Lifelong renter transitions to ownership

Homeownership. Said to be a component of the American Dream. And yet for nearly 40 years I have always been the steadfast and loyal renter.
But not anymore.

At the ripe old age of 62, I am now the proud owner of a small, but suitable and for me quite livable Westwood cabin. Or more precisely, the loan company is the owner until I turn 92.

I never missed a rental payment in all the years I was a tenant. Now it’s called a mortgage, and just as before I plan on applying that same discipline each and every month to pay my house payments, an easy enough task given that funds are auto-paid from my checking account.

Built in 1925, the structure’s former history was that of a kind of hostel for sawyers and loggers in the lumberjack trade back during Westwood’s heyday.

To add a bit more history to the story, this is the last remaining cabin (Cabin 25) of many that were built that once housed up to 12 men during the days of the Red River Lumber Company, providing long-term shelter when the snow was too deep in winter to harvest trees, or in summer when work was plentiful.

It’s hard to imagine that so many loggers living and sleeping in bunks in such a tight enclosure could occur without some heated exchanges now and then between lodgers at the end of a long day of backbreaking work. But that’s another story for another day.

Over the course of the past three years this 575-square-foot living space has been completely remodeled inside and out, along with a more recently constructed add-on utility room, plus a ramshackle backyard shed that needs a rebuild of its own — a project I intend to undertake in the more distant future.

The fact that I was actually qualified for financing was somewhat baffling; despite only part-time work and a modest bank account, the opportunity nevertheless became a possibility late last year. In other words it was something of an unexpected but pleasant surprise that once I applied I so quickly found a willing lender.

I moved in this February, and I’m still working on putting every thing in its place. A few boxes remain unopened. I also need to employ a good flooring scrub before I can consign items like the new kitchen mats in their final resting places.

A lot, too, remains to be done in preparation for next winter, even this early in the springtime. That’s because the past season was rougher on me than I anticipated. I vowed to shovel as little snow next winter as possible after the first big snowfall resulted in me laying in bed in agony for the next couple of days, unable to move from the exertion that seemed to cripple every major joint in my body. I ended up hiring someone with a younger back to do the job.

I now have a number of projects before me. First I’m having three tall trees cut down in my front yard located next to my neighbor’s fence, to save raking leaves the rest of my natural life. It turns out my neighbor backs the scheme for the same reason.

Secondly, I plan to pour a concrete driveway, and then anchor the legs of a steel carport designed to hold its weight in snow. This will mean never having to clear two feet of the white stuff from the roof of my car ever again.

Finally I need to build a woodshed large enough to hold a couple of cords of firewood.

But the real story here is this: that I have committed to putting my roots down in a rural community far from where I first started, and probably for evermore. The idea was at first disconcerting, as this sounded a lot like the final chapter of my life’s journey. But so be it.

I can almost picture myself in my old age (one or two years from now) sitting in a rocker on the deck of my porch yelling for the kids to, “Stay off my lawn!” Sort of like the cantankerous and defiant character played by Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino, but without the ire or a shotgun across my lap.

The pride of homeownership comes not only with a mortgage, but taxes and insurance and paying the water bill. All that was taken into account when I made the choice to fill out and sign the seemingly endless online “paperwork” to become a property owner. I have no remorse.

Considering how significant the changes are to my new lifestyle since being handed the key to the front door of my newly refurbished cottage, it has suddenly dawned on me that after all these years — I have finally been domesticated!