To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question..

Little Isis stayed home from school yesterday, sick with a strep infection. I took the opportunity to stay home with him and work on some papers while he recovered. I also spent part of the day trying to figure out how to logistically take a couple of graduate students with me when I move to my new MRU at the end of the summer.  While I think I am starting to hash out the beginnings of a plan for them, it occurs to me that I don’t really have a good plan for myself. At least not one that makes me feel all the happy feels that there are to feel about this new opportunity for the Isis family.

We were very lucky when we sold our last home. We got our last house for a great price.  When it was time for us to move on, the house sold on its third day on the market and we made a nice profit. That let us buy the house we are living in now, which is much larger. We bought the house when the housing market was beginning to fall apart and got it for a steal. We knew that we needed to update the house cosmetically, but the house is big and it’s in a great neighborhood. We’ve worked this month to finish the updating and are hoping to put the house on the market in about two weeks.

But, I don’t think we’ll get as lucky as we did with our last house. Homes here are selling in ~three months, not three days. That has left us pondering *how* to make our move. We’d like to end up in a house like we have now, with lots of space for guests and our family, in a nice neighborhood with good schools. The issue is that, in order to do that, something here has to give. Either we need to sell our current house or Mr Isis has to find another job because we can’t afford a second mortgage of this size on my salary alone.

I’ve thought about moving my family and renting, but Little Isis and Tiny Diva are happy here and are in great schools. The idea of changing their schools more than once is not attractive to me. So, Mr Isis and I have spent a lot of time discussing how to make a graceful and strategic exit from MRU town. In my current opinion, the best option is to move to my new MRU town ahead of my family and rent a little place until our current house sells or Mr Isis finds a job making the big bucks.  I’m lucky enough that the new MRU is within driving distance of the old MRU and I could still be home several nights a week with my family.

Financially, this all makes perfect sense. My head tells me it is absolutely the right thing to do. Even though this makes so much rational sense to me, I won’t lie. My heart hurts about it. Even though I’ve convinced myself that this won’t change our lifestyle much – I routinely work a late night or occasionally two per week – I don’t like being away from my family. I like being home for dinner and bedtime with my children. As I weigh all of the pros and cons of any potential option, keeping them in good schools and minimizing their upheaval keeps falling out as my top priority.

I’m telling myself that this will hopefully be my last move and so it’s worth making this move deliberately, in order to end up in a place that we love and that our kids will thrive in.  But, my heart is still a little sad and I am not sure that I like myself enough to purposefully spend this much time in my own company. I’m kind of an ass most of the time..

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20 responses to “To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question..

  1. Make a spreadsheet. Figure out your different variables and run the numbers against different scenarios. At least you will feel more in control. Maybe.

    You could always rent out your current home, if after a period of time has past and the house has not sold. With a realtor handling the nitty gritty, you pay 5-10% of your rent to them, but generally better than handling everything yourself. Likewise, you could rent a decent home before committing to buying elsewhere. Renting equals exchanging cash for liquidity. It is not all thrown away money that can go into ownership, because acquiring equity has its own costs, too.

    Good luck. In the end, it is only money and you will find a way.

  2. Yes, spreadsheets – make an extra column for “X factor”. And one more for ‘what Mr Isis thinks’. As ‘a reader’ says, at least it makes you feel more in control – but more importantly, when you wonder later if you made a sensible decision, you can remember the spreadsheet and be confident you made that decision in good faith.

    We always reassure each other that there is NO such thing as a bad decision. All decisions are made with the best possible information in mind at the time. Later on, it is no point saying ‘what if’ or ‘i should have thought of that’ because, at the time, without hindsight, you did not know *that*.

    Another reason for the spreadsheet. To make sure you do have the best possible info at the time.

    All the best, it will work out whatever you decide, although it may not be perfect. Come to think of it, Life itself isn’t quite perfect.

    (Maybe the house will sell quickly anyway).

  3. For my family, the hardest part was finding a school that met our kid’s needs. Especially when they’re young and you don’t really know what the academic style of your children requires. Although it’s a hard path, there’s an advantage to having one parent live in the new city before the whole family moves: it provides an opportunity to scout out the school districts. Good luck.

  4. We chose to rent our old house and then rent for ourselves in the new location.The idea was to sell after a year or so, but the market in St. Louis still completely blows, so we’ve continued renting it out. Of course, the longer you rent the more likely it is for hardwood floors to get scuffed to buggery, AC units to conk out and all manner of other maintenance fustercluckery issues to arise and need policing before it goes on the market. If you can realistically sell at a reasonable asking price, sell imho.

    As for splitting the family up or not, that’s certainly a tough call. We went together and struggled through with a single income scene until my partner found work. It’s a sobering experience, I’ll say that, and put a few things in context in terms of realizing how much we previously spent on stuff we probably didn’t need. But life lessons aside, it was pretty damn stressful and if we did it again… reckon we might try your rational method to be honest.

    My 2 cents.

  5. PS I went to less than great schools (whose only saving grace were the smattering of truly dedicated teachers and an occasional administrator) and turned out just fine. School is not meant to educate anyone; the point of school is to develop the skills to learn by one’s self. Kids are mch more resilient than we give them credit for. Any upheavals they may face they will understand in time to have be undertaken to secure a better future for them, not because you are emotionally unstable, drug/drink addled, abusive

  6. Stop worrying about them changing schools twice. Move the brood with you, rent, then figure out where to buy.

  7. Isis the Scientist

    The issue is not just the schools. It’s also paying for two homes on a single salary and renting ain’t much cheaper than buying. I don’t know how much you’re making, but I’m not looking at a big enough salary to support everyone and a city house and country house.

  8. I grant that the difference between an efficiency and a house in the same area can be pretty big, but the real expense you’re facing is having to pay rent and a mortgage. I think the move-out-before-the-fam plan is not really financially that sensible, especially if the sale is only going to take a few months.

    How’s the rental market where you live now? I hated every second of being a landlord, but renting out our house out after we moved out and weren’t sure if we were coming back gave us some relief from paying mortgage and rent (although it still pencilled out to a loss). We rented (and still do) where we live now, because our neighborhood is pleasant but costs too much to buy into.

  9. If all else fails, you could live out of a beater van and shower at the gym like that kid at Duke University did to avoid paying rent on an apartment or dorm fees. At least before the weather turns to tundra in your area…
    Don’t forget your local credit union if you need an affordable ppersonal loan or a line of credit. Debt, if taken on for legitimate NEEDS and in an amount and interest one can realistically pay back in a reasonable amount of time, is a tool to gain leverage and temporarily boost cash flow.

  10. Phosphorelated

    When the time comes to decide, remember the research: the “rational” conscious mind can’t really handle more than 7-9 different data points, so when making a complex decision, look at all the data, then trust your emotions. Buying a can opener? Weigh the options logically and decide. Buying a couch or a car or renting an apartment? Get the facts, then go with your gut. The “emotional mind” handles those complex issues better. Trust your feelings, our brains are smarter than most of us give them credit for. And good luck!

  11. I so understand the feeling of knowing something is the rational decision but finding it very difficult, emotionally, to actually make that call. Good luck, I hope you can figure it out!

  12. venividirisi

    Moving….now that’s a subject on which I am an expert.
    pro vs con lists are great, but there are always considerations that trump everything, and of course kids trump all.
    I have 8 sibs, and I went to 11 different schools as a kid. Of course moving sucked, but less so for me than some of my sibs. i kinda liked the fresh start/clean slate aspect that moving brought, but moving wrecked a couple of my sibs.
    My kids each handled the moving experience differently as well.
    It was really difficult for my son, but for my daughter, not so much. So the question is, how do you think your kids will handle multiple moves? Based on your characterizations of them, and their ages, I suspect they would be fine.
    Regarding the previous comments about school districts, I would agree that the school reputation is less important that most believe, but with some important caveats. Safety, of course- but that’s a no brainer. The other qualifier depends on your kids. Will they they make poor choices just to fit in? or are they more like their mom? It has been my experience that this is the key indicator to how kids are going to do overall, and especially when in new social situations. If you think that either of your kids might bend the principles you’ve taught them to make friends, then I would advise you to forget about all but the very best public schools, and even consider private school, or home schooling. If both of your kids are steadfast in their principles, then they’ll do fine anywhere. This sounds simplistic, but it’s accurate, and only you and Mr, Isis can make the call.
    On the type of house issue…..I’ve found it is less about material considerations, and more about the type of lifestyle you want for you and your family. You can make almost anywhere homey, but only if it fits the way you live.
    Hope this helps.

  13. Let Mr Isis do some childcare on his own.
    He will appreciate you even more

  14. Just my $.02, but I’m a big believer in all those staging tips the web is full of. I did everyone I could pull off and our house sold quickly. Pops of red decor, brighter light bulbs, updated light fixtures, vase of yellow flowers on the counter with a bowl of lemons, new annuals planted outside, new cushions on the patio chairs, family pictures came down, new bath towels went up, the closets/pantry were thinned and organized. I magic-erasered every surface with a hint of a smudge. The $500 all that costs is much less than trying to live in two places. Channel your inner Taniya Nayak.

  15. Get the house on the market NOW. Not in two weeks. Not when you think it might be ready. NOW!

    Seriously, you are already eating into prime real estate time (early spring), and although there are signs the housing market has a lot of pent up demand from the abnormally long winter, that won’t last forever. If you think it’ll be ready in 2 weeks, then realistically that means July, and by that time people have other priorities (end of school year, family vacations etc.) Get it on sale now – the early viewings will help you get a feel for the market too.

    As for the new place, my advice would be to buy in the best possible school district you can afford. Buy in a decent area and offset the expense by going for a smaller house. It’s an easy fix to build an addition 5 years from now when you need more space. In today’s climate, holding out for a bigger salary just so you can afford to live in the house you already bought, is what gets a lot of people underwater.

    Also, find out what mortgage rules apply WRT down-payment/equity and MIG (mortgage indemnity insurance). Owning over a certain percent (I think it’s 20% in most states) means you don’t have to add MIG onto your monthly payments. Once you get over 20% equity that’s another chunk off the monthly payment. The rate you pay in MIG will vary with credit rating, which in turn will be affected by debt-to-income ratio. Yet another reason to think small when buying.

  16. Isis the Scientist

    People seem to think this is my first time at the rodeo.

  17. This is a tough one… I don’t envy you the next set of decisions and the upheaval of a move. As you know (you’ve done it before) in the end it will be fine and you’ll make the right choices for your family. But the process is always painful.

    We did this last year with 2 younger kids (an infant + a preschooler). We were moving 500 miles for my husband’s job. I was deeply unhappy about the move (loved the old city, only marginally like the new one) but put on my game face because from a financial stability perspective it was totally the right move.

    We wound up splitting the difference. I stayed in old city with the 2 kids for the first month of his new job. He moved to new city to scout out housing (he was able to stay with relatives for this period – huge help so we never had to pay double rent) and flew home 3 out of 4 weekends so I didn’t lose my mind. Then, we moved into a rental in new city and immediately started looking for a house to buy. 9 months later, we are now in our new house.

    Moving twice in 8 months was truly painful. Our rental (a tiny 2br) had boxes in every corner and every closet. But, for us it was the right choice to keep the family together. We did make the choice that we would try to keep the kids in the same child care situations for at least a year in the new city. Our rental was in the city, new house in the ‘burbs, and husband now commutes with kids to day care just so they didn’t have to change before the end of the year. They both did fine with the move.

    Have your kids seen Toy Story? My oldest saw it for the first time a few months before our move. “No toy left behind” kind of became the family motto. It gave her a way to relate to and talk about the whole moving process.

  18. I think it’s hard to know exactly where you’ll really want to be in New Town. I hear that you really want to seamlessly avoid upheaval, but I’d keep the eye on the long game, and let some upheaval in to position yourself better for that. I’d move the whole fam to a smaller rental, put the Tiny and Little in schools near enough, and live there. Soon enough (not immediately, but soon enough) Mr. I will find a job there, and the house in Old Town will sell (as you much more likely when it’s empty). This will involve a few months of ouch. But, together ouch.

    Once Mr. I has a new job and you’ve been there a bit, you’ll have a much better idea of where you want to settle for the long haul — which you just can’t know right now. That means another move in year, and probably a different school. But you won’t be able to make a good decision about that until you’ve really done lived in New for a while. By then, the house will have sold, so you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you’re moving forward with. And that’s really the long game, right?

  19. My mom commuted 400 miles away for almost a year when I was a little kid for similar reasons (transitioning into a new job and making arrangements to move the family). She was gone most of the week and came home on the weekends. The only thing I wish had been different was the ability to Skype or Facetime at mealtime or bedtime. This was decades before the existence of Skype, but now you can totally do this! Creating a new routine around face-time (even electronic) will make it easier on all of you.

  20. Sorry to be late to the conversation; I just caught up on my blog reading. I write from the perspective of someone who just did a year of part-time long distance with two kids. It sucked. (I needed/wanted to finish up a post-doc before starting a position at the same place as the hubby, and we made the decision to live apart for the year). The year started with a 12-week old and 2.25 year old solely in my custody 4 days a week. Much love to the single parents out there bc it was even harder than I thought it would be (and I knew it was going to be crazy). It’s not just doing bedtime and morning alone, which can be stressful, but it is the amount of thought and planning that must go into caring for children when you are the sole caregiver (having all the groceries you need to feed them; cooking meals after they go to bed so you can throw dinner in the microwave when you get home the next day; making sure they have clean clothes to wear, etc.). It was damn near impossible to do any work outside of the 8-5 workday without sacrificing my non-existent sleep. Part of the problem is that when one parent is away, the tendency is to try to do fun things on the weekend and embrace the qt, but that really screws the other parent (if you don’t do all the errands/housework on the weekend, when do they get done?). I think it is important that Mr. Isis know what he is getting into, and in turn, that you know he may end up resenting you a bit (unreasonably), although I realize your two kids are a bit older and may be less challenging. From the perspective of the kids, it was really hard on the 2 yr old. He really, really missed having his dad around. Whenever something went wrong, it ended up with him crying on my lap saying the he wanted papa. Now that we are reunited (… and it feels so good…) the kids are far more attached to me and run to me first for everything. This is a challenge for my husband bc he has always been a fantastic co-parent and equally involved in our family. Prepare yourself for the potential of temporary little-person resentment (which may or may not happen, and will eventually pass). I tell you this not to dissuade you from being apart from your family (on the contrary, it might be good to be able to work guiltless late nights while setting up the lab and scoping out school districts), but to give you a sense of what life might be like. I don’t regret our long-distance and I would make the same decision again, but damn, it was hard. Keep this in mind when you are weighing your pros and cons.

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