How we chose the wrong home

When we moved to Costa Rica, we needed to find a home to rent.
It was high season in a part of the country that has tons of tourism, so almost everything available was for short-term vacation rentals.

We finally found a long-term rental in our budget.

The good:

  • it had the # of bedrooms we wanted and my mother-in-law would have her own space
  • it gave Shannon the shortest possible commute to work (still 40 minutes!)
  • there was a beautiful community pool
  • it was fun seeing (most of) the wildlife – monkeys, iguanas, snakes, scorpions, bats, tarantulas, geckos, etc
But over the next few months, we realized we had made the wrong choice.
The bad:
  • we were too isolated from others – which would have been great for vacation, but not for long term living
  • there was only one other family with kids nearby, and we only saw them twice the whole time we lived there
  • we had a burglary and every few nights, there were burglary attempts nearby
wild horse playa panama costa rica

On a bike ride near our old home where the horses roamed free

Where did we go wrong?

We forgot what was actually important.

We focused on the technical stuff like a short commute, square footage, # of bedrooms, etc. and lost focus of how actually living in this home would fit in with our family’s values and mission.

Instead of looking for a home with x square feet, we should have focused more on whether or not we’d have opportunities to build relationships with neighbors, because we value community.

Instead of looking for a home with a nice kitchen, we should have focused more on the opportunity for 2-year-old Grace to have kids nearby that she could play with, because we want to teach Grace how to be a good friend.

Instead of looking for a home with outdoor space, we should have focused more on whether or not there was a church nearby, because we want to be able to worship God with others.
After the isolation grew to be too much, we moved to a new community where:
  • where we’ve been building friendships with neighbors that we hope will continue for many years
  • where we can walk or bike anywhere
  • where Grace has friends to play with
  • where we can ride bikes to a thriving church that is focused on serving the community

At some point, we’ll move again.

And we don’t want to make the same mistake we made when looking for our first home in Costa Rica.
So I’ve put together a home search criteria checklist that will help us make a better decision based on factors that are more important than the physical features of the house or apartment we are looking at.
If you haven’t downloaded it already, there should be a link to it here:

CLICK HEREto download the Home Search Essential Criteria checklist

We used this when we moved to our second home in Costa Rica, and it was a huge help in keeping the bigger picture in mind rather than getting distracted by unimportant details.
If you’ll be moving anytime soon, you might find it helpful in your home search.
Do you have a story about choosing the right or wrong home? Or have any feedback on the home search document? Comment below and tell your story.
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Papa Ben Dambman

Ben has spent his life searching for the meaning of "home", having lived in Nigeria, Philadelphia, Florida, California, Chicago, Australia and Costa Rica. He believes that "home" (whether you are a globetrotter, have lived in the same house your entire life, or don't even have a place to call home) is something more than a location... and that clearly defining what "home" means to you is essential for a thriving life.

  • Passed this to my next door neighbors
    Prepping for Chicago to Germany move w 3yr & 8 mo old.
    Touched on some of their greatest fears.
    Grateful for the checklist.

    • Thanks for sharing the checklist and letting me know, Saleem! That’s going to be a big move for them, I hope they find a good home and community where their family will thrive in Germany.

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