The two most expensive house mistakes I ever made

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Today I want to share two really stupid, really expensive house decisions I’ve made in hopes of sparing you the same regrets. Both decisions cost around $10,000 (yikes!) and could have been avoided. And, big shocker, both happened because of my own impatience.

First up is the first house my husband Lonnie and I ever owned. In 2007 (the height of the housing market), we bought a townhouse in the town where we would be attending grad school. We had a baby and were in our mid-twenties, and it just seemed like the “next step.”

It was a great place to live, and I have lots of beautiful memories from living there, especially bringing home Baby No. 2. But when we unexpectedly got shipped off to a different state for Lonnie’s last year of school, what had been a blessing started to become a worry.

Granted, we had fabulous tenants whose rent covered our payment and then some. But the housing market tanked, the value of townhouses in the neighborhood continued to decline, we graduated and didn’t move back to that town, and we found ourselves being long-distance landlords.

Finally, out of frustration and a desire to pay off our student loan, we decided to sell and take a loss. Running a rental was too much of a risk, and we were ready to say goodbye to our first house. So we sold—and lost $10,000 of our down payment.

Moral of the story? Do not buy because it’s “time” or you’ve reached some magical age you think makes you an adult. Don’t buy because it sounds “fun” to have your own place. Buy because it’s right for the long run.

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Figure A

Expensive Mistake 2: After we bought the house we’re in now, we wanted to do a quick remodel of just a few rooms, completely for aesthetic reasons. I was very confident in decisions like refinishing the hardwood floors and repainting, but I did not know what to do about trim. A former owner pulled out almost all the original trim in the house, and it had since been replaced with a style that did not match our 1930s house—think trim that looks like Greek columns with rosettes/”targets” on the corners (see Figure A above).

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So we decided to invest in millwork. Beautiful millwork. Millwork we would enjoy for decades. Except we didn’t know what style to choose. Instead of doing my homework, I selected something I liked—that also didn’t match the period of my house. We now have lovely Craftsman-style trim around our windows and doorways, and we don’t have a Craftsman-style house. Now it drives me crazy. We will be ripping out and replacing all of it come January.

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Moral of the story? Take your time making design decisions. Do your homework ahead of time. And remember decorating a house is not a race. Enjoy the process.

Have you made any dumb house mistakes? Bought an expensive piece, then regretted it? Had you house painted a bad color? I’d love to commiserate. •

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4 thoughts

  1. Ah, that is so frustrating! I’m sure you are not alone in this–everyone makes some unwise choices when it comes to money. Ha. We just like to throw money away by renting for 12 years. 🙂 So excited to see your remodel!

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  2. As first time home buyers, my husband and I were pretty clueless about renovating and even more clueless about our likes and dislikes. I thought I would not really favor any specific paint color, because the walls of our apartments had never bothered me. When we moved into our new house, I just picked a paint color out of a magazine without even getting a sample for my walls! What’s worse is I decided to paint my whole house that color and ordered $400.00 worth of paint we ended up not even loving! And what made the whole situation even worse is I didn’t learn my lesson. After deciding I didn’t like it, I went back to the paint store with another untested paint color. At least I only ordered $200 worth! It didn’t work out either. Now, I’m big on paint samples and thinking things through a little bit more 😁.

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    1. Paint colors are so tricky! I read not too long ago that it’s best to choose five shades you think you’ll like, order sample sizes, get ’em up on the wall, then decide from those five. It’s a good way to limit your choices AND a good way to make sure you like the shade you get. Thanks for sharing your story!

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