I've never been to our new house - Kathleen Celmins
I've never been to our new house

I’ve never been to our new house

I was talking to my friend Dan the other day about how I feel about giving personal finance advice, now that I’m no longer living as close to the edge as I was when I started Frugal Portland.

“My situation is boring — get out of debt, then save as aggressively as you want. How much more can I say?”

We were talking a bit more, maybe I can talk about how to invest in real estate?

“Step one: travel back in time.”

Do what I did. Time the market. Travel back in time.

Worthless advice, really.

But then, I stumbled upon something that might actually qualify for real estate advice. “The one thing that has helped the most with making money buying and selling my primary residence is to not get emotionally attached to the house I live in.”

He told me that all the real estate investors he knows in DC rent their primary residences.

“In fact, people think it’s crazy that I’ve never seen the house we bought in Phoenix,” I told him, “but to me, it’s just a house.”

And that’s true.

I’ve looked at the pictures on Redfin about ten thousand times.

Brent even took me on a Blair Witch Project-style tour (when will that reference be dated? never!) when he went down for the closing.

It has four bedrooms PLUS an office PLUS a giant bathtub PLUS a pool PLUS an orange tree PLUS a lemon tree.

Why do I need to see it?

All the family on Brent’s side has seen it and spent time in it. They say it’s great.

A professional came through and said there were no structural issues.

How not being emotionally attached to houses has helped me make money in real estate

I don’t have to tell you, when you bring emotion into a transaction of any size, your results get wonky. If you’ve ever spent money when you’re sad or happy or feeling deserving of something (a pen that is more expensive than earrings, perhaps?), you know what I’m talking about.

Let’s take the pen example, because the math works out. The pen was $250 (I know, right?), and I spent emotionally.

A “decent priced” house costs 1000X that (my first real estate purchase was $225,000 five years ago, and it was a postage-stamp condo without storage).

So, if I’d been emotional about the condo, or the townhouse, or the Sellwood house, I wouldn’t have been able to clearly make the best decisions for my family.

The fact that we made money on most transactions is sort of beside the point, because I could easily see that if I’d fallen in love with any of the places I live, I wouldn’t be able to move to the next place.

There have been things to love about every home I’ve lived in, really. The heated floors on Garfield. The bathtubs on Ellis. The white picket fence in Sellwood.

But somehow, I have a Zen-like detachment to things that helps me understand that a house is simply a place for my family to live.

We once said that perfect was not in our price range, and that’s still very much true.

But even when the money comes in, I don’t care enough about “the perfect house” to upgrade for the sake of upgrading.

My grandpa on my dad’s side was excellent with his hands. He was a mailman by trade, but a DIY renovator by passion, and he had a shirt that said “Good Enough Construction” on it.

I didn’t inherit his handiness, but I did inherit the “good enough” idea.

The new house will be fine. Better than fine, in fact.

But I don’t need to see it before we move in because I trust other people to tell me it’s fine.

To me, all that matters is that the people and Stanleys I love will be happy there. And the other people I love who don’t live with me will have a space for sleeping when they come.

The new house checks all those boxes.

And I can’t wait to see it.

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