Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fretting, Uselessly

(Is there any other way to fret?)

There's a house for sale. A nice-looking house, right next to campus (which would be great--not a problem at all; it's not too close to the dorms, but it is across the street from our office and close to the gym!). Three bedrooms, two baths, new roof kitchen heating AC etc. It costs...$129,000.

We haven't looked at it yet. I picked up the flier with the specs this afternoon. Seems good, in general. The rooms are quite small (I'm guessing that's why the price is so low?), and it has one weirdly enormous bathroom (twice the size of the bedrooms!!), but it has a big enclosed front porch, a screened-in back porch, and a patio. The porches would be perfect for prepping seedlings, and the yard is the right size for a garden, reasonable lawn, and minimal mowing.

The bedrooms are really small, though--8.5 x 11 (plus walk-in closets). The dining room and kitchen seem smallish, too.

OK, but here's the source of the fret (because, again, we have not looked at this house, and whatever, there will be other houses). At what point should one buy a house? I don't mean in terms of affording it (because at that price, I expect we could easily be paying less in a mortgage than our current rent, if we wanted to, and I have some savings that could make a small down payment), but rather in terms of life-planning. Especially in academia, because, let's face it, if we (both) got some kind of nice deal elsewhere, we'd take it. (The "both" makes that more difficult, of course.) But I don't want to keep wafting around noncommittally because I might one day get a job somewhere else. On the other hand, what's with this sudden urgency? We've been talking about looking for a house next spring, but neither one of us wants to move RIGHT NOW. And obviously we shouldn't just look at one house; so, if we look at this house (which we've agreed we ought to do, if only for kicks), shouldn't we look at others, too? And what if it's too small? In principle I'm okay with small rooms, but I don't want to buy a place that we'll "outgrow" in a few years (although I guess that's not the end of the world.... I just like the idea of stepping outside of the whole buy-buy-buy thing that seems to be our national home-owning culture). So, ugh, maybe I just need talking-down?

I'm sure that this enthusiasm, or whatever it is, will blow over in a day or two. In the meantime, I need to go measure my bed.


Good Enough Woman said...

When I bought my first house (condo), I fretted endlessly. Whenever I started looking, I would obsess and freak out. There seemed to be no way around it for me. I couldn't think of anything else and was very unproductive at work.

The next time, when I house hunted with hubby, we just bought the first one we looked at. Made the whole process much easier.

Thus, I am not much help. :)

Sisyphus said...

I have no advice or help on the house-hunting front, not being in that sort of life place right now. (You know who could tell you all about it OMG? Dr Crazy!!!!)

Anyway, I clicked over to just to say that I have recently measured my apt, and my bedroom, which I feel is small, is 11 by 9. In case the extra data helps you in any way. You've seen pics of my place!

Have fun measuring things!

clio's disciple said...

We bought a house when we started our new jobs, and have no regrets. There's not a lot in the way of rentals in our area, though. We have jobs in the same area, so we hope we're here permanently, and we didn't want to wait until tenure.

squadratomagico said...

SweetCliffie and I bought our house soon after moving to OPU Land. We've never regretted it -- though at the time, only I was on a tenure track, so theoretically we *might* have wanted to move elsewhere had SC not found a spot here. But also: we got a great deal -- much like you are considering -- so we felt pretty confident that we'd be able to sell it if necessary. Depending on how quickly the market turns over there, it might be a great idea.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

What are the options for expanding this house if you want to, eventually? Is there room on the lot? Get an inspection that will consider the structural issues. You don't want a tear-down, presumably, but sometimes you can pretty much double your space in a re-model/expansion.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

When I saw the price you were talking about, I had to readjust my mind for housing outside of California. You might be able to buy a run-down mobile home for 129 here. You know, one that would fall to pieces at the first sign of an earthquake. The "cheap" houses where I live are in the 450-500K range, so 129 sounds like bargain city to me.

Then again, there are probably a lot of places where you live that are comparable. If you do a little hunting, you might find something that is nicer with slightly bigger rooms for only a smidge more. If I were you, I'd go to a bank and see what sort of mortgage you could get approved for (with your down payment), and then you'd have an idea of what the actual mortgage cost would be. Figure in a little extra for maintenance and property taxes, and then you'll know what you can actually afford to spend on a house. At that point, look at a few in the right price range, and see what you come up with.

Since I'm an unemployed PhD with no house and no prospect of buying, you don't have to listen to me. But my best friend is a realtor. And she's told me a thing or two about this process. It's a long process to buy a house, so even if you start looking now, it may be a few months before you close the deal and get to take possession. Good luck!!

LenapeGirl said...

I think you buy a house when you start to invest some emotional meaning in home ownership. It is more about wanting something of your own or wanting a garden or wanting to create something uniquely yours.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

When to buy is such a tough question. I decided to wait until after I felt certain I was going to stay, and that's really only just been this past year (although the reasons why I've been uncertain of staying have changed over the years). I'm kind of glad that I did because the one time I thought about buying was shortly before I met 402. Had I bought then, I would have had to sell before buying our new house, which is much bigger and nicer than anything I would have bought then -- and I certainly would have had to take a loss.

It can't hurt to go take a look at the house, see how you feel, sleep on it several nights, etc. If buying now is right and this house sells, there will be others. And if you can't decide, then you know it's not time.

P said...

For that price you couldn't even afford a cookie-cutter condo on a strip mall over here.

I envy you your house prices.

The only plus side to buying, in my opinion, is the feeling of being in a place that's "yours." I realize that technically the house isn't mine until we pay it off, which will like never happen, but paying a mortgage does feel different from renting. The money is going to our house and not a landlord. So, home improvement projects seem more fun and worthwhile.

Then again, as renters we could just call somebody when something broke ...

It is a fret-worthy subject that's for sure.