Do you have the Vision? Buying a House that needs love.

When Hubs and I set out to buy our first house, I had strict criteria. The most important of them was NOT UPDATED.

If I could write that on my list 3 times, I would bold the first, underline the second and italicize the third. I might even throw it on there a fourth time so I could make sure it really was NOT UPDATED!

This was critical for my home search because I didn’t want to overpay for my house. I didn’t want to pay for someone to throw some sloppy cosmetic updates that look nice today, but will completely fall apart before too long. Sure, cosmetic updates are nice when you walk into a home, but in my hot selling market, these updates were done on the cheap to exponentially increase the asking price. I also didn’t want to pay for updates that I may want to change. In the name of efficiency, I didn’t want to update twice.

I didn’t want to play the update game. I’ve been a renter for a long time and I knew I couldn’t tell the difference between cheap and quality craftsmanship. I stuck to what I knew I could rely on: Good bones. How is the foundation? How is the layout (reasonably speaking)? How is the construction? How is the house holding up?

We found what we were looking for.

The house we bought needs love. It was a single owner 1960s house. We got a deal on it because they needed to sell it and they didn’t want to update it. I’m being kind when I say it was ugly. I bought Grandma’s house with its green carpet throughout, 1 blue bathroom and 1 green bathroom! So much tile!

The best thing about this house is that it didn’t show well at all. Grandma died and the house hadn’t been cleaned in a long time. There were cobwebs everywhere. The cabinets were grimy. I’m thankful I didn’t have to take my shoes off when we entered.

This all sounds horrible to someone without vision. Those without a vision are overwhelmed by it all. One visitor (who may have visited too soon) could barely hold back their distaste. “You have a lot of projects ahead of you.” Others, I specifically told not to visit because I knew they wouldn’t be able to handle it. These are the people that buy move-in ready houses and pay the premium for it.  Move-in ready houses are fine for other people to buy, but this was my house and I didn’t want that.

I had the vision.

I could see beyond the house today and imagine it as the house it would be.

The house has a lot going for it. The layout is great. The location is even better. The neighborhood is established, quiet and safe. The house is on a dead end street. The bones of the house are solid. There is so much potential.

In only 3 short months, Hubs and I have made incredible progress. We cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more. Then we:

  •  Installed new toilet seats
  •  Painted the ceilings
  •  Painted the walls
  •  Replaced most of the flooring ($$$) – Carpet for the main living areas, hard surface in the kitchen and family room.
  •  Replaced all the outlets, changing them to white (and some to USB!)
  •  Rejuvenated the shower experience! New shower head, fixtures, and a curved shower curtain rod.
  •  Replaced the vertical blinds with double rod curtains.
  •  Painted the bathroom cabinet, replaced the hardware.
  •  Replaced our front and garage entry door. Both were non-compliant. ($)

This house has been a team effort for us. Hubs and I shed equal blood, sweat and tears during this labor of love.  I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but if you have the vision, buying a house that needs love can be incredibly rewarding.

After 3 short months, you don’t need a vision to love this house anymore. The house looks great. I can’t wait to start inviting people over.

… Maybe I should get a living room couch first.

House Hunting – GND Style

We bought a house!

After 6.5 years of renting, it was time. Going into the process we built out our must have list.

3 Bedrooms

The plan was 1 bedroom for us plus an office for each of us.  Work from home FTW!

2 Bathrooms

When you gotta go, you gotta go. We’ve been incredibly spoiled with 2 bathrooms for 6 years and it wasn’t something we were willing to compromise on.

2 car garage

We live in the tundra and we both drive to work. I flirted with the idea of going to a 1 car household but Hubs brought me back to reality. We don’t live in a walkeable area and our schedules are completely incompatible.  2 cars it is!

Low Maintenance (read: Short driveway, small lawn)

We wanted to minimize the impact of the outside on our lives. As I said before, we’ve been incredibly spoiled by apartment living for the last 6 years. We love not having to mow or shovel and wanted to keep as much of that as possible.

TV Room

We don’t watch a ton of TV, but when we do, we don’t mess around. Hubs is a movie buff and having a good room for cinematic adventures was key.  I also enjoy the dark loud room as an excellent place to fall asleep 17 minutes into a flick J

A little bit more space

Our apartment is 1100 sq ft. Our storage unit (free – calm down don’t worry) is an extra 25 feet. Our living spaces are relatively clutter free, but the storage spaces are jammed packed. We wanted enough space to spread out and give our things a home.  We set our sights on 1500-2000 sq feet.  We were hoping for the smaller side, but the layouts for the smaller homes in our area weren’t good uses of space. We stayed relatively open when it came to square footage.

Same Neighborhood

We happened into our neighborhood 6 years ago and we completely fell in love. The town is great, the proximity to everything we could ever want is fantastic and magically we are just far enough from everything that most people forget the town exists. We initially set out looking outside of our town, but it wasn’t working. When we re-focused our search, we focused in on our town and only our town. We were prepared to wait for a property within our price range, even if that took a while.

Not Updated

We also didn’t want to pay for someone to update the house for us. In so many of the homes we’ve toured, sellers claim a room or a house is updated, but they used the crappiest materials. Even if they don’t install crap, people make these updates because they can charge more for the house than the upgrades cost to install. I wanted to buy an outdated home and do the updates myself. Even if we hire out the jobs, it should be net positive in the long run. That allows us to make the house our own and not pay an extra premium for it!

Right Price

We’ve been told for years that you make money on a house when you buy it. We wanted a deal. This sounds horrible, but we were hoping to capitalize on a little desperation.

In addition, we didn’t want to over extend ourselves. I drafted up a comparison between what we are paying currently for everything it takes to sustain us (rent, insurance, utilities not covered by our rent) and what we would need to pay for with a house (mortgage, taxes, insurance, all the utilities – electric, gas, trash, water). We wanted to maintain our current outflow.  My rough estimate: $215,000 was just the right price for us to pay the same on housing.

What did we buy?

  •  3 bedrooms
  •  2 bathrooms
  •  2 car garage
  •  Short, concrete driveway
  •  < 0.25 acre flat lot, while not on top of our neighbors.
  •  1800 sq ft
  •  2 blocks outside of our town proper, 6 minutes from where we rent.
  •  Outdated, but completely functional.
  •  Cheapest house in the neighborhood
  •  Seller was handling the estate for his late ex-wife. It was priced competitively and we asked for a discount.
  •  Final price: $215,000 on the nose.


Jordan fades back, SWISH! And that’s the game!

Avoiding the Personal Finance Underbelly

Let me start by saying that I love the personal finance community. Blogs and twitter have been an amazing way for a numbers nerd like me to find my people. You are my people and I love you.

A side effect of being surrounded by fellow money minders is that some of us had an incredible head start. You may know some of these people.

  •  Someone on a modest income has been saving steadily for years. With a little help from the internet, they found a way to harness their savings and are sharing their financial freedom story with all of us.
  •  Someone was an alright saver but had an incredible income. They cut their spending down the bone for a short period of time and like whoa! They have enough to retire.
  •  Someone worked for a great company at the right time and got an incredible head start investing through 2008-2009 with a 1:1 100% company match. They knew how incredible of an opportunity that was and they took full advantage of it. They may have been scared at the time, but hindsight is amazing and they are leap years ahead of their peers today.
  •  Someone was super frugal and worked their way into an incredible income. They timed the housing market right in a hot market.
  •  Someone was great with computers. They were lucky enough to grow up in a time when the nerd wins. Right time, right place, right interest.

All of these stories or some combination of them may be coming through your feed. They are all great stories and we can learn from all of them. That’s why we follow the stories and the people.

I love these stories because they are inspirational. They inspired me to pay off my debt faster than I ever imagined was possible. They pushed me to max out my 401k before I felt ready even though I was. They solidified my belief that I should turn away from the rat race and make sure what I’m doing and what I’m buying is right for me, my interests, my family and my life.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the community. It truly is the best.

Unfortunately, this amazing community comes with a less than talked about underbelly. The jealousy underbelly. That left behind feeling.

Here I am at 30. Hooray, I paid off my student loans but I’m just starting to get going with my investing. My account balances are still small. I just took on a reasonable mortgage and have yet to make a single extra payment.

If I wanted to, I could look around and find 25 year olds who are already out of debt and saving aggressively. I could find people who retired at an age just a few years older than me. If I cling to the underbelly, it would be so easy to feel less than because of how far I still have to go and how many people are ahead of me.

But let’s not focus on that. There will always be someone ahead of you. Always.


Let’s focus on how far we’ve all come. Look behind you. Look around you.

The fact that you are reading this post on a blog about money probably means you are aware of your own financial situation or trying to gain that awareness. Finding awareness is the key to starting your journey. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment and you are on your way.

If you only look ahead of yourself, and don’t reflect on your own journey and your own starting point, you’ll miss the point of progress.

So please.

Find inspiration in those that came before you. But don’t fall to the underbelly. That’s where people get squished.