The best test out there to tell you if you should buy a home.

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My hunch is that most first-time homeowners buy their first place with the best of intentions. They imagine spending decades in their future abode, establishing roots, and engaging in their community.

But then life happens.

They have more kids than they originally thought they wanted (or discover they can’t have any kids), they get a job offer somewhere else, a loved one gets sick and needs constant care, or maybe they still love their house but hate their neighbors and decide to move. The statistics don’t lie, most people in their 20’s and 30’s, who buy homes, don’t live in said homes long enough to realize much of a financial benefit.

The average length of homeownership is hovering right around seven years.

Many of these homeowners kiss any potential profit goodbye when they pay nearly 10% in commissions and fees. At the end of the day, these homeowners were nothing more than glorified renters who could paint their walls.

So how can you determine if you’ll be able to make homeownership profitable?

Introducing my patent pending Vehicle Litmus Test.

Unless you live in the heart of a major metropolitan area (San Fran, LA, or NYC), I’m going to assume you own a car. (If you don’t, this whole post is pretty much a waste of your time). If you own a car, you should take the test below. If not, then this entire blog post is irrelevant.

/Begin Test

How long have you owned your current car? And how long did you own your previous car?

/End Test

It seems about 99% of people who buy new, or even new-to-them, cars always say something like “Oh, I’m going to drive this car in to the ground. I’ll have it at least 10 years.”

You probably said, or thought, something similar. Didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU!!!!!

But did you actually follow through with that promise?

How you answer that question says a lot. You bought a car thinking you would drive it in to the ground, but then made a total 180 and justified a change for something more fuel-efficient, more modern, larger, smaller, newer, cheaper, faster.

I get it.

Your priorities and desires changed. This is why the vehicle litmus test is so important.

Are you really going to stay in the house long enough to make buying worth it? You like to think you will, but does your track record say otherwise?

Drop a comment below with your answers to the litmus test. Be honest 🙂

My answers to the vehicle litmus test…

Car 1: Bought my Scion tC in 2006 brand new. Eight years later, still love it and have no plans to sell.

Car 2: Our 2006 Honda Pilot purchased in 2012 with 70k miles on it. Bought with intentions to drive to 150,000 miles.

Previous car: Girl Ninja’s 2005 Corolla she bought in 2006. Sold after six years so we could buy the Pilot. An upgrade that was totally unnecessary.

I guess I’ve reached “that” stage in life…


One of the primary selling points of our home was the awesome outdoor living space. We have a good sized patio just off our kitchen that overlooks our big lush backyard, flagstone fire pit area, and the Olympic mountains and Puget Sound. Our patio is awesome, but for the last nine months, it’s been naked. With summer quickly approaching,I had to change this.

We “needed” patio furniture.

As I began the process of patio furniture hunting , I realized I’m no longer as frugal as I once was. Dare I say, I’m starting to act more like I’m 30, and less like I’m 20. 

What’s the difference between a 30-year-old and a 20-year-old you ask?

It means my tastes have shifted from Ikea to West Elm, from thrift stores to Nordstrom, and  for a nice dinner out over fast food.

Quality, not price, is my primary concern.

Yes, I still looked at Ikea, Target, and Home Depot for patio furniture and learned I could get a five piece patio dining set for about $400 at one of these stores. But why would I pay $400 for crap? Okay maybe not crap, but the furniture is inferior to more expensive sets in terms of materials used and build quality.

We love our patio. We love to entertain. We plan on living in our house for many years.

It seemed only logical that we make  the right decision and invest in a high quality patio set that we love. I knew I wanted our set to include metal and wood, but hadn’t seen anything that tickled my fancy. Most patio furniture seems to be either made of all wood, all wicker, or all metal. Like this $900 set that screams “I’m 90 years old and like to have tea parties”

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at Apr 8, 2014, 10.47.08 PM

After countless hours of searching in stores, online, and on Craigslist I finally found a patio set that I loved. It’s called the San Clemente and we found it at World Market. Check out this sexy piece of furniture…

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The table was $400 which I thought was a pretty great price. The chairs, however, were quite expensive. The armless chairs run $120 each. the armed chairs run $130 each.


Multiply that by 6 chairs and things get expensive fast.

I considered buying just the table and trying to find cheaper chairs elsewhere, but then I had a 30-year-old moment, and thought to myself…

“Why the heck would I spend $400 on an awesome table and ruin it with less-than-awesome chairs?”

Not only did I end up buying six of those beautiful chairs you see above, but I bought six chairs WITH arms (the more expensive chair model) because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love having arm rests when they are sitting down?

Total damage for the set came out to $1,300 after finding a 10% off/free shipping coupon online. It’s not an uber fancy $5,000 set like Costco offers, but it’s a far cry from the $200 set I would have bought at Ikea five years ago. And it is by far the most expensive furniture piece we’ve ever purchased (next would be our $888 stainless steel refrigerator).

Growing up is expensive, and I kind of like it. 

Have you noticed yourself graduating up in certain categories as you get older? If so, which ones? In what areas of your life, do you still frugally? (we rent a room out in our house, sacrificing privacy for income)

Should you pay down your mortgage faster?




Glad we settled that debate.

That time being responsible was dumb.

For three years Girl Ninja and I worked diligently to build our savings account up to $100,000. If you didn’t know, we picked $100,000 for two reasons. First, it sounded super sexy. Second, it would give us the ability to put 20% down on a home priced up to $400,000 (leaving $10,000 for closing costs/furniture and $10,000 for our emergency fund).

By April 2013 we hit our $100,000 savings goal. Two months later we put in our first, and only, offer which resulted in us buying our current $350,000 house. We locked in at a 4.125% interest rate, have a reasonable PITI payment, and a renter that pays us $400/mo to live in our basement.

Being responsible came with the following benefits: 

    • We don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance
    • It made our offer very competitive since sellers like cash
    • We had immediate equity in our house the day we moved in.

That said, I’m not convinced responsibility is necessarily the best choice. What would have happened if we started our house hunt when we would have had less than a 20% down payment?


We could have taken advantage of what pretty much everyone knew were the lowest interest rates we’d ever see. Somewhere around 3.3%. Instead, we locked in at 4.125% which means we pay $120/mo more in interest than some of our friends who bought in 2012.

We could have taken advantage of better inventory. By August 2011, we had $50,000 banked. Had we started looking then we would have had 4 months of inventory to pick from. When we actually started looking in early 2013, there was only 1.5 months of inventory. Meaning we had a SIGNIFICANTLY smaller selection of homes to pick from. Which in turn meant every home that we did look at went for OVER asking and had multiple offers on it (including the home we bought).

We could have taken advantage of lower prices. Between 2011 and 2013 prices jumped 10%+. This means we could have gotten a $350,000 for about $315,000 back in 2011. Normally calling the bottom of a market is pretty sketchy, but just about every one and their mother knew in late 2011 early 2012 we were virtually bottomed out.


So as you can see, being responsible is not always the responsible thing to do. In our case, it’s literally costed us tens of thousands of dollars.

Long story short: Being irresponsible isn’t always a bad thing.


Didn’t know our house came with a free pool.

As you all know I live in Seattle. Yes, what you are thinking is true. It literally rains here 400 days a year 😉

seattle seasons rain

Since rains is the norm here, not many people have pools installed on their properties. Girl Ninja and I, however, discovered two weeks ago we were bucking that trend and are now the proud owners of a sweet pool…

…in our basement.


Maybe we can call it a wading pool? A kiddy pool? How much you think I could charge families for swimming lessons/practice?

The good news is, the water issue seems to be isolated to the unfinished section of our basement, as it sits about six inches lower than the finished area. 

Now I’m no handyman, but as far as my investigative skills can tell, the water is coming up through the pores of our concrete floor right where it meets the cinderblock wall going to the crawl space.

When I peeked in to our crawl space I was expecting to see a lot of wet dirt, but the opposite was true. At least the top layer of dirt is dry as a bone (I’f I dug down about 4 feet in the crawl space to reach the depth of the basement floor I’m sure there would be a different story).

After a bit of online reading, I’ve learned that as heavy rains come, the water table rises.

What’s the water table?

Basically, if you dig down deep enough (no matter where you live), eventually you will hit water. That point is the water table. When it rains heavily, the water table level rises. 

water table

It’s rained enough lately that the water table level is now at (or above) the level of our basement. As a result, water is being pushed up through our porous concrete floors/foundation.

Moral of the story

I’m pretty sure we are screwed. 

As far as I can gather, the only way to keep the water table level below our basement during heavy rains is to have a french drain installed in our basement.


And after getting my first bid, the numbers aren’t pretty. Looking like it will cost me upwards of $6,000 after all is said and done. (I have another estimator coming out Tuesday).

This makes me depressed for a few reasons: 

  • I feel like this is a sunk cost. Meaning, we aren’t adding value to the property, simply trying to maintain value. Buyers expect their basement not to leak and aren’t going to pay for a problem that isn’t theirs.
  • It’s really tough getting bids right now. I called one company and the secretary tried to book me for a March 24th appointment. Ummm, Lady, there is water gathering in my basement, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of letting it continue to accumulate for another month or two.
  • This is the first “not fun” money we’ve put in to the house. We’ve dropped $8,000 on our house so far, but it’s all been for beautification purposes. Installing a french drain is probably the least sexy way possible to spend $6,000. Guess those quartz countertops will be put on indefinite pause.

At the end of the day, we don’t have much of a choice but to have the work done. It’s pretty annoying, and YES it totally makes me rethink this whole homeownership thing. When I was renting, the biggest headache I had was the time my landlord didn’t cash my rent check.

Those were the days.

Homeowners: Have you had any unexpected or totally annoying repairs spring up on you?

Renters: Point your finger at me, laugh, and say “Told you so!”


Put emotions to the side and make me move.

So ya know how last blog post I wrote about investing $100,000 in to our house so we could build an attached two-bedroom apartment? That’s still an option, but so is something else…


Yeah, I just said that. 

We bought in July, moved in in September, and here we are five months later, thinking about putting the house on the market. Is that crazy or what? 

You may or may not recall when we put our offer in on the house this summer, we found ourselves in a multiple offer situation. The other buyers offer escalated up to $378,000. Ours only up to a smidge over $350,000.

Fortunately for us, the sellers took our offer. 

Since move in, we’ve spent about $8,000 making our place a little more homey (new appliances, light fixtures, carpet, electrical work, tree service, etc).

And now, here we are, thinking about cashing in on all the sweat equity we’ve put in to the place.

Turn off emotions and profit:

I’ve been watching the local inventory like a hawk and I’m not seeing much competition out there. There are a bunch of houses for sale in our area for $500,000 or more, but it’s slim pickings for buyers with less than $450,000.

Limited supply is always good for a seller.

I’ve run the numbers and decided if we could sell our house for $425,000 (about $70,000 more than we paid for it five months ago), Girl Ninja and I will gladly pack our bags and hand over the keys.

I don’t want to bother our realtor just yet with an appraisal so I decided to test the waters myself by taking advantage of Zillow’s “Make me move” feature. We listed our house at our dream price, $425k.

It’s been on the site for a few days now and I’ve already received a few soft inquiries. Nothing too serious where I think people really want to buy the house, but I’m encouraged people are taking the time to shoot over emails and ask questions about our property.

Is our house worth $425,000? Doubtful. 

But when inventory is low, and buyers are freaking out because they think interest rates will shoot up very soon, the stars just might align in such a way that we find someone willing to pay us our asking price.

If we did end up selling, we would walk away with $103,000 after commissions and fees. Sounds pretty appetizing to me. We’d then likely rent a two bedroom condo somewhere until the next real estate correction comes; three, five, or ten years down the road.

Buy low, sell high, right?

How much cash would you have to walk away with in order to sell your house right now? Everyone has their price, what’s yours? 

The $100,000 addition.

Our house sits on a 15,000 square foot lot in such a way that adding on to the structure shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Here’s a quick picture from our backyard for reference…


You see how much space there is on the left side of our house, that big grassy area that runs by the white picket fence. 

Call me crazy, but I feel like the gods above are practically begging us to spend $100,000 and add some square footage to our abode.

There is enough yard there we should be able add about 700-800sqft of living space.

“But Ninja, why do you need more living space?” -you guys

Short answer, WE DON’T.

Introducing the Additional Dwelling Unit (AKA a mother-in-law):

As many of you know, prior to buying our house, Girl Ninja and I rented a mother-in-law unit above a million dollar home. It was a tiny one bedroom, but had awesome finishes and a view of Puget Sound. Check out how dope the main house was (the staircase running up the right side of the house went to our front door)…

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at Feb 18, 2014, 8.38.54 PM

We paid $1,200/mo (utilities included) to live there. Since our landlord paid cash for his house, he literally had no housing costs. That’s right, our rent completely covered his property taxes and utility expenses. We stayed there for two years and loved every minute of it.

The plan:

If we could add a small, attached, two bedroom apartment (about 800 sqft) to our house for about $100,000 (works out to $125 per sqft), I can’t think of a reason why we shouldn’t. The math seems to work in our favor. 

The math:

Let’s assume Girl Ninja and I pay $30,000 from savings, and borrow $70,000 at 6% on a 30 year term. Our housing payment would increase by about $513 in this scenario, increasing our total PITI obligation to about $2,200/mo.

Since Girl Ninja and I looked at renting in our current neighborhood two years ago, we have an idea where rent prices are, although they’ve probably gone up a bit.

We should fetch between $1,200 to $1,500 a month in rental income from this place.

(leaving us with only a $800 house payment).

Do you get what that means!? 

We would be profiting $700/month minimum right off the bat. What’s more, rent prices over time would increase but our payment wouldn’t.

And don’t forget, the extra bedrooms and bathrooms would increase the overall value of our property. Booya for this idea not being a sunk cost. 

Passive income is very attractive and lord knows I need to start diversifying outside of my retirement funds. This seems like the most reasonable way to do both.

I can rent out 800sqft of our house (while we live in the other 1900sqft) and have over half of our house payment paid by someone else.

Is this not the financial stars aligning before my very eyes?

Someone with knowledge shed some light on the situation. Is this a pretty awesome idea? Or am I totally overlooking something?

side note: Our current roommate/friend is paying us $400/month to live in a small 10ft by 13ft room in our basement (she has full access to our house).