Becoming Debt Free - Part 4

Elizabeth Burns Design | Our debt free story

**If you missed other posts, check out part one, part two, and part three!**

April finally arrived, our tenants moved out, and we moved out of my parents house back into the Brooklyn House. For 2.5 years we had thought about this moment, and sadly, it was not such a happy time. I will spare you the drama and gruesome details, but I'll tell you that when we moved back in, we were not alone. We had some new house guests: rodents. We spent the first two months back battling and reclaiming our house from critters and repairing the damage the renters had done on the house.

I see some yard cleanup in our future!

I see some yard cleanup in our future!

There used to be a sidewalk down there...

There used to be a sidewalk down there...

While being landlords didn't go as smoothly as we hoped (another story for another day), it did allow the Brooklyn House to grow tremendously in value during those couple of years. The downtown area it is located in became super trendy and popular, and our tiny little house became a lot more valuable than when we bought it. 

One night after an exhaustively long day of repairing the Brooklyn House, Brian and I were sitting on the front porch, looked at each other, and decided we didn't want to be here anymore. Most of our neighbors were pretty unfriendly, the area had become super crowded, we had long commutes to work, and we hardly had any privacy (the house is literally about 8' from the street and our neighbors' house is 5' from ours). As much as we loved our little Brooklyn House, we knew it was time to sell. The market was hot and the house no longer suited us at this stage in life.

Oh hey, street! We love having you so close (not)

Oh hey, street! We love having you so close (not)

The same view as above, but all cleaned up after the tenants left. Easier said than done.

The same view as above, but all cleaned up after the tenants left. Easier said than done.

From there, things just kind of fell into place. We met with a realtor (the best in Raleigh, in my opinion!), got busy painting, cleaning, fixing, and staging. (You can see the final photos of Brooklyn House here.) The house went on the market in early June, and after a few offers, we were under contract five days later at over list price. 

This was our first time selling a home so the process was a little nerve wrecking. I stress-ate a lot of pizza during this time. ;) With a 100+ year old house, you just don't know what an inspector will find. Our buyers were first time homeowners as well so I wasn't sure if they would get scared off by the maintenance that comes with an older house. Luckily, the inspections went okay and before we knew it, it was closing day. Hip hip hooray!

At closing, we were able to meet the buyer and he was a super nice, young guy who complimented us on all of the work we did to the house. It honestly wasn't sad at all knowing a young couple just like us when we bought it was going to love on this little house like we did. Something else that made it less sad was the big payoff we got from the equity in our house. :)

The first green $ shows when we bought it, the second one when we sold!

The first green $ shows when we bought it, the second one when we sold!

By this time, we had paid off our car loans and I had worked diligently on paying extra on my student loans so that amount had dwindled quite a bit. Between our mortgage balance, student loans, and construction loan, we had about $190,000 worth of debt. By selling the Brooklyn House, we were able to pay off all of these debts as well as create a nice nest egg in our savings account. We never had a mortgage on the Myrtle House, only a construction loan, so we also now own the newly renovated house absolutely outright.

I can see how some people might think, "sure, if I inherited a house, I could be debt-free too." While we are so very grateful that we were essentially gifted the Myrtle House and all of it's old house character, it actually probably would have been much cheaper (and easier) to buy another house in the area that needed less work. The small town of Morganton, NC where the Myrtle House is located has very low real estate prices. You can purchase a nice home for under $100,000 (which was our renovation cost and doesn't include the sweat labor and time we put into a full-blown renovation). So even if you don't inherit a house, you can own your home outright, too. Maybe consider moving to a smaller town like we did where housing is way more affordable.

Honestly, I thought I would have this big moment of crying and overwhelming joy by becoming debt free, but for me, it was more of just a new sense of internal peace. I knew that if something happened, we would be okay. We would always have a place to live (as long as we paid our taxes) and our household income didn't have to be quite so high now in case times got tough or we decided to have a family and one of us wanted to stay home. We traded possessions for peace of mind.

Next steps for us are to start focusing heavily on our retirement accounts and think about how we can use some of our freed-up income for giving/gifting. Another goal is to renovate/flip a house as a business venture (one we hopefully do not have to live in during construction!) which is exciting. Lastly, I may splurge and actually pay someone for a haircut. My DIY cuts are getting a little sad looking. ;)

Thanks for sticking through to the end with me, friends! I hope these posts were of some use to you. Can we start a little discussion? What are your tips for eliminating debt? I am sure others (myself selfishly included) would love to hear!

PART 1
PART 2
PART 3