...or I could be about to, anyway.
I went to an open house today. A studio, in a great location near where I live now. It meets a lot of my criteria for what I'd like my next home to be-- a 2nd floor apartment in a small, self-managed co-op building, with low maintenance fees, major work like new roof and boiler recently completed, laundry and storage in the basement, can be lived in without renovation but has things that could be fixed up to add value later, room for a table in the kitchen, a window in the bathroom and kitchen, and windows on two sides of the main room for good cross-ventilation, and (drumroll please) a HUGE PRIVATE DECK.
The downside is that it is only a little bigger that where I live now, doesn't have the lovely southern exposure that I have now, has less closet space than I have now, less kitchen cabinet space than I have now, not as nice a bathroom as I have now, there's more traffic noise than I have now, AND all these privileges would cost me almost $700 more a month than I pay in rent now, and that would depend on the seller accepting an offer $22,000 below his asking price, and my coughing up $75,000 for a downpayment rather than the $50,000 or $60,000 I'd planned on, and my getting a very good mortgage rate. (If I paid the full asking price, with only 20% down, and got a mortgage at 6%, which might be a more typical scenario, it would be even worse-- total monthly cost including utilities would be around $1800, vs the $850 I pay now.)
So of course I am half in love with this place, dreaming of summer barbeques in my beautiful garden and cosy evenings in a place where my bed will be more than 4 feet away from the stove and cooking a meal won't shoot the room temperature up to 95 degrees.
What rules have I broken? "Look at lots of apartments before you bid." I've been farting around with online listings and gone to a couple of open houses but haven't seriously worked with a broker. It would be a bad idea to bid on this place without seeing more. "Don't look at apartments that are above your price range." The asking price, and even what I considered offering, are above the limit I had always set for myself. It's stupid to look at things you can't afford, because then you'll fall in love with something you'd have to overextend yourself for. "Be realistic about your budget." My calculations have factored in some cutbacks in a few lines of my current budget. Perhaps owning a home would be enough of an incentive to make me actually carry that out, but chances are I would find it really difficult. "Talk to a mortgage broker before you start looking." I don't need anyone to tell me how much of a mortgage I can afford, but I need to know if the rates I see online are realistic for the kind of property I expect to buy. Banks often don't like to give loans for smaller coops, so despite my excellent credit, I might not get the best rate. "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." My calculations are also based on my getting a raise of about 4% when I have my annual review this month. "Outdoor space is never worth the premium you pay for it." The deck is almost as big as the apartment itself. Do I really need a deck that I'll only be able to use 6 months of the year? Do I want to spend money on outdoor furniture, a barbeque, and plants? Do I really want to have to worry about gardening, given that I can barely keep my one aloe plant alive now? "Don't let emotions sway your judgment." & "Don't let the seller's furniture and decor sway your judgment." Although I was absolutely methodical about going through a whole list of questions, and spent a lot of time wandering around the apartment, checking, measuring, locating power outlets and generally collecting data in a cool-headed, rational way, I couldn't help noticing that the seller had the same couch as my beloved, recently-deceased grandmother, as well as a lot of cool artwork and rugs and curtains and plants that made the place look very warm and inviting.
It's just frustrating. I am trying to be smart and do the right thing, and it's not that this apartment is beyond the reach of my wildest dreams. I can dream a lot more wildly than a tiny studio with a deck! But even a modest apartment full of compromises seems always to lie just a little beyond the reach of a person with my income and lifestyle. It's not that I can't have this apartment if I want it. I could bid full price tomorrow, and even a little more if I had to. But then I would save nothing, and have no money left for any of the little pleasures that make life interesting.
I'll try to look at some more apartments soon, and talk to a mortgage broker. And I will work out how much I could possibly pay and make a lowball offer on this place. And then I will probably look up at the deck whenever I walk down that block, and wonder if whoever bought it was good with plants.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
...or I could be about to, anyway.