Unbelievably, it’s been exactly one year since my wife and I closed on and took possession of the house we now live in. Unbelievably because wow that time has just screamed past, and also unbelievably because I still find the idea of owning a house incredibly surreal… the sort of thing that only gets to happen to other people, not to someone like me. I has been a stressful, year, too, because we bought with a few assumptions that haven’t panned out. Foremost among those was the belief that I wouldn’t be paying out of pocket for health insurance much longer, but that hasn’t gone the way we expected, and we currently pay as much every month for insurance as we do for our mortgage, home insurance, and HOA fee combined. It’s great to be alive in modern America, but boy do we get to pay the price for that privilege.
Making ends meet over the past few months during the annual new year lull that’s a normal part of Cat’s business has been a draining, often demoralizing experience for me, but it’s not the house debt that’s to blame (spoilers: It’s health care). So I have no regrets; we had a rare opportunity with this place — reasonably priced new construction from a reputable builder in what is easily the most appealing area of one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., an old and established city whose interior has incredibly limited space for new real estate without demolishing historic construction — and while we probably should have waited a little longer buy, real estate prices (and interest rates) here are only going up. Our house has appreciated somewhere between 10-15% since we bought it, and interest rates are about a point higher; if we hadn’t grabbed it when we did, we’d have had to live off in the hinterlands somewhere to afford something similar in quality. We’re more “noisy city” people than “eerily quiet farmland” types, so we were fortunate to be able to work things out on this place.
Since we both largely work from home, this place is especially perfect. I have a quiet seat by the fire where I can listen to music as I write each morning (by far the most productive time of day for me); both a porch and a balcony where I can write outdoors on nice days; an office downstairs where my increasingly arcane array of equipment is set up completely separate from our living spaces; and lots of natural light. More natural light than we’re technically supposed to have, actually! Due to a quirk of the property zoning (this development was supposed to have been completed in 2008, but the builder only got about halfway through when the market collapsed; our new building went up next to an existing single-family home from phase one that impinges on the rest of the block), the end unit we selected in our townhouse row couldn’t be the large, expensive model the builder normally likes to use to bookend blocks. Instead, they had to adapt the much less expensive “middle” model to work on an end… which mean that for a small lot premium, we ended up getting half a dozen huge windows that normally isn’t included in the floor plan that we could actually afford. This model is normally built with other homes abutting on both sides, see. This means that even on gloomy days, we get tons of natural light… which is good, because as I learned at 1UP, working in dark, artificially lit office spaces runs roughshod over my productivity.
Anyway, it’s a great home, solidly built, very open with high ceilings (and bonus windows) that makes it feel a lot larger than its actual square footage would suggest on paper. And while I still miss living in San Francisco, sometimes desperately, I need only look around to feel OK about the tradeoffs. While I lived in SF, the nicest place I ever rented was a cramped, gloomy, 70-year-old apartment with one-third the square footage of our new home. The rent for that apartment (locked down to 2005’s price — to say nothing of what it would cost now) was the same as our base mortgage here.
We were incredibly fortunate to land this home, and we owe a great deal of thanks to many people for helping to make it happen. Despite the stress, it’s been a great year here, and I will never take for granted the good luck, supportive friends and family, and sheer privilege of having such a wonderful place to call our home.
We’re in this thing for another 29 years, so I’m glad I love the cozy little living space that we’ve manacled to my finances.