Where the heart is

During the many months that my last home was on the market I lived in a constant state of fear, a maddening limbo of not knowing if or when the house would sell, not knowing where I would be living in the months or years ahead. It’s a bit of a first-world problem to have, owning a house to sell, I understand this, but because I was doing it alone it will go down as one of the most stressful things I’ve ever lived through.

I never once looked at real estate listings because the the whole idea seemed masochistic when potential buyers would come and go without showing any interest. I told myself to wait until I’d gotten a solid offer, but when that finally happened, the buyers wanted a 30-day escrow. I quickly secured a loan, but when I started researching houses that would fit my needs I realized how impossible it would be to find something in four short weeks, something I would want to sink all that money into yet again.

My mother said we could live in her basement until I found what I needed, but that would mean living and sleeping in the same room as both girls and both dogs and commuting over 45 minutes to their schools in the morning. I’d have to pack up the dogs and my laptop and work at a dog-friendly coffee shop every day until school was out, then the 45-minute commute back to the basement. Although my mother was a saint to offer this, and I am so lucky to have this kind of option should everything go horribly wrong, it just wasn’t ideal. Plain and simple, I don’t think I could resist eating all of my stepfather’s bologna.

My mother says that what happened next is a result of all those times she put my name on the prayer list in the temple, and if that is true, thank you prayer list. Prayer list, you saved me and my girls from months of disgruntled living. You also saved my stepfather’s bologna.

About a week into escrow I was driving home after dropping Leta off at school when I saw a FOR RENT sign in the yard of a home about a half-mile from where I was living. From the outside the house looked like it was in good condition, so I jotted down the number and made a call to ask three questions that would determine whether or not I would ask the fourth:

1) How much is rent?

2) Is there a fenced-in backyard?

3) Do you allow pets?

The landlord answered yes to all three so I asked the fourth:

4) Where’s Waldo?

That afternoon she let me take a look at the place, and I brought Tyrant along so that he could give me his opinion. The layout was fine, there was a bedroom for Leta and a separate bedroom for Marlo, and there was space for the office. I wasn’t a fan of the paint colors, the wallpaper, the light fixtures, or the carpet, but the price was so affordable that none of that really mattered. Here was a viable option for me and the girls, one that suited our basic needs and would save my mother the hassle of housing her 37-year-old daughter.

Tyrant’s opinion? “Can you tell your mom to put my name on the prayer list?”


This would also allow me some time to get my bearings after months of living in a sort of suspended state, to figure out what I really wanted in a home instead of prematurely jumping at the first thing to catch my eye. This goes directly against how I normally make big decisions. I don’t like to lollygag or dawdle. My gut is very opinionated and often right, so when I see something I like I go after it. But when I’m dealing with the kind of money that goes into a down payment and a mortgage? Maybe it’s time to tell my gut to shut it.

So I signed a lease. And now I’m living in a home where if the dishwasher breaks, I don’t have to buy a new one. This feeling of freedom and relief after all those months of not knowing and now living in a space that someone else has to take care of should probably be illegal.

Also, the girls have settled in here so seamlessly, and that’s the most important component to all these very fortunate events falling into place. My girls feel at home.

I’ve been living here only a month, but I’ve already started to put together a list of things to look for when I decide to buy again, a list informed by all the things that I didn’t like about the houses I previously owned. You may be surprised to hear this, or maybe not, but the one thing that bothered me the most about the three houses I’ve owned is the size of the last one. One day I’m going to write a book about living in a very big house and I’ll call it “Very Big Unhappiness.”

Never have I wanted to simplify more than I do now, that’s what that last home taught me more than anything. And since I have some time to breath before signing my name to another 30-year mortgage, that’s what I plan to do.

Here are the make it or break it items:

– A fenced-in backyard for the dogs
– A dedicated space for my office
– A separate bedroom for both girls
– A garage
– Washer and dryer hookups
– A kitchen that does not need a total overhaul
– A working stove on which Ryan Gosling can make me pancakes made with almond flour

Here are the things that would be nice to have:

– A bathroom for the girls and a separate bathroom for me
– A bedroom for guests
– Lots of natural sunlight
– A patio
– A storage space where I could set up the dogs’ crates
– White walls
– Hardwood floors
– A dungeon

I’m really curious what you guys have learned from owning homes, or what you would look for if you were seeking to buy one. What are your must-haves? What has surprised you?


This post was sponsored by BHI. Explore the benefits of a newly built home.