How to start over?
January 3, 2016 5:48 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I want to sell our house, move, and possibly start new careers. We hope to do all of this within a year, and I am overwhelmed with where to start.

Some details that might help you help me:

The house: We have owned it for 10 years, but intended to move after 5. I have never liked the house. It is a fixer upper that still needs fixing. We believe we can finally sell it for what we paid 10 years ago, but there are numerous projects still to be done. We live close to the New England coast, where houses are pricey. Our mortgage is our primary cost each month, and our interest rate is ridiculously high due to a poorly done refinance 8 years ago. We know we need to finish some projects (we are still putting in new flooring) but others might not need to get done before we put it on the market (our downstairs bathroom needs a reno but it works... super outdated though). We don't want to spend much more on this place, and we are total do-it-ourselvers. This is why projects have taken so long. As I am writing this, my husband is installing flooring upstairs. Some of the projects we have started (installing a french drain around the house... we have a six foot ditch dug but no drain) we are not likely to finish due to time and money. I am thinking we will bury the ditch with dirt and let someone else install a french drain, because they are mighty pricey and I am sooooo done with this house.

The move: We want to move inland a bit, knowing that we can get a much better bang for our buck. We don't plan a huge move, as we have aging parents in New England. We want to buy our forever home or buy property and build our forever home. We have potential access to a temporary living space that would be nearly free (my parents own a condo they use only on the weekends within an hour) as a buffer. We've thought about living there for a while (maybe even a year) after we sell, saving some money for a down payment and then purchasing/building the forever place.

The careers: My husband works in engineering and programming but hates his boss; he has wanted to start his own business forever (I have no idea how this would work). He has talked about commuting to the current job a few days a week (hour and a half if we move to my parents' place) and telecommuting the other days. I am an English teacher; I mostly love what I do, but I am curious about other career options or places to teach. I have been teaching for 13 years, so I worry that I am not an ideal candidate for a new opening (I cost much more to hire than a brand new teacher). If we were to live in my parent's condo for a while, I could commute to my current job, though the drive would be over an hour one way. I know that a teaching job inland would mean less money, but we could afford it if we sold the house and either lived at the condo or bought a more reasonably priced place.

So, meta folks, where does a family of five (two dogs and a cat) begin with all of this??? How do I avoid getting so overwhelmed that I just give up and decide to stay in a house I don't like because it's easier? How do we figure out what projects to finish before just calling it "good enough"? How do I go about possibly finding a new job when I have been teaching in the same school for over a decade?

EEEEK. Thank you.
posted by hippychick to Work & Money (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How do we figure out what projects to finish before just calling it "good enough"?

Do you have a real estate agent you trust? If so, have them come over and help make the list of necessary things to finish, and leave everything else to the next owners. You want to take care of the minimum list that will allow it to sell (ideally to be able to pass an inspection and qualify for a regular mortgage, otherwise you are stuck with cash buyers only) and the rest you ignore. Dated bathroom doesn't matter, open ditches and missing flooring do.

Most of the work of a french drain is the digging -- it might be most cost effective to buy the perf pipe and the drain rock and just get it done, but that's also the kind of structural improvement that seems to not add value to a house, unlike cheap cosmetic fixes that people will pay extra for. Will the drainage problems show up in an inspection?
posted by Dip Flash at 5:58 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Could you rent out the house for a little while until you sell it? Then at least you'd be one step closer (moving out of the house).
posted by deathpanels at 6:00 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hello fellow teacher. First, you'd be surprised at how many schools want to hire you (us). I was job hunting this past year and had a lot of interviews and offers from schools that have recently overloaded on less expensive teachers and it has come back to bite them in the ass. You will be surprised at how many offers you get.

As far as the house, I've been there as well. If you can hire a Realtor that you trust, you'll be golden. They can give you great advice about what needs to be done. I had a historical house in a historical town with a fair amount of problems and I made the mistake of paying a ton for a new roof and windows and a drainage system for the back yard. Buyers didn't really care about those things and I could have saved some money not doing the work. Buyers cared about fresh coats of neutral paint, bathrooms fancied up to look like spas and brand new Berber carpets to replace the yucky shag. They wanted a clean and blank canvas and didn't care about structural stuff enough to stop them from making an offer.

So you're probably in a far better position than you think, professionally and as far as the house is concerned. Ask around for Realtor recommendations; you want someone who sells a lot of houses, probably the person who is always mailing you a flyer.

If you're looking for teaching jobs in the Boston area, memail me, I may be able to hook you up with some interviews.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:10 AM on January 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

One good rule of thumb is to take on one major life change at a time, when you have a choice. If I were in your husband's shoes, I would look at setting up my own business first and selling the house after I was on my feet for a year or two.
posted by megatherium at 7:12 AM on January 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

First look at your options. Can you refinance? That's not worth refinancing if you're planning to move this year, but its worth considering if you'd stay in the house under different circumstances. If you lowered your mortgage interest payment by half, then you'd have money to complete renovations. I don't hear from your question that you prefer inland living. You like the lower costs, but you don't express a preference for that location.

If you do decide to sell then you need to accept that selling a house costs money up-front. It's time to let go of the DIY attitude and get things completed unless you're willing to accept a lower sales price for your property. When I walk into a house that's obviously been maintained by owners who half finish jobs, I walk out immediately. Even if you've done all the work correctly and up-to-code, there is no way for a buyer to know that. The hassle of constantly fixing someone's ass-up isn't worth it. Find a Realtor you trust and ask for advice. They will be able to tell you which projects must be completed for sale.

The business thing seems far too sketchy to be a feasible option right now. (By sketchy I mean barely sketched out, not shady.) Lots of people hate their boss and want to strike out on their own. Does your spouse have a product? A business plan? A target market? Where you move might be dependent on that.

In your situation I would do the following -
  1. Talk to a refi lender - even if you decide not to refi you'll have completed all the paper work for a new mortgage.
  2. Talk to a Realtor
  3. If needed, talk to a contractor.
  4. Husband should join an entrepreneurs group (online if it's the only option)
The other thing I'll add is that a big change needs consistent forward progress. Get one thing done each day - clean a closet, drop stuff at Goodwill. Constant small progress will get you there.
posted by 26.2 at 10:26 AM on January 3, 2016

Ask a local real estate agent. They will help you decide whether or not you would do better selling to an investor (in which case stop with the repairs already and let them cash you out) or selling to a prospective homeowner. The agent will also be able to help you determine what lender required repairs would be versus just want-to-have cosmetic ones.

Pick an agent who has been in business at LEAST five to ten years.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:10 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I came in to recommend a combination of the advice you've received above...
1. Refinance the house while you still have the current jobs. Use the extra money to complete some of the work the house needs. Meanwhile your husband should make a business plan. Part of the business plan should be determining whether it needs to be located where you are now, where the condo is, where the forever location is, or whether it doesn't matter.
2. Figure out whether the house will generate income as a rental or not and how much cash you'll walk away with upon sale. Test each scenario against your husband's business plan and your ensuing family finances.
3. Sell or rent the house out accordingly. If the answer to the location question above is "forever home," start looking for real estate, accepting that you may not be able to afford the idea place yet.
4. Move to the free condo or the forever location based on the above. Husband launches business with buffer of either income or profit from house.
5. If the choice was condo, plan move to forever location.
I left out your career considerations because I think they're entirely location-driven since it sounds like you want to keep teaching English.

Exciting times!.
posted by carmicha at 12:19 PM on January 3, 2016

Another teacher here. I'm 12 years in and have had no lack of job offers. I'm two years in to a new school and this year was made a teacher-leader. I am fairly sure they believe I am worth the higher cost.

You bring lots of experience and wisdom. You don't have to be mentored or trained, as new teachers do. You are more likely to stay longer than a teacher early in his or her career.

I taught high school English for ten years before deciding to take a job closer to home that required me to teach 6th grade English and ancient History. It was the best decision I ever made. Turns out that I LOVE teaching 6th grade. I'm a good high school teacher, but I'm an AWESOME 6th grade teacher.

I'd also recommend brushing up on technology in the classroom and start building a positive online identity for yourself. When we did hiring this year, I immediately checked them out - social media, blogs, news, etc. I don't expect everyone to have what I have (a fairly popular blog and social media accounts) but it does make a difference to have something else to see when assessing new candidates.

Also mine your contacts. Most jobs I've gotten are from contacts I've build in education.

Good luck - sounds like a lot of change!
posted by guster4lovers at 5:31 PM on January 3, 2016

Just a quick note that building a house can be as exhausting as renovating -- and worse if you'd DIY the build. Think about buying, not building. And buy a house that needs very little work.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:20 PM on January 3, 2016

where does a family of five (two dogs and a cat) begin with all of this?

Is it two adults and three kids plus three pets, or two adults and three pets? That's a big difference.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:19 AM on January 4, 2016

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