What I Learned From the House with the White Picket Fence

white picket fence2The first house I bought as a young, single woman was a smelly little house with stained floors, dingy walls, and a stove covered in black baked-on gunk. Part of the roof was rotten, and the refrigerator was disgusting. It was ugly for sure, but it was all I could afford with my pre-approval of $80,000. The best thing it had going for it was the charming white picket fence.

Before you feel sorry for me, let me state that this turned out to be one of the best real estate purchases I ever made. Here’s why.

Ten Things I Learned From My Ugly House

  1. After ripping up the dog-stained carpet, I discovered the hardwood floors were permanently damaged. There went my vision of having beautiful hardwoods as I couldn’t afford to replace them. It was much cheaper to install a nice wall-to-wall carpet.
  2. Fresh paint in a light neutral color completely brightened up the home. My daughter chose pale pink for her bedroom, and my son wanted green. Letting them choose their bedroom colors gave them a sense of personal ownership in the new house.
  3. It made more sense to have the disgusting appliances hauled to the dump than to try to renovate them. New appliances made me feel like I had a new kitchen even though the cabinets and counter tops were the same.
  4. I splurged on pretty light switch covers and I could not believe how many compliments I got on those little things.
  5. Before my loan could close, the lender required the seller to replace the rotten roof. (It showed up on the appraisal report.) This delayed the closing of my loan, but it was worth the inconvenience. (Thanks again, Mom, for letting me crash at your place for a month after I had to be out of my apartment.)
  6. I chose an FHA Adjustable Rate Mortgage. This turned out to be a very smart choice, because I saved a significant amount of money on my payments for the three years I was there. Because this wasn’t my dream home, I knew I wouldn’t live there a long time, so taking a 30-year fixed rate would not have made sense. Why pay more interest than needed?
  7. Because I got a lower interest rate with the ARM, my payments paid down the principal balance faster. Thus, when I sold the house three years later, my loan pay-off was smaller and I netted more profit than I would have if I’d taken the fixed rate mortgage.
  8. It doesn’t take a dream house to be happy. I discovered a great deal of satisfaction by cleaning up that little house. When my friends came to visit, they exclaimed, “What a cute house!” And it was.
  9. If the bedroom window won’t open on a hot summer night, don’t give it a little smack with your hand. I tried that and my hand went right through the glass, which cut my wrist pretty badly. It took a bath towel to stop the bleeding. Fortunately, 9-1-1 sent out a handsome fireman to wrap me up and take me in for stitches.
  10. A smelly, little house can bring in a nice profit after you clean it up and live there for three years. I sold the house for $125,000. After subtracting the money I put into the  house and subtracting the payments I’d made, I calculated that I earned over $300 per month just for living there.

How’s that for a happy ending?

 

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