What We Learned from NOT Buying a House

What We Learned from NOT Buying a House

We almost bought a house last month.

We put an offer in. Our offer was accepted. We were under contract. We had an inspection. We had our mortgage all lined up.

And then we didn’t. We withdrew our offer. We took a step back. And we resigned our lease on our current rental.

I feel confident that we made the right decision for us, for now. Here’s why.

So much of what was in our price range was condos or houses that are challenging functionally. Buying in the city is no joke. Philadelphia is certainly not New York or San Francisco but you still get a lot less for your money than what you’d get in the burbs. We aren’t space people so this wasn’t an issue but we did struggle to figure out how we’d make many of the spaces we saw work for us for the next 5-10 years. Basement kitchens are common as are bedrooms on separate floors. Small spaces are great as long as they’re functional. The house we made an offer on was more of a “we’ll make it work” than “this will work great”.

The inspection terrified us. The inspector even looked at me before the inspection and said “Don’t be scared by everything I’m going to tell you. I will find every little thing but just remember, someone lives here right now and is doing just fine. Don’t get freaked.” But then I did. I totally freaked. The heater was older than me. The roof needed replacement. The front wall needed an additional look by a structural engineer (to the tune of $600+). The water heater pipe was too close to the heater exhaust and was an “explosive hazard”. When we got the inspection report, the home had more than $40,000 in things that potentially needed to be fixed. Sure, not right away. But woof.

The responsibility seemed overwhelming. The deeper we got into it, the more it felt like so much responsibility. WE had to replace the heating and AC. WE would have to repair the roof. Sure, I was ready to re-paint the whole house and have an outdated kitchen for a few years. But we weren’t ready to sign our lives away, fork over all of our money, and then still need more than $10k just to make the house livable (the inspector felt certain the heater was about to go). We’re also not naturally handy people. It started to feel really lovely that when something breaks in our current home, someone else comes to fix it.

It was at a higher price point than we originally wanted. We knew this might happen. We’d heard that you always wind up spending more than you set out to when you buy a house. Our mortgage payment wouldn’t have been outrageous but it was more than we originally set out to pay (and significantly more than our current rent). With our other hesitations, this started to feel like a bigger issue.

My gut said no. What is your gut? How much do you trust it? Sometimes I worry that my gut is just a wimp and is trying to keep me from doing big things or being brave. But in this case, I just kept having a nagging feeling that maybe we were making the wrong choice.

We already live in a place we love. Sure, we don’t own it. But as long as we pay our (reasonable) rent they leave us alone. We know they aren’t interested in selling (because we’ve asked them if we could buy our house and they said they weren’t interested). We could stay put for years if we wanted. We’re close to the park for Archie and we love all of our local neighborhood spots. Really, I just love my street. It’s one of those little Philadelphia streets that cars can barely fit down. The neighbors know each other and it feels safe. It feels like home. I’m sure that was contributing to my gut feel because part of me just wasn’t ready to leave our current place. I love it too much.

The bottom line is this: you can be financially able to buy a house but not emotionally or mentally ready.

We weren’t ready and that’s okay. Maybe when the right home comes along, we’ll feel differently. Maybe a year will make all the difference. We’ve chosen to be happy where we are.

Now tell me, what is your favorite thing about owning your home? If you don’t own your home, what’s your hurdle?

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