Blonde moment

And the silver spoon.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Home buyer’s journal take four…

Josh and I have had a very busy couple of weeks. When I say we’re aggressive buyers, we’re aggressive buyers. We looked at houses, put an offer on one, and have signed a purchase agreement contingent on an inspection and also a VA appraisal. We showed my folks the house, as well, and they see nothing horribly wrong with it.

We don’t want to take advantage of people and rip them off, but we also want the market to dictate our housing price. We’ve been watching prices… well, I have been watching prices for the past year, but Josh only since July. But, we had an area in mind, what people around here call “south of the river.” Our hope was in an area that is still developing, we would find some better prices. It seems to be the case, at any rate.

Some observations, just from someone who has been looking for a home… no advice for either buyers or sellers, just observations. Josh and I were looking for a house with fewer things to do then more things to do. In other words, we didn’t want to get in over our head with major repairs. Flip the property shows do teach a valuable lesson: get an inspection because there are a lot of lemons out there on the market.

We have now learned, thanks to Dad, what “they don’t build them like they used to anymore,” really means. My parents live in housing that was built to suit the needs of the Greatest Generation, so post WW2/Korean War suburban development. Regardless of reasons, either due to the speed which modern houses are built, or that construction materials and labor are more costly, framing is not as substantial as it used to be. Josh and I did view several houses from both a modern era and the post WW2/Korean War suburban development, and our problems were basically some combination of projects and neighborhood.

One house was in pretty decent shape. The couple who lived there was there for forty years and the man had training in construction. So, structurally everything was great. But the appliances were old, as was the furnace, and about everything else. And the basement looked like it hadn’t been touched in 40 years, but it was finished. Josh and I considered the house on its own, which would have actually been a great deal, but the neighborhood was, to be polite, tired. The neighborhood my folks live in has twelve houses that are, for all practical purposes exactly the same, and in fact, exactly the same as this one house. And everyone has a nice yard and a nice exterior. And the neighborhood looks great! This neighborhood had none of the pride of ownership and there were six to ten other houses for sale. There was this house in a neighborhood Josh and I used to rent in. It’s close to a school, a Cub, a Target, a bagel shop, a couple of coffee shops, and an air plane themed restaurant. Same type of Greatest Generation suburban housing. If you take one of those ramblers, cut off the attached garage and bonus bed/bonus office in the back, that’s the house. This house had pride of ownership, as did many of the houses on the block. The owners had recently added on a half story, and it was a great bonus. The basement was finished, and had a couple of little things… there was essentially nothing wrong with the house. Everything was new. BUT, it was also the nicest house in the neighborhood and there are several foreclosures nearby. The house was not priced accordingly.

The options for Josh and me didn’t just involve type of house. In some aspects, we really could have moved into any style of house, but we were looking at neighborhood and quantity of projects more than anything. Also, we have to keep in mind Josh’s chosen vehicle of public service, the National Guard. We figure, depending on who becomes President, and depending if/when Josh starts officer candidate school, a minimum of three more calendar years before his next deployment. So, any place Josh and I live in has to have the, “I am OK leaving my wife and kid alone” feeling to it.

There is something to be said about “location, location, location.” There is something to be said about the good bones in houses of yesteryear. And there is something to be said on how first house should get ones feet wet in home maintenance and ownership, but not be a horrid experience. The above houses, the one we actually bid on, the house in a tired neighborhood, and the nicest house on the block, were all actually OK possibilities for Josh and me. We opted for the one with what we feel is the least perceived risk. Too bad we couldn’t get location, good bones, and fewer projects all in one, but we bid on a good house.

Now, why buy now… I’m 23 weeks pregnant and will be just entering my third trimester when we actually move. So, what’s the deal? I’ve said before, shelter is a voluntary financial transaction between parties that mutually benefit from the transaction. Josh and I are currently near the point of financial indifference, when tax benefit of ownership comes to play. That’s actually a hard point to figure out. Without seeing the terms of what would be our next lease here, I can only speculate. But, with other factors, a baby on the way, the market seems to be good for buyers, interest rates are low, and Josh and I have no debt (I can say that for four or five more weeks), it seems like a good time to buy, and if we’re not at a market low or at a point where renting is more expensive, it is pretty darned close. We crunched the numbers and the numbers look good.

Needless to say, we’re going to be very busy people the next month or so. I’ll try to get some weekly posting up, but Josh also needs the computer and internet for his classes, so he gets priority.

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