Thursday, December 13, 2007

The House-Hunting Chronicles: The Hunt Is On

i’ve been a house-hunting lookie-loo lately, driving around every weekend in search of open houses. i’ve seen tons of places already, most of which i’ve hated. to date, there’s been just one house that gave me that warm feeling of “i can see myself living here!” but i hemmed and hawed like a moron and someone else snatched it. since then, i’ve been praying that it falls out of escrow while rolling my eyes at every new dump i enter.

and yes, they’ve all been dumps. i know i’m supposed to be looking for the worst house on the best block, but when the worst house is 600 square feet of cramped living space, sans yard, on a 1,000-square foot lot — which i found in a great part of Eagle Rock — i can’t do it. i need a place i can live in and maybe add onto in the next few years before trading up.

what’s that you say? i should look into foreclosures? that would be sage advice if i didn’t mind a shitty neighborhood, but since i refuse to move to sacramento, compton or the inland empire, the burgeoning foreclosure market doesn’t do me much good. trust me, the housing market in LA proper is still holding steady and the good parts of town are not overrun by foreclosed properties.

this has been hard. much harder than i thought it would be. not that i thought it would be so damn effortless, but just, i don’t know, maybe more exciting. so far, it’s been a constant hustle and huge epicenter of stress. i’m now on my second mortgage broker and second real estate agent, both of whom i had to scramble to find after realizing that my first choices weren’t working out.

i’m also coming to terms with the unavoidable truth that countless folks have told me already — that my starter home will be far from dreamy. i’ll have to make compromises, reshuffle priorities and throw my lengthy “have to have” list out the window. and i fully intend to, as hard as it will be. i’ll also need to overcome my fear of “the fixer” and learn to be handy around the house.

one good thing is that i’ve gotten better at decoding the cryptic lingo agents and sellers use to describe their properties. example: “cozy” = tiny; “bring your imagination” = dump. in addition, i’ve realized that a pilates studio in a neighborhood means i could never afford to live there. however, if the neighborhood has a “checks cashed” establishment on each corner, i have my pick of the litter.

what’s that you say? i should wait to buy until prices fall more? yeah, i’ve heard that one, too, and i wouldn’t disagree. but certain financial and logistical circumstances are pushing me to buy sooner rather than later (though if i don’t find anything by march, i might just wait another year). plus, every agent, seller and broker i’ve encountered has told me that “it’s a great time to buy!!” and i’m sure they would never lie to me.

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