Hello sweet friends! One of the questions I’m sometimes asked is how we afford our house. It’s one of those delicate questions that people are curious about but afraid to ask for fear of sounding nosy or rude. My husband and I are a one income family. I used to be an elementary school teacher before we had kids and have been a stay at home mom for several years. The question people are asking is really one of two things: How do we afford to live in a historic home since typically older homes are expensive to maintain, and how do we afford to style our home. I’m happy to answer these (and other) questions as best I can.
Old houses are notorious for being money pits. When you buy a historic home you have to do so knowing that typically you will be putting more money into the upkeep of it than if you bought a newer home. With careful budgeting, saving up for projects, doing the majority of the work ourselves, and being patient we’ve been able to improve and transform our home while living on one income. Because we purchased our home at an auction for a fantastic price we are comfortable investing in repairs because we have equity in our home and the improvements we do also add to the value of our home. You want to be careful not to invest too much money in over improving a house.
In our life we’ve made many choices starting years ago that prepared us for this. Both my husband and I have always been careful about saving money. We talked about how to prepare for me to stay home with our kids before we even got married. We worked hard to save money, pay off my student loan and our cars, and live as much as possible on one income for several years before we had kids. That choice allowed us to pay off our debt and build up our savings. Our first apartment was furnished with hand me downs and thrifted finds. It wasn’t “Sandy’s Style” (plaid couches really aren’t my thing), but we were just grateful for a place to sit!
When we decided to buy our first house we purposely gave ourselves a limit as to how high we would go knowing that we would eventually be paying our mortgage on one income. We bought our first house for a good price as a foreclosure and we completed a cosmetic renovation to it. Our little 1960’s ranch was in great shape, just very dated. Sadly, my grandma K. passed away shortly before we bought our first house. Many of the furniture items in our house came from her home. She had a fantastic eye for antiques and excellent taste in furniture, and I still use many of her pieces today. My husband and I worked on improving our little house after work in the evenings and on weekends. With the magic of paint we transformed that house into a beautiful home. We had planned on staying there for a long time, so we felt comfortable making it into our own style. Luckily when my husband got a job closer to family we sold our little ranch for a profit to a sweet family who loved the changes we had done to the home. It made it easier to move knowing that they loved and appreciated our house as much as we did.
Before we bought our current home we did a ton of research. We couldn’t get it inspected, which terrified me, but we budgeted and planned and saved up an emergency fund for any surprises. Thank goodness, because we needed that fund! There were several big ticket improvements that had to be done right away. And then we had lots of little details to address. It’s shocking how quickly things add up, and so much money is spent on little things that your house needs but isn’t very exciting or pretty. We knew to expect that from our experience fixing up our first house, so we were prepared. Our house is actually pretty efficient for its age when it comes to the utilities (which we also researched. Ohio gets cold in the winter!). The walls are very thick and we have interior storm windows that we use in the winter time. It keeps our house toasty and warm! When we plan our projects we discuss a budget and make sure we have the money saved before starting. My husband’s job is nice because he can work overtime shifts when needed to help save up for a project. The downside is that we don’t see him as much when he is working extra, but it does allow us to deal with the unexpected problems that tend to pop up from time to time with older homes.
With our current house we did a ton of research beforehand and bought our house well below market value to ensure we could afford the mortgage and also pay for the improvements needed. And while we did have a few surprises that needed to be fixed when we moved in, the house had been well maintained over the years and it was in great shape overall. Not everyone who buys a house at auction is as lucky as we have been. Believe me, I lost a lot of sleep worrying about all the things that could go wrong in the beginning. Our path to owning a historic home is certainly not for everyone, and I cannot stress enough the importance of research and financial preparation. It’s always been my dream to live in an old home and we are willing to make sacrifices in other areas in order to make this dream a reality!
The other important thing to remember is to be patient. It’s hard when you see a beautiful picture of someone’s home to understand the entire story. You don’t see the unfinished projects around the corner, the dated wallpaper upstairs and the hand me down furniture. What you see is a pretty area of a home, styled and photographed from a certain angle to hide the mess outside the lens! The picture doesn’t always convey the many sacrifices made, the late nights spent doing home improvement projects, and extra overtime shifts at work to pay for the renovation. When thinking of areas within your home that you would like to improve or making future plans for home ownership, be patient, do your research, and make sure you can afford it.
It’s hard to explain in one blog post how my husband and I manage to raise three kids on one income while also fixing up our house. My goal for this blog is to write in a way that is uplifting and inspiring, and I hope that this post is encouraging, or at least informative. I always want to be realistic with you about the challenges of owning and maintaining an older home. If living in an old house with tons of character is your dream, but now is not the right time in life, that’s fine! Keep dreaming, planning, saving, and learning. So many of the improvements we’ve made to our little castle we learned from working on our first house. You never know how life will turn out. I never ever thought we’d live in our castle. Embrace your current phase of life, even the struggles, and live with joy. I’ve got a whole blog series coming up about how to survive a remodel and live with style on a budget. I’ve learned quite a few tricks over the years that I’m happy to share with you, friend! Do you have any specific questions you’d like me to answer? Find me on social media by clicking on the gray icons below, and be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can get blog updates emailed to you!
Have a beautiful day, friends!