Saturday, March 29, 2014

More house and apartment thinking

Ok, I have a huuuuuge pile of essays to grade. Therefore the last thing I want to do is grade essays. I am watching the rain and awaiting the arrival of a predicted thunderstorm, because I miss thunderstorms, especially on days when I don't have to get dressed and be anywhere.

On favorite way of procrastinating is research/pre-planning my various plans; in this case it means looking up and drooling over a zillion different ways I could spend my soon-to-be-here money. (I have, of course, spent all my current money on credit card bills.) One added benefit to this procrastinatory, hyper-over-planning, is that if I get totally sucked up into the researching of something, I put off buying it. I think I have not bought any nonessential purchases this month, leaving more for paying off those damn bills. This is especially good because I have been looking at things like cars and houses and probably wouldn't want to get both of those in a single month.

But also I have been looking at electric cars and hybrids of a more affordable variety and had the thought to check on rental law, and it seems like it is very difficult to rent or have a condo and get permission to charge a car/put in a charging station. The law has been on the side of the complexes thus far. Hmph. Sounds like you need to own a house to own a hybrid or electric. Grumble.

But on the other hand, I'm not sure I want a house here. Is it because of the news article where someone got shot in the face while using one of our walking trails? No, that's not even the bad story that would make us recognizable. Is it because of the dude who burned down a local hotel trying to make meth? Nope, that's not newsworthy compared to some of the other explosions we have had around here. The guy who sawed his parents into little bits? This is why I won't have children. (Also, not the worst story I could list from here.) Is it the number of break-ins and tweakers using on the streets openly near downtown? Actually, the article that really put me off was one lauding the great buyer's market around here, with lots of quotes and examples of people trying for multiple years to unload their homes with no offers. The comments on that article were really disheartening, as everybody and their brother who had moved away for a job chimed in to talk about how tough it was to sell, and how much hassle it was to rent out their old place with enough money to cover the mortgage.

On the other hand, that gives me an idea ---- maybe I could rent a house, instead of an apartment. Hmm. If I get me a used bike, or even a kayak, as I have been wanting one of those too, I don't have any place to store it* here at the apartment complex, and renting a house might have that space. On the other other hand, they don't put houses on the second floor (I was told it was harder/more work to break in to upper story apartments). My lease will be up in August, but really I have no clue what I should do. Other than go kayaking and biking as soon as it stops raining. But renting a bike or a kayak very quickly costs more than buying one. But then again, so does renting a house, I guess. But owning a house that you can never ever manage to sell again means that you can't ever move, and I'm not sure I want to commit to that.

I dunno. Maybe I should just buy chocolate. But not grade essays ---- that is never the right answer to rent vs buy.

*I am also researching trailers and roof racks because if I get a bike or kayak or something I will want to transport it places, and probably my current car will not work well for that. So you can see, the question of getting any of these little things means I need to think about big purchases like my car and some form of safe storage, so all of these decisions are all bound up in each other!


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

We liked renting a house -- as long as we didn't have to do yard work. Owning a house is kinda good, except you have to replace things when we break. We have been in our house since August 2012, and in that short time, we have replaced the water heater ($1000), had the HVAC serviced ($265), replaced the refrigerator ($1200), replaced the washer/drier ($1200), and replaced a leaking skylight ($700). (There are other things, but I can't remember everything at the moment. These were the big ones.) If we were renters, we would have just had to call our landlord. Instead, we racked up more debt. :-/

Contingent Cassandra said...

I'm no expert on this subject, but I can say from experience that it is definitely comforting to own (well, be buying; the bank owns much more of it than I do) a place that I could rent out at a price that would cover carrying expenses (mortgage; owners' association fee, which for me includes most utilities; taxes; a bit extra each month to put into a maintenance reserve). If you can't do that (at least with the traditional 20% down), then you do need to think extra-carefully about whether this is really the time and place to buy. It's a real measure (though not the only one) of the state of a local real estate market (and my place is an anomaly in my own market, with some serious downsides -- it's a coop sitting on leased land, and so won't be here forever, and will presumably lose value for decades before it goes poof).

The flip side of the equation is that it's not much fun to have a landlord who isn't breaking even (maintenance may be lacking, rent rises frequent, etc., etc.)

One option you might consider, if local zoning allows for it (and you have the down payment): a small multi-unit building (duplex or triplex), with you as owner-occupant. Those usually sell for a price that has some rational relation to underlying rents (well, unless owners can claim that "the value is in the land," or in taking the place condo, or whatever, in which case you're probably buying into a bubble and should continue to rent), and give you some options. The "owner's unit" is usually the nicest/largest one, but that doesn't mean you have to move into it right away (and, as the owner, you could probably still commandeer some yard/attic/basement space, and could certainly do things like install charging stations and kayak/bike lockups, even if you're not in the "best" unit). If you do later move into a large unit, you'd also have a hedge against financial setbacks (you can downsize within your own building). It's definitely a more complicated sort of ownership than a house of your own, and you'd need to be very careful what you're buying (do all relevant inspections, make sure the units are legal, don't trust real estate agents or the inspectors they recommend too much, etc., etc.), but it has some upsides, too. Or maybe that one's just my dream (never realized for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that jurisdictions local to me are mostly multi-family-unfriendly).

Feminist Avatar said...

I can't remember if you've discussed a room-mate before, but in the short term, that might be a useful way to go. If you could find the right person, you could rent a house together and get the benefit of some extra storage space and (hopefully) cheaper rent/utilities as they're shared. If you can do it to save money too, then you can use that to save up for the house deposit/car/holiday to Fiji.

Uni/colleges can often be good places to find room-mates as there are often newish staff who are professionals but with debt etc, that are looking for something cheap for a few years. Get someone who is well networked in other departments to ask around.