Why we bought a small house on a small budget

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Well, this is slightly embarrassing.

I had a project idea ready to go for this week, but remember all the work we are doing in my studio and laundry room? Because of that, I have now packed up ALL of my paint brushes and I accidentally buried them in boxes in the crawl space. So, no projects this week.

The basement project was moving along at a great (though exhausting) pace when we hit the snag of all snags. Yesterday, (Saturday) we spent the entire day waiting for our giant, solid wood utility cabinets to be delivered. They really are the next piece in our puzzle before we can move onto to other parts of the room. Well, wouldn’t you know – the delivery truck was forced to make a sudden stop when a car swerved in front of him, and seeing as our delivery was the only one left for the day, ALL our solid wood Cabinets toppled on the flatbed and were SMASHED.

Needless to say, I was devastated and a little upset. We are still waiting to see what the store comes up with in terms of a solution for us. I’m confident something will happen – just not sure what form it will come in. No one was hurt – thank goodness. But our timeline is a little off now. Accidents do happen.

I guess it’s clear, the more fun projects will resume shortly. I cannot wait to show you all the really fun solution I found for my craft supplies.  We were able to fully assemble those while waiting for the truck. (UPDATE! They are now on their way 🙂 Stay tuned!! The store took amazing care of us and has helped us get new cabinets! The excitement grows!)

Our budget for this basement project, despite all the set backs, is still only around $2500. All of this planning for renovations and dealing with challenges has really got me thinking about why we bought this small house. I’m not going to lie. There have been moments where I’ve found myself trolling the real estate listings for a home that doesn’t need this much work. I have been dreaming of fewer large projects (and expenses) and more fun decorating projects.

But then, as if the universe was speaking to me, a reality check came via blogland.

One of my absolute favourite bloggers, Dana from House*Tweaking, wrote a post last week about how she and her family down-sized about five years ago, into a home they gutted, made their own and now have completely paid off. They are mortgage free. Their home is beautiful. It works for their family of five. Dana can afford to blog full-time and (it appears) she is able to spend a lot of quality time with her family.

Oh ya. That’s why Dan and I bought this house.

Let’s hop in the time machine for a minute and roll back the clock to three years ago. It was this week back in 2013 that we first laid eyes on our house. It actually makes me emotional just thinking about that day.

We were itching to get out of our 700-sq foot condo and into a home with a yard and storage. We really didn’t have very much on our ‘must-have’ list.

  • three bedrooms
  • two bathrooms
  • a separate dining space
  • a yard
  • closet space

We had spent most of the previous month trolling around new build homes on the other side of the city. They were gorgeous, move-in ready, shiny and NEW. But they were all either in the middle or top end of our budget range – or the range the bank told us we could afford.

This was us, three years ago this week
This was us, three years ago this week

Then one day, for whatever reason, we took a drive on a Sunday and followed the coast about 15 minutes outside the city. In the exact opposite direction from where we’d been looking. And there it stood. An open house sign on the lawn of a home on the best street in the neighbourhood that just wouldn’t sell. Similar homes around it were selling in less than a week. This home had been sitting on the market for almost six weeks.

We didn’t even look at the listing price before touring the home. By the time I’d reached the upstairs, I had tears in my eyes and I just knew that we’d buy this house, and do as Dana did. Take our time. Fix it up. Make it work for us. Make it sing.

Then I cried even harder when I saw it was listed 50% below the price of the other homes we’d been touring. FIFTY PERCENT.

It hit all our must haves:

  • three bedrooms
  • three bathrooms
  • separate dining room
  • bonus storage space
  • huge yard

And to boot, because we looked a little outside of the neighbourhoods we had been touring, our home is even a bit larger than some of the newer builds we toured.

With the money we’ve saved on housing costs and our mortgage (not to mention the size of the downpayment we needed to put down), we were able to:

We extended the kitchen and added a new dishwasher.
We extended the kitchen and added a new dishwasher.
  • pay mostly cash for our wedding
  • pay cash to have the back yard shed ripped down and re-built (I still absolutely LOVE the colour we painted it!)
  • completely upgraded the heating systems
  • paid for significant tree and root removal (not fun, but it would’ve taken us years to do DIY!)
  • buy all new beds/mattresses for the bedrooms
  • reconfigure the top floor to create a drool-worthy walk-in master closet
  • upgrade most of the light fixtures
  • upgrade the electrical in the entire house
  • update the kitchen including adding a dishwasher
Our brand new back yard shed
Our brand new back yard shed

There are probably a gazillion other things we could add to this list, but you see, the smaller house and smaller budget has given us incredible flexibility in terms of making this house our own and tackling projects that increase its overall value.

I honestly don’t think we could have done as much in as little time if we’d purchased a home at the top of our budget range.

So, I will stop myself from searching the real estate listings for now. We have committed to living here for at least a decade, and I think running through all of these positives was just the thing I needed to snap me out of it.

Sure, I’m sitting in the family room writing this post – staring at boxes upon boxes and raw lumber and tools, all mixed up with my breakfast dishes and Dan’s work files – but it’s because we are making this house our own. Step by step. Room by room. We are making it sing. The cabinet fiasco will work itself out somehow – of that I am sure. And soon enough, I’ll have a pretty picture of my new studio and laundry room to add to our blog roll.

So I’ll just blur my eyes and ignore the renovation mess. Instead, I’ll choose to see potential and a more flexible and adventurous future.

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