At some point in early 2021, I started seeing this thumbnail on YouTube all the time.
Apparently I wasn’t alone. For reasons known only to The Algorithm, “Timber Frame vs Conventional Stick Frame” blew up (to the point that a follow-up was uploaded in March to assuage the rabble). I had resisted watching it, I think because that ubiquitous thumbnail looked so academic. At the time I was more into watching people actually build homes, most notably Woodness Goodness’s Cabin Build, Crafted Workshop’s (Not So Tiny) Tiny House Build, and Essential Craftsman’s Spec House Series. It wasn’t until November, after I’d finished landscaping the front yard, supporting my Dad on the CDT, and digging another dry well, that I finally took the bait. Certainly my renovation projects over the last 3 years had primed me, but it’s astounding in retrospect that it only took 6 minutes to go from knowing nothing about timber frames, to knowing with absolute clarity that I would—one day—build a timber frame home. And I don’t mean “build” as in “have someone build”, I mean “build with my own two hands”. I shared my quasi-religious awakening with Stephanie, who, to my relief, was fully into the exposed beam, form-follows-function aesthetic (with the caveat that she was in no position to sign on for timber framing’s DIY ethic any time soon, if ever). That same night, I emailed Shelter Institute, the folks behind the video, and asked them to add me to the waitlist for all 3 of their sold-out timber framing classes in the first half of 2022. I was disappointed to discover the next day that there were over 100 people on each waitlist, all vying for the same unlikely spot to open. Since it was hard to plan anything beyond Stephanie’s graduation in May, I had to put my timber frame dreams on hold. Or so I thought.
Darker times may yet lie ahead, but on a hopeful note, the crepe myrtle tree in our front yard, which I worried I had killed due to lack of water last summer, then extensively trimmed back this winter (and as of late, I have been watering almost daily), just sprouted its first buds, several weeks after what seemed like every other tree in Fresno had exploded with white, purple, and pink confetti.
You’d think I’d have found time to write this while “snowbound in Tahoe”, but my priorities then were jigsaw puzzling, snowshoeing, and cooking good food from scratch, full stop. In truth, Stephanie did most of the jigsaw puzzle, because I had begun puzzling over something else: where to live once she had chosen Fresno State for grad school.
We’d already surveyed several apartment complexes, so we had a good sense of the quality and price points available. But still I found myself asking the question, what if we bought a place? How would 3 years of rent compare to the costs unique to buying a house (i.e. real estate agent commission, property tax, homeowner’s insurance, closing costs, etc.)?
My simplistic and admittedly flawed analysis (flawed because I assumed both a flat stock market and a flat housing market; also I didn’t foresee the extent of the renovations we’d take on, nor can I predict the impact they’ll have on a future sale) suggested that we’d throw away more money renting over three years than buying, even without any price appreciation. So I started looking at listings, got in contact with an agent, and we found ourselves in contract on a house while still in Tahoe.
We got to Ocean Beach a few minutes before sunset on our last evening in San Francisco. When we moved from the Mission to the Sunset a year and five months ago, I didn’t anticipate developing such an affinity for the quiet streets and wild oceanfront of the city’s western flank. In search of a change of scenery and cheap rent, we landed there mostly because it was near SF State. Now I joke that I can’t see myself ever living east of 42nd Ave.
The first time we discussed selling our condo with any seriousness was in the middle of our eleven hour flight from Paris to San Francisco. That was Friday, August 18th. I remember feeling nauseous the next day—as we reunited with our home of almost six years after several weeks away—questioning why we would choose to forsake its many comforts, not to mention the dining nook renovations we’d only recently completed. On Sunday, jetlagged and up before sunrise, I wrote down the pros and cons of selling, trying to make sense of my conflicting thoughts.
The list in favor was overwhelming. The tidied up version now appears self-evident; corralling so many disparate emotions to get to this point was anything but:
Liquidating the equity in our condo should give us the money to pay for Stephanie’s grad school tuition (circa 2019–2022).
Renting should reduce our cost-of-living in the interim, allowing us to further bolster our savings while also making it easier to relocate if Stephanie attends a school outside of San Francisco.
Both of the above greatly reduce our dependence on my single source of income, should that change in the interim, or as a result of relocating.
Having lived in our condo in the Mission for almost six years, we were getting a little bored; in retrospect, while all the reasons above were cold, calculated, and driven by economics, this one we feel on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t until after we moved that we realized how much we needed a change of scenery and routine.