I Sold My House to Go Back to Renting. Here’s Why I Don’t Regret It

published Mar 19, 2023
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photo of desk in home office with note pads, calculator, pens, iphone
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

In 2012, I bought a house. It was a 1940s summer cottage in rural Wisconsin, one that had been updated to be a year-round residence. I got it at a steal — $84,000 — and for good reason. The siding was an ugly dirty yellow; wood paneling had been randomly tacked up on the main wall inside; the carpet was old and matted; water seeped into the basement every time it rained; and the back porch (which had been turned into a three-season room) seemed to be sinking a little. But I was excited to own my own house and put some work into it to make it better.

Six years later, I’d made enough updates to turn it more into my home. The siding was replaced with a brick red that I absolutely loved; neighbors complimented me on it regularly. I ripped out the carpet and replaced it with a wood floor. That ugly wood paneled wall was now a clean sheet of drywall painted an accent color. I’d also had someone out to replace the roof, ensure the foundation was sturdy, and discuss waterproofing the basement.

And then I got divorced and sold the house. I was thrilled.

I’m a Chicagoan by birth and by soul. From the moment I moved to Wisconsin, I dreamt of getting back to Chicago. But thanks to all the repairs I put into the house, I couldn’t afford it — plus, I had a spouse keeping me in Wisconsin. As much as I loved the exterior of the house, the inside was wearing on my nerves. I was tired of cleaning up drowned items in the basement, and from finding random things stuffed into walls by former tenants (ask me about the tool set I found behind the paneling…). So after the divorce, newly single, I cut my home loose.

My repairs netted me quite a bit of extra money, and I wound up opening a savings account with $40,000 profit from the sale. Then, I paid off all my credit cards, all my other bills (minus student loans), and — aside from the momentary drop from losing a massive asset — raised my credit score up by about 150 points. Selling my house was able to help me restart my life fresh, with better money management skills to boot.

I was also able to get back into an apartment (first in Milwaukee, then in Chicago). I moved out of the suburbs where I hated living and got back into cities where I felt more like myself. I began to enjoy life again, living in a place that had energy and made me more confident. And it was a calculated choice; I prefer having a landlord who can handle all the maintenance tasks as they arise, rather than fumbling around trying to figure it out myself and then pay for it myself. Apartments and I, we get along.

I’m glad I bought a house — and sold it. I learned what I like and don’t like, and what I’d need in a home if I ever bought a new one. And I also gained a wealth of knowledge about how purchases and sales work. Though it was an expensive way to learn, I prefer renting!