Let’s talk for a minute, shall we, about home ownership. Specifically, first-time home ownership. Even MORE specifically, YOUNG SINGLE WOMAN first time home ownership.
Because there aren’t too many people out there talking about that. Sure, they’ll mention housing statistics showing it’s a seller’s market, and there are plenty of HGTV shows about buying your first home together, but that’s the catch–it’s usually two people handling this massive project together, juggling the stress between the two of them.
Nonetheless, I had heard that home ownership was a difficult thing, that it was hard and wasn’t nearly as nice as you’d imagined. I simply brushed it off, deciding those people didn’t know me and that I would be different. I had taken classes and seminars and read books and blogs and I had all my financial ducks in a row. I would be awesome at this.
Sometimes it’s as nice as I’d imagined, especially when the rain is falling and I’m wrapped in a blanket on the back porch watching the ducks play in their pool. Or when I finish painting the guest bathroom that perfect shade of plum and I know installing the wood floors was totally worth it the pain of ripping up the 30 year-old tile. Those are the moments when I decide it is better to own than to rent.
But there are other times, times when it is much worse than I was prepared for, times when the bathroom pipes start leaking, the fridge goes out on me (TWO back to back!) and the A/C won’t turn on for six weeks and there are ants and roaches invading the house and some of the wiring is NOT connected to a power shutoff and just when I think I can’t do it anymore, the door to the garage falls off it’s hinges and I flipping lose it. All over my screen door. (This just means I lost my temper and ripped the screen door off its hinges and now it’s dented and I have to buy a new one of those too).
Those are the times I reevaluate my determination, try to figure out if I could just go back to living in a tiny apartment with two cats and no garden or clothesline or chickens or sewing room, if I could go back to Lamar traffic and no responsibility for the air filter and a utility bill that’s a third of what it is now. Those are the moments I realize doing this with a partner would make a lot more sense, when I see how much easier it is when you have someone with whom to share the stress of replacing the enormous air conditioning unit. I can see why so many people wait to be married before doing this. I start to wonder if my realtor would think I was crazy for selling the house five months after buying it.
Just to make this perfectly clear: home ownership is SO MUCH MESSIER than you think it’s going to be. Replacing baseboard and installing new floors and removing popcorn from the ceiling will show you the ugly, not-well-built side of your house. You will see how the walls are not straight, how buggies and spiders will still find a way between the walls, and you’ll shudder when you find a squished roach between the vanity and the wall (I’m still trying to figure that one out). Everything will break at once, and it’s never as simple as putting up a fresh coat of paint on the wall.
But you know what? Despite the overwhelming frustration and feelings of “I cannot possibly do this”….I am doing this. Daily. I turn on the fans, open the windows, and drink cool water–who needs A/C? I scour Craigslist and find an amazing deal on a fridge. The bugs…well I vacuum a lot and do my dishes every night and I set out ant bait. The chickens are taking care of the roach problem (If that were the only thing they did to pay for their food I would still keep them!) I work for hours every night until the bathroom is not broken and all my extra money is tied up in paint cans and baseboard, and I learn how to set a toilet seal and use a jig saw. I am being shaped, I am being molded, by this 35 year old house.
I will never again paint a room without buying three or four sample colors to walk past for a few weeks. I can install a light fixture all by myself, and I’ve learned the differences between a circular saw, jig saw compound miter saw, and table saw, as well as the necessity behind each. I now know to pull the sink off a vanity FIRST, and next time I’ll just buy a door new instead of trying to rehabilitate an old one. I have to remind myself that hardship is part of the adventure too. I tell myself that it will be a funny story in 6 months, and that part of living is getting your hands dirty, messing up the sheetrock texturing, and buying another two feet of baseboard because you didn’t measure right, even the third time.
I guess my “advice”, if you want to give this blog post a point, is to say: it really is as hard as everyone else promises. Things WILL go wrong and you WILL screw something up. You will run out of money and be uncomfortably hot and cracks will appear in your guest bedroom. Your houseguests will have to brush their teeth with water out of the shower tap, and roaches will find a way into the bathroom no matter how many drains you re-caulk. Make sure the reasons you want your own place will give you more satisfaction than the stress a house will give you, because both are bound to happen.