My significant other and I bought our very first home in July. We just finished moving. I learned a lot during this process. I’m writing it down while it’s still fresh in my mind.

Why not rent?

I’ve always rented and thought I would continue to rent forever. When I was still in high school I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad which repeatedly makes the point that your house is a liability. I have been, and still am, convinced by the arguments in that book.

While I was renting I liked that I wasn’t responsible the furnace or the fence or the stove – those were all someone else’s problem.

Except our fence was falling down; our stove was crappy and there was nothing we could do about it; and our furnace hadn’t even had a filter change in…a while.

We had the freedom to move, but not freedom to create our own space as we wanted. In the end the desire for our own space won out.

Buying a house in 2020

Sometime in 2018 we decided we wanted to buy instead of rent. At the time people were predicting an upcoming recession and I felt like the fed lowering the interest rate could only artificially inflate the economy for so long.

Summer 2020 seemed like a good target. Housing prices were pretty flat in 2019. By summer 2020, I predicted, there would be some slack in the local housing market and low interest rates for mortgages. In some ways, I guess, I was right, but I really could not have predicted much of anything about 2020 (I mean, murder hornets? What even?).

Our process

Back in January, Blazey and I sat down with a big stack of post-it notes and sharpies to try to determine what we wanted in a house. We each wrote down everything we could think of wanting in a house; one item per post-it. Once we wrote down everything, we took a step back and grouped all our post-its into “MUST”, “SHOULD”, and “nice to have”.

We ended up with a list of 25 things with 5 “MUST”s.


  1. Not in flood zone (this came from witnessing the 2013 flood)
  2. Can cook macaroni on day one
  3. 3+ Bedroom / 2+ Bath (one office each, one bathroom each)
  4. Private outdoor space
  5. Walkability

The “macaroni” bit was one I came up with. The idea behind day-one macaroni is that, while I’m looking forward to being able to work on our shared space, I shouldn’t need to work on our shared space to move in.

We had increasingly esoteric needs father down the list. Things like, “Pre-World War II era/Craftsman/Bungalow” with “Access to NextLight™ municipal gigabit fiber internet service”.

As unlikely as it seems to find a 1910 craftsman house with municipal gigabit internet, we got it. In the end, we got 20 our of our 25 things. We sacrificed indoor space for location. Given that the pandemic has made location largely irrelevant, I’m hoping that was the right choice 😅


We closed on the 3rd of July and informed our landlords that August would be our last month – 2 months to move.

During that time we:

  • Sanded and painted the cabinetry in the kitchen and installed new pulls
  • Replaced the base of a few cabinets
  • Painted the dining room and living room
  • Removed the wallpaper in the library (yeah, there’s a library)
  • Skim coated a couple of walls that we have every intention of wallpapering Soon™

This left us with about 6 days to move from our ~3,000 square foot rental house to our new 1,300 square foot home. By dint of several truly heroic days of hauling and cleaning we managed to haphazardly move all of our crap from one place to the other and dispose of a good amount of the true crap in the process (How does one get rid of old computers? 🤔 I still have my laptop from college it seems…).

Things I learned during this move:

  1. If you buy a new thing, get rid of the thing you are replacing. This is particularly easy to forget when you’re caught up in an ever expanding hobby. Selling the old thing should be part of your consideration about getting the new shiny thing.
  2. Just because the box is fancy, doesn’t mean you have to keep the box. I had a whole cabinet full of boxes for fancy electronics: cameras, lenses, drones, laptops, networking equipment, weather station. What is wrong with me‽
  3. Deadlines are good. Renting a u-haul is a good artificial deadline you can give yourself. I woke up the morning I rented the u-haul ready to haul things and spent 8 hours doing that. It was the most productive day of the whole move for me.
  4. Just buy moving boxes. We tried to save our amazon boxen, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up buying a ton of boxes at Lowes. I should have bought those from the get go.
  5. Even though the move is short, treat it like a long move. As a friend of Blazey’s said recently: you don’t forget your toothbrush if you’re moving cross-country. We were moving 5 blocks from our old place. The short relocation distance resulted in countless exchanges along the lines of, “Where’s the tape measure?” “Oh, I left it at the old place, I’ll be right back” – it turns out, those add up quickly.
  6. Prioritize pre-move tasks. We had a long list of things we wanted to do before moving and I’m glad we did them before we moved in (we probably never would have painted the kitchen cabinets otherwise), but we grossly underestimated the amount of work needed. The end result was that we wasted a lot of time that we couldn’t make up later.

Final thoughts

Summer 2020 is either a genius time to buy a house or a really fucking stupid time to buy a house.

We took a lot of precautions. Managing the process thoughtfully during a pandemic was a key interview question for all of our buyer’s agents. Still.

The whole process was strange and fraught with problems I’d never thought I’d have. This also describes 2020 for me.

On the plus side, we locked in a very low interest rate – we’re paying 3% on a 30 year fixed mortgage. On the negative side, I have no idea if what I love about this neighborhood will survive the pandemic.

The neighborhood I want to live in is a neighborhood with a diversity of use – there are offices and restaurants and houses and stores and bars all within walking distance. There are parks. There are eyes on the street at all times of day and night. The presence of people makes this neighborhood strong. If main street collapses then demand to live near main street will collapse, and so will the neighborhoods near main street. Quoting Jane Jacobs, “When a city heart stagnates or disintegrates, a city as a social neighborhood of the whole begins to suffer.” I worry about this.

Also I worry about having signed a document agreeing to pay a staggering amount of money with the date “2050” on it 🙈