What I Wish I Knew Then: Buying a Home

We’ve all heard the phrase, “If I’d known then what I know now…” I’m not a person that lives with regret. I tend to make decisions based on how I feel and the facts at hand. And 99% of the time, I usually feel good about what I decide.

Still, there have been a few moments in my life where I have looked back and thought about whether I’d do something differently. One such instance of this is buying our current home.

This month marks our 5-year anniversary of living in our current house. Before moving to our current locale, we owned a condo in another San Diego suburb for four years. Unfortunately – or fortunately depending on how you look at it – we sold and bought in the heyday of the real estate boom. That means that we made a killing off our condo. But like many Americans, paid quite a lot for our current house and the property value has subsequently adjusted. Luckily for us, we did put a substantial down-payment on the current house. So whereas many people are underwater in their house and payments, we are doing okay.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

When we were looking to purchase a house in 2005, Bryan and I had very particular ideas of what we wanted. I wanted something “newer.” By that, I mean I wanted something built in 1990 or later because we were coming from a condo built in the 1970s. We wanted smooth ceilings since we were coming from popcorn. We wanted a detached house, as our condo was attached. We wanted a yard so Bryan would have lots of room to garden, plant fruits and vegetables, and have space for dogs to play.

It’s funny how one gets their head around all the things that seem important at the time. At least that’s how I’ve come to feel about it.

We now have a detached house, and a nice house at that. But in order to afford the home we wanted, we had to move farther from the condo and our work. So now it’s a 25-minute commute to work each day (with 10 minutes being from our house to the freeway).  Before, it was a 10-minute commute. So now we spend way more money in gas than we used to spend.

We have a yard with some fruit trees. But we’ve spent quite a lot of money on gardening and lawn supplies. The weeds have overtaken most of the space and we cannot afford a gardener. Our county implemented tough water restrictions, which means the grass is slowly starting to deteriorate. (I can’t imagine what the summer is going to bring!) And our dogs; well, lets just say they prefer to lie on the couch.

We don’t have popcorn ceilings and our house was built in 1991. But it does have a lot of issues that have stemmed from being a quickly-manufactured home in the 1990s, when homes were not built with the same standards as they were in the 1970s.

While it’s true that we do have more rooms and a larger kitchen (I won’t complain about the kitchen), it’s so much more to maintain. It seems like I spend half a day cleaning the place, and two days later, it’s dirty again.

And having more space just seems to lend itself to accumulating more stuff and spending more money. Over the last year or so, Bryan and I have eliminated a lot of our stuff and we now live more simply than we ever have. But there are many times we wish we did have a smaller house to go with the simpler life.

So knowing then what I knew now, I wish I’d kept an open mind about not needing a larger, newer home. I don’t regret selling our condo. But I wish we’d looked at other areas of town, or maybe tried to find something smaller and affordable in the community we lived before. It would nice to live in an area of town with more of a sense of community and the ability to walk to the store.

Still I’m extremely grateful I have a home and we can afford our payments. I think one of the reasons we are living more simply now is because the reality of hitting rock bottom financially and losing one’s house is such a reality these days and has affected so many people we know.

It’s a good lesson to learn. And from now on, I know I’ll do a better job of being more in touch with what’s really important in life.

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