For several months, I’ve had this same conversation with my home loan guy, Matt:
Matt: “Michelle, I’m going to say it again. No one wants to refinance on an investment property. If you get into financial trouble, the bank knows the house is the first thing you’ll drop.”
Me: “But I won’t. I promise. What about that Obama thing he put through to help people with refinancing rentals? Why can’t you make that work?”
Matt: “Because your house has depreciated too much. I’m telling you, you have to move back into the house to get the rate you want. It needs to be owner-occupied.”
The house in question is in Sacramento where the majority of my friends and family live. I bought it eight years ago when interest rates were double what they are now.
My precious cottage is peach-colored and situated by a majestic park. The house has wood floors outlined with white borders and brightly colored walls.
Shortly after closing, I held a gigantic housewarming party, and we somehow packed about seventy people inside 900 square feet. I was on top of the world until everyone left, and I looked at my twenty-eight-year-old reflection in the mirror and panicked.
I wanted to travel extensively and hadn’t. A television news reporter at the time, I wanted to work in a bigger market. I also longed to live in a more bustling city and earn a graduate degree.
To me, the house suddenly represented a stopping point I wasn’t ready for. I honestly felt like I hadn’t even boarded the train yet. So I secured a job in San Francisco, rented the house, and bolted less than a year later.
Over the last seven years, I traveled to fourteen countries, reported and anchored in San Francisco, and earned a master’s degree in Radio and Television. When I moved to Santa Monica a year ago, I felt content and believed this might be the place I’d end up.
It wasn’t until my family held a gathering I couldn’t quickly drive to several months ago that I started really missing my posse. Not being able to see them any time I wanted really bothered and saddened me.
I moved to Santa Monica because I longed for sunshine. Living in San Francisco for five years, I simply couldn’t handle one more day of fog. I’ve loved every minute of this place. How could I not? I can see the beach from my front door.
Two of my closest childhood friends live here. There’s enough shopping and food establishments to keep a person busy for a lifetime. I’ve hiked on flower-lined trails I didn’t know existed and found a restaurant as obsessed with meat as I am (Animal).
Most of all, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting here on the concept of “home.”
When people used to ask me if I’d ever go back to Sacramento, I’d tell them probably not, because there isn’t enough to do there.
Now, when I think of moving back, I am reminded of that scene from the movie Up where the kid sits on a curb with the old man counting red and blue cars.
Out of all the things to do, it’s the silly, simple activities together that make the kid happy. That is how I feel now.
Thinking about moving, I suddenly want to jump on the trampoline with my little cousins, make my nephew laugh, work on that West Side Story dance routine with my sister, and drink coffee with my mom.
I want to get a blow up baby pool and float in MY backyard. Most of all, I want to appreciate the house I somehow figured out how to keep while I spread my wings over the last several years. I never thought I’d want to go back, but now that I do, I’m ecstatic.
There is no guarantee the refinance will go through, but I stand to save hundreds of dollars a month if it does. I had to think about it when I called Matt again. Since we are old buddies by now, he told it to me straight:
“Michelle, you are in great shape with your credit and everything, but there is always a chance this won’t work. You have to make sure you will be happy back home if you can’t refinance.” Duly noted.
But at this point it doesn’t matter. I am rarely so clear about the decisions I make. Usually they are clouded with anxiety and fear. This time however, I am not scared.
There is a moment in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums where he is high in the mountains at the end of the book and says, “Oh. I’m happy.” That is how I feel leaving Southern California.
I will have to say goodbye to my best friend and some new friends I will miss terribly, but I no longer see the house as a stopping point.
I see it as an incredible beginning that I simply wasn’t ready for seven years ago.
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