The Benefits of Renting Over Buying

Homeownership. An expensive endeavor. But at least you’re not throwing away all that money on rent, right?

Actually, renting makes a lot more financial sense in many cases. But renting doesn’t only have financial benefits. There are a host of other benefits as well.

Keeping Up with the Joneses Isn’t As Much of an Issue

“The neighbors are building a screened-in porch.”

“They’re painting the house down the street.”

“The Myers have immaculate landscaping.”

When you rent, you tend to worry less and compare your house less. It’s a strange fact of life. When you don’t own your home, you don’t attach as much of your identity to it.

Also, since you’re generally not in charge of maintenance and upkeep, you can blame the state of your house on your landlord.

Continue reading “The Benefits of Renting Over Buying”

Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House

When Mr. ThreeYear and I moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina, we bought a house that was about 1000 square feet smaller. It was also significantly more expensive than the house we sold. So why did we buy a house that was more expensive and smaller? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It all started a year ago, when we visited Santiago. We stayed in the apartment we own there, which is about 550 square feet in total, with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms (they know how to pack things in in the big cities). Despite its small footprint, we had a wonderful time together. Little ThreeYear really enjoyed being so close to us, and just being able to call out to find us in one of the bedrooms.

When we got back to New Hampshire, we had several talks about selling our house and moving into a smaller condo to speed up our journey to location independence. We looked into several smaller condos at the beach, and I even wrote a post about it.  In the end, we moved to North Carolina and bypassed the condo altogether.

But the seed had been planted. A smaller space was something that we not only could live with, we wanted  to live with.  Continue reading “Why We Bought a Smaller, More Expensive House”

When You’re Considering a 30-Year Mortgage

Recently, long-time reader Sarah asked me about the difference between getting a 15- or a 30-year mortgage. I’ve written before about why I love our 15-year mortgage. We’ve gotten a 15-year mortgage on three properties: our house in New Hampshire, our house in North Carolina, and our apartment in Chile. A 15-year mortgage has helped us build equity, save more each year, and pay less in interest.

But what if you live in a high cost-of-living area, and the payment on a 15-year mortgage isn’t feasible? What if you plan to stay there for awhile, and renting doesn’t make a lot of sense? Or what if, for a variety of reasons, you want to buy a house, but you can’t make a 15-year mortgage payment work?

On a back-of-the-napkin calculation, it’s clear to see why many people choose a 15-year mortgage is superior. You pay a lot less in interest. But, you also have a much higher monthly payment (for 15 years). Continue reading “When You’re Considering a 30-Year Mortgage”

It’s All Relative

Yesterday I went running with a group of women from my neighborhood. We recently moved to a large neighborhood in Davidson, North Carolina, and the neighborhood we moved into, to use terminology from The Millionaire Next Door, is “income affluent.” That means that people in this neighborhood tend to have high incomes, but also spend large amounts of money so that they have a low level of net worth.

In other words, they’re broke.

I was proud of myself–I had gotten on Facebook and posted a message to the neighborhood women’s group we have there. I found several women who were interested in starting a runner’s group, something I sorely needed since I have about motivation to run as I do to clean the toilets (read: none). But running, unlike toilet cleaning, is good for me in myriad ways, predominantly mental health-wise, so it’s helpful to have accountability partners in the journey. Continue reading “It’s All Relative”

We Got a 15-Year Mortgage. Here’s Why You Should, Too.

I am a big fan of fifteen-year mortgages. When we bought our first property in Chile, we actually took out a fifteen-year mortgage, and then paid it off a year-and-a-half early last December. But for some reason (money), we did not take out a fifteen-year mortgage with our first house in Atlanta. We did the slick 5% down, 30-year on that house, and lost our shirts with that deal when it was time to sell (well, technically, just our down payment, 4 years’ equity, and $20,000).

Why is a fifteen-year mortgage so great? We can argue all day about paying down debt versus investing (which I’ve done here) and the math behind it. But the truth is, a fifteen-year mortgage only increases your monthly mortgage payment by a little bit and helps you build up equity so much faster than a thirty-year mortgage. Yes, you can take out a thirty-year mortgage and pay it off early. But the beauty of a fifteen-year mortgage is that in fifteen years, it’s paid off, guaranteed. My girl Chief Mom Officer wrote a great post about the same topic with her actual mortgage numbers that I encourage you to read.  Continue reading “We Got a 15-Year Mortgage. Here’s Why You Should, Too.”

The $217.27 Bedroom Makeover

Moving to a new home can be tough on kids. We took mine from the only home they ever remembered and asked them to move 900 miles South, to a 1000-square-foot smaller house with a very small backyard. It was hard for them to see the immediate benefits of that decision (benefits like a close pool, relatives right down the road, and no snow in the winter). All they saw was an unfamiliar new space that felt different and didn’t feel like it belonged to them.

So to convince them to move, we used the oldest parenting trick in the book. We bribed them. While you’re may tsk  at the idea of bribing your kid, let me expound for a minute on the benefits of bribery:

1. It works.

2. It gives kids something to look forward to.

3. It gives them some sense of negotiating power when, in all actuality, they have little to none.

Feeling like you have control in an uncontrollable situation makes you feel a little better about things.

For Little ThreeYear, we told him we’d finally get a dog. We realized that with our fenced-in back yard and both of us working from home, a dog would be a much more feasible addition to the family than it had in the past.

Lucy the dog www.thethreeyearexperiment.com
Meet Lucy the dog.

We told Junior ThreeYear that we’d decorate his new room however he wanted.

He wanted to paint it black.

I worked my creative wiles and convinced him that black accents would look much better than a completely black room. We looked at the myriad options online and found a couple of pictures that he liked as inspiration.

On the night before we moved into our new house, when we were doing the final walk-through, we discovered, under a rug and desk that the previous owner had left, a giant hole in the carpet. A tense negotiation commenced between our real estate agent and hers. Finally, she could no longer deny that she’d been trying to hide a huge hole in the carpet and agreed to pay to have it replaced. Continue reading “The $217.27 Bedroom Makeover”

How Our New Home is an Investment in Our Health

Last month, we moved from our home in New Hampshire, where we’d lived for six years (and a total of eight in the town), to Davidson, North Carolina.

Despite massive spending last month to get settled (thank you fifteen year mortgage for mountains of equity to help get through that), I expect our new home will be a financial boon. We’re closer to family, so we’ll spend less on travel to see them. We’ll be able to spend more on travel to places we’ve been itching to go as a family (Hawaii, Ireland, Australia) and we’ll have the time to do it. We took out another fifteen year mortgage with a low interest rate, which we plan to pay off early. It’s our only debt.

While I’m not working as an ESL Teacher next year, so we won’t have my income to save and invest, I expect to spend this year figuring out ways to lower our expenses–through an energy audit, shopping at Aldi, and new cell phone plans.

We’re definitely temporarily spending more with our move, as last month’s spending shows. But ultimately, through gas savings, food savings, property tax savings, and do-it-yourself savings (yard and house cleaning), I expect to see our overall spending decline and our overall savings increase in 2019 (because we’ve got a net worth goal to reach!).

Let me be clear: we didn’t move for financial reasons. We moved because it’s been our dream to achieve location independence, and be able to travel at will and be closer to our families. But we chose a smaller house, in a travel hub, where we can also continue to save and invest for our retirement and education goals.  Continue reading “How Our New Home is an Investment in Our Health”

Prepping Your House for Sale

Last week, I wrote about how to sell your house in 2 weeks or less. Today, I thought I’d give you a more in-depth post about what you’ll need to do just before you put your house on the market.

As tempting as it is to just throw some pictures on MLS and hope for the best, prepping your home for sale is an integral step to selling it quickly. Do the prep work (or hire people to help you!) and save yourself weeks of uncertainty on the other side.

Analyze

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide what needs to be repaired or changed in order to get your house ready for the market.

Do you need to do any major repairs, like change the roof? Are there any architectural or structural changes you’ll need to make? Is there a wall blocking a beautiful view? Does it make sense to add another half bath?

Major repairs cost money, so you’ll have to figure out if the repairs are worth it (i.e., if they’ll bring you a similar return on the house) and how you’ll pay for them. Continue reading “Prepping Your House for Sale”

Sell Your House in 2 Weeks or Less

In the past eight years, we’ve sold two houses.

Both times, we got multiple offers within FOUR DAYS.

Here are my best tips for selling your house in 2 weeks or less.

Now, it could be a coincidence or good market timing that we sold our houses so quickly. But, we sold our first house in 2010 in Atlanta, at the height of the real estate market implosion, and we got multiple offers.

Then, we did it again a few months ago when we sold our house in New Hampshire.

When we put both our houses on the market, there was a process we followed to get them ready for sale.

Get Professional Advice

When we decided to sell our New Hampshire house, the first thing we did was reach out to several local realtors.

I made sure they knew we were interviewing realtors, and we’d like to schedule a consultation.

Each realtor came in, walked the house, and told me what they thought needed to be fixed.

One realtor was so specific about everything that needed to be fixed that it almost paralyzed me into inaction. Another realtor told me everything was fine.

The best realtor told me the major issues to fix and paint, gave me cost-effective ways to fix issues, and told me what we could skip on the repair list.

Each realtor also provided a market comparison report, and the price they’d recommend listing the home. More on that in a minute.

Continue reading “Sell Your House in 2 Weeks or Less”

Does Where You Live Affect How Much You Save?

Bankrate recently reported that Americans are saving less, despite low unemployment and rising wages. And it turns out that some regions of the country are not as good at saving. On Wednesday, I wrote about the best places to live in the US. But could where you live impact your ability to reach FI, even subtly? Does where you live really impact how much you can save?

How Much Do You Really Need?

We’re talking about emergency savings. The article makes the oft-repeated claim that you should have six months’ savings in an emergency fund. First of all, let’s think about that claim: who makes it, and who stands to profit from it? Keeping a lot of money tied up in a checking or savings account helps banks because they then have more money to lend out (they must have 10% of the money they lend on hand). But do you really need six months of savings? Continue reading “Does Where You Live Affect How Much You Save?”