Downsizing Our House, Upsizing Our Family

Downsizing Our House, Upsizing Our Family

Shortly after discovering that it was possible to retire early, and more importantly discovering that we were about to add a sixth member to our family, we made the confusing decision that we needed to move to a somewhat more expensive, but probably smaller house. Despite not being crunched financially, we were in a hurry to find a new home for our growing family.

Looking back now I could say that the house search went quickly because we wanted to be settled before our fourth child arrived, or that we wanted to snag a place before prime buying season swung into full gear, or that we were going away on a road trip across the country in a few weeks. But really, the reasoning was probably that once I get an idea in my head, I run with it at full speed, and drag the rest of my unsuspecting family along with me.

We looked at about 10 properties over the course of three weeks. The one that we had originally been interested in was in a greater state of disrepair than either of our untrained eyes could have seen. We visited it with our new real estate agent and a contractor that we had wanted to work with, and the contractor told us that we needed to run, not walk away from that house. In the long term, he was right – the house in question didn’t sell for another year, and at about 15% less than the small amount they had been asking.

We looked at a house with a great yard in one of the further suburbs that had been listed as a three bedroom, but in reality they had turned the third bedroom into a dining room. We figured that there was no way that this could work for us with four kids, so we kept looking. A few days later I went out to look at another house in the same neighborhood, and while this house didn’t work out, I drove past the house we had already walked through a few streets over and saw a bunch of young families outside in the neighborhood, walking around, biking.

A big reason for us moving was to give our kids an opportunity to make friends with other children their age. To be able to do what I did as a kid – just go out the door and play, and not need to be driven everywhere – this was a big factor in why we wanted to move. After a short discussion with my awesome wife, we were hooked. Our plan was to live there and make the available space work until we could have an addition built to get us some more space – specifically bedrooms.

As luck would have it the seller actually lowered the price by $10,000 the day before we made our offer. We submitted our offer on a Wednesday morning, they countered, and we accepted – we got the house for $170,000 – $20K less than its original listing price – and it had only been on the market for 43 days.

Though we scrambled to get the paperwork done quickly, three days later we were on a plane (with three kids who were flying for the first time) to Colorado for a (preplanned) week-long, four state adventure. Though I was annoyed at having to stay up late signing documents on a family trip, not to mention trying to find a Kinko’s in Montana on our way to Yellowstone, it was a great feeling to have our new home locked in.

We were moving from a three story, four bedroom, 2200 square foot (not counting the finished attic with another 900 square feet and two bedrooms) house to a two bedroom, 1050 square foot ranch. So of course all of our family, friends and coworkers thought we had lost our minds. I would be lying if I said it sounded logical to us at the time. But it turned out to be the best choice for our family, in ways that we couldn’t even see at the time.

The following months were a whirlwind of packing, loading, hauling and lots of stress and second-guessing as we tried to sell our current house. I was able to take a loan out against my 401k plan to cover our down payment on the new house until we sold the old one. I only did this with the understanding that it would be paid back as soon as we closed on our previous home.

We had a laundry list of touch-ups and projects that were originally planned to be done over the course of years and now needed to be done in the span of weeks. Retaining walls were built, drywall patches were applied and painted, the resident expert painter (my wife) touched up pretty much every surface in the house.

The biggest incident we had was in the basement – the previous owner had painted the basement walls with drylok, which was now peeling, and many buyers mistook the peeling and bubbles for mold. So Mr. “I want to sell my house ASAP and I can fix it myself” decided to scrape and repaint it. The drylok worked… unfortunately all too well – previously the water seeping down from the ground had been allowed to dissipate out via the cracks and bubbles in the old paint job now it had nowhere to go but to the bottom of the floor. We now had a trickling stream running across the bottom of our basement wall. At the end of all this we needed an interior french drain – to the tune of $3,000!

Eventually we were able to get the house sold to a family that was able to close quickly. The house was only on the market for two months total and (after all of the closing costs) brought in $35,000 in net profit. However after accounting for the down payment on our new house, repairs to the old house, moving expenses, double bills for two months – that $35K was quickly reduced to $8K.

A giant weight off our backs, we settled into our new home, made various efficiency improvements (more posts on these later). Four months later we welcomed our second daughter into the world and with the cast complete it was time to start writing the next chapter in our lives.

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