While I was still in college (and we were very, very poor) we rented a trailer from my grandfather. He decided it was time for us to buy a house, and gave us 30 days to find one – nevermind the fact that our annual income was somewhere around $10,000 a year, or that we had no credit history whatsoever.
As we were searching for another place to rent, a friend told us about an ad he’d seen in a newspaper that he thought we should check out. As he was talking, he went over to his couch and started digging between the cushions. He came up with a crumpled, three week old newspaper. The ad was for a house for $3500. We figured it was a misprint.
It was not a misprint. It was just a shack on a tiny lot. There were two other people interested in buying it, but both deals fell through because they tried to borrow enough money to turn the shack into a house. My husband’s parents loaned us the $3500 and we paid cash for the house. It didn’t have water, electricity, heat, interior walls or ceilings, and there was a 6? hole across the back wall. We got water hooked up and moved in.
I’m not sure how long we lived without electricity, but there were at least a few weeks where we cooked on a propane camping stove and used a cooler instead of a refrigerator. Over the next 10 years, we worked on that house, doing what we could ourselves and getting lots of help from friends and family. We got countless splinters in our feet because the floors were covered in plywood, my kids owned way more winter clothing than most kids in Tennessee, and sometimes it felt like we were permanently camping.
Eventually, I got tired of freezing. We bought another, slightly nicer and much warmer, house. Good friends, who knew exactly what they were getting into, rented our old house. They lived there for awhile, then moved far away. Then, a cousin needed a place to stay and lived there for awhile, but he also got tired of freezing. We finally decided that we didn’t want to own it anymore – not just anyone can live there because you need certain skills to deal with some of the problems that surface when you live in a not-quite-finished house.
We put an ad in the paper, listed it on eBay classifieds, Craigslist, Oodle and everywhere else we could think of and got a few inquiries, mostly from people in the neighborhood who wanted to find out which house was for sale. The lack of interest was surprising because we priced it at $25,000. It still needs work, but it would probably only take about $10-15,000 to make it a really nice house, so the buyer would end up getting a great deal.
It seems that people don’t really want a great deal if it involves work. Or, maybe people can’t get loans because of the economy. Whatever the reason, we now need to make a decision about what to do with that piece of property. We have some options, but that almost makes deciding harder.
Of course, we want to do whatever will create the greatest return with the least amount of hassle. Selling the house as it is, in one simple transaction was our Plan A. Since that hasn’t worked out for us, we are looking at options that will present some hassle, but that will still generate a profit. One of our friends recommended that we try and make the house as liveable as possible, then try to sell it. If that still doesn’t work, she said we should look into the trade home program offered by companies like Reali. By doing that, Reali could buy the house off us and sell it on our behalf. This would allow us to move into our next home without having to worry about that house anymore. That’s one good option, we have a few though. As we consider this big decision, here are some things that we are learning:
Take your time. The longer you wait, the more possibilities you see, and while that complicates the process, it also means you don’t feel forced into doing anything. When Plan A fails, you might think there is only one Plan B and that it must work or you’ll be doomed. Slow down and a variety of other options and possibilities might present themselves.
Be open. If you are not open all those possibilities that occur to you over time will be useless. Having a flexible mindset will allow you to think more creatively about your decision and the possible outcome.
Research and investigate. It is no fun to deal with unforeseen surprises after struggling to come to the best decision, especially if it took you a long time to decide. Research online, talk to experts, ask lots of questions, and gather as much information as possible so that you are informed and knowledgeable.
Seek advice from people you respect. You don’t have to follow their advice, but hearing the opinions of people you consider wise can help you see aspects of your problem that you may not otherwise consider. Plus, sometimes talking about a dilemma can help you untangle your thoughts and see your situation more clearly.
It doesn’t matter if your big decision is related to business, family or if it is completely internal, taking your time and learning about your options is always smart. A crystal ball that would let you see the future depending on which choices you make today would be nice. Do you have a set of steps you use to make a major decision? Are you cautious, or impulsive when it comes to big choices?