This Brave Seattle Woman Sacrificed Weekend Pasta Runs To Rome For A Spacious New House
This pandemic’s been awful for everyone. At least 920,959 Americans have died. Millions fell into poverty and experienced food insecurity. Oh, and well-off people bought much bigger homes during the lockdowns and now that everything’s opened up, they’re still stuck with expensive mortgages. It’s a real tragedy.
The pandemic has turned out to be a historically miserable time to buy a home. Many buyers entered the market looking for a home to solve some of the problems the pandemic created. They wanted more space for Zoom rooms and home gyms. They wanted bigger and better backyards to entertain outdoors.
These expectations ran headlong into the reality of shopping in a frenzied sellers’ market where the pickings were slim and the prices astronomical.
Admittedly, most of the people the Times interviewed for its hard-hitting feature, “They Rushed to Buy in the Pandemic. Here’s What They Would Change,” are normal mortals with hefty bank accounts. Then there’s Stephanie DiSantis from Seattle.
Ahhhh\nAaaahhhHHHHHHH\nAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHpic.twitter.com/WbbE57iRFY— Holly Michels (@Holly Michels) 1644889039
Three months into the pandemic, Stephanie DiSantis felt claustrophobic working from home in her 800-square-foot townhouse in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.
So, like millions of other Americans, she started looking for a bigger space.
Conversely, millions of other Americans were also at risk of losing their homes if not for eviction moratoriums. Seattle's eviction moratorium expires at the end of February, and an estimated 124,000 households — more than 12 percent of all renters — in the Seattle metro area are behind on rent.
But back to Stephanie DiSantis: She’s not literally claustrophobic — that’s an actual anxiety disorder more debilitating than “my place is too small” — but nonetheless she was compelled to MOVE NOW. Her max budget was $900,000, which wasn’t enough for her desired neighborhood, so she increased it by almost 50 percent to $1.3 million. This required her to “reassess her priorities.”
“I decided, I’ve done a lot of traveling, I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve done the thing where I’m like, ‘I’m hungry for pasta, I’m going to go to Rome for three days,’” said Ms. DiSantis, 47, who works for Amazon. “I can stop doing that. I can afford to be a little house poor.”
Yeah, so I don’t think going to Rome for a long weekend because you have a hankering for carbonara is a “thing.” It’s the plot from an episode of the 1980s "Beverly Hills Teens" cartoon.According to a recent survey, 69 percent of homeowners consider themselves “house poor,” which is defined as "having little savings left after paying their mortgages and associated monthly expenses.” A further 40 percent of these homeowners rely on second jobs to stay afloat. If your budget-crunching involves cutting out spontaneous trips to Italy, you are probably not house poor. You are rich as fuck.
When vacationing in October 2020 with her family in Massachusetts, DiSantis learned that a 2,570-square-foot house dropped its price to $1.45 million, which was “over her maximum budget, but within reach.”
After her friends, her broker and an inspector vetted it in her absence, her offer at full asking price was accepted.
She returned to Seattle in November, seeing the house she’d only seen on video in person for the first time. “When I first saw it, I cried,” she said of the house with views of the Puget Sound. “I fell in love.”
The house gave her more space, but at a significant financial cost. In 2021, her priorities shifted, and she suddenly felt the burden of a huge mortgage. “I got super burned out at work,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, if I was still in that townhouse, I could just quit my job for a year and be fine.’ The mortgage was so low, I could take a year off, I could relax, I could refuel and now I really can’t."
DiSantis is an executive at Amazon, where the warehouse workers who ensured our Prime deliveries arrived promptly fought for hazard pay and paid sick leave. Their working conditions are brutal, even more so during a pandemic, but they can’t imagine taking a year off to “refuel.” That’s a fantasy.
Her spacious new home is awesome, but DiSantis apparently didn’t anticipate that hefty mortgage payments might cramp her style. She now feels “financially tethered” to the house.
“I wish that I would have been able to foresee a couple of years down the road and waited it out,” she said. “I could have taken a big break or been that person who’s like, ‘OK, I’ll move to Montana and get a house that is everything I want for half the price.’”
Oh, what might have been! There are truly no sadder words. May Stephanie DiSantis find comfort in her three-bedroom Craftsman.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Japan for the next few days. I’m craving some sushi.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."