Every year I get one of two colds: a summer cold or a winter cold. This year I actually ran a low grade temp one day. The hackie cough that has remained is more allergies than anything else. The phlegm is clear and I feel great. I sometimes sound like death warmed over, but it’s just the sound.
Unfortunately I am currently ill nonetheless—I now have New House Fever.
It started out innocently enough. I was out and about on a Sunday Drive and I saw a house I liked. It's actually a house I've loved since the first time I saw it decades ago. It was for sale.
Every day after work I drove by it, dreaming of living there. I found photos of its interior online. It looked perfect. Well, perfect, except it was two stories and I'm not sure how much longer my knees are going to allow me to traverse stairs.
Alas, the house soon sold. But the House Bug had bit me. I picked up a Home Buyers Guide and found a house I liked in a good neighborhood. The house is built by a really good local builder, and this particular floorplan, the Bellagio, is the only floor plan I have never picked to pieces. I think the Bellagio is just about perfect. Unfortunately, the house is built on a lot in the middle of the block. I prefer corner lots, end of the street lots, cul-de-sac lots—or best of all: country isolation. It’s not that I’m antisocial. Not really. I just don’t like people surrounding me. I’m the same way in restaurants. I want a table where I can put my back against the wall. Truth be told, it really doesn’t matter that the Bellagio house is in the middle of the block. It also sold. So I continue to look.
In my travels around town, I came across a subdivision in a location I'm not fond of, but I liked the look of a couple of the houses. I picked up their flier packet and found, much to my amazement, I liked almost ALL of their floor plans (I'm very picky and except for the aforementioned Bellagio, I rarely find floor plans I like—I always make major changes to them). In this packet of 8 or 10 floorplans I found an astounding three of the floor plans I felt were almost perfect as is. And the prices quoted by the builder are reasonable.
Driving through the subdivision I found a couple of their spec houses that were open and I walked through. The quality of materials was not as fine as the ones the Bellagio builder uses (granite, tile that looks like dark wood planks, etc.). However, the laminate this builder uses appears to be high quality. I don’t care for the beige color scheme—I prefer a silvery gray—but paint is an easy fix. As I walked through the spec houses, I determined the floor plans were two of my three favorites. Fortuitous. I can usually visualize from the plans how the flow of the house will go, but I sometimes have a difficult time feeling the space, or lack thereof, until I actually walk through a home. The rooms in the spec houses felt to be pretty good size. In fact, somewhat larger than some of the higher priced houses I’ve walked through. And for the most part the flow felt “right”—even without my modifications. These houses had great potential, and I liked their location within the subdivision.
The two spec houses are in a corner with a lot between them. One street abuts an alley (that will eventually turn into an exit from the subdivision making my morning commute to work a breeze, and the other street abutted a small green tree-line and stream—no backyard neighbors).
Of the two spec houses, my second favorite house sold almost immediately. I wasn't too upset. It had several structural things I would have wanted changed, and although it had a great open floor plan and a kitchen pass through, it did not have the Mother-in-Law plan I am in favor of. I was also somewhat confused by two hall closets next to each other. When it sold I was happy for the older couple that bought it. Besides, my favorite house was still available.
For a couple of months now I've driven by my favorite house. It's never been locked, so I've walked inside multiple times. I love so many features I thought it was just about perfect: huge walk-in pantry, nice sized front porch, two WIC in the master suite, and the list of features I liked continued to grow with each visit.
Until, during one of my clandestine walk-throughs I realized the living room layout didn't really flow. And then my, until now, dormant critical eye kicked in. The kitchen is galley rather than a triangular work pattern—and it doesn't open to the living room like my second favorite house that had sold. And then there were all the pipes and electrical boxes in the side yard. I would have to screen that from view. The letdown I felt a few days later when I saw the sold sign in the window, was mild. Even though it was no longer my favorite and the living room was awkward, I could have lived in it quite comfortably, had someone not bought it. But I was okay with someone else buying it. It was not meant to be mine. And then the rollercoaster ride started.
A week or so later I drove through the subdivision to see what was new. The sold sign was down, but a fence was going up. I thought perhaps the builder was adding the fence as a selling incentive since it had been "move in ready" for several months that I knew of and still had not sold. That made it more appealing. I could live with the closed galley kitchen.
The day after the fence went up, so did the sold sign—and it did not sell to me.
I went back to studying the house plans again. And as I studied the plans, the house, and the lot with my head rather than my heart, I soon realized this plan really isn’t my favorite after all. I thought my favorite house must have been my original number two house—the house that already sold. But I was wrong about that as well.
My actual favorite is the Washington—the plan I originally thought of as my third choice! As I studied the Washington floor plan I realized the changes I would make to this plan were extremely minor—the direction a few of the closet doors swing needed to be changed and the master suite closet and laundry needed different access, but the new doorways would be on non-load-bearing walls so I wouldn't need structural reinforcements. I began to get excited about the Washington—my third favorite house plan that had jumped into first favorite house plan position.
Every day I drove by the two spec houses, I also saw the empty lot in between them. Out of the blue one day, I realized this lot is my favorite lot in the entire subdivision. It's not exactly country seclusion, but it’s corner position with tree-filled greenspace and stream ensuring no backyard neighbors is highly desirable—at least to me.
So, of course, the last time I drove by the lot, I saw there were stakes on it. It appeared to be sold. I was bummed. Until I saw the Dirt Man and asked him about the subdivision.
The Dirt Man told me he has seen the plans for Phase IV and Phase V—and one of them will go directly behind my favorite lot! On a whim I contacted the builder by email after work. The next day a salesman replied. He didn’t answer all of my questions but he told me the spec house they are currently putting in on my favorite lot is in fact the Washington! My favorite plan on my favorite lot. I got goose bumps. The salesman asked if I would talk to his mortgage girl and I said yes although I’m not in position to be buying another house right now. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what my options are.
According to them I need to sell my current house.
I’m not ready to sell. I’m so close to having it paid off. It’s my safety net. If I lost my job today, my final paycheck of unused annual leave would just about pay it off. I would have a roof over my head free and clear. I don’t know how long I will be able to manage the stairs, and I think if Mama ever had to come live with me, we would kill each other because it’s small and all the bedrooms are next to each other, but it would be paid for.
The Salesman said he put his house on the market at 8am and it was sold by 6pm. I recently had another friend with that very same scenario. It appears to be a strong Sellers Marker. But the difference is both of their homes are move-in ready. Mine is not. It needs plumbing and electrical work at the minimum. I don’t want to give it away for a song. When I sell, I want it to sell for top dollar—and I want to do it when I’m ready—not when someone else tells me I must.
Or, if I rehab it and keep it, I might want it to become my rental property and produces additional retirement income.
It is my Safety Net.
I don’t have a second income to rely on. Or an inheritance to look to. Or a lucky set of Lottery Numbers. I have to make my own way. And right now, with new schools and new road construction in the area, I know by the time I have it paid for—in 5-7 years if I stay on my current payment plan—the value is going to increase. So I want to keep it. They have indicated there is no way to keep it and get the new house because my Debt to Income (DTI) Ratio is too high. What they don’t realize is I don’t like to be told I can’t do something.
I’ve crunched the numbers and I think there is a way. And here is the plan I’ve developed:
- Pay off my TSP Loan (I have two remaining payments).
- Change my TSP Contribution from 15% to 5% (I’ll still receive my Employer Match) and I’ll have an additional chunk of change. Not ideal, but my TSP has not been performing of late—in fact, from 12/31/2015 to 01/14/2016 (just two weeks!) I lost over 15K. I can always add back “catch up” money each year or increase my contributions.
- Work 2-3 shifts of overtime every week to earn the money to pay off my current mortgage. That will only leave me with my SUV Loan. Surely my DTI Ratio will be improved enough.
- Pray the builder has a plethora of houses to build that are not on my lot—so he stays busy and can’t actually start to build my spec house—until I have paid off the current mortgage.
- Failing the increased business for the builder, I’ll pray it rains and halts all building until I’m ready to purchase the lot and build.
- Failing all of the above, make my claim on the lot in Phase V when it starts to be developed in 6-8 months (although I don’t think the Phase V lot is going to be as good—the land appears to be slanting downward and, although I know they can fix runoff with proper drainage, why tempt fate?).
So that’s my plan. I just need to talk it over with the sales guy and mortgage girl to see if they will go along with it. Selling my Safety Net is the absolute last possibility. At least to my House Fevered way of thinking. Who knows, after a couple of months of overtime, I might be ready to sell after all.
But then selling would be my idea.