The Power of Number Crunching (and a final update for our Craftsman bungalow)

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that my husband and I bought a craftsman bungalow four years ago. Over the years, we slowly updated it on a a very tight budget. I’ve had so much fun revealing the updates and sharing the cost breakdowns on this blog, and today I have one final house update to share: we sold our craftsman bungalow.

Power of Number Crunching

Let me back up. When we bought our house, it was house that we could see ourselves in for the next twenty years, or for at least as long as we lived in North Carolina. We had no intention of selling it within four years. However, about a year after buying our house, we slowly began to realize that a number of things our house weren’t working for us, including —

  • My husband teaches private cello lessons out of our house, and the layout didn’t quite work for his studio.
  • The street was a little too noisy. We moved from one of the busiest streets in our city, and by comparison, our new street was much less busy. However, noisy cars woke up our young son on a regular basis, and it got really old really fast.
  • The yard was extremely high maintenance. Our home’s previous owner was a retired gentleman in his 80’s, and he loved to spend all of his time puttering in the yard. He planted a lush, gorgeous garden (if you live in the Southeast, where things grow like crazy, you know that this is a *very* dangerous idea). As he got older, he had trouble maintaining it and let things go a bit — okay, a lot bit, but we knew the bones were still there. A family member warned us, “Keeping up the yard will be a full-time job.” We didn’t have kids at the time, so this prospect didn’t particularly bother us — my husband and I like being outside, and tending our very own garden sounded like a lot of fun. Fast forward a couple of years — my husband had a packed work schedule, and I was busy with an active toddler. We truly could not keep up the yard, and we had to resort to hiring out to a pricey yard service to keep it minimally presentable.
  • Within a couple of years of buying our house, our neighborhood’s crime rates increased dramatically. This was very sad for us, because we loved our neighborhood, but we felt very uncomfortable with the way things were trending.
  • When we bought the house, we knew that we would need to do some necessary repairs and cosmetic updates. However, as first time home buyers, we seriously underestimated how much time and money it would take to get the house to where we wanted it. It became apparent about three years in that if we continued to update our house at our current rate, we would quickly price the house out the neighborhood. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if we had planned to stay for another twenty years (since the house would have appreciated in value), but given the other factors that weren’t working for us, we no longer wanted to stay for another twenty years.

As I write out these reasons, it seems like a no-brainer: the house wasn’t working for us, so moving seems like a very natural, logical course of action. But buying (and living in) a house is always emotional — we loved the house, and we wanted to put down roots there. We put in a lot of sweat, blood and tears into turning it into a beautiful home for our family. The thought of leaving it behind made us sad.

It was also scary. Moving and buying another house requires a lot of cash. We hadn’t factored saving for a second down payment into to our financial goals, and saving money up money for another down payment seemed very out of reach.

So…. we did two things.

First, we prayed for wisdom. If you are a Christ-follower, I highly recommend asking God for financial wisdom! I believe He is faithful and that He will enable you to be a good steward of the resources He has already given you.

Second, we got busy crunching numbers. What we found surprised us. We played around with a lot of different number scenarios, and it became clear very quickly we would not be able to be save up money for a 20% down payment in less than five years without tapping into our retirement savings or into our emergency fund. However, we talked to a very good realtor, and after several lengthy discussions, we realized that our house’s market value had gone up almost 40%. This was partly due to the updates we had made and partly due to the market conditions of our city. This meant that as long as we sold our house before we bought our next house, we would have more than enough funds to cover moving expenses and a down payment for the next house.

But here’s the catch… we knew we were going to have our second baby right before listing the house. We also had no idea where we would stay while we house hunted for the next house (we don’t have family in the area). Also, even pre-COVID, our city’s housing market was competitive, so we thought there was a reasonable chance that we would need to put in offers on several houses before getting one accepted. However, as inconvenient as it is to move a young family (*twice*)… and as scary as it was to sell our beautiful home before finding our next one… we decided it was worth it to us to take the risks.

Fast forward six months — we sold our house, found a short-term apartment while we house hunted, and recently closed on another house with which we are beyond thrilled (we’re scheduled to move in about a month!).

But my larger point in this article isn’t to tell you about how we sold one house and bought another. My point is that possessions and money transactions can be *very* emotional. And they can often be scary. But the amazing thing about number crunching is that it takes something that is inherently scary (e.g., our living situation is totally not working for us, but how are we going to pull off moving and selling?) and turns it into something black and white. Number crunching takes emotion out of the equation, because it is simply a tally of the resources that God has already given you. Once you have a clear picture of that tally, you can think critically about how to best leverage those resources. But if you don’t number crunch, it’s altogether too easy to make your decisions based on what you *feel* rather than on reality.

Is there an area of your finances that has been causing you stress or worry? Set aside some time to pray about it and number crunch. What you find might surprise you.

Thank you so much for reading!

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