Peanut wants to go home.

The move went off reasonably well, and we’re hanging out in temporary digs until we either find a house we love, find a financial crisis that scares us out of the real estate market, or get tired of the utter bullsh*te of the Berkeley housing market, whichever comes first.

And we’ve been preparing Peanut for months: Daddy’s going to live with grandma in San Francisco while we find someone to pay for our house. Then we’ll live with Daddy, all the family together, in a temporary house, just for a while, until we find a new house. Then we’ll move to the new house all together and live there, all together. Yay, new house. Usual response: “Peanut SITED ’bout new house.”  I’m excited, too, buddy.

He’s been fine all along. He knows the script, he recites it along with me. He waved goodbye to the old house and made sure all his friends (stuffed animals) and his sister (doll who used to be his baby, and whom he nursed for a long time, and who he has now decided needs a brother, heaven help me because he loves babies and says he wants one–a real one) and his toys and his books were all in the truck so we could take them to the temporary house and the new house.

He knows all this intellectually. But he’s two and a half. He likes concrete nouns, not intangibles. He likes today and tomorrow, not two months from now. He likes things the way he likes them (“no mommy hold Sweetpea, Peanut hold Sweetpea; no mommy walk first, Peanut walk first; no Mommy eat hummus, Peanut no share hummus; no Peanut go escalator, go elevator first, then escalator”) and he doesn’t like that everything is different.

Today he said, “Peanut want go home.” Sure, I told him. We just need to get cat food and we can go home. “No want temporary house. Want go home.” Oh, thank goodnes you’re a quick-to-rebound kind of guy, Peanut. ‘Cuz this is gonna be rough.

“Um, well, you remember when we packed your toys and we said goodbye to the old house?”


“Well, someone who paid for the house lives in that house now, and we live with Daddy. And we’re going to find a new house and move to a new house. Maybe that house near the playground that has a yard.”

“Hmmmm. No. Peanut no want new house. Peanut want go home.”

Guilt. Sadness. Buck thyself up, adult. You are the adult, you are in charge, you get to decide. This is a good move for good reasons and you want the whole family happy here, else you’ll wind up in Portland to finally give Spouse a shot at being happy. “Well, bug, for a little while, the temporary house is our home because a home is where the people you love are. And after we find a new house, that house will be home. Because home is wherever Mommy and Daddy and Peanut and the cats are.”

“Hmmmm. Peanut no like cats. Peanut no share toys with cats.”

“Ah, I don’t know what to say to that.”

“If baby comes to Peanut house, Peanut no share toys baby.”

“Um, okay.”

“Name Peanut going?”

“Temporary house.”

“Peanut want go home.”

“I know. But we aren’t going to that home. We’re going to the temporary house.”

I’m sorry, buddy, that we took you away from the only home you’ve ever known. We, the alleged grownups, always knew it was a temporary place, but I guess we never told you. I know the yard and the hiking and the creek for rock-throwing and the awesome community of yoga ladies and the nearby parks and the R family and the D family were all home to you. But I swear, now that Mommy is home, things are gonna get even better. Mommy wasn’t happy there, bug. Mommy likes San Francisco. And Daddy needs Mommy happy, because Mommy is simply beastly when she’s unhappy. Remember our thrush? Mommy was out of her head bestly. Remember the teething nights when you woke Mommy 12 and 15 times a night? Mommy was call-an-exorcist beastly. Remember how much fun Mommy can be? Well, I know this is hard because it’s all new to you, but I swear, we’re going to have fun here.

I haven’t said anything for a while, so he chimes in. “Peanut no like Berkeley. Peanut angry Mommy want new house in Berkeley. Peanut like Aaaameeeeda. Peanut like Sasso-siso.”

You and me both, buddy.

It’s good to be home. I just wish you knew it as home.

Misleading rent vs. buy calculators

Oh, man, some of the online calculators that promise to help you decide whether to rent or buy a home are wicked misleading!

I just plugged in our numbers, and one calculator made so many assumptive and factual errors it was scary. I now feel the need to blog a public service announcement. Stand back. This may be messy.

First of all, though my rent would be less than my mortgage, the calculator assumed I would spend the difference rather than save it. Don’t they know I watch Suze Orman? Big problem for the bottom line, that assumption. And there was no way to change it.

Second, the calculator assumed that every penny paid to the mortgage would come off the principle. I asked for a calculation on four years of renting versus buying. The calculator said that I would shave at least a third of the balance of the loan in that time. With what loan? Is someone now offering principle-only loans? ‘Cuz I’ get one of them, no question. In the first four years of a mortgage, we’ll be lucky if 15% of our payment goes to principle. Using the faulty numbers, the calculator had my savings account ten times bigger than it really would be after four years of owning a new mortgage. That’s 1000% off. Slight problem, no?

Third, the calculator neglected to take closing costs for the purchase and sale, or realtor costs out of the alleged profit I’d make after four years of ownership (which is really bank ownership and my borrowship).

Did I just find a bad rent vs. buy calculator? Maybe. This one seems pretty good because it asks a lot more questions and involves a lot more financial nuances. I think the mortgage and realtor web sites that have these calculators have more than a little at stake in convincing us that home ownership is an “always””, rather than a “sometimes” wise decision.

Deciding whether to buy a really small, 8 trillion dollar Berkeley house that we won’t keep for more than 4 years, I found this site about homeownership myths useful. (Yes, it’s flawed, especially in not articulating why its title exists, but the financial blogosphere seems very threatened by its overall points. I won’t link to their nonsense. Geez. If someone arguing that renting is sometimes okay threatens your whole raison d’etre, get a therapist.) Even today, my SoCal realtor told me the interest write-off is a good reason to buy. Um, you don’t get the interest as a refund. It comes off our pre-tax income and therefore gets us about 15% of our interest payment back. Call me jaded, after selling in a down market, but I don’t always think buying is the best answer. Do the math yourself. Don’t use an online calculator. (And if you do, find a good one.)

(And don’t buy from liars who don’t disclose material facts that will keep you from selling at a fair price later. Seriously. But that’s a whole ‘nother entry.)