The Big Idea

As we move forward in Year 2 of the blog, I thought it would be useful (or maybe boring) to set out Chad’s and my grand plan regarding house and home these days. (this post is a bit wordy, consider yourself warned) As most of you know, we own a house in Pittsburgh, our first house, and we now rent it out. We are fortunate to have great tenants (that we worked very hard to find and vet!).

new house pgh

We made this decision when only 2 years into our first house, we decided to move. Out of state. Again. One of our concerns when making the big move decision last year was cost of living in the DC Metro area, where we now live. The area has grown fast, is in high demand and has a reputation for being one of those crazy high real estate markets. In a nutshell, where we live now, it is quite economical to rent. Plus, my position is not a long term one (fellowship) so that makes house shopping a bad idea in an area that also has a reputation for crazy traffic and some loooong commutes. So while I’ve burned plenty of time surfing the internet fawning at houses and we’ve made a few excursions here and there to scope out neighborhoods, we’ve now settled on renting for the next year to two. Firstly, we want me to have a permanent position first so we can scope out just the right area with the right commute. Secondly, we want our next home purchase to be a home we stay in for awhile. We could buy a condo or townhouse, but then we’re just moving to a place looking to leave again and the transaction costs getting in and out are just too expensive in this particular market when we can rent the same thing for a much more reasonable price. So for the sake of long term financial comfort and good ol’ fashion conservative $ values, our plan is to 1) pay off any remaining loans (e.g. car, private student loans), 2) graduate me from a fellowship to finding a permanent position and 3) sock away cash like chipmunks to prepare for the next BIG step when it comes.

Regarding the debt pay-off, I’m kind of a freak about paying off loans. For a long time, my brain could only think one option regarding loans (whether for house, car or student loans)- do everything possible to pay everything off as soon as possible to save money on interest. However, after lots of careful (me and my spreadsheet) analysis, we determined that putting money towards debt repayment that has a lower interest rate than a future mortgage we may have here is not savvy- why put extra cash towards paying off a super low rate federal student loan instead of saving that extra cash you would have used to put against the much much larger home loan you’re going to be taking out at a higher interest rate, yes? Same logic goes for our Pittsburgh mortgage, except that in that case, someone else (tenants) are paying the mortgage, interest, etc anyhow so it is even less of a concern in some ways (obviously we would begin earning sooner in the rental process if we paid the house off faster, but I automatically pay an extra %10 on that bill each month anyway which turns our 30-yr mortgage into more like a 20-year mortgage, and that’s good enough for now).

So, what does this mean for DIY’ing and the like? Well, I’ve finally got my head off of real estate and onto putting the pieces in place here in our townhouse that will help us start off in a beautiful (or not so beautiful initially) home we buy in the future. So, furniture, decor, furniture, organization, furniture… that sort of thing. I’m practicing turning my focus towards the inner space of the walls and floors, as opposed to the wall and floors themselves. For instance, we finally got and refurbed patio furniture for deck! I’d also really love to finally get a nice piece furniture that would function as media storage, including holding the DVD player, etc (so something the remote can talk through), to put under the TV mounted in the living room. I love these pieces at West Elm because in moving on to the next house someday, they could easily be stacked for storage in a sewing room or airy bathroom. Or they could stay horizontal and be useful in a living space, dining room or almost anywhere. Super flexible.

In the spirit of making some key long term investments in furnishing- and to finish off our deck dreams- we actually just made an exciting big purchase and got a nice new gas grill!


We hemmed and hawed over buying on Craiglist or getting something really inexpensive, but we learned more and weighed our options and decided this Weber would last us 20 years if we took good care of it and that long term value is what was mostly important to us. So we pulled the trigger and couldn’t be happier. It is so well built and puts out a lot of heat!

grill christening

Besides making a few investments, I want to try completing some DIY building projects (a goal of mine to do a project like this on my own, atleast mostly) with help from super bloggers like Ana White. For instance, I may try building a wooden headboard and staining it for our bedroom based on one of her plans. Seems like an easy place to start anyway. Lastly, we will focus on utilizing every square inch of space in our townhouse to maximize our enjoyment living here, which means organization!! Mostly the basement and the garage need some attention so that we can ultimately make more use of the finished basement for living/working.

So, there’s our scoop. Maybe you didn’t ask for it, but there it is. Strange how freeing it is to have totally shifted my focus away from drooling over houses and towards filling out our current home in a better way, that just prepares us for moving to a long-term place down the road a bit. Anyone else ever ‘settled in’ to a temporary place in a more deliberate way? Anyone else ever suffered the sticker shock of real estate after moving to a new town? We knew it was coming, but yikes!

3 thoughts on “The Big Idea

  1. Awww… Lindsey, so interesting to hear you pour your analytical thoughts out about something we all go through – home renting and buying. And the price of things now – yikes! But I think it is really an exciting, unpredictable time in your lives and I hope you enjoy it all while you squirrel away your money for the future. If anyone can do it, you can!!

    • Yep, we just gotta sit tight a little bit and take our time. The great thing is that so many people rent around here that there are really nice rental options that we wouldn’t have had other places we’ve lived!

  2. Pingback: An Upcoming Expansion | Family Style Living

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