside and out. I could have more yard. An office that doesn’t double as the guest room. A garage wide enough to open the
car doors all the way. A backyard “bumpout” that gives just a little more space in the kitchen.
I covet this house.
The guy who used to own it bought it in 2004 for $375,000 (I love online public records), around the same time we got ours in 2004 for far, far less. Moving from 900 square feet in a fourth-floor Brooklyn walkup, we got triple the space for less money! Six years later, my standards have adjusted, and I would love love love this house.
I even convinced myself that factoring in our gut kitchen renovation, finishing the basement and adding a bathroom, we could probably sell our current house for what it would cost to buy the other one. We could swap, even Steven!
The realtor told me it was foreclosed on in February. The bank bought it for $301,000 in May, but the guy wouldn’t move out. One day in early August, however, all his furniture ended up in the yard. Sofa sectionals, kid toys, electronics, wrapping paper, the works. As if you had two hours to get everything you own out of the house. The poor guy.
I know the house would take some work. It needs a new roof, and the bumpout is rotting. The gutters came off in the February blizzards, and the windows are original to the 1938 house. It has stainless steel appliances, but the kitchen-dining room wall is still there. We took ours out five years ago, and built the kitchen we exactly wanted. Moving to a new house would mean working with somebody else’s kitchen.
The ugly chain link fence ought to be replaced, and the garage door swings outward from the sides, so you’d have to put a new door and an opener to be able to park in it. Who knows how much we’d have to paint, and the basement condition is unknown. The yard has been totally neglected, although the guy was nice enough to let me divide his hostas to have some for my yard. Mentally, I’ve already chopped down the horribly overgrown bushes and figured out where my porch furniture would go.
Yesterday, my friend Mike, a former building contractor, peered in the windows with me.
The place would take $100,000 worth of work, he said.
Sure, you wouldn’t do it all at once, but if I just drained the savings account for this work and that and then the roof fails, I’ve got a big problem! And when we refinanced last year, we went to a 15-year mortgage so we can pay off the house when the kids go to college. Would we have to switch to a 30-year to afford the house? Or at least restart the 15-year clock? And even if we made a big profit from our current house and got the other one for what the bank paid, could we afford all the work and stomach getting ours ready to show and sell? (I’ve seen enough HGTV to know we’d have to move out half our stuff to make it look presentable.) And wouldn’t we rather put more cash in the beach house fund?
And then my poor Lovely Bride—already stressed enough about being the sole breadwinner—would probably have a coronary from the worry. And having moved every three years growing up, she still gets ill at the sight of moving boxes and trembles at the thought of packing once again–even if it is only two doors down.
It finally came to me when I was in Target this morning. Not buying hundreds of dollars of stuff, but getting a new iron to replace the one I’ve ruined, a new curling iron after we left one at the beach, a new alarm clock and so on. This right after I bought a refurbished vacuum cleaner at the Sears repair shop nearby.
If we buy this other house, I can’t do that.
We would be strapped, and it would feel like my first year out of college, when I remember spending $40 a week on groceries and silently reciting the total as I put things in my cart so I didn’t spend too much. I don’t want to go back to that.
And I have plans for our current house.
I’ll get crown molding up in the living room this year if it kills me. We oughtta refinish the first-level floors. My Lovely Bride wants to turn the third-floor attic/guest room/office into a master suite (gotta put in central AC first). We need
new front and back storm doors. And even though I can barely keep up the tiny yard I have, I still dream: maybe I’ll the nandinas my mom gave me to the front yard and resod the back. And then there’s my dream of turning our back porch into a mud room and the world’s tiniest bathroom so maybe we could still live here when we’re old and have trouble with steps.
The coveting is over. My Lovely Bride agrees. We’re staying.
I still plan to attend the open house at the other place.