One of my most profound childhood shames was my house. I bounced back and forth between my father’s house and my mother’s countless houses. She moved everywhere insofar I have memories of asking her, “Did you move to a new place?” From time to time, we will crash at drug junkies’ houses. Strangers’ homes. Friendly signers who let us stay at their houses out of pity.
When my father decided that we will no longer see her, albeit, for good reasons, I started to observe his house. By then, shame was born. My relatives and friends had big, beautiful houses. My home was just a tiny 800 sq ft house with four bedrooms, a narrow laundry room, a living room, and a kitchen. Of course, we had a bathroom. There was a garage as well. My single favorite aspect of that house was the exterior color, light blue-gray. H
However, we had a roach problem. The living room was cramped. We were always in each other’s space. It was a happy place, but as I grew older, it became my prison. I was jealous of people with fancy houses. I picked up a hobby during my teenage years because of my unpleasant experiences: house-stalking. I obsessively looked up homes for sale and saved my favorites for more than a decade. I dreamed of having a Cinderella’s castle style house with rooms dedicated to dozens of themes, “Oh, this room will be the outer space room. That room will look like the tropical forest. I also want to have a room filled with those neat chairs where Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen posed in a whimsical style.”
As much as I was ashamed of my childhood house, I was grateful that I did not live in a mobile home. I was not jealous of some people I know living in mobile homes. I was relieved that my house was not that bad. Those houses were poorly maintained. I remember wanting to gag and die when I discovered the light fixture above the dining room being covered with roaches as I ate with an acquaintance and her family. I kept telling myself to not be rude because they were poor, and they can’t help it. I recall asking the acquaintance, “Did you guys consider removing the roaches from the light fixture?” She was shocked and said, “NO! Those are gross! We will never touch them!” Ok, but you do not have a problem eating below the roach-infested light fixture daily? I went with my father to visit his friends living in mobile homes many times, and those were moldy and stinky. One can imagine my shock when I, an adult, discovered that my grandmother lived in one because it was well-kept and practically scent-free. It doesn’t matter because I associated mobile homes with the shitty ones I saw all my life. As a youngling, I swore to myself that I will never live in one ever.
In college, I realized that houses overall are expensive, and sadly, it is difficult to live comfortably with an average salary, along with student loans. Determined, I told myself that I will find a lovely home, but never a manufactured house. Never.
When I moved to New Mexico and got my first car, it was probably when I became fully independent. Reality eventually sunk in. Houses are expensive. I am drowning in debt. I started reading articles and memes about how people who build tiny houses or convert their vans into homes are hypocrites. “They do not want to experience the stigma of having a cheap house, so they make it a cute trend to have a tiny house. That is classist.” I was guilty of this. No shit. I stumbled across a cute mobile home on Zillow and thought to myself, “This one is cute. Affordable. But it is a mobile home!” Then I questioned my priorities, “Ok, do you prefer to live in a fancy house and be broke or live comfortably while having a mobile home? You know, with the latter, you will be likely to experience less financial anxiety when an emergency comes up.” My perspective on it began to waver, but eventually, my determination to have a non-mobile home came back.
When I began dating my partner, he told me that he wants to live in a mobile home. Yes, a mobile home. I was horrified. I told him no. He said that he grew up in one, and it was not that bad. I persisted, “No.” He saw me browsing through houses on Zillow and Realtor.com many times. He will sigh and say, “I want to have a mobile home because it is affordable.” I ignored those comments. He stopped and was like, “Ok, you want a house like that? We gotta save up a lot of money.”
Last Sunday, I came across a cute fixer-upper on Realtor.com and pointed it out to him. It is affordable. Merely 90K, but the house was in poor shape, so there was room for negotiation. We got excited, so we drove all the way there. The surrounding was beautiful. We saw a nearby watermelon patch. However, the house appeared as if the floor was about to collapse. The back door was unlocked, so we walked in. We found many pictures of sexy women in bikinis plastered over some walls. The floor was full of trash. There were two gigantic TVs. He opened the refrigerator and found maggots in food. The foundation and the roof have holes.
We talked about it, and he said that we can fix it up. I had a queasy feeling. Something was nagging at me. I really wanted the house, but something about it bothered me.
So, we got home and discussed it. I signed up for information about that house, and a real estate agent immediately contacted me. I explained to him the decaying state and asked him if it was possible to negotiate the price. He said that the owner is not conducting a sale through the bank, and they expect cash upfront.
I was offended. That house? Its bones can be salvageable, but not for 90K. It will take approximately 100-150K to renovate.
My partner and I dropped the plan, our dreams shattered.
I went to the bedroom to sulk in bed. Somehow I concluded that it doesn’t make sense if I want to buy a house in shambles and renovate it when I can quickly get a new manufactured home at a lower price. It suddenly clicked in my mind… I should live below my financial means. I can buy land for cheap and get a manufactured house and easily have all of my debts paid off in a decade or a bit more.
Also, what if my partner or I get sick, and one of us has to pay rent? How can we afford the rent of, let’s say, $1,200 monthly if one of us loses our jobs? If I stubbornly get my dream house, I will not live comfortably. I will not be able to afford to go to different restaurants, traveling, and etc. I decided to look through http://www.mobilehomeliving.org and several FB pages dedicated to mobile homes. People on those pages were very positive about it. I learned a lot more than I expected.
Walking up to my partner, I sighed, “Ok, you are right. Getting a mobile home makes sense for our financial budgets.” He was thrilled, and he said that he hoped that I would come to my senses eventually, which I did. I ended up looking through mobile homes for sale that night, and we came across several designs we liked.
So, I acknowledge that I contributed a lot to the stigma all my life because of the shame ingrained in me starting at a young age, and honestly, it doesn’t help that people did not take care of their mobile homes where I grew up. However, I realized that those people were probably too poor to keep up with the maintenance in their homes, so I can’t judge them.
Really, I am excited right now. It is nice to have realistic goals. A manufactured house fits my budget, so mobile homeowners are probably better at managing their financial means.
As of right now, I am saving up money to buy land with my partner next year, and from there, we will see what our land title allows us to build or not. In a few years from now, I may have my sweet home!