Monday, March 23, 2009

Your Girl in the Field

I started looking at houses on a whim, on a Sunday. It was just after Warren Buffet told me to, and just after Georgia springtime made me question why I would ever live anywhere else.

It was about two weeks ago? It's hard to say, but with my usual vigor I got caught up in the hunting part and managed to allow it to consume my free time. I do not know how this happens. I will state, for the record, that I am an enthusiast. I love devoting myself to a project. I also crave change and excitement, and I like to hoard my money and then dole it out on big purchases. Major purchases.

Is there a purchase more major than a house? I guess I could theoretically wait and buy an island. But in truth, in my head, home ownership is a kind of adult accomplishment Everest, and I want to climb it. I want to buy a house, paint it in shades of blue and white. I want to stick a weather vane on top of it. I want to sit, next to a fireplace, in a comfortable chair, and read.

This is a vivid imagining- I've had it since I was six. I know that mine is a generation of casual relationships, intense friendships, and nomadic lifestyle. But I've lived in Europe and Asia, and I've slept on air mattresses and the ground. The desire for permanence, and ownership, for something that is specifically mine, is maybe the most powerful of my midtwenties impulses. Don't judge me too harshly- I am a little old lady inside.

With all that enthusiasm for first time home ownership came a corollary fear- what if the housing crisis was the only time I would be able to buy a great house in a good neighborhood? Given my nonprofit career path, for all my hoarding, this might be the only time in my entire life I could afford a really great house.

Having just recovered from that delusion, I am taking a two week break from house hunting. I'm going to lay off the hard stuff- the craftsman style bungalows and the little brick numbers with awnings above their front doors.

My advice to you, if you start shopping now is:
1. You're a buyer, so you're in charge in this market. Don't let yourself get whipped into a tizzy by realtors.
2. Don't get worried that you are going to miss the perfect house- constant vigilance breeds incessant crankiness.
3. Take enough time to figure out what you want. Take the time to figure out neighborhoods and know where your nearest grocery store would be.

That's all for now. I'll be back tomorrow to listen to some music.

1 comment:

Kati said...

That advice sounds smiliar to what my mom's been telling my friends. She's helping a handful of them buy houses or find rental properties right now and is keen to remind them of the tax break you can get by buying in this market too.