We’d been living in a rental townhome in Gurnee, IL. It had its charms: it was on a golf course, which meant that the grounds were pretty well-kept. But it had its downside, too. The complex was built for some swingin’ empty-nesters in the mid-1970’s, and our unit hadn’t been updated since then. As in, we had harvest gold appliances and laminate faux butcher block countertops in the kitchen, and a 2-story Fred Flintsone fake boulder fireplace. The place could have been designed by famous TV architect Mike Brady, right after he doled out some wise advice about the chicks to Greg.
We didn’t think we’d be in the unit but a few months when we moved in. We stashed the proceeds from the sale of our Wisconsin home in the bank and waited for some clarity about a possible final destination to become clear.
About a year and a half into our sojourn there, in 2005, we realized we were going to be parked in the vicinity for a while. I started looking at townhouses and condos in the city of Chicago. Our Israeli realtor schlepped me to see probably between 50-60 places. Parking was an issue (we had 4 vehicles in our household at the time) – and price was another, larger issue. What we could afford were places that looked like our rental unit, only they were perfumed with cigarette smoke. What we wanted was…well…pretty much the opposite.
I stopped home shopping for a while. The whole thing was just too frustrating. Then I started searching again, only to discover that prices had risen yet further. We gradually realized we were being pushed back out to the `burbs, because the idea of being house poor at our age had no charm whatsoever. After 3 offers fell through, we settled on our current townhome here in Madrona Village in Round Lake. We purchased it in May, 2006 for top dollar.
I think this real estate transaction was the tipping point for the entire housing market, which, about 14 seconds after we signed the papers, began its steep descent.
We’d hoped to be here a few years, then move on. At one point, we had 7 people (6 adults and a toddler) living here. Now its just Bill and I. And a 15-year old cat. We could actually afford to live in some of those charming urban condos with limited parking now.
I did a little informal checking to see what our townhouse might be worth today…if we could even find a buyer for it. When I got the results, my first response was to curl up in the fetal position, just for a moment or two, while I did the sad math. It’ll take years (if ever) before prices climb to the point where we can hope to get what we paid for the place. So do we live here until that happens? Do we try to cut our losses and move on? Are we anywhere near the bottom of the housing price collapse? (If we sold our house, my suspicion is that the transaction would no doubt be the rock-bottom tipping point upward.) The house in foreclosure across the street has been sitting vacant for nearly 2 years.
We drive miles to church. Bill drives miles to work. Our relationships and ministry connections are in other places. We don’t really know anyone in our community. (It’s tough to meet neighbors when you don’t have kids, though we regularly try.) It’d be OK to move on to something smaller and more centrally-located, as we’d originally planned when we bought the place.
But it doesn’t seem like reality at this point.
Anyone else in this boat? Any words of wisdom to share?