In July of 2005, my husband and I purchased our first home. The idea to purchase a home came to us four months earlier when we became pregnant with our daughter and were living in a one-bedroom apartment at the time. I wanted to move before the baby arrived because our apartment was small, and I thought we would need more space.
Although it wasn’t necessary to purchase a house (after all, we could have rented a two-bedroom apartment for about $1300/month), we saw the home prices around us rising and rising, year after year, and we felt as though we would never be able to afford a home if we didn’t get into the market at that moment. Well, obviously, we were wrong. Hindsight is 20-20, right?
Before we began looking for a home, my husband and I sat down and crunched the numbers. We concluded that we would be able to afford a home that cost about $250,000. We began going to open houses and were incredibly disappointed. The homes we could afford were in terrible shape and needed tons of work, and the ones we liked were WAY out of our price range.
It seemed a little strange and unfair to us that two college-educated working adults could not afford a decent home in a blue-collar town. My husband had his doubts about purchasing a home at that time. He didn’t think the home prices accurately represented the home values. Instead of listening to his concerns, I came up with an idea that I thought was brilliant.
I proposed that we purchase a two-family house with my brother and sister-in-law who were also living in an apartment in the area. We would split the mortgage, taxes, and other home-owner costs. We would share the responsibilities of mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, and taking out the garbage. My brother and sister-in-law liked my idea, and my husband came around, too, so we began looking at homes together.
We found the perfect home – two identical three bedroom apartments with a finished basement and a small backyard for both families to share. This would be our “starter home” – the place where we would start our family. Eventually, we would move into our “dream home” where we would truly raise our children and spend most of our lives.
We paid $540,000 for the home, which meant that my husband and I were responsible for half of that cost. It was still more than we wanted to spend on our monthly mortgage payment, but we knew we could afford it.
We planned to live in this home for five years, then sell it and make a HUGE profit. My husband and I would take our share and roll it over into the aforementioned dream home. I had it all planned, but things did not end up quite as I had imagined.
We purchased our home about a year before the collapse of the U.S. Housing Bubble. As a result, our home is now worth anywhere between $100,000 – $150,000 less than what we paid. We can’t sell our house because we are not willing or able to handle the economic loss at this time. Even if we were, banks are giving loans more cautiously, and the unemployment rate is high, therefore there are fewer people able to purchase homes. We are stuck in this “starter home” for longer than we had imagined.
The situation wouldn’t be so bad if the public schools in my town were great. My daughter will begin Kindergarten (which starts at age 5 in the U.S.) this September, and the public schools are not great. As a matter of fact, they’re not even good. I didn’t put much thought into the schools in my town because, as I mentioned before, I didn’t think I would be in the house long enough to have to worry about it. Sometimes things don’t work out quite as planned. So my daughter will very likely be attending Kindergarten in a Catholic school not too far from where we live. And, I think it will be a good fit for her.
Here’s the good news. We haven’t outgrown our house and we probably won’t in the near future. We also didn’t get one of those predatory interest-only loans that we can no longer afford, so making our monthly payments is not causing us a lot of undo stress. Other people have suffered far worse in this housing/economic crisis – short sales, foreclosures, and in some cases, homelessness.
My current living situation is not that bad, and at times, it even has its perks. My children live with their cousins who are ages 4 and 6. They see each other every day, so I never feel as though I need to make a playdate for my children. Also, my husband and I rarely worry about getting a babysitter. My brother and sister-in-law often watch our children for us, and we watch our niece and nephew in return. Another positive thing about our house is that we live less than a mile away from my parents, who are not in the best health and often need my help.
I’m happy to be able to see them as often as I do. Our neighborhood is also very diverse. I love that my children are exposed to many different races and cultures on a daily basis. That’s always been very important to me.
Finally, I own a home. It may not be the house of my dreams, and I may owe more money on it than it’s worth, but it’s mine and I’m lucky to have it.
Although the situation is not ideal, I have everything I need and more. Whenever I feel stuck in my house because I can’t imagine a time when I will have the home of my dreams, I remind myself that my house is not my home. My family is my home. It really doesn’t matter where we live, as long as we are together.
Were you affected by the housing and/or economic crisis over the past five years? If so, how did you get through it?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kally Mocho of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credit to Bill Ward http://www.flickr.com/photos/billward/3377880287/sizes/m/in/photostream/. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.