The New Place

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 30, 2020

Filed under: Personal 88 comments

I know this is ostensibly a tabletop gaming blog about programming and video games, but sometimes we get distracted by real-world concerns and I end up talking about myself. Since I’m preoccupied with moving and since a few people are curious about it, here’s what’s going on…

Why Did We Move?

Would you rather look out your window and see this, or a parking lot? That was one reason to move.
Would you rather look out your window and see this, or a parking lot? That was one reason to move.

You might remember that my stepfather passed away in October. That was the first domino in a long chain that brought us here. Lots of little things contributed to this arrangement…

  • My mom has never lived aloneIt’s possible that maybe she had a dorm to herself when she was in college in the 1960s. I never asked. and I don’t think she cares for it. 
  • Her apartment was very expensive. 
  • Mom is nearing 80 years old. She’s still active and has her wits, but at this age there’s always the concern that this could change suddenly. 
  • For the last few years my wife Heather has specialized in elder care. She’s really good at it and at any given time she usually has more job offers than she can accept. It seems to make sense to have Mom with us so Heather can help if / when Mom starts to decline.
  • I don’t know how things work elsewhere, but around here renting a modest apartment costs a little more than the mortgage for a good sized home. That is, if you can own a home then you can save a couple hundred a month compared to a renter and enjoy more space in a nicer neighborhood with more privacy. The problem is that you need a down payment in the neighborhood of tens of thousands to make that happen, and it’s really hard to save that much when your monthly rent is so highRelatively speaking. I know in New York / LA, $900 wouldn’t be enough to rent a closet.. Heather and I tried, but every time we got a nest egg of a couple thousand there would be some unexpected expenseCar repairs, taxes, helping out our older kids that have moved out. that  devoured it. So by moving in together, we’re all saving moneyHopefully. I mean, we ran the numbers and it all looks good, but there’s a big difference between spreadeet projections and reality. and enjoying more living space. 

So this is a personal decision, an economic decision, and a practical decision. The house is actually Mom’s, but for Heather and I it feels like owning a home in the sense that we can repaint / decorate / landscape at will.

What I Like About The New Place

Like I said on the Diecast: This place is really nice. 

1. My bedroom is DARK.

I have conflicting bodily needs. I like to stay up late and work while everyone else is asleep and the house is quiet. At the same time, I sleep very poorly if the room is too bright. So on one hand I want to stay up late, but on the other hand it’s hard to sleep after the sun comes upI tried wearing an eye mask. It made my face itchy. Ugh.. Dark curtains help, but it’s amazing how much light makes it into the room around the edges when the walls are white.

In the new place, we painted the walls dark blue. On Monday morning I woke up after my first night of sleep in the new room. I hadn’t bothered to track down my bedroom clock yet, so I had no idea what time it was. Around the window I could see the faint ghostly light of pre-dawn. Maybe it was 5am?

Then I opened the bedroom door and was blinded by the midday sun. It was 10am and the sun was out. 

I love it. I’m going to get good sleep here.

2. I can do what I want with my office.

Landlords are wary of their tenants turning the drywall into swiss cheese, so there are usually rules against mounting stuff on the walls. Also, for whatever reason people around here want to cover their gorgeous hardwood floors with ugly dust-gathering, caster-trapping, static-generating shag. So I always end up with my office chair getting mired in the shag and needing to vacuum every week for the privilege. Fie.

But now this room is mine. The carpet is gone and I can hang whatever I want on the walls. I’ve decided to go crazy and build a garish PC Gaming Temple. The current plan is to get some rainbow LED string lights like these…

I've decided to make the walls match my keyboard. That's not weird, is it?
I've decided to make the walls match my keyboard. That's not weird, is it?

…and hang a translucent curtain in front of them. The curtain will diffuse the lights and make them a little “dreamy”, while also acting as acoustic dampeners. 

This project is a bit frivolous and needs to wait until the big important jobs are done, but it’s something nice I’m looking forward to.

3. Landscaping!

I don't know why Heather and Issac enjoy yard work, but good for them.
I don't know why Heather and Issac enjoy yard work, but good for them.

Heather and IssacIf you’re new here: My wife and son, respectively. love caring for plants. Also, Issac is really fond of birds. At our old place, we had a postage-stamp yard, and the place before that had a concrete “yard”. But now we’ve got lots of space to landscape and they’re both very happy. 

Yesterday Issac hung up some bird feeders. We’ll see if they end up being squirrel feeders. Either way, it’ll be educational and fun to observe.

4. The AC is really good.

The old place wasn’t large, but it was arranged in a way that made it murderously hard to keep cool. It was an apartment that occupied the 2nd and 3rd floor of a 3-story building. It had skylights in the roof that were very pretty, but also turned the top floor into a hothouse. The whole place got blasted by the sun for most of the day, which made it really hard to keep cool. Once the temps got into the 90s32C to 38C. the AC could no longer keep up and it would get very sticky inside.

The new place is just a single level with a basement. The house is made of stone instead of wood. It’s shaded by vegetation for parts of the day. We’re surrounded by grass instead of asphalt and blacktop. All of this means it’s nice and cool in here. I have trouble concentrating on complex tasks when the room is over 80F26.6C, so this is a really big win for me.

Also, it’s nice not having to tiptoe around to avoid irritating the downstairs neighbor. 

5. We have a garage!

For those of you who live in warmer climates: A garage isn’t just for fussy rich people to keep their BMWs secure and clean. They’re really important in places with harsh winter weather. Having your car exposed to the elements means that rain can enter all the little crevices and freeze, which is hard on things. Having to spend an extra 10 minutes every morning cleaning off the car before you can drive it is also really frustrating and annoying. 

Then there’s the extra hassles: The door locks freeze, windows get stuck, wipers crack or break, and after you’ve dealt with all of that you track filthy icy sludge into the car when you finally get in. Having the car exposed to every rainstorm means those little bits of chipped paint will grow into rust blossoms that much faster.

But if you’re keeping your car in a garage, you’re saved from all of those miseries. 

6. All the little things…

This looks a mess, but you should have seen it YESTERDAY. The living room is currently storage for all our tools / supplies for projects around the house. It will get turned into a proper living room eventually.
This looks a mess, but you should have seen it YESTERDAY. The living room is currently storage for all our tools / supplies for projects around the house. It will get turned into a proper living room eventually.

On top of the rest, this space is just nicer in terms of aesthetics. Nicer floors, nicer layout, gorgeous windows, nice deck, etc. The only place I’ve liked more than this is the house where I spent my teenage years. I feel like, after a long journey, I’ve made it back to the comfort I had back in 1984-1994.

That house we lived in during my teenage years is called the “Tower View house” in the family. At the time, the address was on “Tower View Drive”. Tower View has since been chopped up into many smaller roads and the address of the house has been changed twice since the 80s, but we still refer to  it as Tower View. 

One of the interesting details about this place is that it has a lot of layout similarities with the Tower View place. The houses aren’t really the same floor plan, but they have little matching sections that have been rearranged in amusing waysIt’s understandable that different houses would have similarities like this. Once you factor in plumbing, ventilation, lighting, through-traffic, plot size, and the slope of the land, there are only so many ways to lay out a house that make sense..

It’s been 26 years since I lived at Tower View, but I still find myself trying to impose that map on this new place. The hallway here feels a lot like Tower View, to the point where I expect to come out of the bathroom and find the kitchen in the second door on the left. But instead it’s the third door and the kitchen is flipped backwards. Brains are weird.

I’ll post pictures of the office once the renovations are done. Right now it’s just a nest of disorganized cables on a wobbly card table, and there’s no reason to take pictures of that. This is a good enough place to work for now. We’ll make it fun later.

I’m really happy here. Thanks for all the well-wishes. We’re getting back to the regular content schedule later this week.

 

Footnotes:

[1] It’s possible that maybe she had a dorm to herself when she was in college in the 1960s. I never asked.

[2] Relatively speaking. I know in New York / LA, $900 wouldn’t be enough to rent a closet.

[3] Car repairs, taxes, helping out our older kids that have moved out.

[4] Hopefully. I mean, we ran the numbers and it all looks good, but there’s a big difference between spreadeet projections and reality.

[5] I tried wearing an eye mask. It made my face itchy. Ugh.

[6] If you’re new here: My wife and son, respectively.

[7] 32C to 38C.

[8] 26.6C

[9] It’s understandable that different houses would have similarities like this. Once you factor in plumbing, ventilation, lighting, through-traffic, plot size, and the slope of the land, there are only so many ways to lay out a house that make sense.



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88 thoughts on “The New Place

  1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Happy for you guys!
    About needing as little light as possible to sleep my go too is to have a dedicated tshirt or pillow sheet to put over my eyes. It does the job whilst not being as constricting and itchy as a mask. The only downside is that while I sleep it falls off, but then again I’m already asleep so it’s fine.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Just put tin-foil on the windows, and get blackout curtains! :)

      1. Lino says:

        The added benefit of tin-foil is that it protects you from psychotronic scanning and alien death-rays. Win-win!

        1. Richard says:

          I spent about five years with tinfoil on the windows. Works a treat, as long as you never, ever want to open the curtains.

    2. King Marth says:

      I recall serious blackout blinds being a necessity in Norway, where you’re far enough north even at the southern tip that you have 18+ hour days in summer. My quick searches only turn up patterned curtains, though, so I’m not sure what the technical difference is.

      Same thing with real rain coats that are properly waterproof, none of those wimpy “water-resistant” jackets that soak through in anything worse than a light sprinkle. Turns out that when you’re directly off the end of the Gulf Stream piping a current of hot water all the way across the ocean into otherwise cold air, you get a lot of precipitation. These I know are Helly Hansen.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        They sell real blackout curtains up here in Canada too! Although, we only get 14-ish hours of sunlight where I’m at. Still better than getting months of sunlight up in the arctic circle! ^^;

      2. Decius says:

        A proper blackout curtain will leak zero light; the modern approximations that aren’t intended to protect ships from being silhouetted against the city will probably only block 95% or so.

    3. CrushU says:

      I don’t need zero light to go to sleep, but it can help and it’s soothing… But I always struggled with how to do it. The simple way is to just pull the blanket up over your head, and with a good blanket, that’ll block light easy-peasy. But then you basically overheat and suffocate…

      Then I got diagnosed with sleep apnea (moderate), and have to wear a breathing mask to sleep. (CPAP machine) Kinda uncomfortable, but I’m getting way better sleep. And about a month or two ago, I realized that because the mask keeps feeding me fresh air, I can just burrow completely under the blanket and not have to worry about breathing issues. It’s a nice little sleeping-tomb.

  2. Ingvar says:

    Congratulations! I hope the house will serve you and yours for decades to come.

  3. Bubble181 says:

    Glad to hear it, and the new place looks a lot nicer! Hope you’ll be happy there for many years to come!

  4. Mephane says:

    Not sure if anyone ever said it, but I appreciate the footnotes converting Fahrenheit to Celcius.

    1. Lino says:

      Oh yes, those are very appreciated! Saves me the hassle of having to stop reading so I can go to a converter. Especially annoying when I later have to use a separate converter for miles and feet.

    2. Syal says:

      I’m expecting the C to change into amusing alternatives at some point. “26 BC”, “6 KB”

  5. Lino says:

    I’m so happy for you guys! Good luck with the renovation!

    Also, typolice:

    Relatively speaking. that devoured it. I know in New York / LA, $900

    I think that sentence is a leftover from something else.

    The hallway here here feels

    One “here” too many.

    1. Mistwraithe says:

      Or it might be Cthulhu trying to break into this plane. It’s impossible to know.

      1. Lino says:

        You know, with the way 2020’s been going, I feel like we’re going to find out soon enough…

  6. Leviathan902 says:

    Like I said in my follow up to the question about ownership: Congratulations! I’m very happy for you. It looks like a really nice place and big improvement. Enjoy!

  7. Thomas says:

    My grandmother moved closely to my parents when she hit 80, and it was one of the best decisions she made. Her health declined quite rapidly and she hit the point where it would have been difficult to organise moving house before anyone really noticed it. Instead she’s right next to family and they’ve been able to support her without trouble.

    The UK (except maybe London?) generally follows the rule that mortgage is cheaper than rent. It feels wonky and leads to people buying places to immediately rent out and have someone else pay their mortgage off for them.

  8. Hal says:

    I’m curious how the yard portion is going to work out for you, given your allergy complaints in the past. Like can you cut the grass, or does that fall on someone else?

    Having a yard was the best part of homeownership for me . . . right up until the leaves started falling from the trees.

    I always end up spending most of the year cleaning up leaves in the yard, because we have a variety of trees around us that lose their leaves anywhere from October to February. Even if I spend November cleaning diligently, there will be more before Spring. And then once March hits, it’s a race to get the last of them up before the grass starts growing; if the leaves remain, the grass will die, and I’ll be cursing my stupid yard again all summer long.

    1. Joshua says:

      Having a yard is a double-edged sword that way, but I’ll still take it over ugly concrete. I mowed this morning before showering and going to work because it’s otherwise too hot unless I’m wanting to try it at 8 or 9 in the evening. I don’t mind the work as much because it’s a form of exercise, but I’m really not fond of the expensive Summer watering bills (we have an automated sprinkler system).

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Astroturf FTW!

    2. Shamus says:

      Mowing is 100% Issac’s job.

      He’s actually looking forward to it.

      1. Erik says:

        12-year-old me would never be able to comprehend that sentence.

        Heck, way-too-dang-old me still hates mowing. This is why I’m delighted to give money to a man and make that problem not exist.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Yeah, lawn maintenance is near the top of the list of things I was happy to leave behind when we switched from owning to renting.

          We’re on the verge of buying a new place, but the market here is such that we will most likely end up with a condominium. I’m still not going to miss yard work.

        2. Syal says:

          I understand it. A riding lawnmower is basically a Go Kart.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Having spent over an hour of my Saturdays each week mowing the grassy areas on my parents’ 5-acre ranch using a riding mower while growing up, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

            1. Syal says:

              So we had a couple of mowable acres, and that was effectively Syal’s Variety Hour. Bombastic singing of whatever came into my head, while cutting grass in a pattern reminiscent of an intoxicated bumblebee. Good times. Complete waste of gas.

        3. Thomas says:

          I have no grass only flowers and bark! Admittedly, its probably more work with the weeding, but I find that more satisfying than mowing, and the back garden supports a lot more wildlife this way

        4. Daimbert says:

          I like mowing the lawn. It gives me about an hour of regular exercise that I have to do, but it’s not really mentally demanding so I can let my mind wander a bit while doing it. And no, I don’t have a riding mower and don’t want one.

          Then again, I also like shoveling snow for the same reasons. And HATE gardening with a passion (the people who owned the house before me planted a number of flowers in their flower beds, and the only ones that are still there 15+ years later are the ones that managed to survive pretty much on their own [grin]).

          1. Richard says:

            An hour?

            I’d love to have a lawn big enough to take that long. But, London, so I guess I should be seriously grateful I’ve got grass at all.

        5. Cubic says:

          Mowing is okay now that we have podcasts and stuff.

    3. John, says:

      I like having a lawn, but the lawn at my house is pretty small and not much work to mow, not even with a push mower. Lawn care was much worse when I was a teenager and still living with my parents. Even though I don’t have any allergies, I sometimes wore a filter mask while mowing the back yard. We lived in southern California and the back lawn tended to be pretty dry. Our gas-powered mower would kick up so much dust and little, chopped-up bits of dry grass that I felt like I was going to sneeze my brains out.

  9. Charles Henebry says:

    Glad to hear you’ve made such a great move!

  10. Erik says:

    Congratulations! This has got to be such a wonderful step for all of you, and I hope the new environment works for everyone.

    I recognize the dark room problem from personal experience; my wife loves sunny mornings and I sleep late and as a teen used to slip cardboard behind the drapes for absolute blackout conditions. We’ve compromised with drapes I can live with in the bedroom, and huge windows for maximum sun in the main public areas of the house. My job is to open the drapes for sun in the bedroom once I actually get up, and I can live with that.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    Really glad for you all!
    Yeah, it is rather strange that renting costs more than a mortgage. The exception I’ve found is with actual apartment buildings, which tend to be cheaper, with the drawback that you have no yard at all.
    Would be fun to make an FPS level out of the house floorplan, and then write a procedural generator to create arbitrarily large buildings from that starting point.

    1. Joshua says:

      Bigger drawback of actual apartment complexes is that you’re around other people to me. One apartment with noisy upstairs neighbors and poor sound muffling convinced us to get out of an apartment as soon as we could.

      It’s also not that strange that renting costs more than a mortgage for houses. Someone took out a mortgage on that house, and the rent has to be in excess of what they are paying. Granted, they most likely purchased the house enough years ago (when it was much cheaper) that their house payment is generally lower anyway, but insurance and property taxes seem to always be increasing. We just received notice this month that our Escrow company is going to increase our monthly house payment by $200!!! because previous payments were undercharging the property tax and didn’t properly reflect the increases.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        From my point of view, it’s not strange that rent is more than a mortgage. I’d expect it to be higher to cover maintenance that’s not the responsibility of the tenant, along with some measure of profit for the landlord.

        That doesn’t make me feel better when my rent keeps pace with (or exceeds) inflation, though. The real estate market in my neck of the woods is ridiculous.

        1. Thomas says:

          But the mortgage is turning into capital for the owner. So they’re not just making a profit off the rent, but they’re generating capital. And once the mortgage is paid off, all the rent is pure profit (minus maintenance).

          If the system were functioning efficiently, then people would be buying up houses, charging rent that covers the maintenance plus a little extra profit, and then selling on the house as an asset. Or perhaps large companies with capital would buy the houses outright and then competition should drive rent to be: maintenance cost plus opportunity cost of capital investment plus small profit margin.

          (Apparently when you edit a comment plus signs turn into spaces)

          1. Shamus says:

            Some additional observations, just because this has been on my mind lately.

            Buying and selling homes is EXPENSIVE. Even if we set aside the 7% Real Estate agent fee and assume our landowner has the expertise to do the deal themselves, there’s still sales taxes, closing costs, inspection fees, etc. That usually adds up to thousands. If someone moves around a lot, then renting makes sense because buying and selling your house every two years would incur massive losses. Buying forces you to make a decades-long commitment (and there’s always the risk the value of your home could go down) to the property, while renting leaves you free to move around.

            And of course, as a renter you’re also sort of paying for all the lunatics of the world. I’ve known a handful of landlords over the years, and according to them there’s always a small percentage of deeply dysfunctional people who go from house to house, completely wrecking the place.

            * Renters shattered doors, punched holes in walls, and broke windows.
            * Filled the house with dozens of neglected cats until the walls were saturated with the odor of piss.
            * Never took the trash out and instead just let it pile up in the living room, moving out once the room was full.
            * A hoarder filled an entire room with garage sale crap. It took the homeowner two days and two full dumpsters to clean it out.
            * A renter kept chickens(!!!) in the basement. There was nowhere for the waste to go, so by the time he was evicted for non-payment of rent, the basement was ankle-deep in feces.

            I know some of those stories sound insane, but they all come from people I’ve personally known or have met briefly. Anecdotally, I gather these people are rare, but they do incredible damage. Once I heard these stories, I began to understand why so many landowners seemed so paranoid and abrasive when I was younger. They’d probably been burned by a lunatic tenant in the past and were wary of it happening again.

            So those are some unseen costs absorbed by landowners, which helps explain why renting is more expensive.

            It’s a strange, complicated market. With any luck I’ll be able to spend some decades here and not have to mess with real estate again anytime soon.

            1. Thomas says:

              Thank you, those are some good points. I didn’t realise renters could be so extreme – at least not to the extent that people would have personal experience of it.

              1. Joshua says:

                We used the same Inspector for our past few home purchases. He also rents on the side and told us that he just expects thousands of dollars of repairs each time a tenant turns over.

            2. Karma The Alligator says:

              A hoarder filled an entire room with garage sale crap. It took the homeowner two days and two full dumpsters to clean it out.

              As a hoarder myself, that annoys me: they need to clean up after themselves, at the least. When I move house it does take a long time (and usually 1-2 dumpsters, that *I* pay for), but I leave the place as clean (and sometimes cleaner) as it was when I arrived.

              1. Zaxares says:

                There’s collectors and then there’s hoarders. Collectors usually focus their attentions on one specific type of object (books, games, action figures, shiny rocks etc.) and are usually fastidious about keeping them organized, neat and clean. Hoarders will collect pretty much EVERYTHING, turning their house into a rat’s nest filled with assorted junk ranging from old newspapers to empty bottles to plastic bags. Nearly all of it will be worthless trash, but the hoarder simply cannot bring themselves to throw anything away. It’s actually a serious psychological problem, but the majority of them insist that there’s nothing wrong with them and the way they’re living.

                1. Syal says:

                  Apparently the guy my friends bought a house from left a pile of empty dog food bags, and a separate pile of tops of the empty dog food bags.

            3. Chad Miller says:

              I’ve seen the aftermath of some move-outs and can confirm I’ve first-hand seen stuff just as bad as what you’re describing. My “favorite” was the one that had one closet that looked like it had been used to grow plants, and another closet filled with jars of urine. I was the with the “privilege” of explaining to the owners why those two things were related.

              1. danielfogli says:

                I wonder what kind of plants they were growing there :-P

            4. Jeff says:

              Finance guy here: You’ve missed one important aspect of why buying and selling properties is profitable.

              Say I have $10k and invest it. The investment increases in value 10%, and after I liquidate the investment I walk away with $11k. That’s a 10% ROI.

              Say I have $10k and use it as a down payment for a mortgage of $200k. I use rent to cover the mortgage payments, expenses, and maybe even earn some pocket change on top. The property increases in value 10%, and I sell it for $220k. I repay the mortgage of $200k less whatever payments had already been accrued, and I walk away with $20k. That’s a 100% ROI.

              Certainly there’s other financial tools where you can multiply the value of your money for investing, but none of them are anywhere near as readily accessible and relatively risk free. In the worst case scenario, you’re making mortgage payments that you can afford (or should be able to) anyway and end up with a property.

              The biggest roadblock of course is that you can’t exactly get a property for $200k that’s not out in the middle of nowhere, so the not-rich have to fall back on less lucrative investment options. Wealth inequality, it keeps growing and it sucks.

          2. Joshua says:

            There’s a little bit of increased value beyond the cash profit, both in the reduction of the principal and in the (theoretical) increase in value of the property. It is factored in the equation, but is not enough to make an easy profit. I doubt many places will have a lot of appreciation in the next year or two with the current conditions.

            1. Thomas says:

              I’m not talking about appreciation. The point is, if the mortgage is being covered by rent, then the landlord’s debt is being turned into capital.

              If a landlord takes out a loan for house, rents it out at a rate that covers the mortgage and maintenance, and then sells the house a few years later at the same price, then they profit however much of the mortgage the renter paid off in the intervening time.

              However – Shamus makes some points above about how maintenance costs might not be as small as they would be for an ordinary homeowner who is responsible for their property.

              And I’ve just realised that interest payments on the mortgage eat into more of that profit than you would think. I did some rough calculations of someone buying a $200,000 house and renting it out for 5 years at the cost of mortgage + maintenance and I think something like two thirds of the ‘profit’ would actually be spent on interest payments (plus the cost of organising the sale as Shamus pointed out).

              In my scenario I imagined a capital rich company acquiring houses and charging maintenance + profit. However in reality the capital rich people are making more money at less risk (and effort) by giving mortgages to the landlords via banks instead.

              1. Joshua says:

                If it gives you any perspective, my house payment will be going up to about $1,700 a month* come August 1st, and only about $250 of that is paying down the principal balance. The rest is interest, taxes, and home insurance. You don’t even reach the halfway point on a 30-year mortgage until about 22 years or so IIRC.

                *Actually $1,800/month, but there’s a temporary escrow catch-up in that.

                1. Thomas says:

                  I guess I have a particular cheap house, so it’s a bit different for me and I didn’t twig how much of a difference it makes when you go up to even a normally priced home.

                2. Nimrandir says:

                  To be honest, that amount going to the loan balance sounded high to me. Of course, I have no idea how long Joshua has been paying on this mortgage, and it might be for a shorter term than the thirty years I’m used to seeing.

                  Hopefully this doesn’t sound like I’m prying into anyone’s finances. I’ve been teaching a mathematics of finance course for several years now, and that has left me thinking about amortized loans way more than is probably healthy.

                  1. Joshua says:

                    I don’t mind you asking, since few people here know each other in real life. We literally have been here just two years, so it’s at one of the low points. I threw out the $250 answer off the cuff, but was actually slightly under as shown below as of our 6/2 statement. Our escrow amount is supposed to increase by $94 a month permanently on August 1st due to rising property taxes, hence the ~$1,700. Zillow estimates we could rent our house for about $1,900, which doesn’t sound like enough cushion to me for the risk.

                    Principal $269.81
                    Interest $751.68
                    Escrow (Taxes and Insurance) $605.55
                    Other $0.00
                    Regular Monthly Payment $1,627.04

                    1. Richard says:

                      1,900 rent on a 1,700 cost is lossmaking. Don’t do it.
                      A single month’s void (no tenant) will wipe out the entire year, even assuming there are no unrecoverable costs.

                      Insurance on rented property is much higher too, as insurers know that renters are far more likely to cause claimable damage.

                      Evicting someone also means hiring a lawyer and court costs. While in most jurisdictions these are theoretically recoverable from the former tenant, in practice you will never actually get it back.
                      – After all, the main reason for evicting someone is if they refuse to pay the rent, which usually also means they have no cash.

              2. Cubic says:

                As a landlord, you also take on the risk of having the unit empty for a month or two when a tenant moves out. Each empty month is 8% less revenue that year. (Then you get to pay for the renovation too.)

                1. Chad Miller says:

                  The last time a landlord really angered me, I calculated that the cost of breaking the lease was the same as just continuing to rent the place. So I moved out and continued renting an empty apartment, making it take them longer to fill it, out of spite.

    2. Vinsomer says:

      It’s not that strange.

      Property prices rose to pre-2008 levels, mostly after governments wanted to as they saw it as a metric of economic success (and there are essays and essays written on how people focus on the wrong metrics as evidence of a strong economy). What did not go back to pre-2008 levels, however, was lending, especially after new legislation. So most people simply can’t afford to buy a house, the market knows this, and the rest is supply and demand.

      It’s just yet another way being poor sucks. You’d think being poor would mean spending less on things, but it often means that you have the least flexibility in how you spend your money on essentials. And market forces leverage your lack of options against you. Another example? Health insurance. Being able to afford a good plan costs far less than being caught out of pocket for a large expense, and being able to get routine checks or preventative care for cheap/free may catch health problems before they become bigger, more expensive, and more life-threatening.

      And of course there’s a reckoning coming when our generation reaches retirement age and most of us have the financial burden of rent but reliance on pensions, which probably won’t be that great (they never are).

      1. SupahEwok says:

        You’re gonna get a pension? Lucky.

        1. Vinsomer says:

          I’m from the UK, so yeah.

          Although by the time I’m old, the pension age will probably be a lot higher.

          1. Richard says:

            If you’re between 20 and 50 and not already working in a job that usually offers early retirement, you probably shouldn’t expect to retire at all.
            – But you should expect to claim your private pension, so do save for one if you can!

            The demographics won’t support it – while many of the current crop of retirees say they “paid in all their lives”, in reality current workers pay for the retirement of the previous couple of generations.

            In north America and Europe, the “boomers” are probably the largest single generation there will ever be.
            The average family since then is much smaller.

            So there are far fewer people paying taxes, to support the largest ever set of retirees.
            The obvious and really nasty squeeze is starting, simply because of numbers. Japan is already in the middle of this.

            The next generation will do better as the delta is likely to be smaller, assuming we get through the next fifty years unscathed.

            Of course, in countries where retirees get nothing from “the state” they mostly die instead of getting to that age.
            (Sorry if this is too close to polyticks.)

  12. kikito says:

    “Upgrade completed!”

    Well done, enjoy the new place, take it slow, and if anything is still in boxes after 6 months, just throw it away!

  13. Alberek says:

    You new home looks very nice!

  14. Soldierhawk says:

    Congratulations Shamus! I couldn’t be more happy for you or your family. I hope its everything you want it to be, and then some. You deserve it.

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    Shamus: “This looks a mess”
    Me: *looks nervously as his own living room, overpacked for years* “Uhhh, haha, yeah, what a disaster! Haha,”

    Anyway, good to know things are going better in your life! Congratulations and I wish you happiness in your new home.

    1. Daimbert says:

      It’s neater than my living room was until I bought a stand to help me organize things so that my books and DVDs and the like now mostly sit there instead of in front of the TV or behind the sofa …

  16. ccesarano says:

    Congratulations on a successful move! I’m hoping to move before Thanksgiving, and this post has me wishing I could get a house instead of an apartment. I also hate lawn work, but I would love a pool, and so my mind has been day dreaming how one would go about minimizing the grass presence while maximizing water. Helps that I’ve never wanted a huge property.

    Hoping this move will also help quality of life in other areas for you. Sounds already like it’ll be a psychological and mental improvement.

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Depending on the area you live in, and other uses you might want to give to your lawn (such as holding barbecues or having children playing on it), a either a moss or a clover lawn instead of grass, can be great alternatives. Both will stay short enough that they don’t need mowing, just some minor weed control. Both will capture WAY more CO2 and other greenhouse gasses than grass. However, moss is only viable in areas where they aren’t exposed to a lot of direct sunlight (e.g. under trees or in generally overcast regions), and clover will die if there’s too much drought.
      If you’re in a particularly dry area, consider gravel or loose sand with cactii and succelents.

    2. Algeh says:

      A pool is a very large amount of work to maintain. I have one, and it’s an on-going project to try to keep it clean, the water balanced, and everything related to the pump/heater/etc. working. It’s like owning a 20 year old car that you use for daily commuting in terms of a time and money suck (with similar trade-offs between DIY and hiring it done too). It’s the most work in the spring because you’re trying to get the water balanced for summer use at the same time that a bunch of debris from flowering trees and similar are landing in the water and clogging the filters.

      Depending on local regulations, you may also need to keep a pretty large amount of non-pool yard area available, because at least where I live you are not allowed to discharge pool water into either the sewer system or the stormwater system, so whenever you need to drain the pool you need to do so into the ground elsewhere on your own property. (I need to get mine repainted, and this is one of the reasons I keep putting it off.)

      1. Joshua says:

        We had an above ground pool that came with our most recent house purchase, and we ended up eventually getting rid of it. Not only was there the constant maintenance (it was built directly under trees), but we were spending about $100 a month on chemicals, and extra electricity and water. Not worth it.

  17. Adrian Lopez says:

    Good for you man! I’m happy to see this house is working well for you and will hopefully bring you and your family continued joy.

  18. Nimrandir says:

    Congratulations on your new place! Glad to hear it seems to be working out well.

  19. Mattias42 says:

    Seems like a really nice place. Good on you!

  20. Liessa says:

    Glad to hear the move went well and you’re happy in the new place!

  21. AdamS says:

    I feel you on the warm weather stuff. My parents and I are trying to flip a house and it’s taking a bit more elbow grease than we expected; apparently the previous owners never got working central air going, so we’re going to have to do it ourselves from scratch. In the meantime we make do with lots and lots of box fans, but there’s still a good four hour stretch in the middle of the day where we have nothing to do with each other because if we try to get anything done we know we’ll just end up screaming at each other.

  22. Christopher Dwight Wolf says:

    For the record when I moved to Los Angeles 12 years ago I ended up renting and I had was in a house with a shared restroom with a room I had, cost was under $900. So in theory you can get more than a closet, although the price has likely risen. I saved up and bought a two bedroom co-op, in Los Angeles. Price was $150,000. This was a good price as it was during the down market. Managed to finish paying off the mortgage (not a fan of debt) and now I pay less than I did in rent for HOA fees (which included my property tax).

    As per Shamus’s point, the only reason I am in such a good position now is that I was able to save up money early (by having cheap rent, living with my parents before that, and living well within my means after I moved to LA). Not everyone has family support or resources to do this.

  23. Aanok says:

    It sounds like you’re happy and enjoying the new place and that the change is being very positive for all of you. Really glad to hear that, Shamus! :)

  24. Vinsomer says:

    I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the urban beauty of a good parking lot.

    Good for you. Sounds like this will be a really positive change in more than one way.

    Addendum: as someone from the UK who just struggled through a mini-heatwave, those temperatures sound unbearable.

  25. Philadelphus says:

    Adding to the chorus of well-wishes! Seems like a great step up for you and your family.

  26. Zekiel says:

    I didn’t realise Heather did elder care, good for her. That’s a really really important job that does not get anywhere near enough appreciation or pay.

    Congrats on the successful move! New place looks lovely. (And I live in the UK, so it also looks huge !)

  27. Zaxares says:

    I’m glad the new home is looking up for you guys, Shamus. :) One more advantage of the home you’ve chosen that you didn’t mention/think of; as people get older, they usually find it more difficult/tiresome to climb up and down stairs due to things like bad backs, injured knees, hip replacements etc., so having your house be a single level with a basement (presumably for storing things that you don’t need so often) will prove a huge boon to your mother as time goes by, and perhaps you and Heather as well, depending on how long you stay in the place.

  28. RaglanvonDobeln says:

    [Quote]I don’t know how things work elsewhere, but around here renting a modest apartment costs a little more than the mortgage for a good sized home. That is, if you can own a home then you can save a couple hundred a month compared to a renter and enjoy more space in a nicer neighborhood with more privacy. The problem is that you need a down payment in the neighborhood of tens of thousands to make that happen, and it’s really hard to save that much when your monthly rent is so high[2]. Heather and I tried, but every time we got a nest egg of a couple thousand there would be some unexpected expense[3] that devoured it. So by moving in together, we’re all saving money[4] and enjoying more living space. [/quote]
    Welcome to the uk!

    Its exactly like that where i live. Everyone rents for more than the mortgage so anyone stuck in rent is condemned to poverty.
    I earn an okay wage, but i am single and in order to afford a mortgage would need like £100,000 deposit. I could maybe save £400 a month if i was strict.
    Guess its not happening anytime soon!

    1. Richard says:

      Nah, you could buy a decent place with a mere £50k deposit in today’s money, assuming outside inner London.
      So only 125 months, or 11 years of saving.
      However, price inflation means that after 11 years you’d likely need £70k (3 more years), by which time you need £75k…

      So in reality, that “£50k” will take 19 years to save, as you’ll need around £87-90k 19 years from now.

      And yet people still seem to wonder why most first time buyers are in their 30s and 40s.

      1. Cubic says:

        Also property prices keep climbing as the interest rates go down (and stay down).

  29. Leeward says:

    Ever since we moved out of our house (“bought” 2009, left 2016) I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the financial tradeoffs of taking on large amounts of debt vs. renting. I mean living in a bank-owned buy-slowly place vs. renting. Sorry, I keep trying to say “owning” and can’t. Anyway, it turns out that if we had put our down payment into the S&P 500 in 2009 and rented for the monthly rates we had been paying before we moved for those 7 years, we would have roughly broken even in terms of how much money we had after vs. before. Had we left the house any earlier, it would have been better to rent. It’s hard to say what would happen if we’d left later because we don’t know what the house is worth except when it’s sold.

    There’s data on the ratio of average property prices to average annual rent. Where I live, it’s about 30. In San Francisco it’s over 50. In Pittsburgh, it’s 11.14. The general advice is that if the ratio is over 20, it’s better to rent than to buy. Under 15 it’s flipped. It’s interesting that housing markets in different parts of the country differ so much. It says things about wealth concentration that abut the no-politics rules.

  30. Jason says:

    Speaking of houses that are similar and how our brains work, my best friend’s in-laws live in the exact same model of home that I grew up in, almost 200 miles away. He told me the first time he went in their house, he was really shocked because he had spent so much time in mine as a kid.
    I actually visited their house once and it was really weird for me too. Obviously it was not a coincidence, it was probably the same builder and that type of house was all over my neighborhood (our neighbors were in a mirrored version of the same house), so it’s not a surprise that it was also built in other areas of the state (California) around the same time.

  31. Simplex says:

    Lots of room, looks like a perfect setup for VR :)

  32. Cuthalion says:

    Congrats! It sounds like a great place.

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