Have you ever felt pressured to sign a lease or mortgage when moving to a new town? In 2014 we moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and felt like we had to find a rental over a weekend. Traveling with kids is expensive, and we didn’t have another weekend off together for months to fly back down and look again. I was interviewing all weekend, so Mr. PW and the baby were scouting places with a realtor. Under time pressure, we signed a two year lease for a single family home. At the time we knew it wasn’t right for us, despite being on a greenway. It was more square footage than we needed, or wanted, and too rural, without being rural enough. The realtor convinced us with some hastily flashed Google Maps diredctions that it was just a 19 minute drive to work for each of us (we worked in opposite directions). So we signed and tried to convince ourselves it was right. After all, leasing a house that we had seen but weren’t certain about was better than renting sight unseen, right?
The massive house on the greenway swallowed our family of three. We couldn’t furnish it initially, and had no intention of purchasing furnishings to make it feel like home. Every week we would countdown how much time was left on our lease. And a “19 minute commute” was a total fantasy. The 90 minute drive for me to pick up our daughter from daycare and make it home just in time for bed was draining. It turns out I like spending time with my family. After six months, we agreed it wasn’t the life we wanted to live.
Over lunch Mr. PW and myself decided life’s too short to be unhappy. We searched for places available for rent within 15 minutes of each our jobs. That day we signed a one year lease for a townhome within an apartment community. It was actually the community we had been eyeing as soon as we knew we were moving, but a unit wasn’t available the weekend we flew down to look. Our landlord of the house on the greenway wouldn’t let us out of our two-year lease early. Although he said he was aggressively trying to get another tenant, we perceived it as half-hearted. After all, he was still getting rent from us so what was his motivation?
We were both working full-time (60-80 hours/week) and had an infant. So we decided to fork over a few grand to have movers pack up and move our belongings. Over a weekend, we settled into our new home. Within a month, we finally felt like we were home. We had wonderful neighbors, a playground and an easy short drive to work and entertainment. But, we were paying two rents. Ouch! We tried to budget for 18 months of dual rent, which wasn’t easy with our work load and lack of interest in finance at the time. After another six months, our original landlord let us out of the lease, a year early.
Paying rent for two homes simultaneously was one of the worst financial moves we’ve made. The life mistake was signing a two year lease when our gut was telling us it was wrong; we never should have signed a lease that felt wrong. Having made that mistake, we could have sucked it up for two years or been more aggressive to get out of the initial lease. The only thing that would have been worse than paying two rents, would have been buying the greenway house. That was when we agreed it is imperative that we rent for at least a year when moving to a new town to avoid being as unhappy in a home we owned as we were in the house on the greenway.
The total cost of this stupid mistake was $2500/mo x6 months in extra rent and ~$3000 moving costs. But the rewards of the new home were priceless. The mistake we made was signing a lease when it didn’t feel right; we will never do that again. When we reflect on that year, we’ve never regretted moving out of the greenway home early despite the money we lost. The time we gained spending time together, the friends we made and exploring the town improved our quality of life that we would make the move again.
Have you made a financial blunder with a home purchase or rental? Please comment below with your story.