Saturday, October 28, 2006

Real estates

Now that I’m up here in my new location with a job and an apartment roof over my head, I’m starting to think about my options regarding home ownership. I am not a part of that expendable-income boomer generation who seems to be having a swell time investing in multiple properties, paying off their kids’ college debts, and lunching on the Riviera. My post-divorced single status has left me in a more humble position. I’m happy to make ends meet each month while exploring ways to expand my budget to allow for a little place of my own - the cottage where I’ll do my creative writing, entertain new friends, and settle in front of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night. I’ll probably have to relinquish the fireplace but would still love to keep the dream of owning something alive.

Is it foolish to consider home ownership at my age? Would I prefer to have a 30-year mortgage and do my own mowing, shoveling, roof and heater repair rather than letting a landlord cover day-to-day maintenance? I did own a house for thirty years but there were a hubby and retired parents to help in the upkeep. Paneling a basement or pruning a tree was taken care of by family members. Now I really am on my own and can’t expect the kids to run over to lend a hand when they have such hectic lives and responsibilities under their own roof. So it’s a dilemma.

It’s hard to find a modest bungalow among ostentatious mansions that rival the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. How can folks afford to live in these large estates commanding upwards of a million or better? Where does everyone go? To separate rooms and wings of a house that’s supposed to be a home? A house which spreads itself so high and wide that the family probably has to use an intercom to be in touch? Two bathrooms, I can understand. Six bedrooms and baths are beyond me. I’m sure, though, that one bedroom and bath must be reserved for the live-in maid.

I’ve looked into the tiny-home movement but am laughing because most of these exquisite environmentally-friendly experiments are taking place at least 1,000 to 3,000 miles away from the Berkshires. (See The Boomer Chronicles for excellent links to this kind of option.) Oops, did I mention the $4 per mile shipping cost of having your tiny home plopped down on your pre-paid lot? Don’t think I’ll make the cut on that one either ….

I keep checking the local listings, calling realtors and visiting some of the current offerings. Maybe I’m dreaming too high. I’d love to walk into a small home and be comfortable with the present owner’s sense of interior design. However, it seems like such an expensive proposition to know that, besides paying off the mortgage, I’ll be needing money to paint and paper too. Holy Hannah, grass and snow and inside renovations … when would I blog?! I thought these were to be my golden carefree years?

Yes, home ownership seems preferable to merely renting but I’m fighting conflicting family history. My mom and dad always owned and generated income from their property until dad died. Two years later, mom sold the family property and came to live with me and mine. A few years later, we found her a lovely apartment nearby. She was so happy to be free of the house and the burdens of home ownership. She lived her later years in an apartment community. I hear my dad saying “own a house and build up equity” whereas I hear my mom saying “I like being in an apartment”.

No matter the age, life always manages to end in trade-offs. The bottom line will be whether I can even afford to entertain the option of home ownership.

I think I should step back, celebrate how much I've accomplished in these past couple months, take a breath and enjoy the new apartment for the winter while preparing a careful budget. In other words, get real.

Time out.


Rhea said...

This is an excellent time to sit back and enjoy your new place. As you know, real estate in most part of the US (you are in the Berkshires? I will have to read more of your blog to be sure of all the facts!) is dropping. I am in a similar boat to yours. I had a house in Boston, sold it when it appreciated and thought I would use the money to write. Now, I've been renting for the past 8 years, unable to buy again because of the high prices. Now that things are dropping, I would be a single buyer, but I hope to do it.

geogirl said...

Prices are still so high where I live I don't think I could afford a porta-potty on a vacant lot much less a house.

My parents have lectured me for years about buying and not throwing my money away on rent but honestly, the message that's playing most in my head now is the complaints from all my homeowning friends. One just lost the hotwater heater, the other had to take out a loan to redo the siding on his house because the homeowner association was yelling at him. I won't even mention the hidden leak and rotting wood. Just yesterday my good friend said how glad she was that it was winter because she was so sick of mowing the grass.

Contrary said...

We're in the same boat, or will be, when we move to New Hampshire. We own our home now and will have to decide whther to take those proceeds and buy another home when we move or pay rent there and put that money away for retirement, which we plan to spend traveling.

Which means I gave you absolutely no help. Sorry about that! I do have to say, if I was in your situation, given a good landlord, I would absolutely rent and let someone else worry about the expense/work of maintaining your home.

Terry said...

If I were single at my age I think I would look seriously at buying a condo. You get the best of both worlds--you have equity in the property, but don't have the yard upkeep, etc. You can decorate, paint, etc. however you want. I have several friends in really nice condos. My husband hates the idea, but it looks good to me.