I noticed that this is my 500th post on this blog. Better make it a good one.
Frugal Babe readers are probably well aware of our plans to keep our starter house and avoid the never-ending mortgage payments that happen when people keep upgrading to more expensive homes. But we are considering another possibility.
We have found a much less expensive community about 60 miles from where we currently live. It’s only nine miles outside of a city that we both really like, but it’s a small town (about 5000 people) and although it’s population has grown tremendously over the last few years, it’s been overbuilt and there are a ton of houses for sale. The houses are literally half the price that they would be in the town where we currently live.
We went there last weekend and looked around. There is a library, a grocery store, a post office, two elementary schools, a middle school, and land purchased to build a high school. Although it’s a small town, it’s in the school district of the big town just down the road, and it’s a very good school system.
We would have to drive further to get to Costco, but we could get an efficient chest freezer and make our trips less often. We would have to go about ten miles to get to Whole Foods, which is about how far we go now. I could still walk to the post office and library, just as I do now.
Most of the houses we looked at are for sale for less than we paid for our current home six years ago (some are quite a bit less). They’re roughly the same size (or a little bigger) in terms of finished square footage, but almost all of them have full, unfinished basements instead of the partial crawl space that we have now. A basement room for our hydroponic garden would be a huge bonus. We could walk around the plants to tend to them and harvest produce, instead of doing the crawl/butt scoot that we currently do.
Another bonus is that the yards are much bigger than what we have now. Our current yard is literally six feet wide and wraps around two sides of our house. The picture of the mini-greenhouse my husband built gives a good perspective on how much space we have to grow vegetables. The houses we looked at have enough room for a huge garden in the backyard. We’ve proven our dedication to gardening and supplying as much of our own food as we can – imagine what we could do with a basement and a large yard.
There would be some trade-offs. We currently live in a town of 50,000 people. It’s a suburb of a metropolitan area that has over a million people. Moving to a town of 5000 people would be a big change, although its proximity to a large city makes it a much different environment than a small town in a completely rural area. We think it’s very worth it, and are currently researching all of the details involved.
We don’t want to sell our current home. We’re looking into the possibility of renting it, and have found that average rental prices in our neighborhood are actually a little higher than our monthly mortgage payment. We’ve talked with a mortgage broker who is running some numbers for us to determine how much of a down payment we would need in order to qualify for a loan on one of the houses in the less expensive town. Even with a 15 year mortgage, we should be able to get a monthly payment that is lower than what we currently pay (especially considering interest rates these days). Of course we would be just as focused on paying it off as quickly as possible as we are with our current mortgage.
So here’s our current plan (Subject to change, of course. That’s what keeps life interesting):
- We will make cash savings our primary focus for the next several months instead of paying additional principal on our mortgage. We want to build up a good cash cushion before we make any changes (to cover a down payment and also have money to pay the mortgage on our current house in case it takes a while to get renters). The amount is still to be determined – we’re waiting to hear back from the mortgage broker and then we’ll have some more concrete numbers.
- We’ll work on some home improvement projects that need to be done. Our house needs a new roof, the bathroom needs paint, the garage could use some new shelves… things that would make the place more appealing to renters and less likely to be a headache down the road (the roof is a good example, as it’s on its last legs).
- We will continue to live as frugally as possible in order to build our savings as quickly as possible.
- We will thoroughly research all of the details involved in this process: mortgage lenders, property managers, rental income, interest rates, etc.
I’ll let you know what comes of this as time goes by. We’re excited about the possibility of lowering our housing costs and at the same time getting more space to grow our gardens. We could become nearly self-sufficient in terms of the produce we eat (which is by far the largest part of our diet). There are still a lot of kinks to work out, but we feel like we can make this happen. We both work at home, our son is still a baby – we have a lot of flexibility in terms of where we live. So why not make the most of that flexibility and move to an area with lower housing costs?
Would you ever consider moving in order to lower the cost of your house? Or have you already done so?