The_Money_Pit_Home_Ownership

The Money Pit

I have a financial goal and a deadline for my Midlife Escape…but all financial hell has broken loose at home:

  • Garage door repair. $500
  • Ventilation problems on the upper level of the house. Attic fan installed. $600
  • Dry rot repair around exterior windows. $1,100
  • Gutters cleaned for $79 and fertilizer and pre-emergent for the lawn. $40
  • A rotten backyard fence allowed the dogs to escape and roam the neighborhood. After anguished searches and near misses with cars, the grouchy guy next door still won’t pitch in half for the fence materials or help with the rebuild. Hubby dedicates a drizzly, chilly Saturday to the project. $350
  • The living/dining room carpet is worn, so we want to rip it out and add the same hardwood flooring currently in the kitchen. $2,500
  • Bill Clinton was in his first term in office when the furnace and air conditioner were installed. That will be $6,500.
  • We have already replaced the water heater ($900). When the plumber replaced the garbage disposal last year ($200) he said it is a miracle the sink isn’t leaking with all the corrosion underneath.
  • The entryway coat closet felt like a freezer during the winter months and several other areas of the house were drafty so we paid $1,300 for additional insulation.
  • We purchased new front doors to improve energy efficiency and curb appeal:  a mahogany colored fiberglass door with a decorative window and a new storm door for $1,200 installed.
  • The kitchen has builder’s grade 1993 Formica countertops, boring backsplash and an old sink and faucet.
  • The driveway is pock-marked, the patio needs to be replaced and a retaining wall is settling and falling in. The rose bushes have died on the west side and landscaping is needed to freshen it up.

Is there a Homeowners Support Group I can join?

We bought our home 7 years ago from the bank, got a great deal, and moved in with some nice equity. We have been putting money and sweat equity into it since then. While proud of the progress made and grateful for a lovely place to live, we wonder if our “money pit” is keeping us from true riches.

We could invest all of that repair money in the stock market, buy rental properties, or start a business. Instead, it has gone into this black hole with a never-ending list of projects. Pure opportunity cost!

Has the American Dream of Homeownership become the American Nightmare?

Perhaps we should sell the house.

The kids cry “No!” because this is their home more than any other place after numerous moves in the first several years of our marriage.  They are happy here and our home is visited regularly by friends, family, neighbors, and classmates. This is why I love having a home. It is a place of hospitality and welcome.

We have poured ourselves into it and have raised our children here for the past 7 years. At times, we have felt desperate, crazy, grouchy and overwhelmed by its demands, but it has been a labor of love. Yes, love.

There is also a pride of ownership and we live better here than we would in a rental. Everything we have done (much of it ourselves) has grown the property value. It has built a nice “piggy bank” for us.

Is it time to break open the pig?

Maybe we should grab the $180,000 in equity and launch into our next adventure.

Sigh.

This has been an expensive month and without a doubt, more bills are coming.

The constant expenses are also slowing our savings engine. What about the long-term goal of financial independence? Or the near-term goal of a career sabbatical to travel with my family?

I’d rather not think about it because I truly love my house.

Not all of us were born to be permanent gypsies. We may enjoy travel but we also value a place to come home to, a place that connects us to a community and provides a sense of family stability.

“Home” offers a creative outlet for self-expression after another day at the office. It provides a peaceful spot in a chaotic world where we can all spread out, relax and just be.

Yet the dream of extended travel is clearly before me.

How can we achieve our Midlife Escape goal on time and on budget and not be swallowed up by all these bills?

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