My husband and I bought our first house before the market crashed, before being married or even engaged, despite friendly advice and being a lawyer and “knowing better.” We were young, in love and wanted to keep up with our married homeowner friends. We were sick of paying our landlords’ mortgages and having loud neighbors. We could paint the walls whatever color we wanted. My husband could have band practice into the wee hours. We ignored the fact that our limited budget meant it wasn’t the right size, the right layout or in the right location. After all, this was just our “starter” house and we’d sell in five years at a profit and move onto our “forever” house.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans… After a year, the honeymoon was over. While we were trudging through our long daily commutes, mowing the lawn and paying for unanticipated costly repairs, the financial crisis happened. Our house plummeted in value. We were now stuck for the foreseeable future. But being “responsible adults,” we slugged on in misery for close to ten years, staying in jobs we hated, putting off starting a family and wallowing in our bad decision.
We just “celebrated” our ten-year anniversary in the house we’ve been wanting to sell almost since we bought it. And we are now (finally!) in a position to sell our house in the next few months. We have started de-cluttering and making lists of what we should fix up to maximize its value. We are researching new towns and real estate markets and school systems. Yet despite years of wanting to hand over the keys to the bank, I can’t help but tear up at the thought of leaving.
While this is the house that trapped us in stressful jobs, it is also the house that made us homeowners. It is the house that drained our bank account and we almost lost. It is the house where my husband proposed and where our son took his first steps and said his first words. It is the house where we became a family and learned through the stress and the tears and the crises just how strong we are.
It is now time to move onto our “forever” house to make new memories and persevere through new challenges. It will be the house where my son will greet the bus on his first day of kindergarten and will graduate high school in. It will be the house where I will find peace and sanctuary after long days of work. It will be a house filled with clutter and laughter and tears. It is the house that will become our little family’s forever HOME.