We Almost Bought Another House (And what the Experience Taught Us)

With New Years quickly approaching, I wanted to share an experience that Garrett and I had recently which has set the tone for our 2019. If you have followed us for very long, it probably comes as no surprise that we’re always thinking ahead and dreaming about what comes next. But even so, we usually need a little poke to overcome the inertia of status quo. This time the poke came in the form of a message from our realtor about a quaint country home in need of some TLC!

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our Farmhouse, Fall 2018

No, not that house. That’s our Farmhouse! We’re sharing pictures of our home in this post out of respect for the other homeowner.

We almost bought another house

This Fall, Garrett and I put an offer on a home. A 2,000-sf, 1950s house with a few acres of land attached. It was in rough shape (of course 😉), but I was smitten. And the price was in the mid-$100,000’s, which is almost unheard of in our small town. I toured the property with the kids while Garrett was in Tacoma, and then set up a showing for him the following weekend. He too saw the potential and the financial upside. So we put in an offer.

You're probably wondering what the heck we were planning to do with another property. We still have 3 rentals in Seattle plus our Farmhouse (which needs plenty of work), so where would another property fit in?

Honestly, we didn’t know. Live in it? Rent it? Flip it? Nothing was ruled out, but a flip would probably have made the most financial sense for us. Mostly we just saw potential in the house and a good deal. So we thought through all the renovations and expenses for the property and wrote an offer for our max comfortable price, which was $20,000 under the list price. And then we waited.

A couple of days later, the sellers came back, saying our offer was too low. In the end, we were $10,000 apart and no one was willing to budge.

So we walked away.

I was bummed. I really liked the property and loved what the house would become. But we were already busy with the Tacoma kitchen and of course our kids needed fed and loved and our lives needed living. So I let it go.

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our Farmhouse master bedroom

It didn’t take us long to realize that not getting the 1950s-fixer was for the best. Garrett and I usually look at houses that we’ve lost out on (of which there have been 10+ in the past decade) as ‘not meant to be’. But this one was more than that. It was a much-appreciated poke. And today I wanted to share what we learned as well as what we’ll be focusing on in 2019.

We spend far too much time ‘being busy’.

I fully admit that this is self induced, but Garrett and I are always over-scheduling ourselves. It’s funny, because we are adamant that our kids grow up at a slow pace, but when it comes to us adults we can always work harder…work longer…work more. I think it comes from a good place; Garrett and I want to be productive and contribute and feel fulfilled. But there’s a big difference between ‘being productive’ and just ‘being busy’, you know?!

We should focus our time where our hearts are.

As early-retirees we have the luxury to dictate where we focus our time and as silly as it sounds, it’s taken us awhile to get the hang of that. Scratch that. We’re still getting the hang of it. And the biggest lesson we’ve learned so far is to focus our time where our hearts are (after the bills are paid, at least). The things we’re excited about and believe in - that is the stuff worth dedicating our time to. That sounds really obvious now that I’m writing it, but sometimes even the easiest lessons can take a long time to learn.

It’s okay to change your mind.

When we first moved back home to Ellensburg, Garrett and I thought we’d become house flippers. We planned to fix up and sell (or occasionally rent out) one old property a year and that would keep us busy, add to our savings, and give us a creative outlet. But it took us only one flip project (the Porch House) to realize that we’re not house flippers.

...it took us only one flip project (the Porch House) to realize that we’re not house flippers.

There are lots of reasons why we aren’t suited for house flipping, but mostly we’re just not that good at it. Ha! But really, it’s just not our thing. And if you’re curious, here are a few specific reasons: (1) we care too much about the houses and the design to cut any corners and that makes it hard to earn money; (2) we do the work ourselves meaning so we’re slooow and it’s still hard to make money; and (3) it stresses me out to have so much money tied up in a house that we’re going to have to sell regardless of market conditions. So that’s why you won’t see us flipping houses (unless we come across an amazing project that’s too good to pass up 😉).

The main value we find in buying and renovating old homes is long-term. We like to live in and enjoy our renovations. And then we like to live off of the rental income they bring in. Real estate is a long game for us. That’s the way we know how to make money with real estate and that’s where we’re comfortable. And hopefully someday we’ll be gifting these houses to our kids.

The main value we find in buying and renovating old homes is long-term. We like to live in and enjoy our renovations. And then we like to live off of the rental income they bring in.

What’s to come in 2019.

So what does this mean for 2019? Well, you’re going to see a lot more of our Farmhouse! Which is super exciting for us, and hopefully you too. We’ve decided to start on the big renovations - the bathrooms and kitchen and exterior - and try to finish the entire house up in the next couple of years. We’re not quite sure which room will be first, but are we excited!

So what does this mean for 2019? Well, you’re going to see a lot more of our Farmhouse!

And because we like to be transparent about houses and finances here on the Grit and Polish, I have to mention that is the first time Garrett and I will renovating a home that we have no plans to rent full-time or sell. Which basically means we’re not intending to make money on this renovation. They money will go into the house and stay there and admittedly that’s made us a little apprehensive. We’ve always viewed our home purchases/renovations as investments and income, but the Farmhouse isn’t really either. It’s a place to live and enjoy.

So why are we going to renovate the Farmhouse (which it totally livable as is, now that we pulled up the carpets)? Well, for all the things we’ve already talked about in this post, plus (1) we need to address a few issues with the house in order to enjoy living here more. I’m diving deep, deep into first-world problems with this one, but the things that didn’t work for our family on the day we moved in still don’t work. (2) we re-did the main bathroom for $1,000 earlier this month and it reminded us that we don’t need to gut everything to make it a TON better. We’re going to work with what’s here and keep our budgets low. (3) we’ve started to value our time more. While we don’t know what the future holds, we do know that right now we have the time, money, and energy to commit to this house. So that’s what we’re planning to do! And sometimes it’s okay to do something just because you want to!


Farmhouse master bedroom sources here

Before I go, I wanted to circle back to the 1950s-fixer. In an ironic twist of events, the sellers came back to us in November and said they maybe-might-possibly consider our original offer. Of course, we had already realized our hearts were elsewhere. So we declined and started drawing up plans for our Farmhouse.

We’re looking forward to 2019!