The MapleMoney Show » How to Spend Money Wisely » Real Estate

Adventures in Home Ownership, with J.D. Roth

Presented by Wealthsimple

Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.

Do you have a great story to tell about your experiences as a homeowner? Your house is the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, so it’s no surprise if there are a few adventures along the way.

J.D. Roth is my guest this week. Well known in the personal finance and financial independence communities, J.D. is the founder of Get Rich Slowly, a long-standing personal finance blog named one of the best by Time magazine. I sat down with J.D. to chat about , his experience as a homeowner over the past four years, and why he recently decided to sell his dream property and relocate to a different city.

J.D. starts by giving us the backstory about the house he and his girlfriend, Kim, have owned for the past four years. According to J.D., their reasons for selling were twofold – the house was the source of mental anguish and financial stress. So, they took advantage of a strong seller’s market, the perfect time to get rid of an imperfect home.

In addition to selling their house, J.D. and Kim decided to relocate from Portland, Oregon, to a new city, one that’s a better fit for their lifestyle. You could say that they outgrew Portland, or maybe Portland outgrew them? To hear the full story, you’ll need to listen to this week’s episode!

Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor Wealthsimple will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights, and the environment. To get started with Socially Responsible Investing, head over to Wealthsimple today!

Episode Summary

  • How J.D.’s house took a toll on his mental health
  • A well-maintained older home can last for many years
  • Selling his house gave J.D. an opportunity to re-evaluate
  • J.D. explains what his present situation looks like
  • What’s making J.D. nervous about getting back into the housing market
  • Factors to consider when choosing a community to live in

Read transcript

Do you have a great story to tell about your experiences as a homeowner? Your house is the biggest purchase you’ll ever make so it’s no surprise that there are a few adventures along the way. J.D. Roth is my guest this week. Well known in the personal finance and financial independence communities, J.D. Roth is the founder of, Get Rich Slowly, a longstanding, personal finance blog named one of the best by TIME magazine. I sat down with J.D. to chat about his experience as a homeowner over the past four years and why he recently decided to sell his dream property and relocate to a different city. 


Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Do you prefer to invest in socially responsible companies? If so, our sponsor, Wealthsimple, will help you build a portfolio that focuses on low carbon, cleantech, human rights and the environment. To get started with socially responsible investing, head over to today. Now, let’s chat with J.D.…


Tom: Hi J.D. Welcome back to the Maple Money Show. 


J.D.: Thanks, Tom. It’s good to be here. 


Tom: Thanks for being on again. The reason I wanted to have you on is you’ve been going through a bit of an interesting time this year. Just in our own conversations, I know you really struggled with your previous house where it became more than a house. It kind of weighed you down mentally. Can you tell us about that a bit? What that looked like and why that wore you down that much? 


J.D.: Yeah, it’s kind of like an albatross. Just to give a bit of background, my girlfriend and I—her name’s Kim. Kim and I took a 15 month RV trip around the United States back in 2015, 2016. At the time, we were renting a nice penthouse deluxe condominium here in Portland, Oregon. It was on the river and it looked into downtown. It was a great place, but when we took the RV trip and got home, we found that our priorities had changed. We got a dog—a puppy on the RV trip. And when we got back, we got a couple of kittens. And living in this luxury condo on the fourth floor is not a great place to raise your animals. Plus, we wanted some space. We wanted to live in the country so we bought a home in the country. We spent a few weeks looking for a house. We found this great property. The property was amazing. It was like a park. When you look at real estate listings, they often talk about park-like settings and that’s just kind of marketing BS. But this was really a park like setting. It was amazing. The house was okay. It was kind of quirky but we decided we could deal with the house. We had the home inspected, as you’re supposed to do. The inspectors said, “You know, there’s so much wrong with this house, I wouldn’t buy it. In particular, I think the foundation is failing.” So instead of following the inspectors advice, we called in a structural engineer and had the structural engineer inspect the foundation. And the structural engineer said, “No, no, it’s fine.” We also had a foundation repair contractor come in and look at it and he said it was fine too. So we thought, what does the inspector know? We bought the house and paid $442,000 for it. We then put over $150,000 in repairs and upgrades into the house over the next four years. So essentially, we had $600,000 into it. We loved living there. It was great. It was fantastic until about a year ago. It was about this time last year, things just started to go wrong. Even after we had pumped so much money into the house, we just started noticing little things going on with the place. The little things kind of became bigger things and it became this big weight on me mentally. We had put so much money into this house. We had this fancy carport built and the carport began to settle or something. Almost as though it was too heavy. So we had the contractor come out and make repairs. He made repairs to the carport and we thought, “Okay, good. It’s fine, it’s fixed,” but it turns out when we went to sell the house this year, when the buyers had the home inspected, their inspector said that carport is a problem. So, again, there were issues going on. There were just so many issues with the house. It was taking a toll on my mental health. Tom and I are business partners so he gets to hear me complain about my mental health when it’s going bad. He hears me complain every week. And it was driving me nuts so we managed to sell the house. We told the buyers, these are all the things that are going on. This is everything we know about the place. If you want to take it on, great. And their inspector told them, “Don’t buy it.” The real estate agent told them not to buy it. But in the end, they decided, just like we had four years ago, that they loved the space so much they were willing to take it on. Because it’s a great space, a great property. And the house itself, if you have enough money to make the repairs, it could be a great place too. So that’s a very long answer to your question about why we moved. But it’s because there was just so much going on that it was dragging me down. It was really like wearing a weighted vest every day. It was just dragging me down. 


Tom: With my talks with you it started to sound like it was a full-time job. You had to constantly be fixing this fence and dealing with that crack. There was always something happening where I would always say, “Just get a newer house and you’ll have none of those problems.” I don’t know if I’m being a bad homeowner, but I feel like I mow the lawn and clean the house and that’s sort of it for maintenance. 


J.D.: So you live in a newer house, right? When was your home built? 


Tom: 2011. 


JD: And see, ours was built in 1948. And it was on a hillside. It was on a slope. 


Tom: I still have bad memories of my townhouse, the first property I owned. It was built in 1977 and the things that would break… We had a hot water tank, the sort of emergency valve on it went and it flooded the basement. We also found out that the wiring was really old and made of some different kind of metal. I don’t remember what that means or which metal it was. So there are all these things in my head when I hear “old property.” I think of all the built in problems and also future problems. And that was in 1977 so anything earlier than that wouldn’t even be on my radar. 


J.D.: And the thing of it is, it doesn’t have to be the case. It’s true that older homes are probably going to have more problems. But if the homeowners are vigilant and perform regular maintenance, a house can last a very, very long time—hundreds of years, really. But in my case, the owners before us, were firm believers in deferred maintenance. They didn’t do anything to take care of the place. They had lived there 17 or 18 years. If you move into a house and don’t touch it for 17 or 18 years, things are going to start falling apart. And that’s what happened. So essentially, Kim and I threw $150,000 into making all of these repairs. We got it most of the way to where it needed to be but not all the way. We have really high hopes that the people who bought it from us will be able to get the house where it needs to be because it could be a spectacular place. But we just didn’t have the resources to do it. And that kind of brings up a second reason that I wanted to sell. It wasn’t just because of my mental health. It was also because of the financial strain it was putting on me because I’m self-employed and financially independent. I had decided to purchase the home with cash and made all the repairs with cash. I did not take on a mortgage. But what this ended up doing was putting me into this cash crunch where, looking at the money I have available to get me to retirement—I’m 52 and a half now, and in the United States, once you reach 55 and a half, you can start drawing down your retirement funds. I have plenty in my retirement but I only had a little bit in my regular investment accounts to get me to retirement. Basically, I had $2,000 a month to live on. I could probably make that work, but it doesn’t buy me the lifestyle that I like and that I’d enjoy. I was beginning to feel really pinched so one of the motives for selling the house was to find another place that we could buy, take on a mortgage and then free up some of this cash to cover my living expenses until I get to retirement age. 


Tom: The money used to repair, the $150,000, did that come out of investments? I’d hate to pile onto this house but there’s also an opportunity cost there then too. Having that money out of the market is an additional expense in this whole thing. 


J.D.: Yeah, it did come out of investments. You’re absolutely right. And I hadn’t considered the whole opportunity cost thing. But you’re absolutely right. That’s one thing that we’re considering and we can touch on this when we get to it but it’s one of the factors as we’re looking to figure out how big of a mortgage to take on now, the opportunity costs. Interest rates are 2.75 percent here in the United States and theoretically, we can earn more than that by investing the money so I would like to take on a smaller mortgage if possible for a variety of reasons. And one of those is the investment returns. 


Tom: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense to do that. When interest rates are so low, whether you’re borrowing to invest or in your case, using the cash to invest, either option is something that puts you in a better direction than where were you found yourself, where you’re spending all this money on repairs and taking money out of investments at probably a bad time. Yes, it would pile on quite a bit. 


J.D.: Well, when you take the money out of your investment accounts, you pay taxes on it so that there’s another factor. Financially owning that home was like that Tom Hanks movie, The Money Pit. It really became the money pit for us. I was just over it. I think the final straw came when we had an ice storm here in the Portland area this past February. A lot of people had some severe damage. We only had minor damage. As part of that, I called out the foundation contractor again because I was worried about the house. And again, he said the same thing. He said we were fine but if we wanted, for $10,000, they could do this reinforcement underneath. I got to thinking about it because I did want that reinforcement but I was just done with this—done spending money on this. I’m being bled dry by the house. It’s a money pit. Get me out of here. 


Tom: So you made this decision to start looking at it like the “sunk cost” it was and not the investment of owning a home. What did you do next? I’ll lead with this because I know what you did and I like it. You decided to step back. A lot of times when you’re selling a house, you have to make the decision in the same month of what you’re going to buy next and be ready to move from one to the other and everything. But you took a different path with that. 


J.D.: Yeah, in a way we were fortunate because right now in 2021, the housing market is crazy in the US. I think it’s crazy in Canada too but it’s especially crazy here around Portland. It is nuts. When I began to hear these stories in February and early March that the market is going crazy, I thought, at times like this it’s possible to sell a home that has flaws like ours had. When it’s a buyer’s market, it’s much more difficult to do that. So I said, “Okay, let’s just get out of here and see if we can sell it.” And we started looking around for places to rent. It was a little bit complicated because we have beasts. We have our menagerie. We have three outdoor cats and a dog so we had to find a place to live and it’s kind of crazy. We got lucky. We were so scared that we were going to find a place to live but the very first place we looked it ended up the guy was really chill about renting to us with our animals. It’s expensive, as you know. We’re paying $2,300 a month to live in a 1,000 square foot home that’s old and beat up. In many ways it’s like the house we just sold. And she was willing to give us a short 6 month lease that renews month to month. So we decided to put the home on the market, move into this small house, rent it for 6 months or however long it takes while we look around and figure out what is it we want to do with our lives. We took it as an opportunity to kind of reevaluate everything. What do we want to do with our work life? Where do we want to “retire?” Where do we want to be? Where do we want to live? We’ve been here almost 3 months now, parked in this rental and we’re just taking our time, looking around, figuring out what city we want to live in, and in what kind of home. 


Tom: While you’re taking your time with this, have you considered possibly taking more time and seeing if the market cools? Obviously, I don’t want to promote trying to time a market, but it would be tempting that if you sold while the market was hot, you could wait until seeing if it comes down a little better where you may have more selection and might pocket some extra money by buying at a better price. 


J.D.: Yeah, and that’s a terrific question. We absolutely have talked about this. Kim and I, we tell ourselves we are in no rush to buy. And yet at the same time, I think we all have memories of what the housing bubble was in the mid-2000s. I’m assuming that you guys had a housing bubble in Canada in the mid-2000s just like the United States did. 


Tom: Yes, we didn’t have the same decline that you guys had in 2008, 2009. I’m no real estate expert, but ours was more reactionary to what was going on in the US. We didn’t have the same subprime mortgage issue underlying. It was more like a blip that, luckily, I took advantage of by moving into a house at that time. 


J.D.: So that was the subprime mortgage crisis. There was an underlying issue creating the bubble in housing prices in the United States during the mid-2000s. The current market, you could argue that it’s Covid related. I’m sure some of it is. Some of it might be supply chain related, which is preventing the new houses from being constructed. But I’ve done a tremendous amount of research over the past few months because I’m wanting to know if we should wait, and the more research I do, the more I think that maybe this is not a bubble. Or if it’s a bubble, it’s a minor bubble. This may just be indicative of a larger inflationary cycle that we’re going through where prices for everything are going up. I have some worries, don’t get me wrong. I’m very nervous that we’re going to buy a house and then prices are going to drop 20 or 30 percent. That could very well happen. But based on what I’ve been reading about, there are a lot of different factors driving this, a primary one being outside investors coming in and bidding places up. This is like institutional investors who are wanting to buy residential property because it provides good returns and it drives the prices up for everybody else. All I’m trying to say is, while I have some worries about this being a bubble, the more research I do, the more I’m convinced we are okay getting in now because there are going to be price drops. They’re not going to be severe and they won’t last long. 


Tom: I guess it’s no different than investing traditionally in stocks or ETFs. If you buy something and it drops, it’s kind of just on paper. When I moved into this current house, thankfully, the market was already starting to drop, so again, it was just dumb luck. I always move at the right time, apparently on these dips, when I’m moving into a bigger house. But it continued to drop here in Alberta, especially. Our oil market was down. It continued to drop, and I just didn’t look at it. I would hear people in the office saying, “Oh, this price went down,” and now, ultimately, my house is worth more than I bought it for so who cares about what happens in the years in between? It’s kind of just ups and downs.


J.D.: And for us, a lot of times I get hung up on the price. We just made an offer for a house on Sunday. The offer we made was just outrageous when you just look at the raw numbers. But I have to remind myself that we are not throwing that money away. It’s not like you’re buying a car or buying a jacket or something and the money is gone. You’re moving the money from one asset class to another. In my case, I’m moving it from cash and/or stocks into real estate. It’s a mental hurdle I have to get over it because when I look at how expensive houses are right now, it’s easy to just freak out. 


Tom: I’m interested in how you do this. For me, I keep a little network spreadsheet. I always just keep my house at the value I paid for it. Again, not worrying about the last five years of ups and downs and trying to find the right site that’ll give me a good estimate. I include it in my net worth, but I just include what I paid for it so I can see the difference of a mortgage coming down while the house stays equal. Do you include it as a net worth item and how do you look at that? Do update it? Do you get into all that? 


J.D.: This is another great question. As you know, I’m very active in the world of the financial independence community, and this is one of the points of contention; do you include your home’s value in your net worth or not? There are people who want to say, no, you don’t. But net worth has a definition. It’s everything you own, minus everything you owe. So, yes, your house is part of your net worth at its current value. Yes, I included in there. And there’s no issue with a person running some calculations that don’t include the home value but that’s not your net worth. And you can’t talk about it at your net worth because it’s not. Your net worth includes the value of your home and what you own. So for me, it’s kind of hard to figure out what a home is worth. In the US we have Zillow. I think you guys have it in Canada too. And Zillow gives a rough estimate as to what it thinks the home is worth. It’s not precise, but what I would do is on the first of every month I go in and look at what Zillow thinks my house is worth and that’s what I put into my net worth spreadsheet. 


Tom: Yeah, we have Zillow here in Canada, but I have a feeling it’s not fully featured. Maybe they’re just pulling the real estate listings. Two Canadian options I like are ZoLo and Zoocasa. Everything starts with Zed’s. Both of those two sites do similar things where they’ll give you estimates and certainly help you look at houses in a more detailed way than It’s sort of a source format, I think. You’ve decided you’re going to rent and you’re going to find the right house for you. How did you decide this that? You mentioned you went from a penthouse that was super walkable to out almost in the middle of nowhere, where you had the huge space. But you can walk to anything and you weren’t really out in the middle nowhere. I know it was a quick bike ride I think you were doing to some location so it wasn’t terrible. But how are you weighing that out? It’s not like you can get a huge acreage that just happens to be right beside a grocery store in most places. 


J.D.: That’s the dream. That’s a great question. Well, so the first thing we had to do is decide what region of the country do we want to live in? And that wasn’t actually that tough because we love the Pacific Northwest. I guess for you in Canada it would be the Pacific Southwest. But it’s the area around Vancouver and Seattle and Portland. We love that area. It’s where I grew up. It’s just beautiful. It’s temperate. It’s nice. So that was easy to decide. The tough part was figuring out, where we wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest. We’re in Portland now. And although we love Portland, it’s big. It is outgrowing the infrastructure so there are all sorts of issues with traffic and crime. And because the home prices are so high, it’s leading to homeless issues. There’s not enough low-cost housing so people have been forced out on the streets. There are a lot of issues going on. Both Kim and I were raised in small towns. We grew up in small towns so we miss elements of living in small towns. But small towns have their downsides. They’re very insular communities. They don’t offer some of the amenities larger cities do. So what she and I decided after a lot of discussion is that we would like to live in a medium-sized town. Maybe 50 to 100,000 people. We spent from early May until now, the end of July, driving around Oregon and Washington, looking at the various towns that fit our size profile, trying to figure out if we could live there. We came up with two or three that we really liked. And ultimately, we settled on a town called Corvallis, Oregon, where one of the two major universities in Oregon is. It’s about 50,000 people. Right next door is another town that’s 50,000 people so you’ve got 100,000 people in the area. And it offers enough of the cultural stuff we want without being overwhelming. You’re never going to have a traffic jam in Corvallis, but you will have access to all the things that you’re used to in a big city. Maybe not a professional sports team, but there’s college sports to go and support. We’ve been looking at Corvallis now for the past two weeks. 


Tom: If you move there, are you still going to keep your soccer team’s season tickets? 


J.D.: That’s right. Tom knows that I have season tickets for the Portland Timbers. I’ve had them for—this is my 11th year. The answer is no. I was going to give them up even if we stayed in Portland but that has nothing to do with anything other than I’m disgruntled with the front office. But I’m over it. I’ll still support the team, but I’ll pay for some deluxe cable package. It’ll be a 10th of the price that my tickets ended up being and I’ll be able to enjoy it from a home. 


Tom: You’re not so far away that you can’t go in occasionally and watch a game. 


J.D.: Absolutely. It’s actually an hour and a quarter from the place I’m renting. But it’s an hour and a half to downtown Portland from Corvallis. 


Tom: I have the same problem. I moved from Edmonton to Airdrie, which is basically Calgary, and I’m not prepared to switch sports teams. Where I would see most of the Edmonton Eskimos Games or Edmonton Elks now, is a rare thing. But it’s not too bad to drive up two and a half hours and you can still go see a game. 


JD: So going from Calgary to Edmonton about like going from Portland to Seattle,? 


Tom: Probably, yeah, it’s doable. It’s not something you have to fly for or anything. The other thing is you mentioned what you were looking for in a location. I’m a huge fan of the 70,000 population we have here. We’re right outside of a big city where you can get to everything. I’m sure I’ve said before on this podcast that the two biggest things I want in a location (as silly as they might sound) is I’m about 15 minutes away from an international airport and maybe 10 minutes away from a Costco. I really like keeping that close. And sometimes when it’s a cold winter day, I start looking at where else in Canada could I live? And it’s hard for me to find anything better. I look at Victoria (on Vancouver Island) and all the places are older, way more expensive. You’re trapped on an island and there’s higher provincial taxes. When I start weighing all these things out—and all my family’s on this side of the country so I don’t really want to look at going way out to the Maritime provinces. Every time I end up looking, I just realize I’m probably best off where I am. 


J.D.: Yeah, it’s tough because you can make a list of everything you want, but no place is perfect. I’m not convinced there’s any such thing as a perfect house or a perfect location or perfect property. There’s always going to be drawbacks. In our case, we want a place for our animals to be safe, which means no busy streets, preferably a little space. I want to be able to walk to the grocery store. It seems silly, but if the grocery store is 15 minutes away, I am much more inclined to walk. I love walking up every day, buying the food to make the stuff for dinner and walking back and making dinner. I enjoy that. I also love being able to walk the dog through the neighborhood. Ideally, I would be able to walk to other things as well, such as restaurants or maybe things to do. When we lived in that condo that I mentioned (5 years ago now) the location on that was amazing. Every day, about 3:00 pm, I would walk 10 minutes to the organic grocery store, buy dinner, come home, fix it. If we wanted to go to a bar or restaurant, it was a 10 or 15 minute walk. We could walk to a movie theater. We could walk to just about everything we wanted in the condo but we couldn’t have the pets. I mean, we had them, but they were living a miserable life. 


Tom: I don’t want you to wish for anything to happen to your pets but if they weren’t around, would you consider either not having pets or maybe more of an indoor, penthouse-friendly pet like a little tiny dog or something like that? 


J.D.: Absolutely. I think that it is totally non-difficult to buy condos or townhomes in locations that offer exactly what Kim and I want. And you could even have two cats in a condo or a small dog, but it’s almost impossible to have what we had. Our cats like to be outside. That’s the bottom line. And we want them to be outside. And you’re not going to have that in a condo unless you’re on the ground floor or a townhome. And they’re usually busy streets or in busy locations. So, yes, the short answer is yes. We would absolutely consider it. 


Tom: But you have what you have. We covered the location side of what you want, but do you have any house-specific things? Like for me, I like the tech side. If I could have built in Internet cables throughout the house and all these fancier things… I certainly want air conditioning, the attached garage. I know you like hot tubs. 


J.D.: Right. Well you’ve got your home theater now. 


Tom: Yes, so do you look at these kind of items? Just like my theater or your hot tub, those are things that can be done after in most cases. 


J.D.: There are things that can be done after, especially if we purchase a cheaper home. Buying a less expensive home allows us to do some of the improvements that we want if they’re not there. But really, what I’m trying to do is consider what our lifestyle has been like, what we know we were lacking at the last house, what we’re lacking here in this rental, and what we’d like. I know that we need our bedroom. Kim wants a guest room and we both want offices. She’s willing for the guest room to be her office. So we need three bedrooms or at least three rooms that can operate like that. Although Kim and I haven’t talked about this, I think we need a fourth bedroom or fourth space that we can use for things like yoga, my stationary bicycle in the winter or just to kind of relax. I call it the yoga room in my mind, even though I haven’t done yoga in years. It makes it sound like I do yoga and I don’t. But I know that Kim and I both want to. So I figure we need to have a fourth bedroom or four space to do that. And Kim wants an open kitchen. These are the things that we consider as far as buying the house. Now, as you know, I’m very drawn to this Japanese style and esthetic so I wish that our homes in the US had more of that, and they don’t. Some of the older homes do the so-called “midcentury, modern style”, that’s very, very popular right now. They tend to look a little bit Japanese or Asian, if you will so I’m drawn to those. But so too, unfortunately, are many other people. I told you that we’d made an offer at a home this past weekend. We didn’t get it. The home got many offers. We don’t know how many yet. We don’t know what it went for. We know that we went above what we offered. But part of the appeal of the place was it had this kind of midcentury, modern, Japanese feel going for it. 


Tom: You mentioned earlier that right now one of the problems with building is just some supply issues. Have you considered building a house? I’ve never done it, but it feels like it would be the best way if you’re really dialed into saying, “These are the 100 things we want in a house.” That way you could kind of get it all done in one go. 


J.D.: You know, we have considered it. I’m glad you brought this up, actually, because it’s been about two weeks now that we have our real estate agent in Corvallis. Here in Portland we have a friend that we’ve used many, many times. We like her, but she’s not familiar with the market in Corvallis so we hired somebody else. We haven’t brought up building as a possibility, even though Kim and I both do think it is a possibility. That might be something to chat with him about. And being in circumstances where we’re renting this home, that gives us the flexibility to be able to do that if it’s something we wanted to do. But the supply chain issues have really driven up the cost of raw materials right now. I haven’t heard over the past 2 months whether they’ve moderated at all, but I don’t think they have. 


Tom: It feels like to me, if you were to go that route, you’re in one of the better positions to do it in that you’re already renting a place. Part of the reason building was never a thing for me is it always seems like I’m moving right then and there because I need to move for a job or to get a bigger house because we had a kid on the way. There was always a reason we had to move rather immediately and not have this time in between where you can take the time to build something and wait for that to actually be completed. Is there anything else you’ve learned from this so far? I know it’s still in progress, but just this whole process of getting away from one house, taking your time to find what will hopefully be the right house for you going forward. 


J.D.: That’s a good question, too. I don’t know. In the past, when I’ve purchased homes, it’s been more emotional than logical. This is the fifth time I’ve purchased a home since 1993. It’s about every 6 years. I don’t know if I’m doing the math exactly right, but in 1993, my (then) wife and I purchased our first home. It was a pretty emotional decision. The second home was absolutely an emotional decision. I just fell in love with the listing. There was no logic behind it whatsoever. This is back when I was no good with money. On paper we could afford it, but in reality, once we bought it, I just felt like I was drowning in debt. And that was actually what led to my turnaround and led to be founding, Get Rich Slowly, was buying this second home, making the emotional purchase. Then after my divorce, when I purchased the condo, that was relatively emotional too because it was an amazing space. It was just so gorgeous. I wanted it. And then the house that we just sold, that was the fourth place that I purchased and that was—even though we had been relatively logical and had been good with my spreadsheets trying to figure out what place was best, that was a pretty emotional decision. Otherwise, I would not have overridden the home inspector. This time around, I feel like I’ve learned from all these previous experiences and I’m trying to be much more logical about things. I’m relying on my spreadsheets that I have in front of me so that when we found this home that I just described, it was kind of midcentury, modern or Japanese looking, we loved it. Don’t get me wrong. There was the emotional element, with Kim especially. She was just emotionally attached to the house. But for me, I had to sit down. I spent all Sunday just going through my numbers, looking at different permutations such as down payment amounts and how we could restructure things? . Ultimately, I came up with a number that we offered. I’ll give you something actually concrete. This house was listed for $649,000. We offered $777,777. It was supposed to be like a slot machine. We were trying to make it an attractive, funny number. We said no repairs. We were going to do an inspection but we weren’t going to ask for any repairs to be done. And we would also allow a $50,000 appraisal gap. So if it appraised for, say, $730,000 ($47,000 less than what we were offering), I would just make up the difference. And we still lost it. That is how crazy the market is right now. We offered $128,000 over asking with all these things and we we’re still not the winning bid. So it’s just nutty right now. But I was okay with it because I knew that was absolutely the most I could possibly offer from a logical perspective. Even though I love the place, I wasn’t devastated. Kim was a little crushed. But now we’re onto the houses that are available. We’re just accepting it and moving on. 


Tom: Yeah, well, I really like that you’re taking this time to do it right. It reminds me when we talked about emotional purchases. I don’t know if it was emotional or not because it was the best house at the time. When we were first looking at houses here, we went out one day, probably looked at a dozen houses with our realtor, and we fell in love with one house. We were ready to make an offer on it. We were talking about it late at night while we were in a hotel, talking to the realtor, all ready to make an offer the next morning. And then the next morning, our realtor contacted us and said, “There is another property that came up. I think we should go look at that,” and we did. And I’m sitting in it right now. Again, I don’t know if the first one was truly emotional. We did fall in love with it and were really set on it but when this one came up, this was better. This is going to work even more. I think really knowing what you what you want and trying to stick to as much as possible… When I think emotional, it’s like you said, you let yourself slip off of that guideline of things you want. You can’t come up with an excuse to say, “Oh, okay. That one bullet point didn’t matter.” It mattered enough to decide that was part of your plan in the first place. 


J.D.: Yeah. And part of me trying to stay logical is always remembering that I like to be able to walk places. In the town we’re looking, in Corvallis, there are actually a number of places just outside of town that we could afford. They’re nice, but they require a lot of driving and there’s no real place to walk the dog. I can’t walk to the things I want to walk to. I’d end up isolated. And that’s another thing. The home we just sold, I was isolated. I didn’t go do things. I didn’t go hang out with people. I didn’t take classes. And I value that kind of thing so I want to be closer to town so I can go do that. These houses in Corvallis that are outside the downtown area, outside of town, really, we’re drawn to them because they’re amazing properties with lots of room for the animals, but we give up other things. On Sunday, we had a reminder of that. We went and saw this place. It was great. Driving back into town Kim said, “We can’t do it. You can’t walk places and you’re going to be isolated.” 


Tom: I’m almost the opposite. I’m fine with driving to locations. Like I said about Costco. That car is going to be loaded when I leave the store so it’s not something I would want to walk to. But for me, in a similar way, I like that we’re within walking distance of our kids schools. Because, like you said, you think about all this extra driving. For me, do I want the kids to be able to walk home or do I want to have to go pick them up or deal with bus times and everything like that? It’s just too much. If you can stay within walking distance, in this case, for my kids more than me, is super helpful. 


J.D.: Everybody has different priorities. And you’ve got to be clear on what is important to you in the place that you live. I mean, there’s going to be a variety of things that are important to you and you have to know what things are most important. I would love to be within 10 minutes driving distance of the Costco too. Right now we’re about 15 minutes from one. In Corvallis, it’s going to be more like 25 minutes no matter where we end up, because Corvallis has certain zoning laws and they won’t allow a Costco. But The next town over has the Costco, but it’s over by the freeway and is still a 25 minute drive. I’m okay with that because being near Costco is not as important to me as the walkability so I’m going to make that tradeoff. Another thing I wanted to bring up that’s interesting is about the current market. This might actually be driving some of the high costs. Interest rates, at least in the United States, are very, very low. 


Tom: Here, too. Yes. 


J.D.: Yeah, we qualify for a 2.75 percent interest rate, and that is just nutty. What it amounts to is I can make an offer of $777,777 at 2.75 percent and my mortgage is not that much more than what my ex-wife and I were paying at the house that she lives in currently. And that was a mortgage that we took out at 6 or 7 percent, 20 years ago. It’s just weird that an interest rate makes such a difference over the monthly housing costs. And that is actually, to me, the most important thing. Because I’m semiretired or financially independent (however you want to put it), I’m on a “fixed income” and I know just from looking at my spreadsheet here, if Kim and I were just to rent the place we’re renting now—I have $7,600 a month—that’s how much I could spend where I wouldn’t run out of money before 59 and a half. I would have all the money that I needed. And again, living in the house that we just sold, I was down below $2,100 a month. That’s a $5,000 difference. I know that as I’m looking at, I’m trying to keep considering the down payment, what taxes are, mortgage principal and interest, insurance and all that stuff. I want to end up at about $4,500 to $5,000 a month. That’s my projected budget to get me through the next seven7 years. If I can have more than that, fantastic. But I don’t want to go much less. The house we made an offer on Sunday would have reduced my budget to $3,800 a month. And I absolutely would have had to go back to work, maybe just part-time. I’m in a very fortunate position and I know it. I’m in a good position. But ideally, that $4,500 to $5,000 a month budget after everything is said and done, is where I want to be because that I can continue to do what I’m doing right now, which is writing on, Get Rich Slowly, learning about art. I’ve been experimenting with art and I enjoy it. I enjoy it. 


Tom: You may be in your position, but I remember when we bought our house in Edmonton, I was told I qualify for way more mortgage than I wanted. So it’s still good to have those constraints. Just because you qualify for it doesn’t mean that you want to take that. You may have your position, but really, anyone should put some constraint and look at exactly the way you said. Do you want to have some leeway? Do you want to have some other spending money? Do you want to make sure you can invest more? Something has to be considered where you’re not just thinking about how much you can take out—the absolute maximum. 


J.D.: We are dealing with a mortgage broker and he told us that we qualified for up to 1.2 million, all day long. But if we go more than that, we’ll have to do some number crunching. But he said we could look up to that amount. But Kim and I said, no way. We had set just an arbitrary upper limit of $800,000 for ourselves. And based on the number crunching I did on Sunday where we made that offer, we were pretty close. That $800,000 is pretty much our upper limit. It depends on the taxes and a couple of other things. But in reality, we’d love to find something around $600,000, $650,000 or even lower. 


Tom: You’re taking the time to picture what everything looks like, what it looks like to walk to the grocery store, what it looks like on your budget. Everything kind of comes together. 


J.D.: Exactly. 


Tom: Well, thanks for running us through all this. It’s an interesting look at just taking that step back and hopefully getting it right as you head towards retirement at some point. You don’t want to keep moving, I assume? 


J.D.: No, no. And that’s another thing, we want to find a house. We don’t necessarily want to stay there the rest of our lives but we could stay there the rest of our lives.  


Tom: Exactly. Yeah. And again, it’s just giving you a choice and you don’t feel like you’re forced out like your last place. 


J.D.: Yeah, exactly. 


Tom: Can you let people know where they can find you online? 


J.D.: Sure. Although I’m less and less online as time goes on, they can find me at, where I write about sensible personal finance. 


Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show and we’ll have you back again in the future, I’m sure. 


J.D.: Thanks, Tom. 


Tom: Thank you, JD, for telling your story. It’s always helpful to hear from someone else about their homeownership journey. There are lessons we can take and apply to our own situation. You can find the show notes for this episode at Are you a member of the Maple Money Show Facebook community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share recent money win to encourage others. To join, head over to to share with the group. I look forward to seeing you back here next week when Michael Domínguez joins us to explain how you can go from renting to owning multiple properties. See you next week. 

It’s true that older homes are probably going to have more problems. But, if the homeowners are vigilant, and perform regular maintenance, a house can last a very, very long time. - J.D. Roth Click to Tweet