Looking Back: Buying a House

in House

I’m “looking back” over some big and small decisions (here’s my first post, on breastfeeding). Today, I thought I’d tackle home ownership.

behr cityscape

We bought our house about a year and a half ago, three months before Henry was born. We were so excited – after years of renting together, all we wanted was a place to truly call ours. It was extremely important to us to bring our baby back to a home that we owned (or at least had a very big mortgage on – hah). We truly bought into the idea of home ownership as part of the American dream.


If you’ve been reading for a few years (thank you!), you may remember that we had a bear of a time getting a mortgage because we’re both self-employed. (despite excellent credit history, etc.).  The rules for self-employed people are different and more strict than they are for others. There were so many ups and downs in our process – and so many tears. Buying a home is such a stressful (but exciting) experience.


The house we own now is not the house we almost bought. About nine months before we closed on our house, we went under contract on another property. This house fulfilled all my pre-pregnancy wishes for a house: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  I wanted a 3 bedroom-2 bath, but beyond that, I didn’t care about much else besides where it was located. Kristien also cared a lot about location but really wanted an updated house. This house was not updated. It needed a lot of work. But we both loved the house and the street, and we knew we could make updates later. We were so thrilled to go under contract.


The month before we closed was one disaster after another. During the inspection, we found $15,000 worth of toxic mold in the basement. We negotiated clean-up with the seller, and just when I thought we were in the clear, our mortgage was pulled due to those tricky self-employment rules. The banks wanted us to file another year’s worth of taxes so they would have more information to assess the health of our businesses. We tried a lot of last-ditch attempts to save the deal but – no dice.  Oh, how I cried!  We were gutted.  One week before closing, and the home (and a lot of money) slipped through our fingers.


In hindsight, it was for the best. I think that house would’ve had more issues than we were ready to deal with.


January 1st came and went.  We filed our taxes, and our mortgage broker gave us and our businesses the big thumbs up, as we knew she would.


But by this point, I was pregnant. And I was nesting. And suddenly, LOCATION didn’t seem as important. I wanted space. I wanted updates. I wanted cleanliness (especially after that mold disaster). I wanted clean carpets. And so did Kristien.  We ended up buying a house several miles away from the very small radius of our last house hunt. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but Charlotte’s “cool” area is pretty small.


We bought a big, builder-grade house in suburbia.


One and a half years later, I have mixed feelings about our home. I love the inside; it’s so clean and light. The neighborhood is lovely. There’s great storage, and the floor plan is awesome.


Here are some of the projects we’ve completed:



However, our home is too much house!  Problems of suburbia, right?  When we have another child, it will certainly not feel quite as large, but even then, there’s more space than we’ll ever need. It’s hard to clean!  A smaller house would feel so much more manageable.  And I hate being so far away from my favorite things about Charlotte.  We can’t really walk anywhere besides our gym (and even that is 2 miles away!).


Home ownership is pretty much what we expected. It’s a lot of work and a lot of money (our HVAC blew the week we moved in!).  It takes time and effort to maintain a house. Being able to call a landlord and report a leak is something that I really miss! But I feel a great deal of pride in our home, that every penny that went into buying it and we spend on maintaining it is money that we earned through our own hard work. I value the privacy that home ownership gives us.  I get that it’s not for everyone and not for every stage of life, but I love owning a house.


In conclusion, this process taught me that you should always go with your gut. The Husband and I agree that location was #1 on our list, and it should’ve stayed there. We’d love to one day move to a smaller, better situated house.


On the bright side… homes in our neighborhood are selling like hot cakes – and for much more than we paid!  When we do move in the next few years, I think we’ll look back on our first home as a good family and business decision. 


Do you own a home? Do you regret or adore your purchase? Would you rather live in the cool part of town or in suburbia?



  • Lee October 14, 2013, 10:14 am

    I wanted location and my husband wanted space/bigger house. We ended up moving to suburbia and I sort of hate it.

  • Kate October 14, 2013, 10:15 am

    Great post, thanks for sharing! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on car ownership- I know you downsized to one car a few years back and then recently bought a second car again, that could be an interesting post for the series!

    • Caitlin October 14, 2013, 10:18 am

      Well we had to buy another one when we moved to the burbs! A hidden cost of our home. We kind of knew that would happen though. I liked being a one car family. We spent a lot more time together as a result.

  • Rebecca October 14, 2013, 10:22 am

    My parents moved into our house about four months before I was born, and we’ve done lots of things to it since then. I like our house–we sometimes walk to places that are right near us if we don’t need much. But we usually have to cross four lanes of traffic to get there. Caution! Hah.
    My mom wishes she would have done some of her paint jobs differently, but she doesn’t want to redo them now. I kind of wish our basement was better finished–we have a room in the basement that would be a bedroom if not for the fact it’s missing a door (and an egress window). We covered the ductwork and junk in the ceiling and now a door won’t really fit because of that ceiling layout. Oops.
    I really want my parents to paint our deck because the current look is ugly IMO, but they’re doing nothing to it. Whatever. I’m not here forever.
    Our neighbor just moved and sold her house to her son’s family, and they’re already renovating. Ripped down wall paper and painted, and they’re knocking down and adding some walls. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes, and how it turns out!

    This is the only home my parents have ever bought that I’m aware of. They rented for a while in various places before they came here, and I think they’ll stay here until they can no longer take care of themselves. They’ve looked at other houses, but I think they’ll stay here.

  • Kierstan October 14, 2013, 10:25 am

    We were so young when we bought our first (and current) home. Our first offer was far below the asking price, but when our Realtor called and told us someone else was looking at the house with a different Realtor who usually “wins” we upped our offer to the asking price and offered to pay the closing costs. Stupid.young.kids.

    Now we are trying to sell so we can quit our jobs and travel for a year, and are just begging for someone, anyone to make us an offer.

    I do not regret owning this home, but after 6 years I am ready for something I really, truly want; and this is not it.

  • Emily @ The Good Era October 14, 2013, 10:35 am

    Thank you so much for posting this!

    My husband and I are in the thick of house hunting and just lost our dream house in a bidding war. To say we were disappointed is the understatement of the year! We’re trying to not get discouraged, but it’s a tougher market than we thought. I’m glad to hear it’s all worth it in the end and we just have to keep chugging along.

    We were contemplating changing our search priorities, but after reading this, I think we’ll stick it out until the right one comes along in our desired location! 🙂

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs October 14, 2013, 10:49 am

    Great post!

    You’re lucky that houses in your neighborhood are selling & for more than you paid! At least if you decide to move on from your first house sooner than originally planned it (hopefully) won’t be at a loss!

    We bought our first home about 2 years ago, and I’m ok with it — I think because we went into it knowing that we couldn’t afford anything in the realm of our ideal “forever home”, so we just had to find something that suited us for now. I’m so glad that we jumped into the real estate world, and I’m looking forward to moving on to our next home when the time is right!

  • anna October 14, 2013, 11:07 am

    I live in quite possibly the coolest neighborhood in the world- The West Village in NYC. The grass is always greener as I often find myself daydreaming about moving to the suburbs. It works for us for now, but I think I only have one or two years left in me of living here.

  • Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries October 14, 2013, 11:16 am

    I agree – location is a huge factor for me too and something that got overlooked when the house buying process dragged out for us. We ended up buying a brand new cute home in an adorable neighborhood, and as much as I love certain aspects of it, the fact that it’s so far away from everything still bugs me. The city has so much to offer, and I would love to be closer in. Of course that comes with its challenges too (older homes, more expensive, etc.), but I still think location is at the top of my list!

  • Amanda October 14, 2013, 11:30 am

    I am so glad to read this. I have been looking for a home in our small, Big Ten college town now for almost a year. We hunted three years ago, and just couldn’t get what we wanted, in the location we wanted it so we still rent. When the search resumed earlier this year after baby #1, during home-buying season, we entered into a couple of multiple offer situations. Never willing to pay more than asking, we lost 2 homes in the exact location we wanted them. Looking back, I would have been OK with paying more to be exactly in our desired location. I’m still holding out for the smallest home in the best school district (near everything!). I told myself I’d like to look back and think, “I should have bought that house,” rather than “I wish I didn’t buy this house” and be stuck with it!

  • Tara October 14, 2013, 11:32 am

    We purchased our first home 5 years ago – before kids. I love our house, but I loved it more before babies! It was the perfect suburban home for a young couple that didn’t have kids. 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 4-level split, open floor plan, newly remodeled with lots of cool, funky upgrades. Then 3 years ago we had our first son and suddenly I didn’t love our house quite as much! Suddenly 4-level split = STAIRS EVERYWHERE!! Open floor plan = We can’t find a manageable space to contain our baby! Cool, funky upgrades = Death traps galore (that glass wall that looked so awesome in the beginning just lost all of its appeal)!! Lol, by the time we got through baby-proofing it I was already making my “next” house wish list.

    Unfortunately we bought at the height of the market in 2007, before everything crashed. Now bigger, newer houses in our neighborhood are selling for MUCH less than what we paid for ours, which means we’re in it for another 5-6 years at least. Now that we have two boys I think about outside space more. We don’t have a great yard for kids to play in (especially rambunctious boys!), but we do have lots of great parks nearby. I still love our house, even though if we had been parents at the time we would have never bought it. It is a great home and our family is happy in it, but I learned so much from the experince I feel like our next home buying experience will be much better.

  • Katie October 14, 2013, 11:34 am

    I’m living at home with my parents right now, but part of the reason is I have no fixing abilities and the reasonably priced homes in my area need a lot of work! I have no idea what I will eventually want/need in a house. But I’m okay with that for now.

  • Katie D. October 14, 2013, 11:42 am

    I bought a house when I was 20 years old! I’m still in disbelief that a 20 year old, female, who had been at her job for 6 months could get a mortgage! I sort of wish, I wouldn’t have been able to. But at the time I was engaged and we thought that married people owned homes, so we did it too. We broke off the engagement and there I was, stuck owning a home.

    My husband and I still live in that house, but he really has never bought into it as “home”. I know it is because that I bought it while engaged to someone else.

    Unfortately, thanks to the economy, we owe more than it is worth, so selling isn’t really an option right now.

  • Ali October 14, 2013, 11:48 am

    Last summer, I moved 3 hours away from my previous job to start my new “dream” job and bought a ranch-style condo on my own. The process of buying the condo was a huge mess but that’s another story and has a lot to do with the big-name bank losing my mortgage paper work twice (!) and having the seller living in South Korea. I loved my condo so much for about 9 months. I was so proud to have worked hard to be in a position to be able to buy a home on my own and being able to make any changes I wanted, add color to the walls, finally feel like I am settling into life after moving yearly (if not more often) since I was 18. But, this summer, we got a lot of rain and my basement flooded (despite the inspector telling me the basement has never flooded before – ha!), and then the basement flooded when my AC unit went out. And then it flooded about a month ago when my water heater rusted out. And the garbage disposal, stove, and dishwasher all died. I know my AC unit is about to go as well (we patched it up so it would last through the summer). It’s been so expensive and, although I have the savings to cover this stuff for now, it has drained my bank account very quickly and resulted in a lot of stress and tears. I also have an HOA. At first, I loved not mowing the lawn, fixing the leaky roof and cracked driveway, and not shoveling and deicing (in Wisconsin, that’s a BIG deal!) but I’ve started wondering if it’s worth the money. It’s such a toss up as to whether I’m glad I bought or not, but hopefully I can sell in the end for much more than I bought for and it’ll end up okay. For location, I wish I was on the other side of town, but it’s much more expensive and the condos over there are all stacked and after living in apartments for 12 years, I didn’t want anyone above or below me! I DO think that a condo was a good starter for me as I wasn’t quite ready for what a single-family home entailed all on my own. It’s nice to have a very sweet retired couple next door to help when I need it. Sorry for the book – this has been on my mind a lot lately!

  • Corrie Anne October 14, 2013, 11:54 am

    Interesting. We bought a home last year in a hipster part of Denver and we’ve loved every minute of it. However, we are having about 20 people over tomorrow night, and it is going to be COZY!!!!! Thankfully for us, over the last year our neighborhood has become the place to be so hopefully if we decide to move for more space someday, we’ll make some $$. We had the opposite experience selling our house in Minnesota at a bad time before moving to Denver (we are still paying for it — boooooooo). We chose to buy an older house that had been renovated, and it’s been a great fit for us. I’m not great at DIY!!!!!

  • Sandy October 14, 2013, 12:09 pm

    I have lived in my home for 24 years..time really does fly..would love to sell it, but with the economy it’s not going to happen..
    If I could tell my younger self don’t do it, I would..bought it right after I got married,had 2 girls,and then divorced..I bought him out and stayed.
    Home ownership is expensive,stressful and too much work..at this point in my life I would prefer renting a condo or apartment..less responsibility..
    I live in the city,only 10 minutes from work,so location is good..would prefer less traffic..
    Oh well she’s been a great home, I do have a fondness for her..(I always refer to my home as a she)

  • misspipkelly October 14, 2013, 12:09 pm

    We bought our house a year and a half ago and haven’t looked back!

    Like you, we had an initial hunt, got quite far along in the process and then found out a lot of expensive work would be needed, including subsidence which could have potentially had a great impact on the future value. So, much to the annoyance of the seller (and their agent!) we pulled out. We cooled off on our hunt for the bit as the opportunity arose to go and work in Australia for a short time followed by a three month career break, so we took it! We resumed our house hunt in the same area when we got back, and have ended up in a property much better suited to us. We’re still working on making it our own, but without the need to do extensive structural or otherwise essential work, which allows us to brush up on our DIY skills, but doesn’t mean we constantly have to shell out a load of cash which I think the earlier house would have required due to it being a lot older!

  • Carolyn October 14, 2013, 12:16 pm

    We closed on our house on my due date and moved when my girl was a month old. I wanted to move downtown to an island, and my husband wanted to move to the ‘burbs in a picturesque neighborhood. The one area I would meet in the middle on, was an area of town with a little fake down town area and “hyde-park” esque area.

    I absolutely love it. I can ride my bike to the Y, Starbucks, numerous parks, trails, my neighbors are amazing, it’s safe, and it isn’t far to downtown.

    All and all, we are in our dream house.

  • Jessica R @ FromtheKitchentotheRoad October 14, 2013, 12:16 pm

    I would love to live in a cool part of town but I think I would rather go for the space and size you can get in suburbia. I have total white picket fence dreams so suburbia works out great for me. There are plenty of towns around me who try and invent a cool/cute area. That just might be good enough for me. We are going to start looking for a house in about 6-8 months or so. We will see what we find then!

  • Eli's Mom October 14, 2013, 12:52 pm

    We do own our home and I now adore our purchase. We bought this foreclosed house in the “cool part” of the city of Minneapolis. This house WAS in SUPER bad shape when we toured it but my husband saw the good bones (and the potential) — also we cannot afford non-foreclosed houses in this area. Plus it is almost right by the Mississippi River where there’s miles and miles of bike, running and hiking trails (LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION — win for me). We bought it December but we didn’t move until July of the following year. There were tons of renovations done to it (lots of money spent) and we are now down to 2-3 areas that we want to change (but not necessary). I love our location and I even told my husband it made me a better runner/biker since the trail is just right outside our house.

    P.S. I don’t like living in the suburbs. :p

  • Kimberly October 14, 2013, 1:16 pm

    This is a topic that has been on my mind lately because my fiancé and I are talking about buying our first house! It is definitely a scary prospect with everything that can go wrong, but we both really want to own a home. So much so, that we’re considering moving states to a place with more affordable options. I’ve heard a lot of stories about deals falling through again and again will house hunting and I think it’s a great point to keep your priorities in mind and not “settling” during this process. I think for us location, open layout and something small and manageable is important. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Lauren @ Peaks and Passports October 14, 2013, 1:25 pm

    I bought my home about two years ago and have a lot of the same feelings you do. I absolutely LOVE my house – it’s comfortable, beautiful, and spacious. But like yours it is way too spacious. I definitely bit off more than I should have and hate having so much space to clean and heat, along with some unused space that makes me feel wasteful. It’s so easy in the house-hunting process to fall in love with the biggest, nicest option without really thinking through all that it will entail. I still don’t think I’d trade my home for the smaller townhouses I initially looked at, but I’d definitely think a little harder before signing on the dotted line.

  • Jen October 14, 2013, 1:32 pm

    Location is key for me too. We have the option to move to a fancier neighborhood that is technically closer to the city geographically than where we actually want to move, but is a local train stop – not for me! I want to be within a mile of shopping, restaurants, whole foods and farmers market (i’m a vegetarian, the generic grocery store does not have enough options for me). So, we’re going with a smaller house, smaller mortgage, smaller yard, and the possibility that if we stay there forever, our kid may have to go to a private high school, in exchange for a 30 minute commute.

  • nancy October 14, 2013, 1:53 pm

    This was a great post, especially for readers contemplating home ownership. It’s helpful to learn from others’ experiences. We bought our house on a 3 day house hunting trip when my husband took a new job in a new state. We had been house hunting in our home state prior to our relocation so we pretty much knew what we wanted. We saw the house on Thursday, put down a contract on Friday and moved in exactly two weeks later (that was back in the days of fast and pretty easy mortgages). The house was brand new and perfect for a young family. We had a nine month old and then added two more children within the next 3 years and the layout was ideal for a herd of little ones. Now that they are teenagers a different floor plan would work much better but we decided some years ago that we would stay put due to the schools and our location in general. We are close to what matters to us and we know most of our kids’ friends because they have all grown up together. Not sure what we will do once the last once finishes school. It’s funny looking back now—we thought this was our 5 to 7 year house and we’ve been here 18 years next month 🙂 It was important to us for our kids to one day drive down our street and be able to say “that’s the house I grew up in”.

  • Anne October 14, 2013, 1:56 pm

    We had one fall through our fingers, but I think we ended up with the right house. Ours doesn’t feel that big, so add a kid into it, and it will get smaller quickly. But luckily for us we bought at the exact right time for mortgage rates (3.125%). We’re going to be so sad when we move in a few years and lose that.

    I wish we could have found a place within walking distance of something. I was spoiled when we lived in Boston. But Knoxville is just not set up that way. Not for the areas/price range that we were looking in. At least we have a neighborhood and yard for the dog. She’s #1, right?

  • Ali October 14, 2013, 2:44 pm

    We bought our house nearly a year ago to the date. We lived in Arizona and wanted to move to Denver when I was finished with school which also happened to be when I was 4 months pregnant. We traveled one weekend to find a house and it was disheartening. For 2 entire days, the houses went from bad to worse. We were really nervous at this point. On a whim, we looked at one last house before boarding a flight and we put a bid on it that night. Everything easily fell into place and we are happy here. We are in the suburbs, but not as far out as we could be. I like a mix between suburbs and room in a house. With a baby, we didn’t want a cracker box, but we also didn’t need a huge home either. I feel like we have a great home for us right now, but I can feel us outgrowing it with another child. Home ownership definitely has its ups and downs and yes, buying a house is stressful and I shed lots of tears!

  • Laura October 14, 2013, 3:02 pm

    We’ve owned our house for two years and I love being a homeowner! Location was important to the hubby-to me not so much. I wanted a nice backyard and he didn’t care about a yard. I’m a country girl at heart and we wanted a dog-I needed a yard! Our current house is 1/3 of an acre with a fully fenced in backyard which I love! It is perfect for our dog so she can be outside all day when we’re at work (she has access to the garage via a doggy door). We have spent a lot of $$ upgrading our house-carpeting upstairs, hardwoods downstairs, counter tops, etc. but it is so worth it since it is our house! While it would be nice to be able to walk places, we wouldn’t be able to have a decent yard so it’s a trade off. We’re only a few mins car ride from most places though so it’s not a big deal. I’d love to move farther out one day and get lots of land but I’m not sure the husband is on board.

  • claire October 14, 2013, 3:19 pm

    We bought our current house purely based on location (as well as the house being in solid condition with a great bone structure and liveable condition). We missed out on a bigger redone house in a suburban location, and with our third baby due in a couple of months, we re-evaluated and realised the most important feature was what we couldn’t change – location. So we live in a house that has hideous wallpaper which we are gradually covering with our kids’ artwork, ugly carpet, and the kitchen and bathrooms, oh my they are ugly. But, our location is stellar, walking distance to everything, fantastic school zone, highly sought after. Absolutely the best decision we ever made. While we wait for our kids to get a bit bigger we are saving for a renovation that will transform it from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. My advice – don’t compromise on location as you will always regret it. Sometimes we drive (in our only car – our location means we only need one for a family of 5) past the suburban house we missed, and look at each other and say thank goodness!

  • Bron October 14, 2013, 3:51 pm

    We brought our first home when I was around 5 weeks pregnant. The housing market in NZ is crazy and prices just keep going up and up. Where we rented it wasn’t possible to get a house for under 650-700 000 so we ended up looking in an up and coming area and brought an old state house on a full section for a great price. It needs work but has great bones (thanks to the nz governtment building state houses with native timber in the 1960s!) we are 5 mins walk from the village with cafes, veggie shops, parks, 5 mins walk from a beautiful waterfront and 5 mins drive from a working farm you can take the kids to. Plus it’s only a 15 min drive into great shopping and dining areas. We love the location and soon we will love the house too 🙂 location is the most important thing for me – I can see us staying in this area forever if we wanted too.

  • Abby October 14, 2013, 4:02 pm

    We rent a 2 bedroom flat in a big ten college town. It’s rated the #3 walkable neighborhood in our city. We love it! It’s close to everything, the zoo, coffee shops, groceries, restaurants, bike paths, arboretum, etc. I have two small kiddos and we walk everyday. I also take kids in for daycare and we can get outside to the park as well. Our place has a fenced in backyard and we have the whole basement for laundry and storage. I love that there can be a stretch of 4-5 days where I don’t use the car. And our rent includes all the bills so we haven’t seen a bill in years. There are days I dream of owning a home but we could never afford to buy in this neighborhood! And for the location is everything right now. Our dog loves it here as well! There are things that I would love to have like an extra bedroom but again we are outside so much that it doesn’t matter. I also enjoy the mix of the neighborhood, family home on one side and college kids on the other! I once heard that in many European countries people rent so they are out in their community more instead of working on their home. I feel we get out more because we aren’t putting time or money into our home. The only home we cold afford would be out in suburbia and that’s not us.

  • Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker October 14, 2013, 7:12 pm

    We SO want to move, but feel stuck. We don’t live where we can walk to anything at all, and it’s frustrating. Still, I think building some equity will be worth it. PS: Love Henry’s room!

  • Amber K October 14, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I’m really bummed that I’m still in an apartment after all of these years, but a house just isn’t in the cards right now. I can’t wait for that day though!

  • Nikole October 14, 2013, 7:38 pm

    I am pregnant with our second child and my husband really wants to move. The thought of selling our house while pregnant and with a very active 17 month old makes me want to hide. We bought our house 4 years ago and was perfect for us then, but baby proofing is a nightmare with all our stairs (California split). We are also having to keep our guest bed in our new baby’s room since my in laws live out of town. Such a first world problem! My list for a new house includes things like flat driveway, no parking allowed on the street, neighbors who are outside with their kids and preferably not so many stairs. Funny how your priorities change with kids!

  • Stacy October 14, 2013, 9:31 pm

    We are going on renting the same apartment for a third year…

    I have cold feet about buying a house because our town is in a big “Oil boom” meaning the homes are outrageously overpriced (like double what they were worth 5-10 years ago). I don’t want to buy for peak value and get screwed over when we want to sell. I don’t know how long our jobs will keep us here. Sometimes, I feel crapped in our 954 square foot apartment with my husband and 2 cats…but honestly, I have bigger priorities, like taking a 6-7 week Europe trip this summer. I don’t want all of our money to go into a house: especially one we can’t get out of if we want to move to a cooler city!

    • Stacy October 14, 2013, 9:31 pm


    • Amanda October 15, 2013, 10:16 am

      You feel cramped in 954 with two, plus a couple cats? Oh boy. I’m currently living in 780 sq ft with 2 adults, 1 toddler boy and 1 lady dog. That’s cramped. Our dining room has a desk/file cabinet/printer for the office, a treadmill, a dog bed and crate, and table and 4 chairs, plus high chair and trash can…in ONE tiny room. I hope you can feel less cramped in your nearly 1000 sq ft now 🙂 Haha.

      • Liza October 15, 2013, 9:08 pm

        Yeah my husband and I live in 480 square feet! We don’t have any pets but it’s still quite cramped!

  • Paula October 14, 2013, 10:21 pm

    This is an interesting topic! My husband and I are expecting our first baby, and talked about buying a house, but we live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada (we never had a housing market crash like the U.S. did), and a 2-3 bedroom/1 bath near town is ~$600,000. A nice house in the suburbs would still be $400,000-$550,000, and include lots of driving in heavy traffic. So we’ve opted to continue renting close to town where we can both walk or bike to work, there are lots of parks and shops within a 5 minute walk, we have a beautiful back yard and house that the landlord maintains, and we can ultimately spend more time as a family and less time commuting.

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun October 14, 2013, 11:20 pm

    I don’t own a home currently because we are not where we will be permanently. My husband is in medical school and right now we are renting until we figure out where our next journey takes us. We will move in 8-9 months for a 3 year residency and THEN we should know for sure where we will be. A lot can change in 3 years thats for sure! We will be renting a house most likely when we move and then after that we will look into buying. OR at least that is the plan right now! I can’t wait to own a home one day though, renting feels like I am throwing money away!

  • Runner Girl Eats October 15, 2013, 6:48 am

    I currently rent but have started to make my house wish list and location is at the top. Number two is a great kitchen (we have one now and I could never go back to a smalll galley ktichen). We hope to be able to buy a house before kids so hopefully soon 🙂

  • Karlee October 15, 2013, 7:15 am

    we bought our first home last october, a foreclosure, in my dream town! It has one of the best schools in the state and country, and even though we don’t have kids yet, I never want to move, haha (I say that now). It is a definite fixer upper, and small for our growing family, but my husband is handy. He wants to fix it up and move to make a profit in the next few years, but I love our house and would be happy staying!

  • Trisha October 15, 2013, 7:58 am

    Why does it seem to always be a trade off between location and space? When my husband and I lived in Charlotte, we lived in a tiny apartment in Dilworth. We loved the community and walking to everything. We moved to Durham 4 months ago, and in an effort to have more space, rented a townhouse. We’ve got lots more space, but we can’t walk to anything but a gas station and sometimes I feel isolated. I’m glad I realized this trade-off before we went into the home buying process. I appreciate your honesty about this! Have you read Emily’s home buying story on Daily Garnish? That was really helpful for me too.

  • kath October 15, 2013, 8:25 am

    Great post! I agree. … You rarely regret location

  • K October 15, 2013, 8:32 am

    We bought our first house 5 years ago and I don’t regret buying, but wish we had’ve chosen another house. We had a list of must haves and our house met none of those! We are in surburbia but most of my city is. We are about 13 kms from the CBD but transport is shocking and takes up to an hour to drive in! I don’t want to move any time soon but we have a pretty small house (3 bed, 1 bath brick and tile) which will be too small with any more than 1 child (we don’t have any).

    I love your house! It’s stunning and would be very close to what I’d say my dream house is!!!

  • Heather October 15, 2013, 9:15 am

    We bought our house as a short sale over 3 years ago and still cannot believe we pulled it off! We had a list of major wants and had put an offer in on a house that had almost all the items on our list, then as we waited on a response, our current house was listed. We scrambled to arrange a viewing, fell madly in love, then crossed our fingers that our first offer would be countered. It was, we walked away and bought our current home instead!! Neither of us would ever live in “the city”. We would hate the traffic, crowds, and feeling trapped by buildings everywhere.

  • linda@adventuresinexpatland.com October 15, 2013, 9:58 am

    I enjoyed reading your reflections on first-time home ownership as we recently moved back to NC from overseas and bought again. With one child in college and the other almost done with high school, we thought we’d downsize a bit for the future. Surprisingly, as we began looking we all realized that despite our children maturing and preparing to go off on their own paths in a few years, they also still see our home as a haven, a sanctuary – and they intend to come back a lot. It was them indicating they wanted a place to bring spouses/grandchildren to that made us change course, and we went a larger home than originally expected. As future empty nesters we can enjoy the main level, it’s still cozy and inviting, and when they are visiting there is plenty of room. It also ends up being a great home for celebrating holidays 🙂

    It’s natural to go through different stages during your life, and home ownership/renting decisions often reflect that. What surprises me is that you and many of your readers have babies and young toddlers, yet no one mentions the quality of schools as an important criteria – and one which helps boost or drag down neighborhood ratings as well as home value appreciation and ease/difficulty of resale. Great if you can afford private schools, but if not, I wouldn’t be surprised if caliber of schools ends up edging its way up the list. Every time we’ve bought, we keep location (neighborhood, schools and specific lot) at the top of our list – sometimes forgoing the shiny new feature – and it’s worked out quite well. Good luck, glad you got this conversation going.

  • Sara October 15, 2013, 11:27 am

    I like our house, but I don’t love it. I wish we’d waited and rented for awhile. We purchased our home before we got married. We thought we wanted a two-story with two living rooms, 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths. Now we wish we had a rancher with a dining room! Plus, in our area, homes are NOT selling well at all. When the time comes to sell, we’ll probably lose a lot of money. Kind of sucks. We’d like to move now but we just can’t because of the home values. So we’ll just keep chipping away at our mortgage and doing more and more renovations! (And then we won’t want to move!) Ha

  • Lara October 15, 2013, 5:11 pm

    We are in a very similar situation to you guys. We couldn’t afford anything liveable in the heart of Seattle, so we moved to the suburbs to a nice big house that’s (relatively) updated. I say relatively because it’s only ten years old, but I’d still really like granite countertops and stainless steel appliances 🙂

    I really underestimated cleaning it, and we’re not even 100% sure we want more kids. It’s not our “forever” house, so we’re hoping to make a little money on it so we can move closer to family in CA. Still, until that time, it’s been an adjustment being away from the city and all its perks!

  • Lara October 15, 2013, 5:17 pm

    OH! AND we lost out on a house right before this one that wasn’t as good as this house but had a much better location. So I can totally relate. I still think about that house sometimes, but I *think* I am glad we ended up with the better house in the end (as opposed to the better location). Time will tell, I guess.

  • Amy Q October 15, 2013, 6:20 pm

    Our house is too big for us. We built it. In retrospect, a smaller mortgage would mean more travel– which is what we REALLY love doing. Live and learn.

  • Julie October 15, 2013, 7:52 pm

    Great post! My husband and I just became homeowners in July, and agreed — lots of work/money! It’s scary because I don’t know what will happen from one day to the next with work sometimes (having been laid off last year), and if we want to have kids soon, how work (or non-work) will factor into everything.

    Home prices shot up this year, which was bad timing, but we really thought waiting would be dangerous, so we decided upon a smaller house in a slightly further area for the sake of not moving TOO far away and not paying TOO much. The house itself is beautiful, just a bit small and with more gardening than our schedules might be able to handle right now. It’s still a journey, but I do agree that I’m proud to have privacy, quiet, and something that we put ourselves into that most of my peers haven’t been able to do. It’s tough out there! And it will continue to be tough!

  • Heather October 16, 2013, 2:14 am

    This is a great post. There are few things that I’ve given as much thought to as I have buying a home. I rented (first apartments, then houses) much longer than my peers, in order to know what I really wanted in a home before buying, and this was the best thing I ever did. It helped me to narrow down to a very specific location (with great schools, and great resale value). I also knew I wanted one story with no pool – almost all houses in Phoenix have a pool, and they are such a pain to maintain. Not to mention the high child drowning rate here 🙁 I also preferred open layout so I can see everyone while I’m in the kitchen. With these criteria, I was able to find the perfect house for me at the time… Being so specific really helped, it only took two weeks to find the house and another month to close! I really lucked out because the house I bought had burnt down and was rebuilt, so it was brand new. In the area I live in, all the houses were built in the 90s, and there is no more building allowed so it’s virtually impossible to buy new. I was lucky and got the best of both worlds: location and new!! Quite possibly the best financial decision I’ve ever made. It’s definitely small for the large family I envision, but for now it’s perfect. It’s highly unusual to be able to walk anywhere in Phoenix due to urban sprawl, but we can walk to the library, Trader Joe’s, Walgreen’s, several other stores, some parks, and an elementary school. The three bedrooms are all right next to each other, something I dont seeing going over well with teenagers in the house. But we’ll cross that road when we get there! ( Our daughter is only one.)I grew up in the boondocks, so for me location will always win!

  • Charise October 16, 2013, 8:10 am

    We own, first a condo and now a house in suburbia. Location was very important to me, but my husband commutes further out from the city, and I commute into it, so that was one of our limiting factors. We purposely bought an out-of-date house that had the “important stuff” already updated (water heater, furnace, AC, roof, siding) so we could afford a better neighborhood and have (mostly) enjoyed renovating to make it our style.

    However, after just 2 years, we’ve decided we want to live in a more urban neighborhood, where the homes have more character and there’s plenty to walk to. I think we were fooled in our suburban condo, since we COULD walk to a few restaurants, grocery store, my hair salon, and some of our docs. We can’t walk anywhere but the neighborhood park now.

    Plus, we’ve had to do some major clean up of cat pee we didn’t expect due to the previous owner’s 6 cats who apparently marked up the entire house – and she was really good at hiding it. As in, every subfloor and behind trim has had to be sealed with odor-blocking primer before we put the new stuff in, the basement CEILING had to be torn down , the office needed new drywall in places. Even though we’ve gotten rid of it all, my germaphobe husband doesn’t feel comfortable here. And so, we’ll be moving next spring, leaving all the hard work and money we put into this place – but at least sale prices in our neighborhood have increased since we bought!

  • Lauren Jamison October 16, 2013, 11:24 am

    I bought a house as soon as I graduated college, just like my Dad had always advised me to do Eventually my now husband moved in and we lived there for four years. Then we had to move for his job, and the market crashed, and by the time it finally sold we lost a ridiculous amount of money (especially for young 26 year old professionals). I was heartbroken, and filled with regret. Even to this day we both agree that we will never buy again unless we plan on staying somewhere for at least ten years. Which should be easy considering as an Air Force JAG my husband, and myself obvi, are required to move every two to three years anyway haha!

    We rent now and although I would give anything for some hardwood floors and some trees, I couldn’t be happier not holding the responsibility or feeling tied down. Not that we don’t still daydream about owning our dream house one day.

  • Becky October 23, 2013, 5:51 pm

    I bought a townhouse due to location and also lack of rental properties in the area I needed to be in. I had to have a place near the schools so my kids could walk to and from school. Our district charges $200/student for bus service if you live 2 miles or more away from the school. I couldn’t afford it. Anyway, it was the best decision even though I would like more space.

  • Caroline Arey October 24, 2013, 3:59 pm

    We live in Charlotte too and rented a condo in Dilworth and LOVED the location. But, when we were looking to buy, we couldn’t really afford anything in a decent school district remotely close to where we were – a lot of “up and coming” areas but none that felt very safe since my husband is a chef who works nights. We settled in Matthews and love our neighborhood, but we do wish we were in a “hipper” area with more restaurants, shops and walkability.

  • Lora October 28, 2013, 2:21 am

    I really like living in town and not in suburbia, although many people prefer the second variant. There are so many pros and cons in this question! Living in suburbia is cheaper and moreover the air is fresh that is good for your health, the only problem is the distance. I found my apartment here http://localmart.com/housing/ and there are no regrets because we had time to make a decision and looked through thousands of opportunities.

  • Amanda November 18, 2013, 5:08 am

    I like your house very much and I understand people that prefer living in suburbia. Fresh air is good for your health, especially when you are pregnant. The house is very spacious, with much light, I always dreamt about owning a house with big windows. But I like living in a city, not in the cool part of town, but in the area that in very close to the supermarkets, restaurants and my work. When we were moving to the other city, I found our current apartment just looking through this website http://montreal.localmartca.com/ The apartment is really nice, of course I can’t compare it with your lovely house, it’s bigger! But I like our 3 rooms and hope in future we will buy a house like yours but in town.

  • Kelly December 3, 2013, 2:03 pm

    I know I am late to chime in, but LOVE talking homes. I bought my first condo when I was 22. I house hunted in one weekend and made an offer immediately following. Looking back I see how crazy that was and how unprepared I was for the realities of homeownership. Didn’t even do an inspection because I was buying directly from the developer. How stupid! That place had a lot of issues – horrible neighbor, various household issues (i.e. HVAC problems, water leak, etc.), and an expensive assessment because of work that was not done properly by our developer. Not to mention my place was tiny because it was all I could afford. But I appreciated the stability of owning a place and to this day still have fond memories.

    I definitely learned a ton the first time around and didn’t want to make the same mistakes twice so I was much more thorough when looking and also was careful not to lose sight of my priorities. My househunt was also MUCH longer – close to 2 years – because it was hard to find what I wanted and my first two properties fell through. I was very heartbroken when the first two didn’t work out, but now that I’m in my current property I’m convinced it all worked out the way it was meant to. I got almost everything that was important to me (big kitchen, vintage with modern updates, room for a dining room table, outdoor space, etc.) and some things I didn’t even expect (true master bath with an amazing shower). The one thing I realized was that no matter how long you look or up your budget you will probably have to compromise on something. I have a little bit longer commute than I was hoping for and didn’t end up in the neighborhood I expected, but it hasn’t mattered because I love my place so much and my neighborhood has a lot of the characteristics I loved about the other neighborhoods where I was looking. I think that is another thing I realized. If you can’t get the exact neighborhood you want it is good to identify what you like about it and see if you can find other neighborhoods that fit the bill.

    I live in the city. I can’t imagine myself living in the suburbs because I love taking advantage of everything the city has to offer and I’m not sure I need all the space of a suburban home. Not to mention I’m single and without children so I find it easier to meet likeminded people here.

    • Danielle August 6, 2014, 9:01 pm

      Interesting post! I live in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of DC and my feelings definitely changed on it over time, too. I come from a very small town in western PA and had only lived in the suburbs of DC after college, so I was really nervous about moving into the city. But now, two years later, I love it so much! I can’t imagine ever leaving the city or this neighborhood! We bought here but will definitely need a larger house after one or two kids, so we’ll see what happens…

  • Caitlin April 16, 2015, 9:38 am

    For me, the idea of owning a home is terrifying- it makes me feel locked down in one location. Part of me thinks that when I’ve found a place I really love and want to call home, I’ll be more open to it, but I don’t know. I know quite a large # of folks who have bought homes and majorly regret it due to the financial burden or just life changes that occur and make home ownership difficult. For now, we’ll continue to rent.

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