Four walls to call our own, a yard to play in and plant a garden, a space to grow a family--the American dream called to our young family, so upon moving to D.C., we found a community, and planted ourselves some very expensive roots. Not being located anywhere near sea-level, who knew we'd be living underwater only a few months later?
If you have moved to the Lake Ridge community in the last ten years or so, this is a familiar story of the purchase and the plummet. The housing market took a dive not too long after we purchased our house, and we watched as houses foreclosed all around us. Home values in Lake Ridge declined over a hundred thousand dollars, and any promises that our real estate agent made about refinancing or getting home equity loans to do home improvements were now very unattainable. If you were the neighbors that moved in a few years later to a nicer house for half the price, I apologize for the nasty glances; I had a rather large chip, or house rather, on my shoulder.
Although I could never do it myself, I can understand why someone would get so desperate that they'd mail their keys to the bank and just walk away. The pressure of being underwater, keeping up with bills, and not having an exit plan, makes it difficult to breathe.
When you have so many things that you are being told you can't do, sometimes you have to ask what it is that you can do, and find a sense of control in doing those things.
1. Prioritize house spending: In a depressed market, it felt to be a waste to spend lots of money on doing big home projects like an addition or big kitchen renovation that we knew we'd never get any equity from in resale. Knowing that this was not our long-term home, we decided to nix our big dream home project ideas. We spent our home funds on getting our mortgage above water. It wasn't a fun way to spend our money, but it allowed us to get rid of the nasty ARM (adjustable-rate mortgage), and focus on paying down the principle on one loan. It honestly provided a big sense of relief.
2. De-clutter and organize: One of my complaints about our house is that we just don't have a ton of storage. However, I'm also a bit of a packrat, so in order to give our family some more breathing room, I decided a bunch of stuff just had to go! Many, many donations later, we had space for storage, and our linens could actually fit in our linen closet.
To my children's dismay, I approached their toys with the same zeal, not just tossing the old or ignored toys, but adding storage bins, as I went room by room. Even in my pantry, adding baskets created not just order, but extra empty space on the shelves, giving my eyes a visual resting spot. (Ahhhhhh.)
3. Freshen it up: Because our five-year house has turned into a longer stay, part of my coping involved sprucing up the place, the easiest way possible: paint and lights. We're changing and lightening the paint color in a few main areas of the house to give the house new life. Additionally, we're adding some puck lights in a few areas of the house. It will give us 1) light, which will make the rooms feel bigger, and 2) features that you see in new construction homes, so our house won't feel so antiquated.
A few upgrades and changes has given me the needed motivation to stay in this house, that a few months ago, we were ready to say goodbye to. While it seems that we will not be moving to our long-term house in the near future, I'm content in knowing we are staying awhile longer in a community that our family has grown to love, and that lets me breathe a little easier.