This is the second part in The Barefoot Home series: a series detailing my adventures in buying my first home and turning it into a homestead. Part 1 can be found here.
Life is crazy – you know that. I’m not buying a house this year. It’s just not meant to be. The market is too difficult. I don’t have the time and energy to flip a home that’s in god awful condition (basically everything in my price range). I’m only 5 months into my new job, and as it’s a newly created position, I’m busting my ass trying to get it off the ground. It’s sucking all my time and energy, but I’m making serious progress and need to stick with that. And as I have shared a bit of on this blog, I’ve been going through a lot of personal stuff and I’m not in the best place to make a monumental decision like buying a home. Phew! Glad that’s off my chest.
At first, this decision bummed me out. I want a house to convert into a homestead more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life. I’ve been cruising Zillow for three solid years now, and have looked at thousands of homes online. I’ve talked to builders and architects, banks and real estate agents. I wanted it so bad – badly enough that I was willing to overlook the less than ideal conditions and force it.
After a month of reflection, I actually can’t be more thankful that I’ve decided to wait. In all the research I did, the one piece of advice that was repeated over and over was: don’t let buying a home become an emotional decision. I had let it become emotional in every way, and could have easily ended up in the hole with a crappy property. Or in over my head with renovations. Or with a home that I’d be unable to rent or sell in 10 years due to our college town’s ever evolving student housing scene and newly budding retirement community. Retired people don’t want a mini-farm to take care of, and neither do students. It’s unfortunate, but the demographic of our town is changing, and I’m unsure the property I sought to create would be viable in the long tun.
I’m not tabling the home buying process all together – maybe in a year the market will change. I am starting to think about alternatives though, like investing in my piece of dream property now. Building my own home from the ground up. It’s way too soon to tell, but I had let myself become locked into the idea that I NEEDED A HOUSE IN ATHENS NOW or my life would somehow be all wrong. It feels great to be free of that notion, and move on to dreaming up more creative solutions for my future homestead.
So what now? Well, we sub-leased our expensive and oversized apartment in the “suburbs” that I hate living in and leased a section of a historic, converted Victorian smack dab in the middle of town – for $100/ month less! I made the executive decision that if we weren’t buying, I was going to get the hell out of our current apartment. The only reason we decided to stay there was to save up for a down payment. No more! We moved there in the first place to be close to my old job – which was awesome while it lasted. I biked to work everyday. Now my commute involves 3 miles of country highway at 6:30 AM in the dark … I’m sorry but I’m not that dedicated of a biker. The new place is three blocks from my office – easily walkable!
The last straw though was we finally received a violation from our HOA in January asking us to get rid of all our garden containers4. I gave away half the potting soil to a woman from Craigslist (she traded me three butterfly bushes!), and kept the rest to be mixed with amendments and toted with us to the new abode. I actually wasn’t that mad about the HOA, because I knew I was ready to move. Our neighbors though were OUTRAGED – not at us, at the HOA! So many people came by as I was pulling all the soil out of the bins, concerned that we were taking everything down. They were angry and thought a garden was a ridiculous thing to be cited for. Honestly, I can’t believe it didn’t happen sooner. Multiple people told me my garden had been an inspiration to them, and to never stop trying to grow food. They told me they would miss seeing everything growing. I was touched.
When we pulled up to look at the new apartment, the first thing I saw in the lot was a compost pile. I yelped in glee, then noticed a couple empty raised beds. My new neighbors are gardeners! And the landlord loves it! The home even has a rainwater catchment system installed! I knew immediately I was making the right decision.
Now, it’s time to focus on moving and setting up the new pad as efficiently as possible. We are certainly
downsizing right-sizing, which means I want everything to be set up correctly from the get go – the new grow system, the fermentation chamber, the vermicomposter, the herb drying racks, and all the damn kitchen equipment we own. One thing that drives me crazy where we are now is that we never took the time to logistically organize all my homesteading crap – it’s just shoved where it fits and lacks coherency. I’m excited to purge all the excess we’ve collected merely by remaining in one place for so long, and take with us only the necessities. Yeah, I’m big on the whole efficiency thing.
So the Barefoot Home is on hold for at least a year. Big deal. I don’t think of this by any means as some sort of a loss or failure. I’m proud of myself for exercising self control and listening to what is going on in my life right now. Plus, I learned a hell of a lot and I think I’m benefiting in a lot of ways:
- Saving money. There’s an idea that you are throwing away money renting if you rent is higher than interest + tax + homeowner’s insurance would be if you had a mortgage. For a home in our price range, that would be around $500/ month. My rent will actually be less than that, so I’ll be saving a little money each month. Not to mention I won’t have any of the costs associated with home ownership!
- Learning. I learned a hell of a lot from this whole process. I read three books and countless articles. I even read about kitchen design and remodeling, green building, and how to outfit a traditional home to become a producer of energy and food. Everything I learned will be an invaluable foundation when the time comes to actually buy a property.
- Exercising creativity. Not being able to have exactly what I want (a full blown homestead), I will continue to face the challenges of working towards self-sufficiency while renting in a small space.
- Moving on. Now that all my money no longer needs to be liquid for a down payment, it’s time to take my first steps into real investing. I’m pretty intimidated, but in true Christine fashion I’m planning to do plenty of research, then dive head in. This is my first taste of the financial side of planning for early retirement. I’ve been great about practicing frugality and setting myself up to need very little when I retire before age 40, but so far I haven’t actually began preparations on the financial side (besides saving tons of cash). Time to make my savings work for me!
So that’s where we are. I’m going to be pretty busy with moving over the next week and half, so I’m not sure I’ll be blogging … but thanks to everyone as always for your continued support of this blog and my alternative lifestyle 🙂