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Homeownership, 3 years in

August 2, 2017

Financially, home ownership has been mostly a win for us.  Despite our relatively large mortgage payments (compared to lower cost areas), it really is affordable for us, and we are even able to throw relatively large prepayments at it.  We can’t pay our house off in ~5 years or anything aspirational like that- but we don’t have trouble paying for a place to live.  Comparing to renting, it seems to be working in our favor in this relatively short time horizon.  We sometimes daydream about a  life where we cash out move somewhere significantly cheaper.  We could buy a good house in many places in the country, especially if we use the market price (minus selling costs).  Even if we use our appraised price (which is the purchase price + inflation), we are coming out well.  The prepayments will continue until we decide we have other priorities for the money – but I’m already happy with the reduction in the balance and reduced interest costs.

Owning a home is more of a hassle than renting, and I really am not the type of person who gets a lot of joy in “customizing” my home. Still, we’ve slowly make progress on home improvement and furnishing.

Projects in the last year:

We did a variety of somewhat major maintenance projects and tasks in the first two years. This year, we didn’t do anything major.

  • DIY patio drainage fixing (still not done!).  Total cost < $1,000, mostly for fill rock, sand, and hauling away of bad clay dirt.
  • More curtains / blinds: blackout cheap pulldown blinds to augment the more sheer bedroom curtains on hot days, light filtering blinds on two small living room windows.  I don’t have the cost in front of me, but likely < $400 or something.
  • Modest DIY attempts to tame the landscaping. We could use professional help, but are doing what we can until we are ready for that. For example, we probably need to pull out some overgrown front hedges and start over. Yet, I’m not ready to invest the money to do that.  I’m also not ready to invest energy to decide what we want,  then find someone to do it for us.  The cost of this is just time.
  • Pest inspection (for termites). They are a big problem here and it is best to monitor every several years to prevent issues.  This was $300, with only very minor DIY remediation needed.

I learned that we should not overestimate our DIY capabilities. T is really handy, but also really busy.  Undertaking a moderately sized patio project was probably not a good use of our limited free time.  By the time we realized this, we had put in too much “sunk work” to give up.  Also, T wasn’t really a good project manager, and I didn’t want to take over the project management.  The manual labor part was executed relatively well (although it was grueling and time consuming), but anything that requires more logistics (tool rental, hauling in rocks) would go weeks with no progress.  We tend to spend more time on our front deck, so the not-so-temporary loss of use of the patio hasn’t concerned me.   I’m pretty chill about the progress here… but it does need to get done.

Upcoming projects and maintenance tasks:

  • Bathroom retiling,  planned for the next few months. The scope of the project is not yet defined.
  • Repaint the exterior.  I’m not sure when this will happen and how much it will cost, but I think within the year.

New furnishings / appliances:

We save money by ignoring consumerist pressure to have an impeccably decorated home! The need for good/professional interior design could come into play if we start to feel like our house doesn’t meet our needs in terms of size. For now, there is no need. We accumulate things very slowly, both because we are picky AND because we are lazy shoppers. This it keeps overall home furnishing spending down.

  • We purchased a large evaporative cooler fan.  It is fantastic on the hottest days of summer, but it is a beast.  I had never heard of such things in the midwest, but the climate/humidity levels here make them a low-energy alternative to air conditioning.
  • We never did find that perfect kitchen table, but we found a good-enough inexpensive table from IKEA.  I’m happy to not have a bar height table anymore.  Someday we can search for a forever-table,

Things that are on my wish list:

  • Curtains for the slider doors. We plan to just go the IKEA route here, but haven’t done it yet.
  • I am dying to purchase a Roomba, but afraid of being disappointed.
  • More/better rugs (same as last year, no progress).  The one in our living room is blah and we still need a hallway runner and a rug in the spare room.
  • Entryway project (same as last year).  It is usable, but lots of room for improvement
  • Shading for the deck (same as last year). Umbrella or other.
  • Some sort of built in cabinet IKEA hack for our wine fridge.  Our old wine fridge died and we got a new/used one on Craigslist that is slightly wider.  Now there is not a good place for it.  This is mostly a pipe dream, but in theory it could be done.


19 Comments leave one →
  1. Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial permalink
    August 2, 2017 11:47 am

    I want a Roomba too (plus a Scooba). Part of me wants to justify it as an alternative to a regular cleaning service, which I have been considering, but even then the cost is steep.

  2. August 2, 2017 12:04 pm

    I had a Roomba. I didn’t like it and ended up selling it. I had to spend so much time cleaning the inside of it that it wasn’t worth it. I’m glad you’re happy with the mortgage reduction you’ve been doing! When we went to start estate planning a few months ago, the lawyer looked at our balance sheet and the mortgage balance and said “I assume you’ll pay this off when you get bored of it in the next few years.” (which amused me greatly)

    • August 2, 2017 9:52 pm

      I really want a Roomba for a month so I can decide! Your experience is what I’m afraid of – but at least you could sell it off!

      We do have a dog, and I feel like it would help with dust bunnies. My husband suggested vacuuming daily instead, but I’m the usual vacuumer, so I don’t really think he gets a vote on this – unless his vote is for him to vacuum daily.

    • August 4, 2017 12:42 pm

      Do you know what model you might have had? this complaints seems most common with 6xx. ]

  3. August 3, 2017 4:50 am

    We didn’t think the roomba was worth it for the reasons Leigh mentioned. The scooba is pretty good though.

    • August 3, 2017 8:52 am

      OK, my hesitation is warranted….

      I just want a robot to clean my house, why is this not solved yet?!

      • August 3, 2017 9:08 am

        I kind of feel like roombas are best if you’re a bald clean freak without any furred pets who doesn’t have a very big area to keep clean.

        • August 3, 2017 9:11 am

          I meet none of those criteria….

          Except maybe the “not very big area”, at least relatively speaking… we also have lots of hardwood with rugs.

    • Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial permalink
      August 4, 2017 8:35 am

      Can you talk a little bit more about your Scooba experience?

      • August 4, 2017 8:48 am

        There’s not much to say– we’d fill it up with vinegar, put the electronic doohickys in the doorways and let it do its thing. (The vinegar smell would go away after the floor dried.) I think DH would usually sweep the kitchen out first.

        That was back before when we (or a mother’s helper) actually cleaned the kitchen floor on a semi-regular basis… It’s been sitting unused in the pantry for a couple of years now. I find it easier to use than a mop, but DH has mopped the last two times we’ve cleaned the kitchen–I’m not sure why.

        Similarly for the bathroom, but we’d have to remove mats and it couldn’t really get some spots in the bathroom because of its irregular shape.

        The roomba was more problematic because hair would mess it up and need to get pulled out and it would fill up and have to be emptied before finishing a large space. Like Leigh, we’d spend more time cleaning it out than it saved us over a regular vacuum.

  4. August 3, 2017 2:10 pm

    I’ve been wanting a Roomba for AGES but cannot commit to the price tag either. I guess of the description above, only the “clean freak” part applies to any of us.

    Yay for being able to pay down as much of the mortgage as you have. That’s going to be my next big project when I can think again. I wish we had been able to take your route on the home projects. It feels like we’re doing a decade’s worth of work in a few months, instead.

    • August 3, 2017 8:05 pm

      Reading your post made me feel like the laziest homeowner and wish we would have gotten some things taken care of more quickly. Although there wasn’t a huge need to, it is nice to have somethings just DONE.

      Speaking of a decade’s worth of projects, we have a neighborhood e-mail list where someone was saying they were doing a project because of “parental deferred maintenance”. I think they expected sympathy that their parents put off the project? Instead, I was like, WTF, you inherited your parents house and tax basis and you have the nerve to complain about this?! I had no sympathy…

      Oh, there is still SO MUCH left on the mortgage… so the fun can continue!

  5. August 3, 2017 2:33 pm

    I LOVE my Roomba. I’ve had a couple of different models over the last 10 or so years. I’d suggest buying at Costco, if you have a membership, since they have generous returns. That way if you don’t like it, you can get a refund. It isn’t the best cleaner– because it’s round, it’s not great at corners — but running it every day really does cut down on dust and pet hair tumbelweeds. Ours goes under our couches (because of the types of couches we have), which is a spot I would never vacuum, if left to my own devices.

    I’ll also say, I’ve gotten great rugs on Check it out!

    • August 4, 2017 12:31 pm

      Yes, Costco was on my list specifically because of the return policy. But they don’t have the pet model or a HEPA filter model… they have quite limited choices, actually. Still, I might go that route.

      I have a fear of buying rugs online because they generally are difficult to return. But maybe I need to get over that. 🙂 Can you tell that I hate buying things I can’t return?!

  6. August 13, 2017 2:26 pm

    My mom had a roomba (we bought her one) one of the first ones and she didn’t really like it. I remember her having to rescue it a lot. But I’m sure the newer versions are much better nowadays. They are just so $$! Home ownership has definitely a lot of costs and repairs/ongoing projects but it can be so rewarding too!

  7. August 14, 2017 12:54 pm

    Ok so I want a Roomba too but have been warned off it because a friend bought it and she has a Golden Retriever and the hair that got stuck in there only made that thing good for short periods of time and then it died after 3 years. There is a PET Roomba but then the circular shape doesn’t let it get into corners

    Knowing all that I still want one to try lol but my toddler would chase or ride it like a electronic snail

    As for the sunk cost of projects — OMG YES!!!!!!! My partner starts something and then WTF 8 months later it is still in the works because we have no time.

    Our forever table is yet to be discovered but I have a sinking feeling it won’t be for 10 years or even 5 as we so rarely entertain and when we do, it is a production so we need to shift the whole home around ONCE a year. The rest of the time, I’m on my Stokke with my son in his Stokke and my partner refuses to buy a chair for himself grumbling at the price (Fine whatever).

  8. September 10, 2017 9:10 am

    I have 2 roombas and love them! We don’t have furry pets but I do have long curly hair. We clean out the inside/bottom of both roombas once a week with a small tool that came in the box.

  9. September 12, 2017 10:19 am

    We have a Neato, and it is a godsend with our toddler. The nearest park has sand under the play areas, and the Neato takes care of the grit that comes home on a daily basis. It’s also good for stray bits of thrown food, and general detritus. The only thing is that we have to be careful to only run it when she’s sleeping or not home– she’s fine with it when it’s stationary, but seeing it in motion freaks her out.

    I empty the bin after every run and have to clean the roller out about once every 10 days. (Long hair, plus a carpet upstairs that produces a ton of fluff.) But seriously, it saves my sanity. I have so little free time, I don’t want to spend any of that time vacuuming.

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