American Dream No. 23: More closet space

By Liz Keuler

May 2017

In my “charming” apartment days, I was lucky if my closet was deep enough for my hangers to line up straight. And sharing a tiny closet meant my husband and I were in constant negotiations. Do you have more than 20 things to hang? Too bad. Embrace minimalism.

Or in my case, I would hang 20 things and leave the rest strewn about the bedroom floor artistically, a practice my husband did not find particularly endearing. I considered my side of the bedroom floor a sort of pre-laundry holding space.

So when we toured the house that would end up being our home and found a glorious walk-in closet in the master bedroom, my heart was filled with joy. Built-in shelves as far as the eye could see! Double rows of rods for tops and bottoms, and a full-height rod for dresses! Overhead light, pouring out of the doorway like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark – well, just the beatific, otherworldly glow. No face-melting ghosts.

And not only that, but the house had a coat closet on the first floor. A whole closet! Just for coats!

The house was closer to the top of our price range than we had hoped, but could we let that walk-in closet go? If we waited to save up a 20% down payment, would the houses on the market in 3 years have such beautiful closets? And how much equity would we miss out on building, while scrimping and saving and wedging hangers in our tiny apartment closet at a 23-degree angle?

Needing a 20% down payment to purchase a home is stuck in our collective consciousness as the “American Way,” but really, there are lots of financial options for first-time homebuyers. You can put as little as 3% down when your conventional loan is backed by private mortgage insurance (MI). And in many cases, there may actually be a cost to waiting to buy a home (think lost equity and home appreciation). Do the math yourself with our Buy Now vs Wait calculator.

In any case, we couldn’t let that closet go. We ended up putting 10% down on the house and financed with a conventional loan backed with private MI. And I leave my clothes in the closet, instead of on the floor. Mostly.

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Liz Keuler is the editor of Readynest. She spent a decade meandering through radio, nonprofits and the corporate world before convincing MGIC to hire her based on her staunch grammatical convictions. She lives in a charming 100-year-old bungalow on Milwaukee’s East Side. Her interests include old Ernst Lubitsch films, new action movies, 60s girl pop, Regency romance novels, word games, sewing and shallots.
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