Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We Bought A House

We bought a house today. Well, to be exact, we bought 20% of a house and promised to pay off the rest over the next 30 years, but hey, let’s just say we bought a house. We’ve been looking at houses on and off since last fall, so this has been quite a process for us. We wanted something just right; close to my job, at least three bedrooms, a garage, some outdoor space for a garden but not too much yard, and not horribly expensive. That last criteria makes finding a home in northern Virginia really, really complicated. So we would look, then take a respite, and then look again. We had been looking back in January when I broke my ankle, which put a halt to the process for a solid 3 months. That was okay. We really weren’t seeing anything we truly wanted, and were trying to figure out where to make a compromise. Then the first day we got back to looking, the first house we saw, we really liked. It exactly matched the list of what we wanted. We thought about it for a few hours, looked at a few more houses, and then said – we want that house. We will be sad if we don’t get this house. So we made an offer and said a prayer, and our offer was accepted from among the competing offers. Over the past month we’ve been going through the process of inspection and appraisal and financing, and today we bought the house.

It feels slightly odd, being a homeowner again. I am glad to have our own space; we are already making plans on how to make the space feel like ours. I’m glad to have a little bit more space too, since we moved from a larger house to this smaller apartment when we came back to the East Coast a few years ago. We’ll have enough space to have more than 4-5 friends over at a time now, and that is something I’m happy about. I’m really, really looking forward to the shorter commute, since right now about 90-120 minutes a day is spent commuting to and from work. From the new house it should be about 50-60 minutes per day. And from our new house I will have some options in public transit (a bus that runs close to our home and would drop me off about a quarter mile from my job) and also possibly for biking. I couldn’t bike the most direct route (major highway, crazy drivers, not safe) but there appears to be a bike friendly path I could take that would be about 6 miles each way. My husband recently got out our bikes and fixed them up and we have started to ride a little again, and it’s great fun. I’ve missed doing more intense exercise since my ankle fracture (no running yet, although hopefully I’ll be cleared for it in another month or so) and biking is filling in that void. I will have to build up both my skill level and my stamina but biking to work seems like a feasible and attractive option, at least in good weather.

The odd part, of course, is the responsibility that comes with owning a home. One of the very nice things in an apartment is that if something breaks, all I have to do is call the maintenance department. They send someone to fix it and I’m good to go. No fuss, no extra cost and I don’t even have to wait around the house because they have a key. Now, owning a home, we will have to budget both money and time to attend to home maintenance, starting with all the big and little projects we want done before we move in. Which is okay, in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something to be considered. My mother, who works for HUD, has plenty of cautionary tales of individuals who didn’t account for maintenance costs when undertaking home ownership.

There’s also the commitment factor of owning a home. We were pretty solidly committed to my current job and this area anyway (which is why we bought a home) but purchasing property represents a commitment both to a geographical location and an income level. It makes things like the upcoming furloughs a little more anxiety provoking (although, obviously I think things will be okay, since we did move ahead with a purchase). And it precludes crazy dreams like taking a year off to travel. Which, ok, I probably wouldn’t have done anyway, especially with a toddler, but it is a favorite dream of mine. Overall, buying the house is a really good financial move for us right now and follows the other rule my mother taught me about home ownership (keep your costs under 30% of your total budget, less if possible). But it still represents a major commitment, and one of the rules of life is that when you take advantage of one opportunity you close the door on others.

The last not great part about home ownership is the actual move itself. We’re planning to move mid-summer, which I am not looking forward to. To be completely honest, I’m dreading the move. I really detest the chaos and disorganization of being in transition. I know it is temporary but it makes me a little crazy. Although, once moved, I hope we will stay in this house throughout my daughter’s growing up years. So at least we won’t be facing the prospect of moving again in a few years, which I have faced my entire adult life, ever since I went off to college at age 17. So, with that thought to buoy me through the unpleasant prospect of packing and moving, I am pretty pleased this evening to think that we bought a house.