Debtor Sought for Advice: A Colleague’s Dream Home Dilemma

DH = Dear Husband

The Dream Home

                I got out of my car in the school parking lot Monday morning, feeling good about my early arrival – over an hour before the bell for first class would ring. As I entered the building, the door to the social sciences office opened, and out came a teacher, walking purposefully towards me.
                 “Can I talk to you?” she asked.
                “Of course,” I answered, interested to hear what this could be about.
                “Jeff (not his real name) and I are looking for a new house, and we found one that is perfect.” There was an intensity to her words. This was a big deal. “It backs onto green space; it’s close to a good school; and after we went through it, I asked Jeff what would need to be fixed up – he’s so picky about things I don’t even see – and he said ‘Nothing.’ It’s perfect for us, and I don’t know when another house like this will come on the market.” I felt a growing empathy as she spoke. I knew where this was going. “As someone who has a really nice house, would you say that the expense has been worth it?” she asked.

My Dream Home Regret

                Did she know I was trying to get out of debt? Did she know of our years of terrible financial stress after the hi-tech bust and DH’s job loss? Yes. I remembered talking to her about these things, though I couldn’t remember the context. And I knew that her dilemma was rooted in the heart. I recalled the way I felt as we looked for our dream home. So when I shook my head, it was with compassion. “No,” I said. “I love our house, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t buy it.” I tried to encapsulate what we’d been through, and said it would have been so much better if we’d had more savings and less debt.
When I asked her about her current house, she said it was too small, bought when she and Jeff had no plans for children. It was old and in need of copious amounts of fixing up. And although Jeff was a handy man who could do it all, they didn’t relish a lifestyle of working their jobs all week and then working on the house every week-end. They wanted time to take their child to the park and to see the animals at the farm. I asked her if she’d be able to keep teaching part-time if they bought the house they’d found. No, she said. But finances were stressful even living in their current house. There was still student debt to pay off.
I was surprised at the wave of weepy regret that came over me – one that I managed to hold in check. Did she see that taking on the debt of a larger mortgage would increase that financial stress? Yes, she said, but if it was a matter of choosing to spend a lot of money either on fixing up their current house or on buying the new one that needed no work, she was leaning towards the latter. I could have poked holes in that statement, and there were many more points I could have raised, but I chose not to pursue it. I knew that to her, this house was presenting itself as The Answer, and that its impact was something of a spell. I’d been there, and although I knew it was fraught with pitfalls, I also knew that it was powerful, and that part of the spell was its ready provision of rationalizations and explanations to counter every argument against it.
“I think you really want this house,” I started.
“I do,” she acknowledged.
“And it sounds wonderful. I wish you the best whatever decision you make.” I hadn’t expressed myself completely. “I want to say ‘God bless you,’” I said, “but I don’t think you’d like that.”
“It’s OK,” she said, showing tolerance in her staunch atheism. “You can say it. I understand where it’s coming from.”
“Then God bless you.”
I knew that my colleague would be making important decisions within a day or two, so when I crossed paths with her again Friday morning, I was eager for an update.
“Did you make a decision about the house?” I asked as we briefly shared the same space.
“Someone else bought it, so the decision was taken out of our hands,” she said with a shrug of resignation – and I couldn’t read what else.
Did she feel frustrated by this roadblock? Did she feel sad about it? Or angry? It’s a sensitive matter, and I won’t barge in as she processes it. But I feel relieved for her. And I believe that she, one day, as she looks back on it all with some perspective, will feel blessed.

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  1. I don’t think you needed to say anything else, Prudence. Your fellow teacher likely wasn’t expecting to say you regretted purchasing your home. She was looking for your to say that you love your home and you would do it all the same over again. Just by saying you would have taken a difference path likely stuck in her brain….sometimes it may need to sit and peculate, but if what you have to say is going to have an impact, that was likely enough. Also, sometimes decisions like this are taken out of our hands for a reason……

    1. It can be tough knowing when to speak your mind and when to keep silent, but I feel I struck the right balance in this case. My colleague is certainly hearing different opinions – some of which are much more along the lines of, “Go for it!” I’ll be very interested to see how she and “Jeff” navigate this situation. Thanks for reading and commenting, Travis!

  2. Good for you for being honest with her. I felt such a sense of relief when she said someone else had bought the house. I think her attitude about the house would’ve changed once she got it, especially if they are struggling financially now. And good to you for saying God bless you to her. Planting those little seeds of Jesus’ love. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Laurie. It really wasn’t enough to say, “All the best.” Buying a house – especially a “dream home” – involves so much more than practical considerations, and it can get people in a knot of apprehension. Like you, I felt relief at the news someone else had bought the house. There’s a lot to be said for waiting it out, and I hope that’s what she and “Jeff” do. Thanks again for your comment!

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