Friday, August 17, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: The Decision to Buy

they say that before buying a home, you should list all the attributes you’d like your future residence to have and then categorize the list into the “have to haves” and the “nice to haves.” they say you should be realistic in your assessment and have the majority of attributes in the “nice to have” column, leaving just a few big deal items, like good schools and safe neighborhood, in the “have to haves.”

so far, my list is comprised of 15 “have to haves” and 10 “nice to haves.” and for the life of me, i cannot bear to move any more items into the “nice to haves” column, no more than i could ever justify spending a boatload of money on something that only halfway suited my needs.

i know this is bad. i know i live in california. i know i am not rich. and i know i want to own the home in which i live. i know i’ll need to compromise and i’m sure i will, but given the fact that i’m madly in love with my current home — which possesses almost all the attributes on my list — i can’t imagine willfully moving to a place where i’ll have less than i have now.

now, i already have a house with character and high ceilings and a yard for my dogs and hardwood floors and a washer-dryer and dishwasher, and a terrific neighborhood with a Whole Foods and dog park within walking distance, and i have really great neighbors and a good-sized kitchen. and i absolutely love my landlord. and why the hell am i moving again?

ah, right — because i can never own it. it’s a guesthouse, and i will never be able to afford the main house it’s attached to, nor is that main house for sale. and i really really want to own my own place, because 1) a house is the most sound long-term investment, etc., etc., and 2) tax-wise it makes sense for me, especially with the amount of W-9 work i do each year. plus, i’m domestic by nature and need my own little castle and kingdom i can crown myself queen of.

to this end, i’ve spent the past few months doing a whole lot of research. i’ve read guide after guide on home-buying, with emphasis on what first-time homebuyers should know. and while i’ve learned a bundle, i’m still terrified of getting it all wrong, of being bamboozled by money-hungry real estate agents, mortgage brokers and contractors who’ll bully me into buying some dumpy ghetto studio with poor plumbing and crumbling ceilings that’s next door to a freeway on-ramp. to afford it, i’ll spend the next 30 years eating nothing but Top Ramen.

it could happen. i’m in los angeles, one of the priciest housing markets in the country. true, the market has been changing here as it has everywhere else, arming me with some mighty leveraging power, which i fully intend to use. buyers market, here i come.

but before i can even attend my first open house, i need to visit the mortgage broker to get prequalified for a loan. i have my paperwork gathered and my appointment set. can’t wait to find out how much i’m worth. keep tuned for the next installment of the househunting chronicles, which will have the answer.

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