Once both of us secured our newly minted degrees, we put our nebulous idea to go sailing “someday” in our pockets and looked around for what to do next. What is the next responsible and proper step? One would think the next step would be something sailing related, but that would be wrong. Instead, we traded one desert for another, moving from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.
In the interim, countless sessions were logged during various weekend backpacking trips and hikes. As we marched along, we brainstormed various points of strategy. "You re-learn Spanish, and I will re-learn French." English, Spanish and French should give us a good start anywhere we go. Catamaran or Monohull? Catamarans seem expensive. Should we go East or West first? We thought about all the peripheral questions that moved us exactly nowhere closer to our goal. Then, the question of timing. At first, we were going February 28 of 2017. I don't know why we picked that year, it seemed entirely random. Then, we settled on Plan A.
Then, I found an article on the internet all about how if you save just 40% of your income every year, you an retire early at age 45! That sounded good, so we settled on the Early Retirement Plan. Age 45. We could build our careers, buy a house, maybe have some kids around 30 and 33, take them sailing when they are 12 and 15. Great. I bet a 12 and 15 year old kid would LOVE to go sailing with their parents. We could buy a house now and once we were ready, sell the house and buy the boat with the equity we had "earned" paying down our loan over time and maybe gaining a bit of value as well. Perfect! We will be responsible adults, “put down some roots,” and buy ourselves a house.
As soon as I secured my job offer in Las Vegas, we started hunting. Home prices in Vegas were raging at the time. The last few years had been insane, 30%+ increases in home value every year. At the time, we were told: "You better get in now, it's just going to get worse." That made sense. In our short lifetime, homes had been a solid investment. People our parents age spoke of buying houses for $30,000 when they were in their 20s, and now being able to sell them for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Usually at least a 10% annual return over the course of forty years. That seemed like a safe enough plan.
But, in Nevada a 2100 sq. ft. home in 2006 in a normal, ungated community was running a bit steep for two kids, just about to get married. "Just get into a home, and get settled down,” we were advised by our wisest counselors. Some of our younger friends said: "You guys are going to kill yourselves, just rent!" It wouldn't make sense to rent for all those years until we go, that would just be throwing money away! We had faith in ourselves, that we wanted to work hard and build a life in a nice home. Andrew wanted a vegetable garden. And a sailboat. But first, a vegetable garden.
And we could do it, if we stretched a little. We were fortunate to have a job offer if not the actual job yet. Lenders were feeling loose and giddy, and they were happy to hand us a mortgage with NO DOWN PAYMENT. Zero. Why wouldn't we buy a house now? (You are saying now: what about that part where you save 40% of your income, Leslie? *Insert Shrug*)
So, we found the place we wanted and sat down with the lenders to make a deal. They tried to convince us that an adjustable rate mortgage would be a better idea than a traditional 30 year loan. Why? Well, you could take all that money you save paying the low adjustable rate of 2% for the first three years, invest it in the stock market, and make 12%! Then, you can refinance the house before the adjustment runs out or you can pay it down with all that money you just made in the stock market - provided you don't spend it on the lease for your Audi A8.
Leslie: "What if we can't refinance?"
23 Year Old Mortgage Broker: "Why would that ever be? Houses are the safest investment you can ever make! They've never gone down much, and if they do go down its never for very long.”
We had no idea if that was true or not, but we both like to hedge our bets. So, we took the more conservative 30 year, fixed mortgage. This decision would turn out to save our souls, our marriage and our house in a few years time, but that black cloud is a story for another day. We merrily signed on the dotted line, and watched with excitement as our new home was constructed. The smell of plywood dust still conjures the hope, anticipation and fear I felt standing in this bare, empty, half built home.
Soon, the call came from the builder. It was time to complete our final walk through and close on the purchase. In the middle of bar study, I packed up my Bar Review lectures on CD, my books and my laptop. Bar study was heading out on the road. We drove to Las Vegas on a Friday night after Andrew finished work, but we couldn't wait for the walk through the next day. We had to peek. We arrived after dark, taking the exit we would later drive home every day for the next ten years. We listened to our Official House Song "Swing Life Away" as we turned into our neighborhood. I will never forget pressing my face against the back kitchen window: "What does it look like? Can you see in the dark? Does the tile match the countertops?"
On June 15, 2006 we closed on the purchase of our shiny new home. Great timing, wouldn't you say? What is it? I can never remember....buy high, sell low...or buy low, sell high? It's like the difference between Alpaca and Sherpa. I can never keep them straight.