July 28, 2009

Back to Nesting Woes

My silence might indicate that things are pretty dull around here, but actually, since we came back from vacation, my sweetie has been on a mission to buy a house. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one I know who doesn’t own her own home, and I regret not buying one when I first started teaching. I didn’t think I could afford it, but in retrospect, I probably could have gotten a nice little home for myself for $40,000, which would have a been a good start on equity to get into another house along the line. Things might have been tight, but after moving to Las Vegas we found out what tight meant when our wage didn’t change much, but our housing costs increased $600 a month.

I’m not entirely convinced that owning and selling a small home in rural Nevada would have helped me buy one in Las Vegas, as we moved here during the housing boom. Now that the housing market has crashed, people like us can now get in on bank-owned house deals for $100,000 less than homes were going for just a few years ago. Apparently, the market is great for middle-classers like us who can finally afford homes without making any deals with the devil. Sweet!

I’m not sure if these house prices are a deal or not, as when I first moved to Nevada in 13 years ago, Las Vegas had notoriously low housing (and living) costs, and a lot of teachers I knew moved south to teach here. By the time I moved here, housing prices were ridiculously high, so it’s hard to tell what is realistic for this area. I just know what’s realistic for me, and until now, renting nice apartments and homes has been a much better deal. I've had no regrets about our living arrangements in the last five years, but I am more than happy to move on to a space of my own!

Of course, finding a home that is suitable for us is complicated. It’s not that there aren’t plenty of homes to choose from; it’s that there are so many factors to consider. I went through this a few years ago when we were trying to find a larger home to rent.
  • Schools.Finding a 9-month school is no longer important to me. It would be nice, but it narrows things a lot. Plus, schools can be rezoned and have changes in schedules because of enrollment--in those neighborhoods and across the district. One of our kids is only in elementary school for one more year, and the other for 3 more years.
  • More on Schools. I'm trying to decide how important meeting AYP is for a school. In many of the areas where we'd like to live, the schools have not met AYP. Sometimes by one factor, and sometimes up to five factors. Our school doesn't always meet AYP, but that doesn't mean that teachers aren't bustin' their buns teaching students.
  • Commuting distance is a consideration. My sweetie doesn't care about his commute, but it would be nice if mine were close to where we live so I could pick up the kids from school. Last year, they spent a lot of time in the after school program because I'm overloaded with work and grad school, but it doesn't always have to be that way.
  • Time to trust our kids? Most elementary schools I know of do not have bus service (there are a lot of elementary schools!), so picking up our kids is necessary, but if we chose a house within walking distance where they did not have to cross a busy street (like where we live now), we would consider letting our kids be latch-key kids, which would save us a TON of money each month. (Think car or student loan payment amount!) This idea about starting to leave our kids home alone a little bit has been a child-rearing conversation this summer.
  • Older or newer? Older homes have such character, but some that we have looked at will require some work in the next few years, such as new windows and bathrooms. We don't mind that idea, but if a new home doesn't require all of that, then why would we want an older home? I have been concerned about the quality of some of the newer homes that were built in the housing boom, too.
  • Yard space. We do not plan on a grass yard, except perhaps astro turf, but we would like at least a good-sized patio. Older homes have space, but new homes are so close to each other that you can stand between two houses and touch both. Claustrophobia!
  • Space inside. We are at odds about the allocation of space. I don't mind smaller bedrooms, and I don't need a giant master bedroom (walk-in closets, yes!) which all the newer houses have, but I do want large living spaces. My sweetie would like the bedrooms to be larger so our kids have lots of personal space. I think this is a good idea, too, but not to sacrifice common living spaces, where I spend all of my waking time.
  • A functional kitchen. I haven't seen any kitchen that are amazing, but none of them have been bad by any means. I do not want a galley kitchen. I have tolerated some bad kitchens over the years, so I can put up with a lot, but I do not think I should have to. (Did I ever tell you about the house that had the washer next to the sink and the dryer next to the fridge? That was bizarre!)
  • Vibes. This plays an important part, but I can't explain how. Let me zip that requirement to the broker: "House must have a good vibe." Crazy, I know. But in the end, when there are a lot of houses that would pretty well meet our needs, it comes down to vibe.
I've moved every 2-3 years in the last 20 years. The reasons for moving were all logical, such as leaving the area or needing a larger space because my family grew. One thing I know from moving so much is that I can make a home anywhere. "Where I am is home," is what I say. Now that I can choose something permanent, I need to remember my philosophy on what a home is, but can you blame me for not wanting some perfection?

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