Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We're getting close to backing out of the deal. (Or we were when I started writing this. In the meantime, e-mails have been flying, so who knows.) The problem is, it seems harder and harder to buy anything decent. Mostly because finalizing the financing process made us realize that the maximum price we can afford isn't as high as we thought it was when we started looking, but also because of all the problems with this place found by inspectors. I've used the banal aphorism "Location, quality, affordability: choose only two," more than once when talking about this, but at the moment that seems less like a general rule of thumb and more like a solid law of physics.

We'd prefer a house to a condo. We'd prefer a place in or near a nice neighborhood downtown to a place in the suburbs. We'd prefer a place that doesn't need too much work. And, obviously, it has to be affordable. But getting this close to buying has made us realize how rare one place with all that is. And, worse, I think we both find the house-buying process a stressful, red-tape-laden, paperwork-shuffling mess. I realize most people wouldn't enjoy it, but it seems like it's worse for us: neither T. nor I is all that comfortable with math, a few details of our situation make it harder than it should be like my bad credit or us not being married, etc.

As far as I can tell, we have four options: the fixer-upper we're in negotiations for now, affordable places in neighborhoods we like (which I now think are generally condos, and relatively small and/or old ones at that), affordable houses out in the suburbs, or just giving up for now, planning to sign another year's lease in our current apartment, and trying again next year after we've hopefully got better jobs or something.

Buy the place we're now looking atWe like the neighborhood. We can afford it (the house itself, at least). It has potential. The house-hunting process would be over with.Improvements to it are definitely going to cost a fair amount of money. Roof work, floor work, electrical work... We've got no bids at all yet, just estimates, so we're uncertain how much it would cost. There's a tenant we'd have to get rid of before we could move in. He seems reasonable enough, but that's still a concern.
Back out, go back on the market, and focus on condos or co-ops in the cityAvoids all the problems of the current house. Condo-owners have fewer responsibilities than house-owners, I assume, which means less stress, money out of pocket, time wasted, etc. We'd still have a place in the city.Less control over what we do with it. Depending on how high the condo fee is and what it covers, we might wind up saving little or no money. Overall, it's likely that we'd have less square footage, open space, natural light, etc. in a condo than in a house. We'd be back to the paperwork-shuffling mess.
Back out, go back on the market, and focus on houses in the burbsAnything we can even vaguely afford in the city would be a rowhouse or close to it. More space than that would be kind of nice. The price difference is probably huge. We haven't looked too hard out there, but in cursory searches I found decent-looking places for a hundred thousand dollars less. That would leave us a ton of money for renovations or whatever.We'd probably have to get a car, if not cars, and use them a lot. That's affordable but unpleasant. All else being equal, a bigger home probably means more work. Living in the suburbs is less fun, less convenient, less everything like that. We'd be back to the paperwork-shuffling mess.
Back out and stop looking for nowWe like our current apartment just fine. We'd save money, at least in the short term. We'd put the paperwork-shuffling mess off.We'd pay another year of rent and not get anything to show for it, no equity in a place we own or anything. When we finally do get back to the paperwork-shuffling mess, it will probably be under slightly worse circumstances. I understand that the loan interest rate is likely to go up, and housing prices probably will too.

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