Upsizing our House to Downsize our Life

Upsizing our House to Downsize our Life

In our ongoing efforts to be minimalist-ish, we decided last year that our small-town life was getting too big.

You may already know that we skip the use of our cars when we can, but even so our car commutes have started to annoy us in a big way. The main road in town that takes me to my office is getting more and more congested with each passing month, due to the ever-growing population here and some new high-density residential construction. My car commute is now well over 20 minutes during rush hour, which if you’ve done any research at all on happiness you know is a bad thing.

The interstate is the least-terrible route between our current house and my husband’s work, as well as our current house and Baby J’s daycare. Those drives are still in the 15-20 minute range, but if we’d wanted to spend time every day sitting on the interstate we would have moved to a big city. 

With our oldest wrapping up elementary school this year (which is at an awesome school a short walk from our current house) and headed to junior high at the same school where my husband teaches, we decided it was time for a move.

The Search

Our requirements for a new house were: 3 or more bedrooms, walking/biking distance to things we need, decent outdoor living space, no HOA, and a price tag where we would not have to take out a jumbo loan (more than $424,100 in most places).

Bonuses would be: more than 2 bathrooms, a fireplace, an office, being close to trails, and that the house be livable at closing without immediate remodels needed.

You might be rolling your eyes at that last one because what house in the $400k range wouldn’t be livable at closing? And the answer is: plenty of houses in this town. Last time I bothered trolling the listings, the median price of a house listed for sale here was over $428k. Median price per square foot was $213. We looked at two properties that were in such bad shape they needed to be torn down (so you would basically be buying a lot and a massive project) for over $375k. Decent houses – even those over $500k – can sell in less than a day. So this is not the most advantageous place to be a home buyer right now.

We have the added caveat that everything in any house we live in has to be “up to code” at all times if we want to maintain our license to be foster parents.

The House

Our new place is a 2,100 square-foot, 4 bedroom (plus a little office off the master bedroom), 2.5 bathroom, very livable house built in the 70s. There’s some work to be done, but nothing urgent. The patio/deck/yard is perfect for us and the kids and has a view of the mountains. There are two fireplaces. Despite our minimalist impulses, we’re okay with adding ~600 square feet, because now we can offer a real guest space to relatives and friends who often come through town (to date they’ve had the option of the living room pull-out couch, the bed in the baby’s room, or a hotel). The house will also be great as future vacation rental when we’re out of town for our longer trips.

"tree fort" type play structure in back yard
“Tree fort” included!

The Cost

The final price was $400k, or $190.48 per square foot.

We estimated the increase in our monthly housing costs (allowing for increased utilities, insurance, taxes, etc.) to be between $800 and $900 per month. This works out fine for our finances, because our student loan payments have dropped by over $1000 per month in the past year.

The Location

The new house will be 2.4 very bike-able miles to my husband’s work/C’s school. It is 2.9 miles to Baby J’s daycare and 4 miles to my work (our routes are almost entirely in neighborhoods and along a really nice bike/pedestrian path, and all in more or less the same direction). It is less than 2 miles to the grocery store/pharmacy/farmers market, and in that same area there are restaurants, coffee shops, a gym/pool, and a library. We are literally across the street from a trailhead and less than a mile to an awesome public park.

rocky mountain
The view from one of the trails behind the house.

Bottom line: the sprawling map of commutes that has been our life is now reduced to everything we need being within a 30-minute bike ride. We could now ditch both cars if we wanted to and bike/walk everywhere. Okay, there might be a few days in the depths of winter when we would take the bus or call a cab. And to be honest we probably won’t really ditch the cars, but getting to a location where we could is exactly what we wanted.

So here’s to moving – one of life’s top-five most stressful events! Cheers!

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