Today marks a decade in our house. Ten years ago, we were twenty three years old, new to being back in the area, and determined to buy a home. Or well, I was determined to buy a home, and my husband was along for the ride.
Six months of dreaming online and then six months of going to look at homes every weekend (and putting in offers on a few) found us walking into our home one day. The home itself wasn’t particularly memorable, but the location and the lot were.
Choosing our home
On my short list of non negotiables was the ability to walk to the grocery store and the bus. Some of the homes we looked at were lovely, but two miles or more from anything.
Our house is a quarter mile from the grocery store shopping center (along with a couple restaurants, gym, pharmacy, and gas station). The bus used to be closer, but we still have a stop within three quarters of a mile.
But what really sold it for us was the location of the lot itself: backed up to a forest of evergreen trees, protected by the fact that it’s a county park. After living a decade in our home, I’m not sure we would ever want to get used to backyard neighbors again.
Refinancing and home costs
When we bought our home ten years ago, we stretched to almost the top of our limit that our mortgage company was willing to lend. My husband was in college at the time, but since he had less than 36 months left on the GI Bill at the time, that income didn’t count. We had to qualify on my income, plus a small amount from my park ranger side hustle at the time.
We could afford the mortgage, but it felt big then. A month after we moved in, we got our first roommate, and have been “house hacking” ever since (though that’s definitely not a term I heard for years after). Our current roommate has lived with us for more than eight years now, and he’s especially been a blessing through the pandemic (he homeschools our son and watches him all day once a week).
Since buying our home, we’ve refinanced the mortgage twice (now with a current rate of 2.375%) and grown our incomes. Even working 80% time each right now, we make significantly more than we did a decade ago.
Between refinancing to a lower fixed payment and income growth, the mortgage that seemed significant feels small these days. By not “trading up” when we could, we continue to grow the gap between what we earn in a month and what our base expenses are.
The Current Hot Housing Market
I initially wrote a blog post about our “little old starter home” in July of 2017, back when I first started blogging. We got comments account it being little, “far out,” and “nice for a starter home.”
With this current housing market, however, no one would consider calling our home little and old. It’s no longer considered a starter home, but a lovely little home on a big lot in a much-desired neighborhood and city. A bit of a head trip sometimes if I think back on the difference of language and perspective from that first year we bought – at the very bottom of the housing market post Great Recession.
No matter what our home is called, and what the housing market looks like around us, our mortgage is well within our means (and less than the average one bedroom apartment in our area these days). We’re so lucky to have been able to buy when we did, and that purchase has set us up for financial success in a big way.
While there are days I dream of lots of land (well more than our quarter acre lot), I have so much gratitude for our little old house on our little piece of land. And for what it’s worth, we sure do a lot with that little piece of land. A decade in, the garden is exploding in the best way, and we are weeks away from our first chicks. And yet we can still walk to the grocery store and other needs (our roommate manages to live well without a car).
Plus, we have the best neighbors ever. You can’t even put a price on that.
I originally meant to just say a few words as introduction back to the post I wrote four years ago, but apparently I had more reflecting to do, and you all get a fuller post after all. Ten years later, I suppose it’s fair to write an homage to our lovely little house and a decision that two twenty three year olds made that would turn out to be one of our best financial decisions.
So cheers, little home and big garden, to ten years together. We’ve got a long way yet to go.