Why We Chose Not to Move

Americans want more house. Bigger, better, flashier. And they are not afraid to move to get it.

Not us.

I bought our 1460 square-foot, starter home back in 2011 for $107,700. We paid the mortgage off by June of 2014. The home is now worth $131,000 and contributes to 32% of our current (March 2017) net worth.

Keepin’ Up With the Jones’s

Since then, we have been tempted many times to upgrade our housing situation and get something bigger and nicer, in a ritzier neighborhood with established, wooded backyards, and more. Not only can we easily afford it, but there would also be several logical benefits to the move:

  • Zoned for better schools (from 7,6,7 to 10,9,8 on elementary,middle,high)
  • Bigger lots, houses not right on top of one another
  • Better quality construction, the little details that starter homes miss
  • Established lawns, bushes, taller trees
  • Larger, shaded back yard
  • Wrap-around porch, possibly (we’d love this)
  • Affluent neighborhood, reputation, all the superficial stuff

Up Down, Up Down, Left Right, Left Right

We’ve gone back and forth on the topic since becoming debt free.  We even started saving $1,000 per month toward the goal of upgrading, as well as adding chunks of cash here and there when possible. I’m so glad we took action because that account now sits at $45,365. We’ve also increased our savings rate (for this goal) to $3,300 per month.

The name of the savings account has changed multiple times:

  • “New House Fund” – goal was to buy a bigger/better house
  • “Real Estate Investment” – goal changed to investing in a rental property
  • “New House Fund” – goal changed BACK to bigger/better house
  • “Backup Income” – goal changed to quitting my job in a couple of years

So, “mixed feelings” appropriately describes our last few years of meandering.

No Move After All

We have made the decision to hunker down, save/invest as much as possible, and prepare to quit my job in 2019. The 50,000 foot direction is that we’d like to take a six month road trip before our oldest daughter starts kindergarten that year. And that just won’t be possible if I’m working the 9-5.

We are both attempting to build new streams of income which will help supplement during the 2019 trip. In light of that, the last thing we want to do is incur the expenses of selling a house, moving into and fixing up a new, larger house.

Not the least of these reasons is that we just don’t need the extra space.

Listen, 1460 sqft is the largest house I have ever lived in. I grew up in both 1bed/1bath and 3bed/1bath houses which were a lot smaller. I’m not a minimalist by any stretch, but we simply see a diminishing ROI when it comes to lifestyle/happiness impact.

♫ Under Pressure♫

Our grand revelation might just be a no-brainer for you, especially if you are in debt, or if you are not a high income earner.

Remember that I am a VP/Director in Information Security. I have no debt, and live on a killer, zero-sum budget. Two words: Cash. Flow.

If I cared enough about what others thought, I wouldn’t be driving a honda accord and living in a starter home. Historically, though tempted and pressured, I have always let my actions with money show that I just don’t give a damn what they think.

Doesn’t mean it’s easy. Doesn’t mean my wife and I aren’t human.

This month marked a special moment in our lives. My wife and I looked at each other and said, “We’re not moving!” Why? It just doesn’t align with or support ANY of our life goals:

  1. Go on fabulous explorations of this world
  2. Spend more time together as a family
  3. Live a healthy, balanced lifestyle
  4. Generate more income while spending less time doing it
  5. Build a real estate portfolio (similar to #3)
  6. Build one or two small businesses (similar to #3)

These goals can all be accomplished without changing the size, location, or construction quality of our home. So we have made up our minds, and we are pushing on to the planning phase our mission.

What About You?

Are you contemplating a big upgrade? Have you had any major decisions that have hung out there for a couple of years? How do these decisions support your long-term goals for family, life, career?

10 Replies to “Why We Chose Not to Move”

  1. We contemplated and made the upgrade from start home to 500k home with the best schools and wooded lots.

    Man would we undo it in a heartbeat. As much as we love it set us back in our overall goal.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your decision to stay!

    We are in this position right now – we are debt free with the exception of our mortgage for the past two years and have a serious case of new house fever! It doesn’t help that homes in our starter home neighborhood are selling for unheard of prices due to the location (low city taxes, highly rated suburb schools, and a ritzy address) as well as lack of available inventory. The house next to us sold for $124/sq foot and it had cat urine in the carpets. We would be able to leave our home with about $90k in equity.

    We are getting married in October so house stuff is currently taking a back seat to wedding planning but I’m certain it will come back during our flight home from the honeymoon. We were able to cash flow over $40k this year for our wedding, new roof & windows, and an unexpected used car purchase… we definitely won’t be able to do that with a $300k house on our backs.

    1. Kristy, it sounds like you’ve got some amazing cash flow, and BRAVO on having the house as your only debt. You are already rockstars, and you’re positioning yourselves well for the future!

      I encourage you to think long and hard (sounds like you are) about upgrading the house! It’s a big deal that comes with lots of expenses.

      If you believe that “stuff” doesn’t make you happy, it’s so true with housing. Quality of life doesn’t really increase much at all. Once you get that bigger house, now you have to furnish more space. Selling your current home, you’ll incur the buyer and seller agent commission fees plus closing costs which can end up around 10% of the sale price, which eats into your perceived profit! Thanks for the comment!

  3. I’m shocked by how our goals align very well. We a rebuilt 2000 and a rebuilt 2003 year car and van. New car or house? It’s a very real decision. We decided a home was much more important.

    I caught a great deal on our home. Helped a family fix it fast and dropped everything for them. Later, I purchased the home at cost, $35k when the value was $74k.

    Landscaping and other improvements now have the value around 90k and we owe about 30 from making extra principal payments.

    Seriously proud of you guys for making the best financial decisions from your position. Many fail by trying to keep up with the Joneses. A house payment and a car payment combined is a very heavy burden. Good move limiting at one large purchase.

    It’s very difficult without the high income. But with determination, we’ve been able to move mountains out of our way. We chose not to move as well. To continue to pay down our home instead of the upgrade.

    I am fairly certain since we chose not to move we will be in a better financial situation. Where we can continue to make extra principal payments and build equity. Sounds like you’re on a great path. Keep up the great work!

    1. Nice job on the house purchase! Great instant equity. Yea, having a home base that’s paid off really opens up doors, in my opinion. You are in an even better situation because you paid so little for your house.

      In my situation, I have over $100K of hard-earned cash tied up in my house, and the housing market just hasn’t done well in the last 8 years, just recovering from the recession – which should be re-correcting in the next couple of years.. AGAIN.

      So, what I’m saying is, I wish I could re-deploy my cash into other investments like rental properties. A great way for others to do that would be to make sure to buy their primary home as a fixer-upper (at least 30% under FMV, the more the better), then fix it up along and along.

  4. Wow this is so timely! Thanks for sharing your thought process and struggle. We’ve been having basically exactly the same thoughts. We’re in a “nice” neighborhood and perfectly respectable starter home. But hubs especially yearns for the little touches that make a place “high class” and since we are seriously considering expanding our family, the lack of high scored schools nearby is concerning. Btw huge congrats on paying off a mortgage in 3 years, dang!! Will have to share this article with the mister 🙂

    1. Yep! That sounds just like us. It’d be so nice to have a home like our friends. We can certainly afford it. But long term, we’d rather be financially independent and living at a different pace. Hey, and maybe then we’ll be able to afford something nicer also?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.