In our married lives, with regard to housing, our timing is everything.
We moved to Phoenix in 2006, at the peak of the housing market. By 2013, when we had 2 children, we had been desperate for more space. For a Very. Long. Time. But why hadn’t we moved? Oh a little thing called the Great Recession.
Eventually, in 2016, our home value had finally come back enough that we could walk away. Except then, only I could qualify for a mortgage (not both of us). Why? Because no lender recognizes adjuncting as a “real” full-time job (despite him teaching 5/4 plus summers) and there simply were no jobs. So on my solo loan, we found a modest 3 bedroom that gave us 300 more square feet than our murder-suicide tiny home, but it was farther out. Then 4 months into living there, husband got a full-time permanent job 30+ miles away from said spot in downtown Phoenix. It took him over an hour to get home in rush-hour traffic. Add stopping to pick up the kids to that on any given weekday, and it was 90 minutes.
So take a dash of horrible commute, add my aging mom, add my mom coming to visit more frequently to help with kids’ school breaks, and our kids growing bigger, and… yeah, you guessed it. We needed more space. Again.
Do I like being the person who seems to move every 2-3 years since the Great Recession recovery? No.
Have we been in desperate need of more space since 2006, since before we had a kid, nevermind two? Yup. Heck, when we moved to Phoenix, we downsized from a 1300 square foot 3 bedroom to a 880 square foot 2 bedroom because that’s all we could afford. So we were already cramming oodles of stuff into storage. During his Ph.D., my husband used our garage – our un-air-conditioned PHOENIX GARAGE – as his “office.”
So, with prices starting to rise, and both of us having two full-time steady jobs that a lender would actually recognize this time, we decided to start casually looking around, and found a place much quicker than we would have expected. Don’t get me wrong – it still ain’t “perfect.” But it meets our current needs of 4 bedrooms & more space and shaving a bit off of his commute.
So what’s the problem? Well, when we put in an offer back in February, it seemed fine to say “sure, we can wait to close until end of March.” And that is fine, in theory. But then, y’know, a global freaking pandemic hit.
I started losing sleep over whether this was yet another dumb housing decision that we seem to make over and over again.
880 square feet? Meh, we’ll only live there a couple of years anyway. (Ended up stuck there for 10).
Farther out into the suburbs? No big deal, until 4 months later it became a giant deal.
So was making another gigantic real estate purchase going to all-but-guarantee that at least one of us gets furloughed or laid off? And how does one move during a pandemic, anyway? How do you social distance from movers who are literally touching every. single. thing. you. own. And how would I disinfect after movers, anyway, with no Lysol in sight? And what if we get stuck holding on to TWO mortgages if our cozy 3 bedroom doesn’t sell right away because all of America has been laid off? And were we, once again, about to face, that even in the best of circumstances of both of us keeping full-time jobs, that the house was about to tank in value?
I lost so much sleep. Shed so many tears. Had no one to turn to for help because literally nobody has dealt with anything like this before. I talked to our financial guy. He said: interest rates will never be better, ever. He said: we are not predicting another crash like the Great Recession in terms of housing. I talked to realtors I don’t work with so they wouldn’t be biased trying to sell me something, so I could get their honest opinions. I kept weighing over and over again the facts that remain: we need more space for our growing kids. We need a spot for my mom when she comes as often as she does. We need to be closer to coffee, restaurants, and to Better Half’s work. The closer commute would also mean less $ we needed to spend on dumb services like Instacart, which I’d been using since BEFORE the pandemic, because between my autoimmune disease exhaustion, and his commute, having someone else get our groceries gave him some time back and could put food on our front step in time for us to just start cooking when I brought home two kiddos ravenously hangry every school day.
Now. obviously, a lot of that is on pause for the moment. And I am stressed AF about the move. And I continue to check in with my realtor about the market. And weighing that I have, literally, up until the end of the business day on closing day to pull out and lose “only” my earnest money. Which may be worth it. But the facts remain, and so in this moment, we’re sticking to the: we’re moving during a pandemic plan.