Owning vs Renting – How did you decide and compromise your wants/needs?
February 2, 2017 8:16 AM   Subscribe

We moved to Bloomfield, NJ from Queens, NY almost 2 years ago and went from long time renters to first time buyers. We don’t have kids (don’t want any). We wanted more space, privacy, and control. We wanted a grill, a backyard, and our own washer and dryer. We didn’t want to have to worry about our cats making too much noise, and neighbors above, below and on each side of us. Having to lug loads and loads of laundry back and forth to crowded laundromats was stressful and just one of many things wearing us out.

So we bought a home (built in the 1930’s). It is beautiful and was cared for and maintained by the previous owner and it showed. There is even a fireplace which I had never even seen before, central air which I had never experienced either, and solar panels. The previous owner created and cared for a beautiful garden and I had dreams of vegetables and fruits and herbs and flowers that I grew myself. I do love this house. But. It is a lot to maintain and the constant worry of something falling apart has been wearing on us. The ability to customize and “make it our own” is great but all of that stuff costs money and is really time consuming. The mortgage, taxes, and other costs are high. I was not working when we purchased the home so it felt like I would have time and energy to paint and make it look like something on Houzz, or Pinterest, or HGTV.

Well, we have hardly used the fireplace, my first attempt at gardening was a total failure and the garden beds that were already there pretty much collapsed. I’m terrible at painting and the other projects have just been stacking up and multiplying. Even though we are in our own home the neighbors are still too close. The privacy trees that we added to the yard are dying! One of the 3 bedrooms is basically a cat room with the litter boxes, and the other room is a mostly unused gym/guest room. We rarely work out and hardly ever have guests. I have a job that feels like it is getting more and more demanding. I want and need to become more involved in social activism in this shitty environment that we are currently living in. This is not even an option. I need to take care of myself and eat and sleep.

After talking it over we decided to move and have already found an apartment. We’re going to sell the house and just hope that it moves quickly so we aren’t paying rent and a mortgage. The new apartment is brand spanking new and is closer to public transportation which will reduce our daily commute by an hour. There is even a washer/dryer and an elevator. It’s more like what I had access to in Queens in terms of shopping and grocery stores. I won’t be able to paint, hang my plants, garden, or bbq. The lease is long and there are so many rules.

I’m really conflicted. Owning a home has felt like a very grown-up thing to do and gave me this sense of stability. Not being able to maintain it feels like a bit of a failure. Like maybe I’m not actually a grown up after all. There are families around us with kids and more demanding jobs and they seem to be doing so much more. No I don’t actually know any of them so who knows how they do it but still. I’ve also been feeling extremely insecure about the world in general. If there is some kind of economic crisis is it better to own your own home or rent? Is going into foreclosure worse than breaking a lease?

I know that my wants are all over the place. Is there a happy medium? The house is almost too much in terms of maintenance and space but the apartment isn’t enough of what I want. I know that there are other beautiful houses out there that I will fall in love with. My ideal situation would be a not too large house that is secluded from neighbors, but close to public transportation, shopping, and of course good food. I’m aware that this may not exist. I’m looking for perspective so I can stop agonizing about all of this.
posted by mokeydraws to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmmm. I'm not entirely sure what you're asking here.

Like, are you wondering if there is a thing like a house but you rent it? (Yes, people rent houses.) Are you wondering if there's a thing like an apartment but you own it and can mostly do what you want to it? (Condos and co-ops.)

Are you wondering how other people maintain their homes? That answer is that you learn on the job and watch a lot of how-to YouTube videos and fail several times before you get it right. And the phrase "working around the house" becomes the answer to "what are you doing today?"
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:24 AM on February 2, 2017 [13 favorites]


I know some people who own apartments in small buildings with maybe 2-6 units. Often they include some small amount of outdoor space, though it may be communal. They still have to worry about maintenance, but it's generally less onerous than in a house. Perhaps something like this would be a good middle ground?
posted by breakin' the law at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2017


It sounds like you might prefer to own a town-home in a condo development or potentially even a freehold development. You won't get rid of the neighbours being too close, but the lack of upstairs/downstairs neighbours will help considerably with the noise considerations. You can still paint and redecorate inside, but outside maintenance may be taken care of for you, alleviating some of the work. If it's newer, that also helps with the workload / constant worry that things will go wrong.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't have much in the way of an answer but we are in a very similar situation. In about 20 minutes we will go to sign the contracts to sell our first house in preparation for moving back to an apartment in the city, for reasons much like yours.

I think you have to keep in mind that the people around you may have different values and priorities. Many of the people I know who own homes (around here, that is usually older homes like yours) take a visceral pleasure in their maintenance. They are hands-on, DIY people for whom, to some extent, home-ownership functions as a hobby as well as providing a place to live. I think there's no shame in not being such a person. I like to tinker on my bikes, but I don't enjoy "house projects" even a little bit. I'd rather spend my time and money on things that bring me happiness and have a set, fixed amount to pay for rent each month, rather than constantly worrying about having to replace the sewer lateral or the roof or the boiler on short notice (or what happens when a car fucking goes off the road and knocks down your entire porch, as happened a few houses down last month). When our hot water heater broke I remember my relief when the plumber told me it would be "only" $1,400 to replace; before buying a house, I can't remember the last time I spent that much money at one time on anything other than rent. I will not miss those surprises.

I hear you on the laundry thing. Laundromats are the worst. Rent a place with laundry.
posted by enn at 8:33 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


We moved two years ago and still have boxes in the garage. Like, we can't fit a car in there. Shrug!

I figure we'll be here forever. Every time I tackle a project or unpack a box, it's something we'll never have to do again or won't have to do for a long time. You can get a lot done in a weekend--paint a room, hang shelves, patch a crack. For gardening, I'd highly recommend lasagna gardening, which is a little bit of work up front but has been way more fruitful for me than any other kind of garden. Even though my garden looks like a hot mess, it's so incredibly soothing to work out there and incredibly rewarding to have more tomatoes than I know what to do with every summer.

I don't own a home for pinterest. I own a home because it makes me feel safe, secure, and in control of my life; one night in our apartment, a radiator overflowed from the apartment above and spilled down on me in bed. It was never properly repaired, nor were the gutters ever cleaned, or the windows fixed. At least now, if there's a problem, I have nobody to blame but myself.

The previous owners of our house lived here for 40 years. Yes, the landscaping was beautiful then and is a little shabbier now. But learning about our home and how to care for it is going to be a lifelong thing, a relationship. Not something that's done and over with in a year or two.

Honestly, I think you just need to be more patient with yourself. If it's a load off, hire someone to paint--it can be done in a few weeks. Other projects, like gardening and landscaping, can be approached on long term scales. I think of home ownership as sort of a symbiotic relationship. Thinking of it in terms of what other people do or don't get done, or how things look, are a little less important.

Or maybe you just want a home you don't have to think about. That's fine, too. So sell! But I wonder if your anxiety over this isn't really more about your (understandable) anxiety about the world right now. I don't hear a ton of kindness for yourself, and I think that's the bigger problem.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2017 [15 favorites]


It's psychologically painful to go against the social norms and constructs of success: don't have a kid, don't own a car, don't own your home, don't strive toward the top rungs of career success and you have a whole industry and society there to tell you you are doing it wrong. There's what's good for society as a whole in the most general and capitalistic sense and then there's what's good for you at home. You have to live in you.

It sounds to me like you experimented with one thing (maybe too much house, too much yard, too many litter boxes ;) and figured out what you need for right now. Maybe down the road you change your mind? It's okay. We can only do our best with what we've got in front of us.

Owning property comes with very distinct benefits but not without some compromises. You may want to think about owning in the future so make sure to sock away some of those sale proceeds at least for a year while you settle and think about your path. But it sounds like a good move you are making for you right now.
posted by amanda at 8:34 AM on February 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


Also I feel like almost everyone I know who owns a house has some projects that they just never seem to finish, because they are lower priorities than other things in life. Obviously you need to take care of critical stuff, but other than that you probably just need to learn to prioritize and get used to the idea that the house is never really "finished."
posted by breakin' the law at 8:35 AM on February 2, 2017 [9 favorites]


If you enjoy the freedom of living in your own home but could use more money to pay for maintenance (as opposed to struggling to DIY everything), would you consider renting out one or both of your spare rooms? I've had a good experience with renters in my home, and it definitely defrays the mortgage and maintenance costs. (I've also enjoyed the experience of hosting newly resettled refugees as tenants. But depending on the market in your area, resettlement agencies might pay significantly less than a market-rate renter.)
posted by cnidaria at 8:40 AM on February 2, 2017


Owning a home has felt like a very grown-up thing to do and gave me this sense of stability. Not being able to maintain it feels like a bit of a failure. Like maybe I’m not actually a grown up after all.

Please forgive yourself for this one. There's no shame in not having the inclination/energy/money to maintain, what, at least three times as many rooms as you have people living in them, to HGTV standard. It doesn't make you less of a grown-up, whatever that means. It just means you're a grown-up who has priorities that aren't house maintenance.

There's no problem with being someone who has those priorities. I've got friends and family who do the hardcore decorating/remodeling thing, and it's nice to visit their homes when they've finished the work, but damn, that is not how I want to spend my evenings and weekends. I'm pretty sure I'm still a grown-up in spite of not sharing their interests.

And there's no shame in not recognizing what your priorities were before trying out this lifestyle. It's hard to recognize how many resources you can devote to a project before you've ever been in a position to do so.

Try out the apartment, try investing some work into decorating if you feel like it (and do it as soon as you move in, so that you get more benefit from your work over the course of your lease), don't worry too much if you don't feel like it. Check your lease carefully for what's allowed -- you may be able to paint the walls as long as you repaint when you move out, or you can just plan in advance to lose your security deposit. (New Jersey's got fairly decent protections for renters, and you're more likely to get the deposit back than in a lot of other states, but it might be worth losing the deposit.) Container gardening is a thing. If you do find yourself with more desire to redesign your space than a lease allows, consider buying a condo if ownership still makes financial sense. Do whatever you want to the inside space barring serious structural changes, and the outside and all the work associated with it is Somebody Else's Problem.

The distance from neighbors thing is a tough one, depending on what you want out of it, and it sounds a bit like all your other priorities are opposed to it. (Good public transportation, critical mass for local activism, shopping and restaurants and bars without having to drive to them -- those are all things that living near other people gets you.)

Multi-family housing is a land of contrasts. It's possible to find buildings that aren't quite as annoying; you can rent units that have a private entrance and attached garage if that's what you'd like. Or with patios and garden space. Or with property-wide non-smoking policies, or places where everybody's got pets and they aren't likely to care about noise your cats make.
posted by asperity at 8:41 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


Maybe im confused but you do know that you can buy an apartment, right? like a coop or condo? its got some of the downsides of renting (neighbors are a dice-roll) but without a lot of the downsides of owning - my monthly maintenance goes to pay for the union jobs of our doormen, porters and super.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:48 AM on February 2, 2017


Hmmm. I'm not entirely sure what you're asking here.

Jump to the last paragraph after the break:
I know that my wants are all over the place. Is there a happy medium? The house is almost too much in terms of maintenance and space but the apartment isn’t enough of what I want.... My ideal situation would be a not too large house that is secluded from neighbors, but close to public transportation, shopping, and of course good food. I’m aware that this may not exist. I’m looking for perspective so I can stop agonizing about all of this.
Emphasis mine.

My answer: sit down and really figure out what your parameters are, because that will help your search. How large is "not too large" for living space? Or drill down deeper - what do you want from a home? Spend time together to write down all your thoughts, either going room by room, or more broadly inside (and outside, or do both. What do you want to do in the bedroom? Do you want guest bedrooms? How many? Why? Will they really get the use you want? Just as you have seen that a garden is a nice idea but a lot of work, is extra space nice but not necessary to your ultimate happiness?

If you live some place where everyone has similar modestly spacious houses and moderately roomy yards, you'll be pushing yourself farther away from public transit, shopping and food opportunities like you have in more dense city settings. So you have to go up - look to own an apartment, floor or town home, if you both want to own something that is yours.

I just stayed with friends in D.C. who own two and a half floors in a building - it's relatively small, but they have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice living room and kitchen, a small dining space, and a rooftop of their own. But they had to replace their HVAC unit, which was a major expense, and they're redoing the shower in their master bathroom themselves to save expenses. Down side: these are all their expenses. Up side: there's no landlord to deal with, which is a headache for a neighbor of theirs in the same building.

It's all about balances. You may be able to save enough from living in a smaller apartment that you rent, where you can do without a car (or one car instead of two), compared to living in a detached home with all the expenses that come with that. Check out some scenarios in rent or buy calculators, because this also changes on where you (want to) live.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:48 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


So perhaps don't sign the lease at the moment? It sounds as if you'd go from a rock to a hard place?

Narrow down your parameters to your absolute deal breakers. Then layer the nice to haves. Then the luxury, don't need to haves.

Once you're both agreed on these you start a search. And you only consider properties that meet all the deal breaker criteria.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:02 AM on February 2, 2017


This idea that owning a house is the definitive marker of adulthood is almost exclusively an American one. You are under no obligation to buy into it. Here in NYC there are many grown-ass adults who have no house(/car/kid!) who are nonetheless successful and fulfilled. You lived in the city; you know some of these people, right?

I would never dream of buying a freestanding house. The thought of the amount of work that would be required just to keep it from falling down appalls me. I have other priorities. You're allowed to have other priorities, too.
posted by praemunire at 9:23 AM on February 2, 2017 [5 favorites]


I don't know the rental options in Bloomfield, NJ, but I assume like most places there's not just one type of place available for rent.

I live in Chicago. Let me tell you about my apartment. I found it on Craigslist, not through any kind of broker, and the landlord is a private owner guy who owns a few buildings in the area.

It's a small building. A two flat with a basement garden and a coachouse-type back building. Five units total. I have a ton of privacy. I have the entire second floor, which means I share one boundary (the floor) with one neighbor (the first floor residents). They put up with my dog noise and I put up with their teenage son noise--it's a perfectly fine tradeoff for me. I also hate the laundry schlep but my place didn't have in-unit machines, so I bought a portable washer that plugs into my sink and I just hang everything up to dry. The building is in a decidedly un-happening neighborhood, which was important to me because I don't like hubbub. I can walk to my train. I think my setup strikes a great happy medium. I rent, so I don't have to gaf about home upkeep, and while I'm in a shared building, it's only with a handful of people. I can have my quiet little life with my dog and then take a train to get to somewhere more interesting, if I want to.

You can totally rent a house, but keep in mind that apartments don't have to be huge, unfeeling, sardine-type deals. There are lots of types of buildings. Generally smaller ones like where I live will be listed more privately, so yeah it's harder to search for and takes a bit more work, but for me it was totally worth it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:31 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]


A good garden compromise is to grow your own herbs indoors, year round (with the right shelf and lighting). All an outdoor garden adds is the ability to grow vegetables for a few months of the year. (If you miss gardening, you may be able to get space in a community garden and visit your plot on weekends, depending on the location of your apartment.)
posted by xo at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2017


Many of my friends in your situation have chosen to rent an apartment close to work and buy a weekend house in a rural area upstate. Taxes are lower, property is cheap, and they can putter around on weekends, do art, etc. With the money you'll save, you can invest in irrigation systems, hire landscaping services, etc.

For now, I think you should sell. A house an hour + commute to work, and paying taxes for schools you don't need, both sound miserable. Apartments don't have to be soulless, and honestly I don't know if I've ever worried about my cats making noise. Get an apartment in a small building; they often are more flexible with painting. Get rug pads and rugs, don't do calisthenics after 10pm, etc. Do the math and you might be surprised about how the relative cashflow works out. Put the extra into retirement accounts. Nothing makes me feel more grown up than knowing I won't be destitute in my old age:-)
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am chiming in to affirm your decision to rent for now. It sounds like what you want, mostly. A house sounds like what you WANT to want. I mean, of course there are drawbacks to either, but something had to give and you chose wisely for your situation now.

I think yours is a question specific to our area. People in the NYC area rent forever and it makes sense for the lifestyle-- I don't know if this is really a universal question because in some locations, renting is throwing money away and not taking your piece of the pie/growing up, but in others, like our area, renting can be the most bang for your buck, so there might be cultural difference in these responses.

Secluded private residence close to transit and shopping is a pipe dream in our area. Of course, there are smaller houses, townhomes, condos, etc. There's the more affordable parts of Westchester, Jersey City, semi-detached duplexes in deep Brooklyn. But you pretty much have to choose secluded or connected unless you're crazy rich.

It's not forever-- if your priorities change you can buy another day.
posted by kapers at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2017


There is more than one apartment available for rent in your city, I'm sure. You don't have to move to the place with "so many rules". Almost every apartment I've rented allowed small modifications like painting, like hanging plants, putting up shelving (as long as you restored it to neutral when you moved out). Most had either a back deck or a balcony where I could put at least a hibachi. If you're going to leave your too-large house, take the time to find an apartment that better meets your needs.

I, internet stranger, give you permission to rent for life if you'd like to. I have, and I'm in my 50s. My parents never owned a house together. My mother is 77 and still doesn't own a house. Many people think house upkeep is too much work & too time consuming. The biggest drawback to renting is instability: your landlord can sell at any time, or kick you out so a friend can move in, or can raise your rent quickly and too much. So you weigh your pros and cons and make a compromise. If your house isn't making you happy, move along!
posted by clone boulevard at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2017


In theory the benefit to owning vs. renting is that eventually your house is paid off and so you get to live "rent free" with an "asset."

But with property taxes (esp in bloomfield nj haha) and HOA fees if applicable, you will almost always still have a monthly payment looming over your head. That's if you ever actually pay off a property, which many people who "own" never actually do, especially if they just keep "moving up" into more expensive properties leveraging any increased value in the sale of their existing property.

As far as an "asset", maybe your property can be. Maybe the market tanks. Maybe you get a great deal on a cool victorian with spires and find out the roof costs 70k to replace. Over the lifespan of ownership, it's hard to predict if the property will end up a net "asset".

All the other stuff you bring up - maintenance and the enjoyment thereof, gardening, space, neighbor proximity, laundry access, commute - is variable and you can find any situation in both owning and renting situations. Sounds like you like renting but maybe need to expand what a rental property is in your mind. I personally like my small house because if left to my own devices I tend to like never leave the house and I enjoy trying to learn handy maintenancey trade things. And my situation is cheaper than renting in my area. But that's only my situation. Sometimes I feel like less of an adult with my house because I will hunker down in my pjs for a weekend watching teen mom, while if I lived in an apartment in a busier area I would feel like a slimeball if I didn't at least like go outside or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2017


I’m really conflicted. Owning a home has felt like a very grown-up thing to do and gave me this sense of stability. Not being able to maintain it feels like a bit of a failure. Like maybe I’m not actually a grown up after all. There are families around us with kids and more demanding jobs and they seem to be doing so much more. No I don’t actually know any of them so who knows how they do it but still. I’ve also been feeling extremely insecure about the world in general. If there is some kind of economic crisis is it better to own your own home or rent? Is going into foreclosure worse than breaking a lease?

It feels weird to say this in a Home & Garden thread, but a therapist can help you with these feelings.
posted by capricorn at 1:30 PM on February 2, 2017 [3 favorites]


Another vote to cut yourself a break. The state you describe your home a few years in is nothing extraordinary at all. You're a first time homeowner - you're not perfect and there's a lot you still don't know. So yeah, cut yourself a break. I have YEARS to go before my house is the way I'd like it to be.

I can appreciate you feeling a little all over the place. You and your partner need to sit down, let the muddy waters settle, and figure out what you value - what is really MOST important to you? Make a list and assign a value to each item. For example, 1= not at all important and 10 = very important. Your list would include things like privacy, room for the cats, having a garden, having a guest room, living by other people's rules, having close neighbors, etc. Once you start sussing out where your priorities are, it will help bring you some clarity and you can then take the steps you need to be ok with your living situation, whether its renting or owning.

When I was younger, I loved renting - it was so "easy": just write a check each month, make a phone call when something breaks, and lots of leisure time. One day I realized that my future was in the hands of my landlord - if they sold the property, the new owner might not want to rent and I'd have to find another place to live. I've had several apartments and the thought of having to move (on demand) was a little unsettling. I realized I wanted more security for myself, I wanted to be in control of where I lived, and thought about owning. I made my list of priorities - the things I wanted, the pros and the cons. It helped a lot in my decision making process. For example, I did not look at anything that involved an HOA, if I was going to own, no one was going to tell me what color lights I could put up and when. That was a high value for me. Yes, a townhome would be much less yard maintenance for me than the house I bought, but at the end of the day, I'm ok with that trade off. It's all about making tradeoffs, and once you know your values, it gets a little easier. I have a lot less leisure time because I have a yard, but I have to tell you, after a hot summer day working in the yard and mowing, I will sit on the deck with a glass of wine, and Damnnnnnnn, go Nora - look at you making shit grow and making the planet better. To me, that feeling is worth trading off the leisure time. Your mileage will vary. Good luck with your decision!
posted by NoraCharles at 1:36 PM on February 2, 2017 [4 favorites]


It sounds like maybe you got too much house and felt obliged to do everything yourself. Many people hire gardeners to maintain yards and gardens; painters and handymen/women to fix things in their house; decorators/organizers to fix up rooms and make them more livable. Others do all or some of this themselves. It's not a failure if you can't/don't want to do it all yourself. You have a life - and for your life, an apartment/townhouse/condo might be better, as many of these things are taken care of for you.

If you do decide to go the house route again - get less house or do a condo or consider including in your costs the cost of hiring out some of the jobs.
posted by Toddles at 5:18 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


How did you decide and compromise your wants/needs?

For us: I wanted ownership and stability, and my wife wanted flexibility and having somebody else to do maintenance. What settled it for us was knowing we really wanted to settle down in our specific neighborhood in DC, and the fact that ownership would be a hedge against rising rent. And we really love our house but yes, there is a constant maintenance backlog. That seems to be a fact of homeownership.

As a hedge, though, it's great. We refinanced to get out from under the mortgage insurance requirement on our FHA loan and we were able to get a 20-year mortgage we'll pay off when I'm 65. I'm maybe more excited than my wife is about that particular detail, but even she is happy that we have a plan to retire our mortgage payment at the same time we'll be thinking about retirement ourselves. When you look at the amortization schedule it's easy to think "oh, we're going to be paying for this forever." People who rent really do pay forever, but ownership is a long term financial instrument that will pay off eventually if you're smart about it.

That said, if you're not happy in the house you're in, maybe you weren't ready, or maybe you just didn't buy the right house.
posted by fedward at 7:25 PM on February 2, 2017


Work on getting into a rent stabilized apartment or a Mitchell Lama apartment/condo. You get a lot of the security of ownership. I am grateful every day for my rent stabilized apartment. Get yourself on lists, shop around. I'm not saying wait to move until you do this, the nice thing about renting is that it's not a permanent commitment. The first place you rent doesn't have to be the place you stay forever.

Also, check the lease but if they don't mention it, check out portable washing machines. Roll it over to your sink and hook it up, let it wash, hang the clothes on a rack and push it back into a corner. I got mine from Craigslist for under $100, including the costs of the man with the van, about eight years ago.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:30 PM on February 2, 2017


It's not you; it's the house.

A house built in the 30's is a LOT of work. There's a big difference even between a house built in the 80's vs. one built in the 60's. With old houses, it seems like there's grunge and cracks everywhere that just can't be cleaned. Something is always needin' fixed.

Relax. You can always rent a house to try it out. When you are ready, go for a newer, smaller house - 90's vintage or newer.
posted by metaseeker at 8:15 PM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]


I rent (and will probably be renting for a long time), but I rent a room in a friend's house, and watching what owning the house is like has been very fascinating. He inherited the house from his grandparents, which means it was very cheap, but also not necessarily a house he would have chosen, and there are a lot of things that need work. Almost everything had a sort of dull yellow/green palate when he moved in, with lots of wood siding and wallpaper and other things that in general make the place feel dark and a little dingy (but it is a very cozy house).

I'm a pretty anxious person who likes to feel settled in my space, so I would probably freak out about it and want to change everything immediately and feel uncomfortable until it's all perfect. It's required a huge shift in perspective for me to understand that while there are a lot of things he wants to change about the house, it's his home, and he's doing them one at a time when he has time and money (for a while I just thought that wood siding and dingy yellow were really his style and didn't bring it up). I've watched him renovate a few things, and it takes a lot more planning, tools, and time than I thought possible, with a lot of missteps along the way. He and his wife also tried planting a garden one way this year, and it didn't work well, so they're going to try a different design in a different part of the yard next year. And if that doesn't work - yes, it's an investment, but they'll try again. The changes they've made make them happy, and the only timeline they're on is their own.

I really admire the way he and his wife tackle projects with such a longterm view, and if I owned a home that is how I would like to treat it - I'm just not sure I'm actually capable of thinking that way. So +1 for giving yourself a break and doing what makes you happy, whether it's slowly improving your own home, or moving somewhere where you don't have to think about a house all the time.
posted by autolykos at 10:08 AM on February 3, 2017


Ok. I live in an old Victorian from 1880. The prior owners gardener for fun. They redid their kitchen. They built an addition and replaced a shed with an actual 2 car garage.

In the first week we moved in, I put holes in plaster walls to get our bed up to the third floor. The holes are still there because my wife and I both work an insane amount and our kids require a lot of specialized attention. We did replace the sewer main - which was from the original hookup to sewer. We did replace the basement windows as the ones that existed were rotted out and allowing water to pour in from outside. The furnace? Replaced to something energy efficient and cost manageable.

We took a weekend and reinstated our sun porch since it was acting as a vacuum and sucking out all the warm air in the winter. We stained the pool area, and half the wooden deck - but we haven't sealed the driveway in two years... Our electrical is a mess despite us haVing installed solar...and I haven't even mentioned our basement stairs... which I have been mid process of replacing... for about a month now... (which makes laundry an acrobatic feat).

How did they get so much done and why does my wife and I suck at being adults? Well, putting money to the side... it's a question of time - and a question of prioritizing emergencies and being able to take care of the things that we can outsource (skilled trades) instead of projects we take on our own... everything a contractor has done for us is done. Everything we've taken on is done to some extent.

TLDR: it takes time to get stuff done. You are not a failure, it just takes a while to keep an older house up. And yeah, they make you feel like a failure.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2017


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