I’ve been looking at real estate for the last month or so, and off and on for the last couple years. I’ve seen a lot of junk in my price range, and very few that I was really excited about. The housing market in Seattle has finally started to wane a little bit this summer, though, so in the last few weeks I was actually seeing things I could make work. Sort of.

garage430.jpgThere was one place with an amazing garage. A shop, really, 2 garage doors (one extra-tall that would fit a boat, RV, or car lift) and parking inside for at least 2 more. Huge driveway, wide and level. I could have run a small auto repair shop out of that garage. But the house was a grievous atrocity of clutter and filth, walls yellowed with cigarette smoke, carpet matted with pet hair and unidentifiable grime. The attic-turned-bedroom was 20,000 leagues under building safety codes, and the layer of muck coating the entire laundry room left me needing a shower just from looking at it. Plus, there was no dishwasher.

legohouse.jpgThere was another place, with a beautiful yard. Well-kept trees and gardens, big picture windows. A covered patio that screamed summer bbq – in my head I was already buying the hanging lanterns, the tiki torches and the t-bone steaks. Two big brick fireplaces, a grand hearth in the living room and a cozy corner number in the dining. Beautiful hardwoods, copious closets. A dishwasher. But, no garage. And if you don’t understand why that’s a deal-breaker, stop reading now because you’re not my friend anymore.

garagephotos014.jpgThen there was the place that had everything (almost). Huge corner lot, oozing with potential. Fruit trees and old-growth cedars, big paved patio and built-in hot tub. Original hardwoods buried under a weekend of carpet disposal, quirky 1950’s build-in hutches and bureaus. Sweeping shady driveway, and a detached 2-car garage that – after a couple thou$and in updates – would have been the perfect backyard shop. Odd little extras that spawned home improvement ideas galore, territorial views and across the street from an elementary school. Quick commute to downtown. I was ready to make an offer.

Then, math reared its ugly head. Was I really willing to double (and then some) my monthly housing costs? What would that mean to my lifestyle? Sure, it would be a good investment. But what would I be giving up… ?

  • Eating lunch out every day
  • Going to Starbucks 1-3 times a day
  • A cell phone plan with unlimited everything
  • Buying things for my car (hobby #1)
  • Buying computer-y and gadget-y things (hobby #2)
  • Buying camera lenses and photo gear (hobby #3)
  • Never bothering to look at the price of gas. And buying premium. And getting about 4 mpg when I’m really having a good time in the Z.
  • Traveling in 2007 to Montana, and Canada, and Oregon, and Hawaii, and New York. And maybe London.
  • Buying dinner, drinks, etc with my friends without worrying whether the bill was divided absolutely equally or when someone’s going to pay back a few-dollar loan.
  • Spoiling my friends and family, and sometimes myself.

After sleeping on it, I decided life is too short to give up living it for some investment strategy. I’ll continue renting – maybe I’ll even spoil myself with a bigger apartment next spring. Tax writeoffs are great, but happiness is greater. Plus, I hate mowing the lawn.