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Four Walls and a Roof: Buying a House, Making a Home

July 19, 2017

Buying a new house is exciting. It’s also exhausting. Moving your stuff, your family, and your life, even if it’s to a better place, is an awful lot of work…and if you’re a single Mom, it’s enough to make you want to curl up in your partially disassembled bed and cry.

There’s the physical work, of course…the packing of boxes and the lifting of couches and maybe the hoisting of pianos through second story windows if you’re lucky enough to have a musically inclined child. And there’s the logistical work…meetings with mortgage advisors, trying to forget every episode of House Hunters you’ve ever seen so you can come up with reasonable budget expectations, coordinating with real estate agents, inspections, walk-throughs, and the endless stack of paperwork when you finally make it to the closing table.

But there’s emotional effort, too. Relocating tends to inspire a lot of soul searching. Going through your things, even ordinary things like clothes and books and dishes, means going through your past. Thinking about your past usually leads to thinking about your future…and your family’s future.

Little (Check)boxes

If you’ve ever bought a house before, you know that it’s a fresh start, but it’s not a quick fix. You can move all the little pieces around until things start to fall into place, but solving all six sides of the Rubik’s cube is tough. Home buyers are always faced with some compromises, so the best thing to do is weigh your priorities, identify a few “must-haves,” “nice-to-haves,” and “above-and-beyonds,” and write them at the top of your house hunting checklist.

It’s a good idea to do this BEFORE you actually start looking at places, since it’s easy to fall in love with a space and then realize after your offer is accepted that it doesn’t actually meet any of your criteria. Also, keep in mind that even in the dreamiest of dream houses, garbage disposals will still break when your son tries to shred his sister’s Barbies, toilets will still need to be scrubbed, and spiders will still scare the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of you when they crawl out of the unpacked boxes in your garage.

Where the Heart Is

Maybe you’re moving from the city to the suburbs for the big yard and the finished basement. Or you could ditch the ‘burbs for the bustle of city life, where a walking-distance workplace and easy access to public transportation might let you save money (and the planet!) by not buying a car for awhile.

Perhaps going to a better school district means you don’t have to make room in the household budget for private school tuition. If you have family members who can help watch your kids, living closer to them might mean you don’t have worry about how to pay for daycare on a single income.

Are you a DIY-er who wants a vegetable garden and a chicken coop, or an HOA-er looking for a pool and a landscaping crew? Does your family need a complete change of scenery, or are you staying in the same zip code? Do you want a home that’s shiny and new, built to your exact specifications, or a crumbling fixer-upper with a little bit of mystery and a story to tell? A picket fence and a swing set or a rooftop patio and a museum membership?

Four Walls and a Roof

No matter where you choose to hang your hat (and the 7,000 other things you’ll need hooks for if you have children), there are a few priorities that will follow you wherever you go.

  1. A great education for your kids, both inside the classroom and out in the world
  2. A job with good work/life balance, so you can provide for your family without sacrificing your time to connect with them
  3. A strong support system…family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to be part of your “village”
  4. A commitment to self-care, because a.) you deserve it and b.) the healthier you are, and the better you feel, the more equipped you’ll be to take care of the people you love

And a roof…

  • The most reliable, and affordable life insurance policy you can find, so that if something happens to you, your children are better protected financially

If you put these things at the top of your list, home will truly be wherever you are. Happy house hunting!

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