Thoughtful Thursday: Real Estate

October 14, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayOur house is now officially on the market. We’ve also been looking at rental housing in the new city, though we can’t commit to anything until the house sells.

There are so many ways we can go with the rentals in the new city:
View or no view
Closer commute or cool neighborhood
More square footage or less expensive
More upscale or less expensive
Suburban (have a yard but have to drive everywhere) or in-town (no yard but can walk to parks, restaurants, shopping, etc.)

There are so many combinations of possibilities — for example, in-town plus yard but smaller vs. in-town with no yard but bigger vs. less expensive plus yard plus bigger but not in-town. It’s hard to know what to value most, and how monetize the different benefits. Is it worth an extra $800 a month to be able to walk to everything? No, not that much. What if there’s an incredible view? Maybe. What if I can’t get a job right away? Uh…

Strangely, in a city of several million people, we seem to have honed in quickly on a 10-block radius, even before we’re officially looking. We seem to value being close to everything in the cool neighborhood. We’ll trade square footage and splendor for lower rent (and anyway, we can’t afford a huge beautiful house in that neighborhood). I think we might be willing to spend a lot more for the breathtaking view. We are still considering bigger suburban houses that are substantially cheaper, but view plus funky walkable neighborhood may be too much to resist.

Our priorities in the new house are quite contrary to where we live now: preposterously short commute, view of trees but nothing specific like a lake or mountain, close to nothing, huge glorious house, much more expensive than is sensible. In previous homes we’ve ranged from decent to arduous commutes, somewhat interesting to blah neighborhoods, dinky to spacious, slightly cruddy to upscale, sub-suburban to urban. Each had its charm, but if the new place is as good as I’m imagining, it may be the first place that I don’t want to leave.

What criteria matter most to you when you choose a place to live? Do you try to live within your means, or are you willing to spend more for a better quality of life (however you define that)?

15 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Real Estate”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    Price for us primarily, but the price we could afford in [my] Hometown meant a really scuzzy neighbourhood, so we moved to Adopted Town just a few miles away and we live semi-rurally, in a big village that we LOVE. It was worth the move, and is worth the extra commute.

  2. Two Kayaks Says:

    J. and I live in one of the smallest houses in our neighbourhood. When we built the house, we were more concerned with staying within a budget, yet having a layout conducive to openness. We love our house and everyone who comes here says that it feels like happiness lives here. So, to us a house is more about the feeling than the stuff. You can create ‘home’ in a plastic bin as long as there’s love and fun.
    Good luck with your search!

  3. Mel Says:

    I really wish I had used different criteria now. We went with the yard because we thought we needed it. Turns out we don’t 🙂 We looked at good schools, and I’m happy we did that. And I am a rural girl at heart, so we picked a farm-y area. It makes for a hard commute for Josh, which I feel terrible about, but it’s quality of life. We used to live downtown and I loved walking to everything, but that came with drawbacks too.

  4. a Says:

    We are definitely a “within our means” couple…but for us, I think the most important things are the feel of the house and the likely resale value. My husband always has a mental budget. I have a mental picture of how the space will be used. We both must approve of the neighborhood. He is a small town guy, and I am a city girl. I would prefer the convenience of city life and walking places, but he wants space between him and his neighbors. I appreciate that too, so I don’t complain.

    For me, views always come with a downside – if I’m on a hill, I have to worry about erosion. Near water? Flooding. City view? Traffic and parking. So the view to me is way down on the list. We also argue about space – I want a lot, my husband would like one of those 170 square foot homes. Guess he didn’t learn anything when we couldn’t comfortably fit all of our stuff in a 700 square foot condo.

  5. Shelby Says:

    It keeps getting crazier to me how similar our situations are! Well, we’re not moving to be closer to my Mom, quite the contrary, but we are in the process of buying a house and had a difficult time with our decision. We currently live downtown where we are in a smallish condo with a horrible, choppy, multi-level layout, but the neighborhood and views are amazing. We are within walking distance of downtown and the water/marina. We can hear sea lions from our bedroom!

    While location is supposed to be everything, after living here for almost three years, I just cannot fathom carrying a huge kid, a huge stroller and groceries up yet another flight of stairs. We cannot afford a bigger, convenient house in this area, so we decided to move to the burbs. We’ve lived in the burbs before and I hated it, but now we have our little guy and it just makes so much sense. We are spending more than is comfortable, but I am planning on this being our ‘forever’ house, so the bit of discomfort we’ll feel in the next few years will be worth it, in my opinion.

    So, I guess the short answer is, it depends. 🙂

  6. jill Says:

    We were pretty clueless when we were shopping for our first house (where we currently live) so it took a bunch of looking before we could narrow down what we were looking for.

    We’re budgeters so we chose to spend only what we knew without a doubt we could afford. Yard/lot size was very important – we would not consider a house with less than 1/4 acre. Fenced in yard was a huge plus. We wanted a house with an open feel and lots of “space” but actual sq footage was negotiable. Commute was negotiable as well but 45 mins was the top. Oh and we wouldn’t consider a house without a two-car garage. We ended up with almost exactly what we were looking for and have been here for ~5 years now. I love our house but bathroom space is what we regret the most – we have 2.5 teeny tiny bathrooms 🙂

  7. Ana Says:

    I THOUGHT I was anal when we went house-hunting 2 years ago, but turns out I overlooked a lot of more long-term things in favor of short-term gratification. Which is why we’re having difficulty figuring out how we’ll stay here long enough to keep the first time home-buyers credit (need to stay 3 years, we’re at 16 months now). We bought what we COULD afford on both of our salaries, but we should’ve bought way lower than that, because i’m likely looking at a job loss soon (and anticipating some time job-less). We prioritized living in the city and being close to “fun stuff” and ability to walk to work, some amount of outdoor space (patio & deck), and having extra space for visiting family/friends. So we got all that & I’m happy with the house itself. But we are spending way more than is making me comfortable right now. We also bought a “5 year house”, not a “forever” house. School district is iffy, and that is going to be an issue in exactly 5 years! (I found out I was pregnant the DAY after closing on the house!)
    So I am jealous of all the commenters above who prioritized living “within their means”…I am normally so very very frugal in life, in fact I’ve been “saving for a house” since a graduated college…and then we blew all our savings and security on said house & I am regretting it a bit…

  8. Cat Says:

    We absolutely live within our means. DH and I both grew up with enough money to get everything we needed, but there weren’t a lot of extras. That’s how we still live, though we made enough to save quite a bit back when I was also working and before we had the triplets. When we bought our current house we spent just over half of what the bank would have loaned us, keeping in mind that when we had kids someday I would likely stay home with them and we’d be down to one salary.

    I would be willing to spend more for a better quality of life, but only if that was also within our means. It makes me very uncomfortable to have more going out than coming in, so that would certainly detract from my quality of life.

  9. emk808 Says:

    The biggest criteria is finding a good Jewish community and a house that is walking distance from an Orthodox synagogue. We do try to live within our means, but with the house we bought we new that although it would be a stretch, we would be soooooo thankful for the extra space when family visits and when we have more kids, etc. Even though house prices and such have been volatile, I’m pretty confident that house prices will rise again and we’ll gain value on it.

  10. We have recently had to decide these things too. Our 2 bedroom condo is just way too cramped, so while Birdie is 4 years away from kindergarten, we started looking for a bigger house in a great school district. We almost put an offer on a charming older house with some problems in a great walkable neighborhood 5 minutes from my husband’s work, but it was out of our comfort zone financially, and would potentially need some significant fixing up.

    At the last minute, we both freaked out and realized that we were willing to sacrifice being farther away for living more within our means. We ended up deciding to build a house about 5 minutes away from the other house, in a good school district (but not walking distance, and not in the GREAT school district), still close to work. This way we end up with a lot more space, a quiet neighborhood, a new house with no maintenance issues for a while (we are not handy), and all for 25k less than the other house.

  11. WiseGuy Says:

    We chose this place which meant a very short commute to office for one of us – and that was Birdman. Plus the locality was good. The rent we are paying is a bit on the higher side of our budget (when we started looking for alternative places), and at that time the spare bedroom was ‘spare’ and did not mean much really. But we took a liking to the house, and I am glad I am in this ‘home’.

    Our criteria was just having a livable space which reduced travelling time to office really. There are no public parks nearby and though there is some amount of greenery that I can observe from my balcony, I wish there were some more open green spaces outside.

    I grew up in a house where we had a tiny bit of space for both a flower garden in the front and a vegetable garden in the back, and I seem to appreciate it better now.

  12. strongblonde Says:

    i’ve thought about this for awhile. i think that living within my means is the most important. then proximity to things. i miss living in dc. it was so nice to be able to walk to the market every day. oh! and public transportation. no one knows what that is around here!! ah…but i digress. i think, when it comes down to it, that if i am living within my means that leads to a good quality of life for me. 🙂

  13. coffeegrl Says:

    We’re talking about this right now. We definitely want to live within our means. But it’s the “how do we trade off all the factors within that” which trip us up. We love our neighborhood, but neither of us can really say where the boundaries are. Rather than focusing on a 10 block radius (as someone else mentioned) we find ourselves looking at a 5 mile radius which is much more variable. At the one end of the loop we could get “closer to retail areas and more walkable” and at the other we could get “better value for your money, up and coming neighborhood, less keeping up with the Joneses.” And then on a house by house basis we have the debate of the yard. Yes, we’d like a small one with a little bit of grass – enough for the kids to roll around in a little. But if it’s too big who will manage it? Neither of us cares to maintain the lawn/plants so it has to be super low maintenance! And we’d love a MIL apt. with the potential to rent it out for vacation rentals and then be able to have family stay there when they come to visit. But those can be hard to find. Should we find a place and add one on? Argh.

  14. Neighborhood and relatively easy commute are important to us. We both love the neighborhood where we live right now and would really like to stay here, but it’s very hard to find something that’s bigger than we rent now (we’d need an extra room), has a garden (or terrace or something) like we currently have, parking space, and still within our budget. Moving to the country side comes up occasionally (cheaper, ‘romantic’, lots of space for the little one), but I think I would feel too isolated and the commute for hubby would be awful. So for the moment we stay where we are and deal with it being a bit small, maybe we will go over budget one day to get something else (or my freelancing business will really take of and we can afford it, ha, wishful thinking).

  15. […] get critical courtesy when a realtor calls, that sadly has happened a sum of 5 times given our residence went on a market 8 months […]

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