The Choices We Make Impact our Path in Life

A brief tale of two home buyers…

John bought a contractor-built house in the suburbs, largely because that’s what most people do. He didn’t give the decision a great deal of thought. He was eager to have a nice new home to show off to friends and family. It would provide a lot of personal satisfaction and be a sign to everyone who noticed that he was successful. Looking back, it was oh so easy to sign on the dotted line… It didn’t take long for the problems to begin. John’s first surprise came from unexpected repairs. He would have to foot the bill for a plumbing leak in the wall, broken faucet, new storm door and some drawer slides. With most of his spare money put into the down payment, he had to start tapping his credit card. Routine repairs and unexpected expenses suddenly became the norm. And then the regular bills hit. At first John was prepared, but bit by bit things became more difficult, especially as cold weather and higher energy bills set in. It never occurred to John to investigate the energy efficiency of his home before buying. After all, the home was only two years old. Everything should be built to code, right? Well, to his chagrin, John discovered that codes only provide minimal standards. Now he had to choose between cranking up the furnace to stay warm and pay the ridiculous heating bills, wearing winter clothes around the house or insulating and weatherizing the house. Although he couldn’t really afford it right now, he bit the bullet and paid for an insulation package. But even with the upgrade, he could feel the cold air blowing through the walls, especially around the windows and electrical outlets. And that’s when the furnace broke. The warranty had just expired, of course, so John was hit with another repair bill he couldn’t afford. This time he had to ask his parents for help since his line of credit was tapped out. Unfortunately, his dad had had some unexpected medical bills and his parents were unable to help. He was forced to renegotiate his loan on the banks’ terms. This story ends on a sad note because his bank is currently taking a tough stand against those who can’t make their payments on time. A few months later, John lost his home and down payment. The sale price was less than what he had paid, so now he is on the hook for the balance and the credit card debt. John lost all his savings and had to sell his car and other possessions.

Sara had been saving for years for her dream sustainable home and already owned a small piece of land in the country. She determined from the outset that she wanted her own home, and there was no way she would work the bulk of her adult life paying off a mortgage. After all, almost everyone built their own home up until the last 50-100 years, so it didn’t make sense to forfeit a lifetime of earnings to a bank for things she didn’t really need. She researched every aspect of building a house – building codes, foundations, earthbag walls, insulation, cost estimating, non-toxic materials, roofing, everything. It took a lot of time and effort to learn what to do and put together a workable plan. Online videos were a big help, as were various blogs and websites that explained how to do things versus generalized content. Sarah settled on a simple starter home with only the basic necessities so she could pay with cash. She understood this would save her a ton of money, and besides, she could always add on later. It was a daunting challenge, but Sarah worked extra hard for a few months and completed her home. Not only did she manage to avoid decades of mortgage payments, she also slashed her monthly utility bills because her new home is extremely energy efficient. In addition, the home contains no man-made materials that off-gas toxic chemicals. And, her home is warm and beautiful — a reflection of who she is. It was a lot of work, but now she’s finished and has much more free time to do the things she enjoys doing most.

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