Thursday, September 25, 2008

Making the Right Choice When Buying a Home - From Someone Who Has Been There, Twice

I read a post over at One Caveman's Financial Journey that really hit home for me. He warns people who are in the process of purchasing a home against the age old advice to leave your emotions at the door. For those of us who are trying to be frugal and make smart financial decisions, this may sound counter intuitive. Why wouldn't you look at the value of the home, the prices of the homes around you, the possible resale value? You should, of course - whenever buying a home you need to take all these considerations in stock. You should also make sure it fits your budget - not just the mortgage but the amount of remodel work (if any) that is needed. But as the author points out, there is more to it than that. I know, I've been through it from both sides.

Before I met my ex husband I had started to save for a house. I had been living in an apartment and decided it was time to take the plunge. I had gotten financing and began house hunting... and right about then I met my ex. In fact, we even went on a few open houses as dates. Before long we were spending so much time together that we decided to move in together. He already owned a place, a house with three apartment units, and we moved in the large downstairs unit. Some time after a wonderful camping trip we got talking about how both of us had always dreamed of having waterfront property. So just for fun one night, I on got on our local realator website and punched in homes on water - under $100,000. To my shock over 100 homes came up! That was the beginning of the Great Cabin Hunt Summer.

All summer we drove to the far dusty corners of Michigan looking at properties. Some needed too much work, some were too damp, some we couldn't actually find the water it was supposed to be on, and one was next door to a house with goats in the yard and aluminum foil on all the windows. All told I looked at over 30 places. After going through each one we'd sit in the car and make a list of pros and cons, before long I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for.

Then, on Labor Day weekend, I found it. Within 10 minutes of walking in, I knew. It had everything on the list, down to price and home values in the area, that I wanted. It need some cosmetic work, but it had great bones. The structure was sound, plus it had 80' of lake frontage, huge trees and was in a quiet area. I knew in my heart it was the perfect place for me, and that day I made an offer.

Contrast that with the house that I am living in. It was picked out by my ex. When he and I decided we needed more space than the apartment in his house, we made a list of everything we wanted. The house he found had it all and more. The only problem? It never felt like home. It's a big old house. 2300 square feet of the owner's unit and built in 1847, it is a bit barn-like. While it wasn't the reason for my divorce, I will say it contributed to my misery. As I commented in One Caveman's post, it is hard to feel safe, comfortable, relaxed and happy in a place you don't love. I had no emotional connection with the place that I lived so I always felt like an outsider - a character on a set. (One of my issues over the last few months of living here has been creating a new relationship with this house. I am going to be here for another few years, it and I need to learn to be friends.)

Unless you are buying a house for investment purposes only, a home is much more than a financial decision. It is your shelter, your expression of who you are, your refuge, your sanctuary. A home is far more than four walls and roof, it is a part of who you are. Make the choice wisely.

More Reading:

One Caveman's - Buying a House is More Than Just a Financial Transaction

All about me buying the house - House Reflections

Remodeling for Resale


That One Caveman said...

"It is your shelter, your expression of who you are, your refuge, your sanctuary."

I love that. You're right; it is your sanctuary. Somewhere in that house has to be your private space that you feel safest. Otherwise, you're a stranger in your own house.

I'm glad you're finding ways to be "friends" with your house. It helps when you have to live there for longer than you intended.

Dawn said...

Thanks! You called it - I was certainly a stranger in my own house once before. It is a miserable feeling.