I have been living in my house for 8 years. For me, that’s a long time to stay in one place. And it’s not that I love my house that much (I am the neighborhood bitch, after all), it’s that, well, I like being able to afford my mortgage every month.
When we bought our house in 2004, it was under…interesting circumstances. It was just before the height of the bubble and our house was bought for more than it was most likely worth. We qualified for a mortgage that my salary and my husband’s “salary” (I put that in quotes to show that, at the time we got our mortgage, all that my husband had was an offer letter. He had not started working yet) should not have qualified for, especially with only a 5% down payment to float around (thanks, wedding money! Side note, do not use your wedding gift money to buy a house unless it is your dream house). We also knew that we did not want to stay in our house longer than 5 years (ha!) so we thought a townhouse would be perfect as a “starter home” (I have learned to loathe this expression).
It’s not that we didn’t want to, or don’t want to, move. It’s just that with all that’s happened over the last 8 years (unexpected pay cuts, my depression, the housing bubble bursting…good shit like that), we keep finding a reason not to move. When our pay was cut, it didn’t make sense to take on a new mortgage. When I quit my job, it didn’t make sense to take on a new mortgage. When the price of our house went down, it didn’t make it worth it to move (we’re not underwater, we just want to control how much we get screwed on the price of our house). And now that the child is in school, that’s just a whole separate discussion.
So, we stay in the townhouse in a not so great neighborhood where there have been 2 murders within a one mile radius in the last 2 years. And we stay in the townhouse that borders a neighborhood that housed a burglary ring. And we stay in the townhouse in a neighborhood surrounded by vacant houses, stray cats, and an ever growing population of large, menacing dogs (side note, I love dogs and I don’t feel that one breed is more dangerous than another. I believe it’s the owners. But when I talk to a neighbor who tells me that he got a pit bull to “protect his house”, well…you can probably fill in the rest). And we stay in the townhouse because right now, it doesn’t make sense to go anywhere else.
In an effort to remain positive about where I live (and let me tell you, it is effort), I have to remind myself almost daily of the finer points of this pit place. And so I have them written down, let me list them so when I really want to burn the house to the ground and start again, I know what I’m risking (besides some felonies and prison time):
- The neighborhood is quiet after 7:00 PM. Once all the kids I can’t stand go inside for the night, it’s eerily quiet. It’s nice to be able to open my windows and not hear screaming children (although I would like have a chat with motorcycle man). I’m also convinced that my husband and I are one of 4 couples who are awake past 9:00 PM. I know this because when I walk the dogs at night, it is almost pitch black except for the streetlights that sometimes work. So, I guess that’s an added bonus. Feeling safe enough to walk my dogs, by myself, at night.
- It’s the right size for our family. It has three bedrooms, one of which we converted into an office for my husband and I. We have a backyard that’s roomy enough for the child and the dogs to run around, a garage that no longer looks like it could be featured on Hoarders, and the rest of the house, while poorly laid out, has pretty much everything we need (except for a second bathroom with a shower. I could really use that). Since we’re a small family, we don’t really need much more than what we have.
- Location, location, location. Although we live off of a main road, our neighborhood is set back far enough where we don’t hear road noise (except for the local high school’s marching band practices. Damn, are they loud). This means we’re in proximity to most of the main arteries in my state (all 4 of them) and, additionally, we’re no more than 10 minutes from our YMCA, a park, the library, a Wal-mart and a Target, a supermarket, restaurants and most of our friends. So that works out well.
- Our neighbors don’t totally suck. Well, some of them don’t. If you take out the ones that annoy me or I wish would move, the rest are fine to live near. They’re friendly, clean, take care of their property and I’m pretty sure most of them wouldn’t steal anything from us. Now, if they could just supervise their bratty children and teach them not to throw trash all over the place, that would be stellar.
- We can afford it. This is probably the main reason we’ve stayed put longer than we ever dreamed possible. As I mentioned, we can afford the mortgage and the utilities are not so outrageous that we get slammed more one month than any other. We can pay our bills every month and still have some money left over, which is fantastic. And, thanks to my husband’s energy knowledge and ability to fix a lot of stuff, our utility and repair bills are nothing that we can’t handle.
While my house is by no means my dream house, and the neighborhood leaves a whole lot to be desired, we’re staying put for now. Financially it makes the most sense and, once I’m inside our 4 walls, the rest really doesn’t matter.