Emotionally, I am thrilled by the idea. I love my condo, but I don't love being a homeowner. It's great to be able to put holes in the walls or paint if I want to without asking permission, but it's also stressful to be responsible for every dripping faucet, every warping deck board, and every cracked window. My condo is in good shape—the kitchen and bath got a high-quality renovation right before we purchased, and I've made improvements over the years—but I feel pressured all the time to keep it that way. Maintenance takes time and money, both of which are in somewhat short supply for me right now.
I was never a person who longed to own a home. At the time we bought, it just seemed like the logical thing to do. Our apartment was being condoized so we had to move, and we were clearly going to be in Boston a while what with John having a new job and being in the middle of his cancer treatment. John was responding well to treatment and we'd talked about going forward with the IVF that ultimately brought us Maddie and Riley. Things were good for us, all in all, we were in a financial position to make buying a reality, and real estate still seemed to be a solid, if pricey, investment. So we bought.
Owning never brought me the special rush that it seems to bring a lot of people. I think I just had too many other things on my mind to really revel in it all. It's not that I don't have good memories associated with the condo. I do: bringing Maddie and Riley home; our massive, rain-soaked housewarming party; eating perfectly grilled scallops in our gourmet kitchen. Over time, though, bad memories have dominated the good. I go to bed every night in the room where John died. When I turn the corner at the base of the outside stairs, I recall pausing there once with John post-treatment so that he could throw up in the flowers. The walls of the house seem to have absorbed years of my anger and resentments.
John and I bought our condo in not just the year, or even the quarter, that is now considered to be the height of the real-estate bubble, but the exact month. We closed in July 2005. I don't think we overpaid given the time. In fact, I think we got a good deal. But times have changed. What I need the realtor to do is give me an honest assessment of the situation. If he thinks I have a chance at selling to break even (or make money, but that seems doubtful)—not including improvements that I've made to the property—I'm going to list it. If breaking even doesn't seem possible, I'll wait a little longer, or maybe a lot longer, who knows, for the market to recover or to get to a point where I can financially weather a loss.
If the house sells, my plan is to move in with a friend of mine, a woman who was in the Peace Corps with me and who is a single mom by choice. Her daughter is two weeks younger than the twins. Their place would be cozy for all of us, but it could work. The three kids would share a bedroom and attached playroom, and my friend and I would each have our own rooms. The two main advantages I see to this system are that:
- paying half of my friend's mortgage is way less money than paying all of my own mortgage
- we could function in some ways like a two-parent family, helping each other out with child care, grocery shopping, the emotional burden of parenting, etc.
Any roommate situation is potentially fraught with issues. Both my friend and I are used to having a lot of space of our own, and that could be hard to come by in cramped quarters. There are the ubiquitous challenges of Finding Mututally Acceptable Levels of Cleanliness and Noise. We'd face additional issues around parenting and discipline styles. I don't harbor illusions that this would be all easy, but I do think the pros outweigh the cons and that it's worth a try. In fact, I'm really excited about the idea.
Selling my condo certainly won't erase all of my bad memories, or take away my anger. But I'm really ready to let go and move on. I'm not one for new year's resolutions, but simplification is definitely a theme for me in 2009, and I think that selling the condo is a way to accomplish that goal. We'll see what the real estate agent thinks the market can do for me.