Decision on a whim
This past weekend, Mr. FAF and I decided to get adventurous.
We went to check out free new development communities in the DC areas.
That’s right! We’re thinking about buying a second house.
We sort of made that exploratory decision on a whim.
After trying out an Italian restaurant near our house (a bit disappointing to say the least), we were about to drive home and take a nap when Mr. FAF suggested a new plan for our next date: checking out new houses.
I was surprised and confused.
Our plan has always been paying off the current house save for a down payment for the next house, and make the move.
Part of me was confused “Aren’t we going to wait for a couple more years to buy our dream home?”
But part of me was excited about not spending the afternoon being bored at home.
Mr. FAF said that we would need to live in our current house for at least another three years before buying a new house.
But we can start looking at open houses now to see what we would like our new home to have.
I remembered reading about how Mr. and Mrs. Frugalwoods went to hundreds of open houses for years before purchasing their house in Cambridge.
I responded “Why don’t we go check out some houses now?” And off we went.
We drove further out of the city to check three adjacent development projects with new home models. We didn’t even have a price range in mind. We just wanted to take a look.
Related: How We Bought Our First Home
When we arrived at the first development, we were in awe. The three- and four-storied townhouses seemed to dwarf us and our Toyota Corolla.
We felt so small looking at these houses.
I looked at Mr. FAF and myself and wondered if we were dressed well enough for this occasion. I even wondered if they would let us in since they might have guessed that we weren’t able to afford such a house.
In other words, I felt super self-conscious about our appearance and financial status.
We went to the sale office, knocked on the door, and were greeted by a well-dressed lady. She seemed friendly and eager to answer our questions, which dispelled most of my fear.
Mr. FAF, Baby FAF, and I checked the two adjacent model homes that were in the $500,000s and $600,000s. We checked two other model homes in another community that were in the mid $500,000s.
Open concept kitchen & living room
Those houses were newly built and looked great. The main reason why they didn’t sell for more is because they’re much further out in the suburbs. In our minds, they were basically in the middle of nowhere.
While driving home, we saw the sign for another community in the $800,000 and decided to take a look. It was not in our price range, but oh well, we just wanted to explore.
This community is close to a lot more shops. The two model homes were in the $800,000s and $900,000s. The moment we walked into those houses, we just felt like we didn’t belong.
It was just too modern, too expensive, and too good for us. We felt like two lost souls walking in the home of a celebrity trying to find our way while being in awe of civilization.
We kept being wowed by various features of the home: a balcony with a flat-screen TV, bathrooms that could very well fit another bedroom and desk, a double shower that looked like a fancy sauna, an in-house elevator, etc.
Fancy den & kitchen
We made a quick walk-through and excused ourselves. Mr. FAF said “I don’t think we can live here. I’m not a VP yet.” I didn’t feel at home at all. If anything, I just felt out of place.
That place was just too fancy for us. We either need to up our imagination or visit fancy homes more often to familiarize ourselves with luxury and modernity.
Pros & cons
Those model homes, though different in prices, decor, and building materials, all had almost the same layout:
— 1st floor: a double-car garage and a space that can be used for an office, a small bedroom, or a game room.
— 2nd floor: a kitchen and a living room
— 3rd floor: bedrooms
— 4th floor: a den that can be used as a game room or a bedroom
Those houses have four floors, something I’m not sure if I like. It sounds exhausting walking up and down so many stairs. Our current house has only two main floors, and sometimes I even feel lazy walking down to the kitchen to get stuff. I would love to have only two floors for the primary residence with an in-law suite attached to it.
Another downside is the amount of living space. It ranges from 2,500 to 5,000 sq ft with lots of windows. It just screams high utility bills and lots of cleaning to me.
Criteria for our new home
That said, seeing such houses reinforced our criteria for our second home:
1. Using gas
Mr. FAF is the main chef in our family. He much prefers gas stoves for his Chinese cooking than electric ranges. He also thinks that gas heating is more efficient and cheaper than electric heating.
I have no preference. I actually think using electricity is safer than having gas in the house.
2. 5 beds
We want our parents to move in with us, so we will need some space for them. We all know what it’s like when we see our parents too much every day.
3. Sound-proof walls
The walls at our current house are not sound-proof, and the floor squeaks like crazy. I can literally hear Mr. FAF typing and walking in the next room, especially when it’s quiet at night. It could really ruin our sleep.
4. Close to public transit
Being close to public transit is a selling feature in the DC area. Also, we are currently a one-car family. Mr. FAF drives our car while I take the Metro, and we want to keep it that way for as long as possible. Mr. FAF also prefers taking public transit than having to drive for two hours for his commute every day.
If we decide to rent out rooms or the whole house in the future, being close to public transit will be a big plus for the prospective tenant(s).
5. A finished basement apartment
This would be a bonus feature. We want to rent out the basement for some extra passive income. Having a full basement apartment that we can rent out would help us achieve FIRE faster.
After discussing the pros and cons of each model home, we both had different feelings about the trip.
Mr. FAF was excited about buying a new home and felt motivated to work hard and make more money to make this dream come true.
Though also excited, I don’t think it’s necessary for us to move up in housing. I’m perfectly happy living in our current home for the rest of our lives unless we have to relocate for new jobs.
In other words, Mr. FAF would like to move our whole family to a better home while I feel like we can use the money for something else.
If it were just him living by himself, I know Mr. FAF would be ok with living in a box somewhere. He wants better things for our family and is willing to make that happen. And I really appreciate that.
I’m a simple person. All I want is a safe place to live that’s not run-down or needs a ton of repairs. But I will just go with Mr. FAF’s decision.
If anything, it will motivate us to work hard and feel more excited about the future. If we decide not to buy another house one day, we will still have the extra income for other purposes.