The New House

If everything goes OK, I'm buying a house in SW Houston on Halloween 2001, a little less than two weeks from now. A pretty odd -- even bitterly ironic -- story, all in all.

The house itself is cool. It's located in Northfield, a subdivision in SW Houston about 10 miles west of the Texas Medical Center, where I work. It's 23 years old, one story, 2600 square feet, four bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, with a 2-car detached garage, and a pool and a hottub. For that matter, the Orthodox Jewish couple from whom I'm buying it installed two dishwashers and two ovens when they purchased it two years ago, in order that they could keep a modern, up-to-date kosher kitchen.

It's perfect, in other words, for entertaining, one of the things Jeremy and I had the most fun doing in our two years here together.

Bitterly ironic because...

The whole seven years we were together Jeremy and I had to paddle rather furiously to keep our financial heads above water. Neither of us was very talented at money management and then there were life circumstances. We got together less than a year after Janet and I had separated, when she and I were trying to run two households on something less than 1 1/2 incomes (and a librarian's income at that.) Jeremy, meanwhile, was a young lab tech trying to earn a living and a master's degree in public health at the same time. Less than a year after we got together his grant-supported lab tech job went away (the funding ran out) and he spent a tight 18 months working as a self-employed computer contractor / temporary employee. And I spent more than a year working a 20 hour a week part-time job at a local bookstore, supplementing (at $6 an hour) my librarian's income.

In both cases the overall results were beneficial. Janet and I figured out a way to lead our lives separately but supportively, Jeremy made a successful transition from lab work to doing what he really enjoyed most, namely working with computers in a healthcare setting. Still, we managed to accumulate a very hefty mountain of credit card debt, which, thanks to various forms of jiggery-pokery on Jeremy's part, ended up in his name. Eventually, he threw in the towel and went to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, declared himself in debt repayment mode, cut up his credit cards (but not mine), and began the long process of paying it all off -- $600 a month for 3 1/2 years.

Three and half years later, we did pay it off -- just a couple of weeks after he passed away. And because we were each other's insurance beneficiaries, about six weeks after he passed away I had more money in hand than I've ever had at one time before -- or I ever will again, knowing me.

He worked so hard, dammit, and I did, too. I don't mind spending it -- I know that's what he'd want me to do -- but I'm damned if I enjoy spending it without him.

I'm determined, first and foremost, not to fritter it away. The first thing I did once I had the money in hand was repay friends and family who helped out immediately after Jeremy passed away, then I paid off the credit card debt we'd built up in MY name, and then the car loan. And then I started looking for a house. I figure it's the best investment I'm ever likely to make and it makes a whole lot more sense than paying $12,000 a year rent.

A big chunk of the remainder will go toward the downpayment on the house, a few thousand more on the closing costs, and probably another $4-5K to upgrade the pool and hottub, both of which need some work (but much cheaper than spending $30-40K to put in a new one!) Which won't leave a whole lot but maybe enough to serve as a nest egg or a college fund for David and Emily.

Sigh.

Assuming we close on the 31st of this month, I'll lease the house back to the sellers for a month (they have two school age daughters and want to stay through Thanksgiving), then move in on December 1st. I plan on having a roommate, but unlike the last one, this one has got to have a job and a proven track record as a successful tenant -- and be someone I know I can get along with! Fortunatley, I already have 2-3 acquaintances who have expressed an interest. I think I'll be set.

Well, I'll be missing the one thing that would make it perfect, but there's not much I can do about that, is there?

RPJ


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