So, I bought a house!
If I had been told a year ago that I would own this beautiful place today, I wouldn’t have believed it. That’s about the time Helen and I decided to move in together. Helen is originally from Madison, WI, but her mom moved to Philadelphia in 2006 while Helen was attending Olney Friends School, a boarding school in Ohio. Although her mother had lived in Philadelphia for seven years, Helen had never experienced living in the city for more than short periods of time, having gone straight to college after high school. It took some convincing to get her to commit to Philadelphia, a task made harder by her mom’s decision to move back to Madison in the summer of 2012 to care for Helen’s aging grandfather.
Because I spend late summer and early fall in Oregon and Vermont every year at Not Back to School Camp (NBTSC), my parents kindly offered both Helen and her cat Lila a room in their house during the time I was gone. In addition to NBTSC, I took on an additional month in Hyannis, MA, on the Unschool Adventures Writing Retreat. Helen was understandably not pleased, but I tried to appease her by agreeing to her stipulations of only looking at apartments with hardwood floors and in-unit washer/dryer.
The search was grueling, and we looked at a lot of shitty places before finding our dream apartment. To clarify, Helen found our dream apartment; not only did it meet her stipulations, but it also had a claw foot bathtub, washing machine, garbage disposal, a huge front room, a grassy side yard, and lots of sunlight through south facing windows. It was within our price range, and only a block away from my parents house.
After living here for a couple of months it was clear to us that this was an apartment we’d like to stay in for the foreseeable future. By moving just a block west of my childhood home, we’d moved to a sweet spot of the ever-expanding gentrification of West Philadelphia–a block where rent costs haven’t caught up with the improvements to the neighborhood. I have watched the houses on my parent’s block triple in value over the course of my lifetime, and I had no illusions about the likelihood of a serious increase in rent. This concern was amplified when our landlord called to tell us he was putting the house on the market.
I immediately started doing calculations in my head. I didn’t attend college even though some of my relatives put money aside to pay for my education, and I’d always envisioned using it to buy a home. Besides our apartment, there are one bedroom apartments on the first and third floors, so the house would generate a fair amount of income, allowing me to pay back a mortgage/loan and related maintenance costs. I stayed up late talking to Helen about it, and did back of the napkin calculations. In the end though, I decided I wasn’t ready, I’m too young to own a home; I know too little about being a landlord, property taxes, maintenance, etc.
As time went by, I felt jealous every time a prospective buyer came through the house. I continued to research the costs associated with home ownership, and got more and more excited about the possibilities.
In June my sister graduated from high school and I ended up sitting in my parents backyard with a bunch of my neighbors drinking beer. The conversation turned to changes in the neighborhood and I brought up the fact that my house was on sale, and that I’d considered putting in an offer. Immediately there was overwhelming support of the idea and offers of help, which was all the convincing I needed. I called my landlord that night to inquire about status of the house. Within two weeks we’d agreed upon a preliminary price (pending housing inspection, walkthrough, etc.), and on Thursday we signed an official agreement.
I’ll be putting a fair amount of money into repairs over the next few years. The roof is 25 years old as are all three boilers, although all of them are in good shape. The porch needs significant work, and the cabinets and counters could stand an upgrade. Owning the house won’t improve my financial situation in the near future as we’ll continue to pay “rent” into a repairs/taxes/insurance fund until I have enough saved to cover some of the major potential repairs, but it should eventually bring in enough money to pay for itself. Right now, I’m just incredibly excited!