what is your home / apartment / van like?

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
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Post by theplk »

I've always kind of felt that having a nice home is one of the greatest indicators of one's standard of living and enjoyment of life but since discovering ERE it seems that many people are putting ERE ahead of their living condition (and rightfully so in many situations).
I'm really curious to know what everyone's living situation is like.
Do you own? Do you rent? Do you live in a van?
How much do you like your current living condition?
Any insight into where you draw the line in the trade off between having a nice place to live and living ERE would be much appreciated...

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Post by frugaladventurer »

I'm divorced and own a large 4 bedroom home (2350 sf). It is half paid for. It may seem excessive, but it is perfect for multi-generational living - my 81 year old mother lives with me, and right now, my 26 year old son does too. (I have three children in their early 20's, so others may bounce home too at some point).
I also figure I may rent out some extra bedrooms in the future for income.
I live in a much more modest neighborhood, further out in the suburbs, than when I was married - but as a result my house cost only 1/3 of what we sold the marital home for (and my current house is larger and newer).

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Post by johnsmithindustries »

I rent a two bedroom apartment for about 20% of my income. I don't think the quality of where you live is directly tied to the volume of space, as even this feels like too much. The neighborhood and the neighbors are entirely tolerable. The walls are white and there is white carpet, both of which I despise. But I have art on the walls (my wife is talented), lots of plants and well coordinated, inexpensive additions (basically choosing the right colors for things) and I've realized that those things, color/texture/life DO make me happier on a low level.
But it's not all the things in your space, either - I lived here an entire year without really owning furniture besides a bed, desk chair and a desk. My thinking was that I should wait for a good deal on what I wanted, and I did - I now own a nice leather couch and loveseat that I got a *really* good deal on. I bought a very nice bed at a wonderfully deep discount. Both are a daily pleasure to use.
Apartments are not for me, and in fact I am quite sick of them. They simply meet my needs and make sense for where I am in my life right now.
In the end it's about spending money and making good choices in accordance with your values. I plan on buying/building a house in the future so that where I live becomes as closely aligned with what I value as possible - energy efficient design and hardware, a garden/orchard/livestock, outdoor living spaces, a firepit, durable flooring, painted walls, etc.

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Post by jacob »

We rent a 1bd/1ba apartment (400 sqft) about 40 mins by bike or public transport (equally fast) from downtown Chicago. It's very well kept. Management are owners and live here.
The building is 100+ years old judging by the single pipe steam heating which was state of the art around The Great War. It has wooden floors which tend to be loud (squeaky!) as we can hear when the neighbors walk around upstairs. (This really annoys me and we're going to move when the lease expires. The sound issue escaped me as there were nobody living upstairs when we moved in.)
The floors are oak and half our furniture (dresser, desk, bookshelf) is natural pine (handmade by me). The couch is Crate&Barrel bought used for $200 (new $1500). The bed frame is stained pine (free) which doesn't match the rest. The dinner table is some $100 knockoff we also got for free. We have several crates (pine again) in the living room full of woodworking tools and yarn. Aside from the dinner table, which looks out of place, everything has a warm glow due to the preponderance of light colored wood, the beige walls and the solid red, purple, and brown pillows and slipcovers. There are some small pictures and paintings on the wall (same general colors).
DW and I have an ongoing disagreement as to whether minimalism or displaying your entire collection of dragon figurines and family pictures (at one point we had 4 pictures of us at our weeding!?) is best suited for creating a feeling of harmony or homeliness. The current amount of clutter reflects a compromise much like demilitarized zones also reflect a compromise :)
I do my woodworking right in the middle of the living room on a workmate---handtools, no power, so no dust. At all times there will be various projects of wood and sewing/knitting in various states of completion stacked here and there.
The bedroom is the sleeping and storage area. There are plastic and cardboard boxes full of tools, knick knack, DVDs, books, xmas decorations, etc. mostly stuff we don't need and haven't gotten rid of yet. There are also two bikes and a portable AC for when the temperature hits intolerable (we switch it on at 85F). I guess our bedroom serves the same purpose as other people's garage. This is the part guests never see! This could easily be solved if 1) DW was less nostalgic about old xmas decorations, etc. 2) We had a storage locker in the basement. 3) A place with a larger closet.
To me nice means clean, quiet, and sufficient. This doesn't cost much and is thus not a trade off with anything for me.

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Post by dalralmi »

I own a 2 bedroom condo. THe monthly fees are a bit high, but I enjoy not having to worry about yardwork and landscaping (highly allergic to the outside world... so cutting grass for me is torture). I also enjoy using a pool and not worrying about big storms damaging my house (hurricane state/not responsible for my roof and windows).
I hope to use the equity in my home (about 50%) eventually to buy a house where I won't have to deal with specific rules and can do what I please... I really want a backyard for kids and such. Overall though right now My condo is the perfect size for me... I plan to be here for some time.

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Post by spoonman »

I own a 2 bedroom condo (with attached garage) in a gated community. I have mixed feelings about the place. The advantages are:
* I have no upstairs or downstairs neighbors, and the two neighbors that I have are generally very quiet.

* The neighborhood is safe and quiet. We have beautiful parks, a gym, a pool/spa, and a bunch of other amenities.

* This is the most comfortable place I have ever lived in. The amount of space is almost perfect for my wife and I.

* The place is only 10 years old, so no maintenance issues.

* We’re building equity fast (15 year loan).

* It feels like it’s a heavy monkey on my back in terms of ERE. Home values took a hit in our immediate area, so the value is 10% less than what we paid for it.

* It’s in the suburbs of LA, so we have to drive everywhere for fun and social activities.

* It doesn’t feel like a “real happening” neighborhood. It’s fantastic for families, but I wish we lived closer to where we work and closer to our friends.

* The HOA fees are really high and we have to deal with a bunch of silly rules.
We plan on selling the place when we pull the ERE trigger. Perhaps in the future we might settle down in single family home with no HOA fees. Given the high HOA fees, it wouldn’t make financial sense to pay the condo down.
So to answer your question, I like the place but it does not fit into our near term ERE plans.

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Post by George the original one »

[The dog ate my first post. Oh, wait, we don't have a dog these days; that was Cloudflare that ate the post...]
Being age 50 with no dependents (by choice), my wife and I have more spacious housing than when we were younger. At the moment, we have two houses.
Current residence: 4 bed, 2 bath, 1800 sq ft split-level entry on 1 acre with a 1500 sq ft insulated workshop. Heat pump, city water, septic tank, central fireplaces on both floors, cable internet, no DSL, 7 HDTV stations with 16 channels, poor cellphone reception, 8 neighboring houses with 1 acre each are visible from our windows plus 2 distant farmhouses on 40 acres, dead-end street. 30% equity (Zillow market value). Good sunny gardening location, clay loam & silty clay loam, though it's a local frost pocket. 10 minute drive to any/all grocery stores.
Retirement residence: 3 bed, 2.5 bath, 1600 sq ft split-level entry on 4+ riverfront acres with an 800 sq ft drafty carriage house and 1200 sq ft uninsulated pole barn. Woodstove in common area on both floors with electric baseboard for backup, no cable, no DSL, no TV stations, decent Verizon-only cell reception, 3 neighboring houses visible from our windows, 2-lane US highway and seldom-used LifeFlight helipad at volunteer fire station 1/4 mile down the road. 40% equity (Zillow market value). Moderate coastal climate, but not sunny, with sandy loam. Lots of wildlife literally in my backyard (coho salmon, steelhead, searun cutthroat trout, elk, beaver, black bear, coyote, Oregon brush rabbit, ducks, heron, bald eagle). 15 minute drive to nearest grocery store; 35 minute drive to second grocery store.
We plan on selling the current residence and paying off the retirement house when I retire. Hopefully there'll be better internet access by then or else we'll have to get satellite. I'd like to teleport this workshop to the other house; unfortunately I'll settle for rehabbing the carriage house and pole barn. Due to Oregon rain, we both like having a large interior space.
We dislike split-entry houses, but that's where the bargains were when we were shopping for homes. The current residence sacrificed common area for the sake of an extra bedroom. The retirement residence sacrificed kitchen space to have an extra bathroom. And split-level homes tend to sacrifice large dining rooms in order to have two smaller common areas (e.g. family room plus living room). Without kids, those are poor tradeoffs and don't suit us.

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Post by DutchGirl »

I pay "rent" to my boyfriend who owns the house. It has a kitchen, a bathroom, and 4 more rooms of which two are used (bed room and living room) and the other two mostly aren't. I think for our next house (no immediate moving plans though) we should downscale; perhaps find a smaller house but with a small garden attached to it. The location of our current house is great: city center at walkable distance, lots of public transport available and highway access closeby for my boyfriend who has a car.

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Post by mikeBOS »

Here are some pics of my $25,000 house I paid cash for. So my only ongoing expenses with it are about $1,500/year in property taxes. It's a 3bd/1bath sitting on 1 acre just outside the center of a small town just a little over an hour from Boston. I love it.
Before this was a string of studio apartments, roommate situations, and a tent.

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Post by aussierogue »

We have lived in the same rental house for 10 years despite owning at various time 3 other houses. The rent is cheap the location is great and when something breaks I do not have to fix it.
At the age of 42 (now) it seems like a good time for DW, kids and I to stop delaying gratification and move into our own house which conveniently is only 3 streets away. We have onwed this house for 8 years. She is 120 year old small terraced Victorian house on a heritage street. I am currently owner building a renovation this house (in line with heritage values for the facade) so spending everyday on the tools with my carpenter friend and enjoying every minute, Last week framing was finished and today we started on the roof. Next week windows and doors will go in, then the external walls. Within a few weeks we will be at lock up.
I like simple houses that are natural and stripped back. Lots of plywood cladding, concrete floors, exposed 120 year old bricks. Also full enviro with double glazing, passive solar design, solar panels, water tank etc etc etc..
I guess you would call it modern - probably something you would see in the hipster areas of NYC or Brooklyn.
The house is only 6.5 meters wide and the lot goes back 38 meters. I like the smallness as it saves on heating, cooling, excesses.
Best thing is after 20 years of relative frugality I am paying cash to renovate and will have no mortgage. House worth approx. 1 million AUD which the same as USD at the moment. Ask me in two weeks because if the AUD keeps sliding it may only be worth USD 750k!
I may post some pics once I download them from the camera if anyone interest..

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Post by bigato »

I live in a 24 square meters house in the city (11km away from my job) that I've bought for US$5k to be able to stop paying rent. The lot is 280 square meters. I will move to a house in the countryside that is closer to my job (4km) and there I have 2 and a quarter acres of space. That was bought for about US$37.5k.
Some pictures:


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Post by bigato »

mikeBOS wrote:

Here are some pics[1] of my $25,000 house I paid cash for.

[1]: http://lackingambition.com/?p=1131 (link)

Hey mike, did you steal my cats? LOL

Look at this:
[link removed for privacy reasons]
Last edited by bigato on Sat May 30, 2015 8:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Spartan_Warrior »

I live in a 1250 sq ft, 3-bed, 2-bath rancher about ten miles outside Baltimore, in the center of a small town. It's on a small, ~10,000 sq ft lot in an older neighborhood of similarly sized houses and lots. At ~10 years old, my house is one of the newer ones. I have a little over 200k left on the mortgage and 40-60k in equity. Been here two years almost to the date.
Before this I lived with my parents and in various college dorms/apartments (I'm 26).
Like others, I have mixed feelings about my living situation. The house itself is nice, albeit a little oversized for 1.5 people (my girlfriend semi-lives here). There are no annoying HOA fees or rules. Since the house is relatively new, there've been no major maintenance issues (yet). The lot is the perfect size for maintenance--that is, it requires a bare minimum--but is rather grating in terms of privacy; I need a tall fence badly if I stay here long-term. It's suburban, so it's generally quiet, but sometimes too quiet (aka boring) and I'm not a huge fan of some of my neighbors. I do like that in this town I'm very close to many amenities and could probably live without a car in retirement--but for now I still have to drive into the city for work and put up with traffic and car ownership costs.
Financially speaking, I feel like the house is holding me back a bit and extending my ERE timeframe, as my (newly refinanced) fifteen year mortgage costs about 30% of my gross income. On the other hand, if I keep this house and pay it off when I retire in 8-9 years, it'll only cost me about 250/mo, which for comparison purposes is just 4% of my current gross income.
Luckily I got an excellent price on the house since it was an estate sale, and the values in my area have only gone up since. I think this is likely to still be a high-valued area when I go to retire, so I may just sell it at that point and cash out the equity and move somewhere way less expensive (and more fun) than MD. Not sure. But I foresee myself being here at least until I retire. It's a good enough combination of proximity to work (I do not want to be any closer to inner-city Baltimore...), comfort, and expense.

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Post by rube »

Our situation: terraced house, 120 square meter. 1 living room, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 big study/work room. We live with the 4 of us (two adults, two kids). I think it is big enough for us, but wouldn't like to go much smaller.
Very convenient located in the suburbs but still only about 5 minutes walking distance from the train, supermarket and some other shops, healthcare centre and the school. About 8 minutes on bicycle to the town centre and about 15 min. to the highway by car. My work takes about an hour by train, but luckily I mostly go only 2 days a week and work the other days from home (hence the big workroom is really pleasant).
It's costing us net about incl. taxes and electricity and natural gas around 600,- / month, which is even less then 10% of our average income and about 25% of our average expenses.

I must admit though, that if we would quit working we wouldn't have the tax advantage of our mortgage and we would pay about 400 extra per month. So we started to paying more to the principal loan lately to avoid this when we really pull the plug.
Edit: oh, the lot size..ehm, only about 130 sqm, so very small and would love to have a detached house on a bigger plot. On the other hand, the current house is in a quiet neighbourhood, the kids can play outside on the street without any issue and we have a small green/water area at the back which give a bit of the country feeling and enough privacy in our garden.

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Post by Chad »

I live in one of the more expensive areas in the US (Arlington, VA). My rent for a 850 sq ft 1bd/1ba apartment is 19.3% of my current income. The apartment is rather old, which is why it's rather large for a rather wealthy area. It's fairly well maintained and cheap for the area even considering it's size. If I rented a newer apartment this size it would be roughly 30% of my income.
I don't buy for numerous reasons, but the main one is the cost of renting my current place is much less than buying. This takes all variables (taxes, interest, lost investment capital, etc.) into account.
Most of my living room furniture was made by my father and will last forever. You could put a car on top of the end tables and they would easily hold. I'm not kidding.
I still need a couch. I haven't found the best deal yet on what I want.
My bed is a mattress and box springs on a bare steel frame. I see no great need for a decorative housing around where I sleep.
All in all, it's clean, quiet, private enough, and cheap for the area. I do think you need a certain standard of living to be happy. I don't need granite counter tops, but I do need the above.
I should also note that it is rather close to most things. I either want to live in the middle of no-where or live in the middle of everything. I think traditional suburbs are the worst of both worlds.

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Post by JohnnyH »

Cool thread!

Currently renting spacious and spartan 1 bd/1 bth/1 office appt for 10% of income... Only for a few months while I rehab a 30 ft 1980 aluminum travel trailer, which will be my new home. I am excited by the concept of the inexpensive, pleasant, efficiently insulated and portable home that ages so well. I am converting rear twin beds to 3/4 bed (45" wide) and a large desk... Expenses while living in trailer (or house when done) should be about 3% of pretax income (yay!;)
I will live in the trailer while I fix a 1100 sq/ft 2 bd/1 bath/ 1930s house, which I've already stripped down to the studs leaving the bathroom intact (might keep trailer dry)... It might become a 1800 sq/ft 3 bd/2 bath depending on dimensions, costs and my enthusiasm. I'll probably plumb it towards an upstairs and leave it at that for now.
House was purchased for a song at auction in 2011 and I've allowed it to sit vacant since. No insurance outside off casualty loss of income taxes... Not committed enough to my current job or location to consider a mortgage on a "nice" place but this will keep me occupied for at least a year... After cleaning up the property had a few offers for multiples of what I paid.. If I retire I am willing to walk away from the house in various states of discompletion as acceptable profit is guaranteed. Goal is to get it livable, if not pristine, and sell it for healthy capital gains tax free profit. Then move onto next 2-5 year primary residence rehab house.
Furniture is like clothes, I have it but can't remember buying much. I think I inherited it all from various jobs or moves, none of it is of great quality or value. I only have a few end-tables left that I will get rid of before I move into trailer. Wall coverings are still in rolls, various posters from college and photos, pictures and paintings I printed on work's 34" printer.
I've lived happily for entire summers in a tent, so I am quite comfortable everywhere I've ever lived, even in a van... Protection from rain/snow/sun, a sleeping bag/pad and books and I'm fairly content.

However, I dream about garage/workshop and enough land for a productive hobby farm. I am getting tired of moving and living out of boxes and want a piece of legacy property I can invest in and commit to... I think I have decided on the region, unfortunately nothing inside of commuting range to job works for me. I hope to move many family members there for mutual benefit... And so I can go nomadic whenever I want! ;)

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Post by freebooks »

I've been living for the last 5 years in a 2,600 sqft home (counting finished basement) with high-vault ceilings and nice architecture. Turns out it is expensive and difficult to keep consistently heated/cooled throughout and most of the home goes unused.
I've grown weary of maintenance and upkeep, as the home was over 20 years old when purchased and the furnace, windows, and many other things had not been updated. It is fairly energy inefficient and it has ended up costing me around 5k/year in upgrades and maintenance, taxes are too high at 4k/year, and the energy bill is around 4k/year because of very poor insulation.
In any case, I'm planning on "upgrading" to something that costs less, that is smaller, hopefully closer to a good grocery store, ideally with no lawn (my ideal is just forest/trees/ground cover) with brand-new windows, long-lasting roof, updated insulation and other similar amenities. Fortunately I bought at the bottom of the housing crisis (though this area isn't doing super great) and hope to get a 15% return on sale price to cover at least the maintenance and repair fees I've put into the home.

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Post by susswein »

I live in one unit of a 1930's 4-plex that I own. The rental income from the other 3 units covers all mortgage, maintenance, utility, tax, etc expenses for the entire building, so I'm essentially living rent free in return for an average of about 10 hours/month spent on management and upkeep. My unit is about 800 sqft 2bd/1ba plus an unfinished basement that I use as a shop.
I also own a 4wd van that I converted to a basic camper that I travel/live-in for a couple of months every year and a 40 year old 27' sailboat that I live on in Mexico for 3 months every winter.

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Post by A Brit »

Our house is around 2500 square feet (if I've done the metres to feet conversion correctly) and the garden is an acre.
This is excessive. Big by ERE standards. Big by UK standards (average UK house is 900 square feet, I've just looked up). Big, too big, for our needs. There are two adults and, only during school holidays, two children.
The financial considerations are alarming. The house ties up around 50% of our net wealth and increases housing related costs (utilities, taxes, maintenance) by at least 50%. You could say it's been a good investment; having probably tripled in value - but what's the use an investment if you never crystallise the gain?
We considered downsizing - particularly as our children will be off to university and their own lives soon - but decided, against all reason, to stay. We've been here all our married life (20+ years) and it's the only house our children have ever known. Here's "home" and there's little we can do about that. Maybe our thoughts will change over time but, for now, we're staying put.
On the plus side, while it may be a big house, it is a simple house. Simply furnished. Simply decorated. Uncluttered. More a cottage than a house. Most of the furniture has been acquired from older family and most is of good quality although there's no consistent "style". The items I'm most fond of, and define "home" to me, are rugs; lots of Persian rugs.
And the location is ideal; walking distance to a village and cycling distance to a small town with a good rail service. We also have wonderful walks and a beach on our doorstep.

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Post by Chad »


I have thought about the trailer too, but I'm leaning towards using shipping containers for a permanent home at some point.

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