We bought a house and did lots of renovations. It all cost a lot of money and now I feel bad. This post is an attempt to figure out why.
It’s an old house in Bloomfield, Pittsburgh, PA. It has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a living room, dining room, and kitchen. It has a small back yard that is semi-comically all concrete, and a 1.5 car garage.
Since moving in, we did the following:
- all new paint and 90% new floors
- redo one bathroom
- turn a closet into a third bathroom, incl moving some walls
- add air conditioning (incl ducts)
- rewire the whole house
- insulate the whole house
- replace two windows and a bunch of interior doors
- add a washer/dryer on the 2nd floor
- replace a gas range with an induction one
- reinforcing one joist
- lots of smaller stuff that came up along the way
The house cost us $189k plus fees etc. The renovations also cost about that much. Total investment somewhere around $400k.
That is in some senses a lot: the most I’ve ever paid for anything, and making that much reflects multiple years of work. In some sense, it’s not that much: in the Bay it’d be, what, $2m; even in fancy parts of Pittsburgh probably $700-800k.
- I don’t want to get taken advantage of! Well, that’s ok, I’m not.
- The purchase price seems fair. It was 2018, so we’re not even paying for the post-covid bubble.
- Our contractor is fair. Our budget ballooned from $100k to $158k for the most recent chunk of work, but that’s mostly our own choices to add stuff as we went.
- I don’t want to make stupid decisions that are the same stupid decisions most Americans make. Again, don’t think we are:
- Buying a big house in the suburbs, leading to sedentariness and isolation: nope, this is in a very bikeable/pretty walkable area, and at 1800 sq ft is not huge
- Buying a house we can’t afford: nope
- I don’t want to make stupid decisions because of my own hang-ups.
- Maybe! Maybe instead of spending $800k for a Nice House, we spent $400k for a Kinda Nice House which will continue to bother us with e.g. a kitchen that is very cold.
- The thing about houses, it’s not really money spent as much as money set aside for a while, so if you can afford an $800k house, one could argue that it’s kind of foolish to only buy a $400k house. (kind of.)
- Money leaving bank account feels bad.
- I have learned this is almost always true. Spending $4k on rent, or $40k on a car, or $400k on a house, they all feel god-awful.
- I don’t like gambling, because the losses loom so much larger than gains. Win $100? eh, cool. Lose $100? I’m a god damn moron, what the hell am I doing, why did I just set hard-earned money on fire. So my experience of gambling is an experience of losses. It’s a lurch in my stomach, a feeling of “oh god I’ve f’ed up.”
- Spending money is always kind of gambling: I had $1000, now I spent $1000 on something that hopefully gives me at least 1000 utils.
- Ergo, spending money feels like losing money.
- I should trust this lurching feeling less.
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