Saturday, April 17, 2010

Home Purchasing (City + Ok house vs. Sticks + awesome house?)

so...we are looking for a house, and I will probably be going down south in around 2 weeks to see a bunch of them in person. We contacted a realtor and a mortgage guy, and the realtor hooked us up with a listing website, and today we looked through a bunch of listings.

It seems our choices come down to:
1. fantastic large houses in far away 'out in the sticks' areas for low prices. These houses all are in good public school districts but although they are within city limits, they are more suburban/borderline rural areas. These houses feature large backyards, cool amenities (like 2 decks! 4 bedrooms! 2 car attached garages! newly remodeled kitchen!) plus all the basics we've decided on (which is a very long list, including fenced in yard, good school district, big kitchen with lots of storage, garage or carport, hardwood floors, 3+ bedrooms 2+ bathrooms). They are within our price range, and around the low-median end of our range. The commute to my job would be about 20 minutes each way.

2. Mediocre or more expensive smaller houses closer to the job. These are about a 5-10 minute commute, have smaller backyards, smaller houses, less nice houses, carports or detached garages instead of attached garage. They are more suburban/borderline urban and close to nice restaurants. They are at the higher end of our price range. They still have all the basics we want. Some do not come with appliances.

So far we've found 5 listings we like of the first kind of house and 3 of the second kind of house.


  1. Keep looking. Something may be inbetween and suit you best.

  2. This is honestly the argument for renting first when moving to a new area.

    When you buy right away (and I've done it), sometimes you luck out and end up exactly where you should, and other times you end up owning a house whose disadvantages turn out to be more significant than you had thought (often related to things like commute).

  3. the first choice seems like a no brainer for me. I commute to work 45 minutes door to door, so 20 minutes seems like nothing

  4. You can keep looking but in the end, the house is the place you come home to. That's where you build your family, come to cry, laugh, relax, sleep. You want it to be a a house you love...a 20 minute commute is not too bad!

  5. check on traffic... (for suburbia)

  6. Personally, I'd choose the more urban location. And you are more used to living in that kind of place. But if you want something different... Oh, and the more space and bigger house the more cleaning and maintenance...

  7. Go for suburban/rural. Quality of life is so much better, and a 20 min commute is not bad at all!

  8. Personally, I like to look out the window and see other houses and stuff going on - cars, bikes, people walking now and then. So being in a rural area (especially at night) is not everyone's preference. Currently I live in a city of 300k people within walking distance of downtown and work but this is a very low density city and opposite us is a park... I like a minimum commute, being able to walk to shops and stuff.

    I like to visit the countryside for vacations but wouldn't want to live there. Also there are a bunch of other issues involving water/sewage/garbage etc. which you don't need to think about in an urban area. You might think it is good for children to have more "nature" around but on the other hand they are further from friend's houses, longer bus to school etc.

    I've heard from some people who moved to large houses in more rural places and they really didn't like it when they figured everything in. Much like this recent story:

    So be sure you know what you are getting into, that's all.

  9. If you sign a contract on a house by the end of April and complete the purchase by June 30, 2010, you'll get an $8,000 tax credit from Uncle Sam. If you pay less than $8,000 in taxes in 2010, you'll get a check - for instance, if you have $5,000 in US taxes witheld from your paycheck, you'll get all of that back next April, plus another $3,000. I think that's how that works. This may influence your purchasing decision. Your buyer's agent should know more.

  10. its not that rural, more like subdivisions surrounded by rural areas but also close to some other subdivisions. And it's still within city limits (this city incorporates suburbs if most people in it work in the city), so it's hooked up to city water and sewage.

    and I know about the 8,000 tax credit, but unfortunately I can't go there until May, because of the small matter of defending my dissertation this week. :) And then doing revisions/depositing next week. Hopefully congress will decide to retroactively extend it.

  11. 1) If the area you're looking at now has a few subdivisions and remaining rural land, expect that in 5-10 years, the "sticks" will probably be more built out, and the traffic will be a lot heavier than it is now, so your commute may get longer, and you'll also lose the rural atmosphere.

    2) Expect that gasoline will become more expensive (in real $$ terms) and there might be he possibility of supply shortages. Read up about "peak oil." If you live farther out, you might become "stranded."

    3) The odds are great that you won't get tenure. (This is not a comment on your academic talents, it's just a fact of life that universities do everything they can to prevent junior faculty from getting tenure.) That means you might be moving in a few years. It thus might be better to not go into serious debt, but rather rent a place, preferably within walking or cycling distance of your workplace.

  12. 1) True, the traffic could get heavier, but we also don't really commute during standard hours either (I teach at night sometimes for one). But that's something to take into account.

    2) Ok, I can worry about gasoline prices I guess, but we have a hybrid and the places we are looking at are only 5-7 miles from my job, very worst case scenario I can bike it. They are also within city limits, and I imagine if there is a complete depletion of oil that some sort of within city alternative mass transportation option will emerge.

    3) Since 90% of the people who have come up for tenure in the past 10 years in this department have gotten tenure, and since they have clear expectations for tenure that I know are well within my capabilities, the "odds" are actually very good that I will get tenure. Yes, some schools don't give tenure to their junior professors- like Harvard. And some top R1s. But I specifically went for jobs where it IS possible to obtain tenure. But thanks for the doom mongering :)

    Renting is just throwing our money away into a hole. I've lived by my grad school for 6 years and spent over $70,000 on rent. To rent a house the size we would want would be a similar price. It takes 6 years to get tenure. Even if I don't get tenure, as long as I don't LOSE more than $70,000 on my house I'll still be coming out ahead. Plus that's not even taking into account all the tax breaks and such. And we have the credit scores and downpayment amount to get an awesome rate too.

  13. I agree with all your last comments here AE apart from the one on throwing money away on renting.

    Yes, most people get tenure at schools that aren't in the ranks of most elite ranks if they perform to expectations when they were hired.

    Paying rent is very similar to paying interest, property taxes, and maintenance costs on a home you own. Only the principal repayments are actual real investment. That said, it's probably a decent idea to buy in the US south at this time in the market cycle.

  14. I've lived in the sticks and in town. Yes it is nice to be out in the country, but the fact is, living there means you are in your car a lot more, unless you are a serious cyclist.

    I could only afford a house in town when I bought here (N California), wanted one in the country for my kids, but I have not regretted being in town for a moment, and like it even more as I get older. I love being able to ride my bike or walk to the farmers market, health food/book/drug/grocery store and more.

    I bought a craftsman bungalow in an old neighborhood with large yards and wide streets 25 years ago and I am still here. An old fashioned house and yard is more than enough property to take care of. Check out that scenario and see what you think. Go with the feeling of "this is home" when you walk into the right house.

    Wishing you good luck with your first house! xo N2

  15. I'd go with the nicer, more rural house. As cities grow your home will become urban and probably rise in price.


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