Monday, May 30, 2011

Remain homeless or no?

  I (we) have been struggling with whether or not to buy a house back in the US.  We are currently on our first assignment in NZ and gearing up to bid for our second post. Of course, we have no idea where our second post will be but we do know it will involve consular training in DC. Thus, home leave plus training and possible language training following. So, we could be looking at up to a year in the States before our next post.

  Is this long enough to justify buying a house? Oh, yeah, and we want to buy one in North Carolina-where we lived last. It is a scary prospect. The boys and I will live away from Dad for the duration so that they boys can go back to their old school in NC and have a sense of belonging to a community.

  As most State Department families know, it is nice to think of having your own place to go back to for R&R and home leave instead of cramming the family into a hotel or grandma's couches. But is the expense and worry worth it? Can it be justified when you are going to leave it vacant for most of the time? The town we are from doesn't exactly have a thriving rental climate plus, I don't like the idea of people being in "my" house when I am not there.

  We have always been nomads even before the State Department and have bought and sold 5 homes in 5 communities over 15 years and never thought of them as investments, they were simply our home.  I cannot believe how conflicted I am about this decision. Most spouses I have asked thought it was a no brainer. Of course I should buy a house back in the States if my husband was on board.  Many spouses I speak to long to go back to the States and have a sense of "normalcy" for their kids. Maybe it's because I am new at this, but I look at it differently. Yes, I do miss things about the States and I love it there but this is the life we chose. When we decided to leave corporate America and all the material things associated with it, we knew it would be difficult and different. We knew we just signed ourselves up to disrupting our children's lives every 2 to 3 years until they left for college. We knew we would live wherever the State Department decided we would live and have ugly curtains if that was what was in the cards for us (just had to get that in).  Now, we are talking about trying to recapture a little bit of what we had back in the States. A safe, comforting place to go back to if there is trouble where we are posted.

  I dunno, I really don't. Surely renting a place can be a better decision during these uncertain economic times? But, then, we wouldn't have a home that we could go back to every time. If we bought a house now, it would be paid for by the time we retired - a bonus. I guess I need to think about it a little more.


  1. Oh I hear you. I really really want to buy a house. I want someplace that is MINE! Someplace I choose the wall colors, curtains, furniture ect...but I don't have the excuse of a stateside tour or even language training. We have looked at houses, crunched numbers trying to make it work and finally decided that for us at this point it isn't the right time to buy a house it would mean to much of a hit to our lifestyle at post. That sounds so self indulgent but honestly if I don't get out of Malawi a few times a year I will lose it. For each family it has to be a personal decision based on financial and emotional needs. Good luck with the decision.

  2. It's such a hard decision. We originally planned to not buy anything until right before retirement. We recently went the condo route though. (No maintenance to worry about really and family nearby. And it is in a community we wouldn't mind retiring in.) I like the cabin or land idea too. Cabin would have been my 1st preference but we wanted something close to Dr., public transit, stores, college options for the kiddos, etc. It's been a good option for us but not one I ever envisioned taking when we first joined. The longer we were with State, the more we realized that our particular kids needed a home place. (The fact that they started hoarding trash on evac probably had something to do with our decision. Thankfully, they all stopped that as soon as they had a stable place again. It's nice to feel like they have a place they call home, in addition to our home in Mexico. They call them both home actually.) There are just so many factors.

    Good luck making your decision. It's a hard one. No fast and easy on this one and it depends so much family to family just like Shannon said.

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  4. PS We don't rent it out but have a relative who takes care of it for us. We LOVE that we'll have our own space on home leave and knowing that in the event of another evac, we always have a place to return to that is emotionally safe to us. If your only concern is home leave though, I think renting a vacation home is cheaper overall. That was our original plan. We are more than happy to live overseas but, whether through personality or experience, our kids just seem to need a place that does remain stable. Never would have guessed we'd buy something so soon. One other thing I like is that, with this present rough tour, we can be by ourselves or interact with other people as much as we want to. It's nice to have our own space for that reason. Like I said though, we could have rented a vacation home and gotten the same thing. Good luck!