Why Did I Start the Basement Reno?

Oct 12 – my girlfriend broke up with me
Oct 18 – the start up I worked for didn’t need me
Oct 20 – I decided to reframe this whole thing and decided it was time to go abroad
Nov 6 – I started committing to renovating my basement
Nov 16 – I fully committed to renovating my basement

So what the heck happened and why the huge pivot?

First, it was my goal to live in another country in the year 2019 (3 years from 2016). Why the 3 year gap? Because that’s how long I projected it would take me to build up my finances so that it could completely sustain me in another country without any income.

So why the change? Well… in a matter of 6 days, I no longer had any relationship commitments nor did I have any professional commitments. I was as free as I was going to be… except I still had a few financial commitments (about $2100 / month).

The easiest thing I could’ve done was to rent out the house without any renovations. It would’ve gone for about 1450 + utilities (~300), leaving me in a hole of about $450 / month (additional cost for property management).

But if I renovated the basement, I could rent it out for about $700. I could then rent out the rest of the house for about $1400, meaning I would make about $2100. I would have to pay for utilities (estimated at $300), leaving me in the hole about $200 / month. A $250 / month difference, or about $1750 / year. It’s closer to net zero, but not that much to warrant the decision by itself.

So what are the other factors that made this move make sense?

Increase house value

Everyone made comments about my basement. It was by far, the part of the house that dragged the value down. It was also the reason why I was able to get it at a good price.

But now that I was living in it, a makeover would help. The biggest contention was the choice of colour. But what if I completely changed the perception of the basement. It could be an in-law suite. It could be an entertainment area. There were many options, and all of them would increase the value of the house. I expected it to be worth at least $20,000 in value.

A place to live in the future

Say I come back from my international adventure. Would I want to live with roommates again? I don’t really have a problem with that. However, would whoever I end up dating then be okay being around other people when visiting? Maybe… but most likely not.

So next question. Would I want to live in this house myself? I have no problems taking care of the house, but I do have a problem with paying $1500 / month to maintain it. All of a sudden, this house has become an anchor that makes it harder for me to live freely.

But with a basement unit… I will have my own place. I will also have the majority of the house expenses paid for.

To achieve another future goal

I’m sure you’ve heard of small homes by now. I don’t think it’s a fad. Not because I think people want that, but I think that’s what people are going to be able to afford in the future. As for me, I think it’s a fascinating idea: to maximize the total volume of a space, as opposed to the surface area. I also think it’d be a great way to reduce our carbon footprints.

That said, I have a goal to build my own tiny home in the next 4 years (part of my 5 year goal in 2016). I don’t expect it to be super fancy, with hidden levers or whatnot. In fact, I want to simply take a 20 feet shipping container and retrofit it to become a home that can be moved around.

But the problem with that goal was that I had absolutely no experience using any power tools, let alone understand the structure of a house.

Renovating the basement can become my first step.

A distraction

Let’s be real. A break up and a lay off within a week. As positive as I am, that’s not something I can shrug off and move on with so easily. What do you think would happen if you suddenly had a bunch of time and felt disconnected?

I could’ve gone down a more destructive route (maybe these are the events that cause alcoholism…), a self pity route, or a productive route. I had too much respect for myself to let the first two to be options, and so creating something was my answer.

Now I can proudly add to that timeline:
Feb 10 – basement complete and rented.

Did I make progress with all those subgoals? Take a read here.