My husband, Bear, and I took a walk this morning to look at a home in a neighborhood across a busy street from where we live.  This home has the size we are looking for.  It has the right number of bedrooms, a finished basement, and updated bathrooms.  It is in the same school district as our current home.  And we can afford it.

The problem, and likely the reason that we can afford it, is that it sits on a street that directly links up with a busy road.  The part of the neighborhood where it sits is not nearly as nice as where we now live.

When we bought our house five years ago, we looked forever.  The day our house came on the market, we left work, toured it, and put a bid on it that night.  Another couple bid on it at the same time, but because we were moving from an apartment and flexible on timing, the seller accepted our offer.  And, then the hard work began.

We spent a full month in the evenings after work removing wallpaper.  We patched walls and painted.  We hired a handyman to pull up the linoleum in the kitchen (which wasn’t difficult because time had worn half of it up) and to replace the old oven.  We started the project of repainting the kitchen cabinets, but we quickly ran out of steam and ended up paying someone to do it for us.  However, within a matter of months, we had a good-looking little house in a fantastic neighborhood.

Now, after having added one child and with the hope of continuing to expand our family in the near future, we are bursting at the seams.  Bear’s toys fill our living room.  At night, I stuff them into a chest that serves as extra seating.  While this works for now, we have no room for a play kitchen or a doll bed, or any of the larger toys that a little girl might enjoy.  Every morning, my husband, Bear, the dog, and I inevitably find ourselves all crammed into the eight by eight foot space that serves as our master bathroom, despite that my husband and I attempt to take turns in front of the mirror and sink.

So, we are planning our next steps.  We can move, but it is doubtful that we’ll find a home that is both large enough and updated in our price range and even more doubtful that we’d find this home in our current neighborhood.  We could buy a house of the right size and for the right price but that needs a lot of TLC, or we could renovate where we currently live.  Lastly, we could move to the suburbs and buy a fantastic house for the same price, but then, we’d leave all of our connections to this part of the city (church, friends, etc.) and increase our daily commuting time.  This is our least favorite option, particularly since my husband works late every night, although looking at those giant, new houses on realtor’s websites makes it a hard option to ignore.

Contrary to her best interest, our realtor thinks that we should renovate our current home.  According to her, we live in the perfect location and will not find anything better in our price range.  She is probably right.  We spoke with an architect however who told us that expanding our home to add bedrooms and a larger master bathroom would increase the price of our house to the extent that we’d need to expand the kitchen and move the laundry room to the main floor.  Unfortunately, this is not something that we can afford.  Even with our original plan – additional bedrooms in the now-attic and a larger master bath – would have to be done in phases.

According to our realtor, if you have a budget, you often have to live by the “80% rule.”  You buy a home with 80% of what you want and live without the 20%.  Right now, we are trying to decide whether we can live with location being part of our 20%.

My husband and I returned for our walk feeling sad.  This other house has what we need, but we would give up our location for a busy street and more traffic.  We will be looking at other houses next week with our realtor, but we have yet to see anything on the market that suits our needs and desires.  However, we are not certain that we are ready financially or mentally for a major renovation project.

I’d welcome thoughts from anyone reading this.  Generally, do you prefer location over size?  What did you look for in buying your own home?  If given our options, what would you do?

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