Here’s the scene: It’s 2009, I’m a 23-year-old nurse and pregnant with my second child, driving home from my night shift at the hospital. It’s like any other commute home, but on this day, I take a spontaneous detour down the road where my parents live.
As I turn down my parents’ street, I see a yellow sign perched on the side of the road that says, “House for Sale.” I head in that direction until I’m parked outside — my heart melts. A gorgeous porch hugs the house. The view from the back deck is incredible. There's a majestic maple tree in the yard.
I picture our growing family picnicking under that tree, and I get this tingling sensation in my stomach that can’t be blamed on baby kicking. No, this is something else. This is the house for us.
There’s just one problem: My husband doesn’t want to buy a house … at all.
What follows is a play-by-play of how we worked it out back in the fall of 2009 — and how we feel about it today.
WHY WE DIDN’T AGREE
She says: I’ve been on a mission to find us a house since I found out I was pregnant with our second child. We’re living in a rented apartment, and this is no place to raise two babies.
He says: I know we can't live here much longer, and we need to buy a house to feel settled. But I don’t want to buy a starter home. In my mind, we’re going to build a dream home and live there forever. If we can stick it out a little longer in this dirt-cheap rental, we can save enough money to make our dream a reality.
She says: We live on the second floor, which will soon mean schlepping groceries, a toddler and a baby up those stairs. My misery will only deepen come winter. Plus, the tenants who live downstairs aren't exactly friendly.
He says: That’s true. But when you showed me the house, I wasn’t excited. The yard’s in bad shape, and the house is too close to the road. It's not what I picture when I imagine our dream house.
She says: Need I repeat: Schlepping up the stairs in winter with kids and dinner in tow.
He says: But what if we stayed put and saved toward our dream home?
She says: So. Many. Stairs.
She says: You know I’m not the most decisive person. I could debate what to order at a restaurant for 20 minutes and instantly regret my choice. Big life decisions are agonizing for me, but in this case, I am certain this is the house for us. It’s just minutes from my parents’ house and it’s in the town where we both work. What’s not to love?
He says: I admit, I am excited it’s so close to your mom and dad’s. And, to be honest, once we got a glimpse inside the house, I could see it working for us.
She says: I have zero doubts that we can pull this off financially. After all, I’m the one who manages the finances.
He says: You really do love that house, and it’s apparent you will be much happier there. Plus, it does make a lot of sense to get settled with our growing family right now, not sometime in the future. I can let go of this forever home hang-up. Let’s do this!
[We bought the house!]
She says: Nearly a decade later, we both agree that buying our first home when we did was one of the best decisions we ever made, both for our family and financially. We closed on the house just in time to collect the First-Time Homeowner’s Tax Credit, which at $8,000 was no chump change.
We put that money into emergency savings and then focused on building up our savings. In the years we lived in that house, we renovated the bathrooms and added a home office.
He says: Thanks to a low monthly payment, we could pay down a significant amount on the home and by the time we were ready to sell it years later, we were shocked by how much the value had grown.
She says: Had we waited even a year to buy, we would have missed out on rock-bottom home prices homes and missed collecting the tax credit, so overall it worked out perfectly.
And, most importantly, our first home was the perfect fit for our family. It was five minutes from school and work, and just a stretch of dirt road down from my parents. It was a quick drive to town for groceries. During that hectic time in our lives, when I worked two jobs and had four kids under age 6, having all that support nearby made our lives possible. We could bike to my parents’ house for a quick dip in the pool. They would pop over for dinner at least once a week. In a pinch, I could call my sister to help us with the kids when we needed it.
Even now, officially living in our “dream house” (we did it!), I miss that first home because of all the memories we made there.
He says: Looking back, it was a smart move because we built up so much equity. Maybe we could have saved that much if we stayed at the rental a few more years, but I don’t think we would have enjoyed the same quality of life. Cheap rent wasn’t worth being miserable.
She says: And you learned one very important lesson: Always trust a pregnant mom on a mission. We know what our family needs.