Making a Home: The Money Pit

Previously in this story: lost in a new fixer-upper with no cash and no DIY skills.

I’ve made only two vows in my life.

One was when I married my husband.

The other was to never live in a place with an HOA (Home Owner’s Association) ever again.

Both vows stemmed from the year spent in the condo that I bought, the one I bought so I could build a sure place for myself.

I wanted a place that would look better and different from the regular apartments that all looked the same. I found one, but it needed more work and had more hidden costs than I imagined possible.

Doug and I had broken up earlier, but it didn’t last long. He offered to come help me do repairs for my new home over Memorial Day weekend. He brought his heavy tool bag with him.

I kind of fell in love with him while he changed the light fixtures for me.

Together we pulled astroturf up from the front porch. We knocked down wasp nests. I bought an industrial-grade buffer to grind 30 years of buildup off the fiberglass shower, the way people restore crusted old boats. We switched out the dining room wicker light for one that looked less like a rolling tumbleweed. We scraped pink tinting off the windows twenty feet up in the air.

We sanded and painted and filled and power-washed. We fixed holes and stopped leaks. And all this was before the downstairs flooded from a week of heavy rain that fell over Houston.

When Doug asked me to marry him (far too many months later) I couldn’t sell that condo fast enough. I got a realtor, put up the sign, and started the desperate two-fold prayer, “Please let someone buy this house and please help it not lose a ton of money.” You’re probably familiar with that one.

Waiting for your home to sell so you can move on to the next stage of your life is a trying ordeal, for certain.

God answered, I moved, we married… but that’s not the end of this story.

–To be continued. -

Are you waiting for your home to sell? Not easy to wait, is it?

(As a side note, earlier this week Doug SAVED MY GRANDMOTHER’S LIFE when he was at her house and noticed all the gas streaming from her vintage stove. I don’t love him for what he can do for me, but he has blessed my family again and again.)

The Making a Home Story:

Chapter 1: The Beginning
Chapter 2: The Single Girl Apartment
Chapter 3: The Money Pit
Chapter 4: The Last Chapter (but not the end)

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. wow!
    *hand-on-beating-heart and *thinking-about-my´-own-angel-of-a-boyfriend!!!

    emmeline´s last post…Which Austen Heroine Are You?

  2. “I kind of fell in love with him while he changed the light fixtures for me.”


    Rachel, I cannot even tell you enough how much I am LOVING this story. You have such a gift for words. And suspense, too, my dear . . .

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…When the fruits of parenting begin to ripen . . .

  3. Denise C. says:

    Kudos to Doug for saving your Grandmother’s life. That is awesome!

    My husband and I had a house in Murphy, TX (outside of Dallas) and were relocating to Virginia. Our house was on the market 2.5 months. Several people came and saw it, but no offers, it was the hardest thing to deal with. Finally 3 weeks before our scheduled move, we got an offer (decent) accepted and moved.

    After renting in Virginia for 4 years we purchased a townhome last Sept. It’s a bit nerve racking, because owning a house is a big responsibility.

    Actually I’d say anything in the buying/selling a home industry is very nerve racking.

    Have a great weekend. :)

  4. aww – it is nice to have partner who is handy!!

    I have to say, though, in defense of HOAs that one reason my husband and I are seriously considering NEVER moving from our 730 sq foot one bedroom is how much we adore our building neighbors and HOA.

    When the building’s scupper and drainpipe failed half the building was out working to fix it and avoid flooding the units on that side. We all work together to do gardening and landscaping. We have progressive dinners with each floor hosting a course. We watch each other’s kids.

    We have a hard time imagining what it would be like to own a house all by ourselves, without anyone else right upstairs/next door to help out when the inevitable (our building was built in 1928) stuff goes wrong!

    I’m liking all the backstory.

    Alissa´s last post…Looking back a bit…(geek-heavy)

    • True, neighbors are good to have. My problem with the HOA was not about the people who lived next door to me, but rather the third party company who poorly managed it. They mismanaged the funds, neglected repairs, and assessed even more fees beyond reason. It was stressful and burdensome. I don’t want to be financially obligated to someone else’s poor management ever again, especially when they can assess fees against your home.

  5. I know what you mean about the no HOA vow. We moved out of our HOA neighborhood townhouse 6 months ago and love that we no longer have to answer to someone else for what we do to our own house.

    Buffie´s last post…To Do: Still Getting Back on Track

  6. Wow! What a great story AND so glad that your Grandma is okay, too.

    I can relate a little bit … the first time I met my husband he was involved in a conversation about taking down a door to plane it so that it fit in the frame better – my heart did a little flip-flop, too ;-)

    Can’t wait to read the rest!

    Kara´s last post…Small Steps, Big Changes: Developing a New Routine 15 Minutes at a Time

  7. I personally am with you on the no-HOA thing. My wife and I made that vow too and I hope we don’t have to break it. The ones I’ve experienced or loved ones have experienced are HOT MESSES! Their requirements vary widely, though, which makes them such a hazard, and why you have to do your homework! Now we’re renting which has been a lovely break from broken garbage disposals but seriously, when I buy again, it’s not because I’m going to have more time to lobby (or worse, become a member of) an HOA board.

  8. I’m loving your story and can hardly wait for the next episode! Thanks.

  9. I love this series! Keep up the great writing!

    anne´s last post…Happy St. Patrick’s Day

  10. I am there with everyone else – this is such a great series.

    We are renters and probably will be for a good while. It’s hard not to dream about a yard and space that is more family friendly…but I digress. I think I struggle sometimes with this: since we are renting it can feel like our home is less of a home.

    But that is why I have always loved your blog. It is encouraging to me – to “make” our home a home even if it isn’t our home.

    Which it never really is our home…even if owned. We are all “renters” to be sure.

    Anyway, I’m on the edge of my seat. What happens next?!

    Jen Hill´s last post…I found a new blog…

    • “Which it never really is our home…even if owned. We are all “renters” to be sure.”


  11. Hiya Rachel,
    I just realised that these chapters you are writing can be easily compiled into a book for your children to read from years to come. They will be able to find out a little bit more their mummy and daddy from reading about Rachel and Doug. What a great gift!!

    Meeks´s last post…Friday Fun Day: Revisiting the past

    • I wanted to do something similar years ago but never managed it. Now I see how maybe I could do a little chapter at a time. Thanks so much for that idea!

  12. I am really glad to hear that Doug has prevented anything nasty from happening with your Grandmother and her stove – is that the same beautiful stove that you photographed and showed here some time ago?
    I am with you on the whole subject of having to consult with someone else to do something with your home, that is something that I would associate with renting not ownership and I would certainly find it very frustrating to ask permission to make changes to the home that I own.
    Am enjoying your serialised story and looking forward to the next installment…

    Scribhneoir´s last post…Twisted Hazel

    • oh yes, the same fantastic stove that unfortunately doesn’t have the safety components that modern stoves have.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I kind of fell in love with a sweet and generous man when he (on our second date) boarded up the windows of my house that I had renters in (who turned it into a meth house).

    Dealing with that part of my life was a trying and emotional time for me; but I’m lucky that I now am able to remember it with joy. Because that’s the moment I fell in love with my husband.

  14. We own a townhouse now and I can’t wait until we can sell it and move. We, too, have made a vow not to live in a HOA neighborhood ever again. We pay a lot of money every month and have yet to see where it goes. The HOA collects money but does nothing to earn it. Yet we HAVE to pay each month.

  15. I like this series and we getting to know about you and Doug! which is cool, he seems like a great guy! I like the way he helped your grandmother’s life. That is precious.

    I feel similar way about Zenguy, although he might not be as handy as Doug, he has helped me and my family a lot.

  16. We are waiting for our home to sell and it is SO stressful! Like you, we have put a ton of work into our house, and now have to sell it in this bad market for less than we paid for it! We have an offer, but now the inspection process is freaking us out. Old houses have their quirks…. Good luck to you in selling your place!

  17. Sandra Gonzales says:

    Can you coax Doug into writing a post about why he took his time to propose to you?

    You’re obviously a sweetheart of a person and beautiful of course.
    He should have been on one knee after one date.

    PS-We still have horrible floods in Houston.

    • Oh too kind, but I don’t think there’s a good answer for that one. He thought taking his time was his best strategy, because neither of us wanted to rush into it.

  18. It’s definitely not easy to wait. We’re a little tight in our current townhome.

    I totally agree on your vow against HOA’s. Our fee has gone up four times in the four years we’ve lived here. Sigh…

    Minnesotamom´s last post…First Day of Spring