As I was reading through all my posts from 2008 for my annual New Year’s Eve post, I was surprised at how many times I wrote about home buying. We have wrestled with this decision for quite a while now, and we continue to wrestle with it. We have moved twice since we started saying “This is the last time we move before we buy a place”. I’m getting a little tired of moving, let’s be honest!
I like our apartment. We’ve been here 3 1/2 months now, and it feels like “home”. It’s small (1 bedroom), but the layout makes good use of the space. I still want to declutter, but I think that I’d always feel like that no matter how big or small a place. I haven’t been able to sell things like I wanted, so I’m giving a lot more away, but Goodwill probably likes that. It’s okay. I’d love for our mail to stop getting stolen – I hate the fact that I am going to have to pay for a PO box but other than that and the ants I’m pretty happy here.
When we moved here, we thought we would buy a condo when our lease is up in September. Condos in our area go for about the same price as renting an apartment with the same number of bedrooms. We had never lived in this area of Atlanta before, so we moved here to see how we liked it before committing to buying a condo. And overall, we like it a lot. However, I’ve realized that I really want a house. Or maybe a townhouse. A condo to me just seems like renting an apartment, minus the free maintenance! Of course, on the other hand, if my alternative is to rent an apartment, then wouldn’t it be better to build equity in a condo? Especially when the market is GREAT for buyers right now. Those are the things running through my head.
So we’ve been talking about what to do come September. (This conversation is stemming from our talks about whether we should get a PO Box and where we should get it so maybe we can stop changing our address.) And I think we’ve decided one thing: that for now, we’ll keep renting.
That’s hard for me to say, because it’s not what I want to do. But I think it’s the wisest. And I told Paul I’d blog about this so I can go back and read it when I’m frustrated with dealing with the leasing office or the landlord, when I just want my own place like all my friends. Our time will come!
1) I was able to get hold of some of the information that only real estate agents have – information that helps us a lot in determining how much we can afford. We found a specific condo in our budget that met our needs (3BR/2BA) and calculated the estimated monthly mortgage with the down payment we would be able to put down. Then we factored in the monthly HOA fees, as well as the estimated property taxes. When all was said and done, we realized that it was more than we were wanting to spend each month. And that didn’t include PMI, homeowner’s insurance, routine maintenance costs, and any sort of moving/closing costs! All for a condo – which I don’t even really want anyways; I’d rather have a house. (Houses are out of the question financially for us.) So we’d have to lower our budget, which makes finding a 3BR/2BA condo harder.
2) As I was trying to figure out how much of a down payment we’d be able to put down (somewhere between 5 and 7%), I realized that it would really wipe out our savings to buy something. Right now, we have about enough money in savings (provided that the bank replaces the stolen money) to last us about 6 months if Paul were to get laid off. To be honest, in this economy, it frightens me to deplete that. I think it might be better to put a down payment on top of having 6 months of living expenses in savings.
3) I think it would be awesome to put down a significant down payment when we buy a house. Something like 20% instead of 5%. So waiting, continuing to save, will help us in that goal.
4) I am not worried Paul’s going to be laid off. However, you never know – jobs are definitely not a sure thing right now. If he was to need to find a new job, I don’t want him to be limited to Atlanta. I want to be able to go wherever the job is – even if it means moving to another state. This is a lot easier when you’re renting! Of course, this won’t keep us from ever buying a house, but right now it is a reason for me.
5) We don’t know what we want right now. We disagree about where we want to live. I want a house, Paul wants to live close to the city. Houses in the city are way out of our budget right now and for the forseeable future. I’m fine with the location, but to me I’d sacrifice and move out to the suburbs to be able to afford a house. Paul just loves the city and doesn’t want to move away from it. He also says that jobs will always be found in the city. He’s afraid that if we move to the suburbs he’s going to end up with an hour+ rush hour commute each day, or worse – not be able to find anything nearby. And, he loves the option of taking the train. They are all valid points, and I don’t want to discount them. However, it leaves us with the only option of buying a condo. So we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and I don’t know the answers.
6) We have yet to live in an apartment for more than a year. This actually worries me with buying a condo and then feeling “stuck”. I’m so used to moving. I’m never content. I think this is a personal problem, but it makes me wonder if I’m ready to buy anything.
So yeah. That’s where we stand. Whenever we have kids, we’ll probably move to a bigger apartment. And we’ll probably look to renting instead of buying. We’ll buy eventually – my goal is to have a paid-off house before we retire, but we’re definitely not there yet. It’s only going to get harder I think as we have kids and we are the ONLY ones still in an apartment. I’m going to struggle a lot with envy. (I already do!) But, it’s just not worth it for me to have to work full-time for the forseeable future in order to afford a larger mortgage… or to get ourselves in over our heads financially and be drowning if the worst should happen.