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Monday, February 23, 2009

Counting My Blessings: A Tale of Five Houses

As I wander around my house aimlessly, clean it's shiny new surfaces, or just sit and take it in, I reminisce over the places we've lived throughout our 10+ years of marriage from our first little love nest to our dream home we have now. As I contemplate, my thoughts can't help but turn to how blessed we've been.

Our first dwelling was a newly renovated, two bedroom basement suite in the city near my home town. Other than being cheaply constructed with the rejected kitchen cabinets from the upstairs, used appliances that only half worked, and ugly blinds it was clean and we made it home. We endured a year of interesting noises from the upstairs neighbours which included listening to an old man hock up loogies every morning, and then two devil children that insisted on jumping off of the furniture on a regular basis causing our dishes to rattle and screaming bloody murder at 2 A.M. We also shared the laundry which was in our suite so the upstairs tenants had to walk through our living room.

Our second abode was another two bedroom basement suite but in Calgary, Alberta. No new reno's with this one! It was fifty or so years old with hardwood floors and retro lino that was so old and hideous it actually had character. The fridge and stove also appeared to be original with the house. We lived there for two years and put up with severe fluctuations in temperature (we had limited control over the heat), a two year-old upstairs who's parents thought nothing wrong with him wearing shoes on hardwood floors at 6:30 in the morning, a flight attendant who came and went at all hours, and one couple who fought so fiercely we almost called the cops.

Needless to say when we achieved the means to build our first our house and get out of basements we couldn't have been happier. This occurred two and half-years into our marriage. Trevor's parents had taken out a life insurance policy on him many years earlier that had matured. Since he was no longer a dependent he had the choice to continue paying into it himself or cash it in. We chose to cash it in and thus appeared a down payment on a house. (Blessing number 1) At the time building a small new house in Calgary was the least expensive way, aside from buying a condo, to owning a home. Once we chose our desired suburb we went to the two home builders in that area and perused the home options. There was was a house with each builder that we could afford so we chose the one we liked better and that was that!
Place-to-live number three was 900 square foot split-entry house. Pretty much everything about it was included in the base package and selected out of very limited options because we could not afford more. I loved that house; it was small but it was ours! When we moved south three years later I cried for days.

When we chose to move away from Calgary the housing market had began its spike. As a result we made a sizable profit from the sale our beloved little house. (Blessing #2) The economic boom was just starting to touching our future city so we were able to purchase house number 4 for less than house number 3 sold for. (Blessing #3) This house was a 25 year old, 1160 square foot split level in desperate need up some cosmetic upgrading. After a month's worth of reno's we moved in and a year later I actually began to like it. It had a developed basement, and a large yard with mature trees with behind us. We also had no neighbours behind us.

Just over one year ago we were able to begin the process of living where we do today. The economy had taken off and house prices skyrocketed to impressive heights. After much calculating and pondering and a generous financial gift from Trevor's parents we took the plunge and bought a lot in my home town fifteen minutes away from the city. We also put our current house up for sale. Six months later we sold house number 4 for almost double what we paid for it (Blessing #4) and officially embarked on the building journey. There are two main reasons as to why we chose to build a house in a small town: the lots were cheaper and larger, and we weren't restricted to going through a builder. In the city the home building companies buy most of the lots leaving new- home buyers no choice but to build through them. We were able to contract the building of our new house ourselves which saved us approximately $65, 000 compared to having a builder do it. (Blessing #5) Aside from from all that, being able to live with my parents and not having to pay a mortgage while we built is what ultimately made it possible. (Blessing #6)

Sooooo, the combination of all those factors over seven and years of being home owners is what enabled us to have the house number 5. How do we afford it now? Only half of what we put into the house is mortgaged, and interest rates are quite low. In short, we hit the economy right, made some smart, careful decisions, and had plenty of help from our families.

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