Monday, January 3, 2011

Wants, wishes and necessities...

We're carefully tiptoeing into the world of real estate.

No, please don't sit by the mailbox anxiously expecting a "we've moved!" card. I said CAREFULLY! We're in no hurry, and the housing market is kinda funktastic right now anyway. While I've been looking for years (and B too), our lives were never solid enough to seriously look. Now they are...

And let me tell ya, this whole house thing? Interesting.

First of all, it's incredibly intimidating to think that I'm entering a payback contract that obligates me to pay at least x amount for the next 30 years. Now, I'm working (right now) on reaching my 30th year in 11 months, so for me, the time frame is quantified by me scarily saying to myself: any memory you have.... you'd have to pay x amount that month. Talk about making you stop and think.

But yet, secondly, B and I have student loans. So while the 30 years is intimidating and the amount is more, we're not incredibly floored by the prospect of a mortgage. Don't get me wrong, we're not nilly-willy about the process and the mortgage. But we know that we take loans seriously, pay them back (usually too much so the loan ends early), and we won't get in over our heads.

And that takes us to our final category: Where do we live? While we've narrowed down the geographic scope to certain areas of town, we do find ourselves thinking "What do we want for 30 years?" We don't want a flipper house. We want something big enough to accommodate ourselves, our family, and our foreseeable needs. We don't ever want to feel pressured to move because of something with our house.

That said, we've been presented with interesting things. Do we want a gorgeous, historical (as in, significant to our town's history) house that is huge but has a tiny backyard but is in an amazing neighborhood? How much will our children someday want to use that yard? In Oregon, you can only plan on really being outside a LOT from about mid-May to September. Then the mud hits. Will having a smaller yard mean we do more things as a family outside of the house? It's big enough to have a treehouse and those sort of things, so there would be fun child space. I'm not so worried about gardening because our town has a great community garden system. So, there will always be that to go to and be busy outside.

On the reverse end of things, if we go to the countryside, we'll be much more isolated, possibly over our heads with too much land, and stuck in not as great school districts. But, we'll have a lot of room to roam.

Do we want an old house or new house? Do we want one that needs cosmetic improvements? And don't even get me started about property tax.

Do we wait until we have the full 20% down? Or do we buy a home we love if it comes on the market? And if something does come on the market, do we wait to see how much that person wants to sell? Or do we hop on it? It's a weird time right now, where a lot of homeowners do not want to accept that their houses have fallen in price. All too frequently, the initial asking prices are pretty high, but then come down drastically. Yes, that's unfortunate for those homeowners, but it's also a risk everyone takes when they purchase a home. Maybe that sounds crass of me, but we are pretty well-aware of the risks we are looking to take in purchasing a home. And if the market was turned and the homeowners were netting 70% gains in their purchase to selling prices, we'd be giving them high-fives... for making the new buyers pay more? We have an odd sense of what is great sometimes.

And yes, I do know that just because we buy a house and have a mortgage does not mean that we're necessarily stuck there for the full length of the mortgage. However, for our wants, we want to assume we are stuck there. It helps us wrap our heads around the positives and negatives of the house for us now and us possibly longer-term. But yet, we know that we won't like EVERYTHING in a home... so what do we capitulate on? What things can we live with?

Anyway, that's just a little glimpse of some things we're thinking about. Oh, and as a final note? is pretty darn amazing.


  1. Good luck! It’s a process. I wish that I could offer fabulous words of wisdom but seeing as I’ve only ever bought one house…my experience is limited.

    In hindsight, there were a few things that we would have differently a second time around:

    Bought a smaller house. Realistically you probably won’t live in your home for 30 years, despite having a loan that is for that period of time. We bought a house with four bedrooms and a giant unfinished basement…way too big for our small family, despite plans to eventually add a few family members. I think about that every time I have to clean the darn thing.

    Too much yard. Pretty much the same thing that you suggested: we barely use our yard during the spring/fall/winter months and 11,000 sf is a heck of a lot to mow. The dog likes it though.

    We also bought a fixer upper. Which is great since it has gobs of personality. But it’s also a pain in the neck when pipes burst, or the electrical outlet dates back 60 years, or when you really would like to have more than one bathroom. Sometimes, it would be nice to have things that didn’t require constant fixing. The funny thing is that we really wanted a fixer…but two years in a newer house definitely has some aspects that sound appealing.

    And last but not least, do you guys have Redfin in your area? We loved their mapping system and we actually bought our house through them. Saved a few bucks and had a generally good experience. We liked it most, I think, because we wanted to do all the leg-work ourselves, and didn’t want to rely on a realtor to find a house for us.

    GOOD LUCK and happy house hunting!

  2. Hi Sonja! Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate it. We actually do have an agent/broker, but it's on a low-key basis. We do have Redfin, but the broker we are with REALLY knows the areas we're interested in well, and having never bought a home before, we decided we wanted that type of expertise too. But, we do use redfin and zillow (zillow is a similar type of system, but also provides a lot of background information on the homes/lots and the surrounding houses/neighborhoods).

    I appreciate your comment about the yard. I LOVE a yard, but I also know we should be somewhat realistic. 8-9 months of the year, it will not be enjoyed and will likely look a bit dreary. Future kids will likely have summertime activities/day care outside of the house, so we're looking at that too. So hmm. But whether we want to buy a grand house on a 4000sq foot lot? We don't know yet. Depends on the place, I suppose. Go small and do it extraordinarily well? Or go big lot and always have projects? Hm.

    And I completely forgot to mention the garage issue. I still find it funny that in Southern California, EVERYONE has garages. But up here, where you do actually have a use for a garage (weather-wise), garages are pretty rare. Do you have a garage? So, we're having to factor that issue into things too...