You might be thinking, vis a vis yesterday's post: Um, why don't you just sell your crazy house and buy something else?
Great question! I've spent much of the last 15 years wondering the very same thing :-)
The truth is, there's no less pricey option than the one I'm currently in, unless I'm prepared to get out of the market. And I'm not. To wit: My house has almost tripled in value since I purchased it. I couldn't break into the housing market in my current neighbourhood, if I hadn't bought when I did. In fact, and I think I've mentioned this before, in the three years I dithered over buying a house (back in the late 90s), I was priced out of the 'hood that's 4 streets east of mine.
(As an aside: I tell this to everyone, so I might as well tell you too: If you want to own real estate, no time like the present. It's never going to get cheaper than it is right now (unless you live in a small town in America and the economy fails). The larger and more desirable the market, the more this rule applies. If you can't afford it today, you really won't be able to afford it in a year. Cuz the price will have gone up considerably. It's never easy to justify the expense of your first home. Just do it, eat some Kraft Dinner for a year, and we can argue about the merits when you're on the flip side.)
But back to me... I happen to live in an extremely desirable location, in a city where location trumps everything. When I say this, I don't mean I live in Rosedale (alas). I mean, I live in a "real" neighbourhood that's been on the path of gentrification since I got there. Hell, I'm one of those gentrifiers (hence my financial misery). What my 'hood has in spades is transportation options. I can't tell you how unaffordable it is, at this point, to find a place that has subway, bus and streetcar access - all within a 5 minute walk. My home has all of those things - plus a parking spot - and it's in the concentric zone that's right around the urban core. This is how I can walk or cycle to work. (Fun fact: I spend practically no money on transportation. No car, no transit pass.)
Furthermore, and this was more accidental than considered, I live very close to one long-standing, noteworthy urban drag, and another that's popped up in the last 10 years. It's the area where most of the good restaurants live (depending on who you talk to - and trust me, you're talking to someone in the know). There are numerous community services and amenities to be had. Whereas one time it was at the periphery of "good neighbourhoods", now it's well within the spans. From an infrastructure perspective, this is one of the best places in Canada in which to live.
Now, what my neighbourhood lacks - which is why it's still vaguely affordable for your reasonably-tenured, double-income, white-collar family - is architectural homogeneity. There are some pretty ugly vistas to be had. If you don't like graffiti and the occasional front lawn full of garbage, if you can't get with a house that needs some serious help abutting one that's worth a million bucks, this ain't the place for you. Let's just say, it's suburbia's polar opposite.
But let's dwell for a moment on my home itself...
I live in a diamond in the rough. Depending on how long it's been since the last serious expenditure, it's more or less diamond. It contains @2000 square feet of entirely livable space (not including the basement, which is a nightmarish pit) over three floors. It has 4 bedrooms of decent to large size, 3 bathrooms and a third room on the main floor (very rare in houses of its type). It's beautifully landscaped (and yes I am bragging). It has 2 decks in addition to front and back gardens (which I've worked very hard to bring to life and to sustain). The third floor is gorgeous and renovated to suit our needs specifically. The kitchen is large (by downtown TO standards).
In order to replace what I've got already - if you factor location into the equation (and keep in mind I've already invested a couple of hundred thousand bucks to maintain and improve this place), I'd likely end up having to spend 200K more to move than it would cost me to improve what I currently own. And those improvements wouldn't be tailored to my personal specifications. Furthermore, that new-to-me place would decay, just like this place has decayed, and I'd be once again be on the hook for maintenance and improvements...
There's also the fact that I don't like the look of most new homes. Sure, I'd be thrilled with a true mid-century find (very rare in these parts), but that's still pretty old (from a maintenance perspective). I love Edwardian and Victorian options. They're beautiful and stately. The ceilings are high. They speak to a time and place we can barely imagine. I don't want to live in a new-build town home - even if I don't want to pay to live in a century home. What can I say, I'm fussy.
But what really cinches this reno (vs. move) is that I'll probably get back 2.5 dollars for every one I spend once I sell this place - and I'll be improving the quality of my life until I opt to do that. That kitchen will reflect my every desire (within the realm of what I can reasonably finance). It'll work for me in the way someone else's kitchen layout is unlikely to. Of course, I've been living with kitchen hideousness for 14 years, so apparently the ideal kitchen is hardly a necessity when it comes to getting the job done. But you can see what I mean...
Let me close by acknowledging that I do know this is an entirely first-world problem. I'm profoundly lucky to be firmly entrenched in the first-world - even if the renovation-to-be will not be negligible for my bank account (or my fortitude).
Today's questions: Why do you stay in the house where you live? Do you love it? Is it the lesser of many evils? Have you had the means to perfect it? Do you secretly want to build a tent in the wild and be done with all the stupidity of home ownership (or renting)? Let's talk!