• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

16 February 2009

a 'good time to buy'

I often wonder how many people don't know where they're going to live in 5 years. I suppose it's true of a lot of college students, but how about those who are a little older? Living like a nomad is hard work. Packing, unpacking, re-packing. Filling out Change-Of-Address forms and getting new drivers' licenses. In the past 5 years I've lived in 7 different apartments (each one considerably better than the last), in two different parts of the country. I think I've driven every model/style of U-Haul truck or trailer.

This apartment I live in now is really nice - probably nicer than any house I'll own in the next 20 years. But it's still an apartment - what some people might call a "money hole". My biggest monthly expense, and one that doesn't get me anything in return (other than the whole, comfortable, maintenance-free place to live thing, of course).

Bf and I are fairly successful at our jobs, and have a solid budget. So why don't we buy? That's been a question on our minds from time-to-time. For once in my life, I'm pretty damn sure I'll still be in this town in five years. That used to be depressing; I don't want to live here forever. But academic obligations are keeping me grounded, and I am happy in my life. We live in a fairly safe community, with all of the usual problems and complaints... but we're comfortable enough for now. They say that a five year stay is a good rule of thumb to use for home buying. It's also a good time to buy right now. The government's tossing around all sorts of ideas for incentives, interest rates are dipping here and there, and it's certainly a buyer's market. That said, there are a few things that are keeping us down.

The biggest issue is the 'hidden costs'. Let's say we buy a home for $100,000. There are also taxes, and inspection fees, and closing costs, of course, and maintenance costs: I've read that you should budget for at least 1% of your home's value - more if it's an older home. Our climate is harsh too: humid, windy summers, and subzero, windy, snowy winters. Then there are the necessities: lawn mower? snow blower? washer/dryer? kitchen appliances? Sure, some homes come with the latter items, but not all, and they're not always in the best working condition (there is a reason the previous occupants didn't want that washer/dryer anymore!). And what about electricity? The bigger the home, the bigger the bill. Water/Sewer/Garbage/Recycling? We don't pay for any of that right now (but believe me, I KNOW it's rolled in to our rent!).

Also, time. We're both full time working stiffs. We're also full time (some terms, time-and-a-half) students. When do we have time for home maintenance? Right now, I can call the landlord and say "Hey, the furnace is busted!" When I get home from work, it's fixed. Home improvements? While rewarding and sometimes fun, they take time. Shoveling, blowing snow, mowing the lawn. Time.

Home ownership is definitely a smart idea, but we're just not sure it's for us, at least not yet. It'd be nice to be building equity, and it'd be nice to have a place to call our own. There are many things we can't do where we live now: use our home theater system as it's meant to be used, for example. There are also annoyances, such as shared walls: we can often hear our neighbors' conversations and activities.

One thing we do know is that we can't stay here for the next 5 years. We just can't - the rent is going up this year, and we're sure it will continue to increase each year. (That's just what happens when you rent.) We can't stand the thought of paying this much money into "nothing" in the long-run. We also know that when we move out of here, it'll have to be to a home we own. This is because we've managed to find the best apartments in our town already. We've got central air, our own washer/dryer, an open floor plan, a walk-in closet, and a two-car garage with an opener. We're spoiled.

We just need to get ourselves in to a better position timewise, moneywise, and prioritywise before we make our move into the world of unpaid specials and street-cleaning bills. Also, we probably just need to suck it up and stop making excuses for why we can't seem to come to terms with putting down roots in this town.