Chez Van Loon


We’d been living in a rental townhome in Gurnee, IL. It had its charms: it was on a golf course, which meant that the grounds were pretty well-kept. But it had its downside, too. The complex was built for some swingin’ empty-nesters in the mid-1970′s, and our unit hadn’t been updated since then. As in, we had harvest gold appliances and laminate faux butcher block countertops in the kitchen, and a 2-story Fred Flintsone fake boulder fireplace. The place could have been designed by famous TV architect Mike Brady, right after he doled out some wise advice about the chicks to Greg.

We didn’t think we’d be in the unit but a few months when we moved in. We stashed the proceeds from the sale of our Wisconsin home in the bank and waited for some clarity about a possible final destination to become clear.

About a year and a half into our sojourn there, in 2005, we realized we were going to be parked in the vicinity for a while. I started looking at townhouses and condos in the city of Chicago. Our Israeli realtor schlepped me to see probably between 50-60 places. Parking was an issue (we had 4 vehicles in our household at the time) – and price was another, larger issue. What we could afford were places that looked like our rental unit, only they were perfumed with cigarette smoke. What we wanted was…well…pretty much the opposite.

I stopped home shopping for a while. The whole thing was just too frustrating. Then I started searching again, only to discover that prices had risen yet further. We gradually realized we were being pushed back out to the `burbs, because the idea of being house poor at our age had no charm whatsoever. After 3 offers fell through, we settled on our current townhome here in Madrona Village in Round Lake. We purchased it in May, 2006 for top dollar.

I think this real estate transaction was the tipping point for the entire housing market, which, about 14 seconds after we signed the papers, began its steep descent.

We’d hoped to be here a few years, then move on. At one point, we had 7 people (6 adults and a toddler) living here. Now its just Bill and I. And a 15-year old cat. We could actually afford to live in some of those charming urban condos with limited parking now.

I did a little informal checking to see what our townhouse might be worth today…if we could even find a buyer for it. When I got the results, my first response was to curl up in the fetal position, just for a moment or two, while I did the sad math. It’ll take years (if ever) before prices climb to the point where we can hope to get what we paid for the place. So do we live here until that happens? Do we try to cut our losses and move on? Are we anywhere near the bottom of the housing price collapse? (If we sold our house, my suspicion is that the transaction would no doubt be the rock-bottom tipping point upward.) The house in foreclosure across the street has been sitting vacant for nearly 2 years.

We drive miles to church. Bill drives miles to work. Our relationships and ministry connections are in other places. We don’t really know anyone in our community. (It’s tough to meet neighbors when you don’t have kids, though we regularly try.) It’d be OK to move on to something smaller and more centrally-located, as we’d originally planned when we bought the place.

But it doesn’t seem like reality at this point.

Anyone else in this boat? Any words of wisdom to share?

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About Michelle Van Loon
  • –julie

    Bloom where you’re planted! It’s not what you planned…but it’s where you are. How does God want to use you there?

  • Michelle Van Loon

    I agree, Julie. The “bloom where you’re planted” axiom is wisdom.

    I am asking God that very question.

  • Jane Steen

    We have also sort of grown out of where we are. It’s a very kid-friendly subdivision with a great K-8 school. But the kids are teenagers now, the school has been left far behind, and you have to get in the car to go ANYWHERE. I barely know anyone anymore, neighbors having either moved to faraway states because of jobs, or to “divorcee city” a few miles east.

    We hanker after living in downtown Libertyville, near to shops, buses, restaurants, and all the rest. We tried to sell our house last year, having found a new construction we really liked. The latter is still on the market; we took our house off last August once the number of houses for sale in our sub rose to 11 and they were ALL dropping their prices like crazy.

    So we are also blooming where we’re planted; I am happy to see the continued development of my wild woodland garden, and this house is very affordable. However, I can’t help, as I bloom, bending slightly towards the glowing light of Libertyville. So I know how you feel.

  • –julie

    ah yes, the blooming thing is wise, and so easy to *say* isn’t it?

    Can I recommend hosting a Soup Night in your neighborhood? ;) (that’s a wink…)

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Beautifully put, Jane. “Bending slightly toward the glowing light of Libertyville”. Love it, and you captured my own wistful feelings perfectly.

    Have you tried a soup night in your hood, Julie? How did it go?

  • –julie

    We hosted a Soup Night every Thursday from October thru March for 5 years.

    We haven’t done it the last two years. Mostly because it got too big. Everyone invited kept coming, and we found we were hosting a rocking party every week.

    But back when it was small, it was really lovely. I can honestly say we know and love (most of the time) our neighbors.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Julie, your neighbors are blessed to have you living in the `hood.


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