Why We Sold Our House and Moved into an Apartment
No, it’s not the smartest financial decision in the world, but not everything’s about money.
We recently sold our house and moved into an apartment. We weren’t in financial trouble, we didn’t move for a new job, and there were no family issues.
By most measures we were making a bad financial decision.
Most people would say that buying a house is the best long-term investment. They would stay that renting is just throwing your money away. Many financial advisors would tell you to go from renting to owning as soon as you’re able to.
The only reason to sell your house would be to buy another house whether bigger, smaller, or in a different city. Selling a house to go back to renting would be the last decision you want to make — especially when you’ve only had that house for 2 years.
So why did we do it?
There were three main reasons: correcting a mistake, creating community, and setting up a future.
Correcting a Mistake
We bought a house too early.
When my wife and I got married, our first home together was a one bedroom apartment. For the next 3 years, it was perfect for us — we didn’t need anything bigger. We were close to our friends, our church, and a small downtown area. So people were always over to visit and we made a lot of sweet memories there.
Then my wife got pregnant, and her first instinct was to buy a house. We needed more room for the baby (we actually didn’t). We could have simply moved into a bigger apartment, but we thought we needed a house.
Common advice from our elders said we needed to buy. As long as we were renting an apartment, we were just throwing that money away. But if we bought a house, our mortgage payments went directly into us owning it.
Comparison to peers said it was time to buy a house. We were leaving our 20’s and entering our 30’s. Most of our peers were buying their first homes, and others had already bought their homes years earlier. When you see your high school acquaintances on Facebook in front of their new homes, it can be easy to feel like you’re falling behind.
This misconception about needing to buy a house as soon as possible led us to make one of the biggest financial decisions anyone could make, but without all the information. (This article talks about other things I got wrong about money in my 20’s that I’m just learning now in my 30's)
So we made the decision to buy a house. It wasn’t necessarily a bad financial decision. We had saved up enough for a downpayment, and we both had stable jobs and could afford the mortgage.
But with a small window of time to do it before the baby came, we rushed into something that we didn’t really need to. We didn’t really know what we wanted, but mostly looked for what looked nice and we could afford. We ended up buying a 2-bedroom townhouse.
It was less than a year of living in our new home that we realized didn’t need it as early as we thought. Our new baby slept in our room for about the first 6 months, so we didn’t even use that second bedroom for a year. He didn’t walk until he was about a year old, so the extra living space wasn’t all that necessary. Even by delaying buying a home for another year, we could’ve saved more money for a bigger downpayment.
But the biggest cost of buying the house too early was not having the time to consider what was most important to us in a home.
A bigger space doesn’t matter if no one comes to fill it.
There were some great features about the house we bought. There was a nice little patio and garage. There was a community pool. The neighborhood was well-kept and quiet. And we were only 15 minutes away from my mom, which helped a lot with babysitting.
But we were far away from the things that mattered to us.
We were far away from community. We have friends in similar life stages as us — they’re young parents with kids the same age as ours. When you transition into a new life stage like parenthood, it’s so crucial to have people around you, people who just get you.
But they were an hour’s drive away. It was hard to schedule playdates or even just simple hangouts. We didn’t have as many people over to our place because we were simply too far away. We had more living space, but less people in our lives.
As new parents, we were tired and felt isolated. Loneliness, depression, and frustration wore down on us that first year with our new baby.
Sure, we could’ve made new friends where we moved, and we tried, but it requires a lot of effort and intention. In the end, we just didn’t have the energy to keep going to community events trying to introduce ourselves to strangers. We needed to be close to the friends we already had.
We needed our community.
So after only 2 years of living in the house we bought, we made the decision to sell it and move.
Setting Up a Future
We want to plant roots, but do it in the right place.
Instead of buying a house, we decided instead to go back to renting an apartment. Most people would say that’s a bad decision. Instead of investing into something that we own, we’re now paying monthly for something loaned. We’re moving into a smaller space. Oh, and we also have a second baby on the way.
But for us, we value friends in our lives more than the living space. We want to invest in relationships more than properties. We would rather rent to be in community than to own in isolation.
So we moved into a 2-bedroom apartment with less square feet. There’s no garage for storage, so we had to sell a lot of our stuff and downsize. There’s no central air so it gets pretty hot in the summer. It’s a bit noisy with our neighbors around us and above us.
But we’re no more than a 20-minute drive from our friends. We can easily hang out afterwork. We can meet up for early coffee before work. We can go on playdates to the park and the zoo.
There’s also some planning and logic in this crazy decision. We’re thinking about our future and our kids’ future.
This apartment is a temporary home for a few years. Eventually, we will buy a house again. In the meantime, our monthly rent is about a third less than our previous mortgage. So we’ll save that money for a bigger downpayment in the future. We’ll get to know the area better so we can be more certain of where we want to live.
And when we buy our second house, it’ll hopefully be for the long-term. It’ll be more centrally located to the people we want to see and the things we want to do. It’ll have the space to host family, friends, and strangers in need of hospitality. It’ll be a place where we can grow deep with our friends, and our kids can grow up with our friends’ kids.
Because a home isn’t a building you own, it’s the people who fill it.