Adventures in Real Estate

One of my goals for this year was to buy a house, but I did not complete that goal. We were under contract in October, but the inspection report was pretty bad. The crawl space needed about $21,000 worth of repairs. So our one-bedroom apartment began to look like a wonderful paradise, and I fully appreciated how easy it was to maintain and how kind the landlord is (and sometimes, they give away free food!). And the brightest side of all? Only 600-something square feet to clean! In the home-buying process, I grew quite cynical upon reading real estate listings and going to what seemed like three million showings. So here is my interpretation of the real estate language:

Location, location, location: There will be 12 offers on this house before you even get to see it.
Priced to sell: Consider running away.
As is: Run away.
Handyman special: Run far, far away.
Lots of potential: Run far, far away screaming.
Won’t last long: Will end up sitting on the market for two weeks.
Adorable: Only 1,000 square feet. You can rent an apartment bigger than this.
Charming: Looks like granny’s house… and smells like it too.
Cozy: Two bedrooms and/or less than 1,000 square feet.
Close proximity to the nearest highway: You will never sleep again. Sirens will become your lullaby.
Country living: You need to drive 30 minutes to reach civilization.
Easy access to downtown: Purchase a home security system now. Just sayin’.
New HVAC, new roof: Congratulations! You just put off fixing “the big stuff” for another few years!
Motivated seller: The next time you blink, this house will be off the market.
Bring your ideas: The house hasn’t been updated since the 1980s.
Only one owner: No maintenance has been done for the past 12 years.
Hard-to-find ranch: What? Practically every house in North Carolina is a ranch.
Hardwood and laminate floors throughout: BUY ME NOW! (Seriously, I hate carpet.)
No HOA: You can paint your house purple and have a pet giraffe!
Low HOA: Nobody is coming to power wash your house for the next 10 years.
Split-bedroom plan: Send the kids to the other end of the house when you’re getting fed up!
Double sinks: Send your spouse to the other end of the counter when you’re getting fed up!
Low-maintenance living: You will be paying through the nose in HOA dues.
Multiple offers; highest and best due tomorrow: Better hope your offer was better than that Chinese investor’s…
This CITY #-story home offers a FEATURE, FEATURE, and FEATURE: The seller is Opendoor. Show up anytime and wave to the cameras!

I still plan to buy a house, probably at the end of 2020. Wish me luck, because this is still largely a seller’s market and will most likely remain so.


Aesop’s Fables, Revisited

I was reading to my son from a book of Aesop’s fables and came upon the one about the fox and the grapes. To make a short story even shorter (spoilers, haha!), the fox belittles the grapes because they are out of his reach. Those grapes are probably sour anyway, he thinks bitterly. I’m not sure what message my son got out of the story. He was too busy slapping his drool-coated hands all over the book.

Then I realized something as I tried to pull the page out of his slippery hand so I could turn to the next story. I’m an awful lot like that fox. If somebody has a nice house, I always think, Who the hell would want to pay for that huge house, to heat it and cool it and clean it? I’m glad I don’t live there. Or people who are always going on trips. I wonder if Dave Ramsey is right… did they most likely go into debt to pay for that vacation? Haha, suckers! Internally, I’m envious of these people’s nice things.

I try to pass my envy off as gratitude for what I have, but it’s really just bitterness. One of the hardest things for me to do is to be happy about another person’s success. Their gain literally takes nothing from me, but it still affects me, as if I’ve fallen down a notch on a ranking list that exists only in my head.

Count your blessings! they say, and for me, that involves going home and being happy with my family and forgetting all about the outside world, once again proving the point that others’ success and material possessions have nothing to do with me at all. It is all so easily forgotten.

So with that said, my new goal for the next couple weeks is to purposely try to be genuinely happy for others, rather than belittle them. And be more grateful for the good things that I have, which are many.


Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)