Monday, December 5, 2011

Vomit or Cry... which one first?

The posts over the next several months are probably going to be consumed by my angry rants about home ownership. If you would rather plead blissful ignorance, don't read them. If you want to know that truth about what it means to own a home, keep reading.

There is nothing glamorous about owning a home. Let me be clear on a few points:

1) you do not actually own the home - the bank does, and you pay a ridiculous amount of money for the pleasure of having them rent it back to you.
2) a home may be an investment, but not all investments are good, and all investments involve risks and "hidden" costs.
3) a home is a thousand little things that could go wrong or need replacing. They will start breaking the minute you take possession.

We have been good home "keepers". We have fixed what needed to be fixed, replaced what needed to be replaced, and in general took very good care of our home. Our realtor used the phrase "over-improved" for the area to describe our home. Seriously, this is over improved? Cracked laminate counters in the kitchen, 1970's bath vanities, linoleum flooring, indoor/outdoor stained carpet in the basement, oak trim everywhere, brass. Goodness what kind of condition are our neighbors houses in? Regardless, our home hasn't taken nearly as good care of us as we have of it. Well, yes, it has provided us with shelter and warmth for which I am grateful. But it has consumed much more than it has given.

I haven't posted much recently because we are in HGTV mode at our house. By the way, don't watch anything on HGTV... you will just spend money and it won't make a difference anyway. That's right, I said it, and I mean it.

And this is where I want to vomit, or cry, maybe both and the same time. Reality is starting to hit, we have to move in 7 months! We meet with a realtor today to discuss what we could possibly sell our house for and when to put it on the market. You can imagine how much fun that is even during a good economy, its practically a funeral during a bad one.

Almost 6 years ago we bought a modest home for $145,000. Today we owe $128,000 and have spent about $20,000 in needed repairs/updates (roof, garage door, appliances, water heater, a/c, driveway). So the realtor told me today that she wouldn't list it above $150,000 (I was hoping for more than that) and that $145,000 would even be tough for this market. Not terrible you say, the math indicates that we'd still walk away with our equity as profit on the transaction. Right? You would be wrong.

You see when you own a home there are big and little fees that come with acquiring one and selling one that eat away any profit you might see. If we were to sell it for $145,000 after all the fees and commissions have been paid we would walk away with about $2,000 maybe less. It looks like we will be giving this house away and will be lucky if we can close without having to pay someone to take it off our hands. 

All we need is enough to pay for a trip to find a place to rent, our moving expenses out of state, security deposits, first and last months rent, connection fees, etc. We have poured every bit we've been able to save into this house. I am sure the moving truck alone will be more than $2,000. Where is all this money going to come from... apparently not from the sale of our house.

See what I mean about being better off renting? If we had rented we would only be out rent. That used to be a bad thing, like throwing money away. Turns out owning is home is exactly like throwing money away. Even if that rent equaled our mortgage payment, that is all we would be out. We would not have been responsible for, or compelled to fix or replace anything! We would still have the $20,000 we spent. What could you do with an extra $20,000? How about get a babysitter occasionally, take a vacation, celebrate holidays without home-made gifts, get a decent family photo taken. I could go on. Instead we have just given whoever buys this house a very nice gift. Do you think they will appreciate our sacrifices? No. Will they care that we spent our money on their house? No. They are going to get a great deal. Me, on the other hand, will probably have ulcers and other related health issues thanks to all this stress.

I can only see three options

1) DrH moves for fellowship by himself and we stay here for another year until we have a paycheck to get us out. That would still be expensive. That's not really an option. We have four kids! I did it off and on for 6 months, but don't think I could do it again. It about killed me (mentally, that is). 

2) We could scrimp and save so that we could write a check at closing getting us out from under the house with pretty much nothing to start with.

3) We say a prayer and hope that some way, some how, some person will love our house and want to offer us more than what our realtor wants to list it at. Maybe they will feel sorry for us (not likely).

We could really use a miracle here. But this isn't where our story ends.

Last week I was tackling our bathroom in the basement. I hated it when we bought it, we don't use it much, and in an attempt to make it appeal to the masses (just like they brainwashed me into thinking on HGTV) pulled up some baseboards to replace them with some thing nicer only to discover rotting wood.  At some point, before we owned the house, they had some water damage that was significant. But we found it, and now we have to fix it. Replacing drywall, studs, etc when all I wanted to do was put in some nicer baseboards. I am not allowed to pull anything else up!

And because this house knows that we are trying to get rid of it other things have started breaking. Like the pump from the a/c to the whatever unit in the house. It started making a hideous noise last week so we unplugged it (at the direction of our local HVAC man) only to have a puddle of water and a slow dripping leak as the result. This house is either trying to make us hate it or convincing us that it will continue to break down unless we agree to stay. Either way I am out of here!

We also have overnight guests coming tonight, my mom and grandma, no stress. Now I am crying. It is nearly impossible to vomit and cry at the exact same time. I don't recommend trying, just trust me on this one.

And seriously if you think buying a home during residency is a good idea, try thinking some more until you realize it is a gamble. Do you have extra cash you are willing to risk? I don't. Whether you choose to make the bet or not is up to you. Learn from my experience. If I had to do it all again, I would choose renting.

I can already hear the arguments forming in your head because you don't believe me. Let me counter with this:

You say buying is better because of the home mortgage interest deduction on your taxes. Well and good until the politicians decide to do away with that deduction. It could happen this year, next year, two years from now. Who knows? See they get to control things that like when you don't buy something with your own money.

You say that a mortgage payment is cheaper than a rent payment. Maybe, but when is owning a home only about a mortgage payment? Something breaks, you fix it. Property taxes, another thing the local politicians control and have raised every year that we've lived here. Your mortgage payment is only one of several expenses that come with "owning" a home.

You say the interest rates are too low not to buy. Really?  The fees, commissions, and closing costs ate up all our equity built over 6 years, nearly $20,000. Most residencies aren't 6 years. If you own a house for less time, good luck.

You say the housing market is at a low and it will probably just go up. Really? Can you be sure? NO! Are you willing to bet that it doesn't go down any further, or ever again. What if it does? I think we've just seen some long-standing beliefs about owning real estate shatter over the last few years. What people thought were good investments are showing to be really poor investments. I suppose we are lucky that we'll only lost a little versus a lot. Although, today it feels like a lot.

Come on, our husbands are going to be doctors one day! One day they will and when that times comes (I mean not when they have their degree, but when they are practicing) buy a house. What is the hurry? And don't say because everyone is doing it.... would you follow them off a cliff? Yes, it is more sacrifice, but isn't that what we do? I'm getting kind of good at it now. And the cliche is true, the time really does go by fast. I wish I had the money I put into this house instead of the major headache I have now.

More crying. I am going to be dehydrated at this rate.


  1. Oh noooooooooooooo....
    I am so sorry. And I kind of feel like crying and vomiting and the same time for you. The stress would be ridiculous and too much for me.
    I am going to pray for a miracle for you - because it sounds like that's what you need right now.
    I rent right now and let me tell you, the way that the housing market fluctuated throughout even the past three years I am SO happy that I didn't buy despite everyone and their cat and dog telling me that I should be buying.
    Sending hugs your ways!!!
    And lots and lots of sell-house-for-a-bazillion-dollars vibes your way!

  2. I just found your blog & while I am terribly sorry for your situation, I am so thankful you shared your experience! My husband will be in his 2nd year of residency next year, and we are moving (his intern year was at a different location than his specialty) in June to stay there for at least 4 years. We decided to just rent (we had actually bought a place for med school & were able to sell it breaking even), but have questioned it given most of our medicine friends are buying. I think we've decided with input from our family that buying just isn't the same kind of investment it once was, and is definitely riskier! Good luck in your sell!


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