Sunday, January 30, 2011

Home Ownership 101

If you'll remember one of my goals for 2011 was to Learn all there is to know about home ownership. So far Justin and I've made some great first steps towards that goal.

A little background for you. Justin and I are currently in a 2 year lease at our apartment (ending in May 2012). So, we are really in no place to purchase a home yet, but that doesn't mean I don't window shop. 

What is weird about spending so much time looking and worrying about buying a house is that I still remain unconvinced that buying a house in the Seattle area is that great of an idea. I know it is an investment in your future, I know about the tax right offs, I now know about all of that stuff. But houses around here are so expensive for what your get and if you can't put a substantial amount down you end up paying out the ass in interest. Plus property taxes, HOA dues and years of home maintenance and remodels. It is a money nightmare to think about for a miser like me.

Anyway, despite my many questions and apprehension, Justin and I decided to go see some houses in person. I just needed to get it out of my system. So, last Saturday we took a Redfin tour to indulge my curiosity.
  • First, we saw this house. I had fallen in love with this place on Redfin. It looked so perfect. This is a great example of how good photography can go a long way. The house was on the end of a street lined with single wides in a terrible neighborhood. The rooms were small and awkwardly built. I went into what I thought was a garage and found another room. When I opened the door in the room it led to a an area only a couple feet in width with the garage door in front of it. What? Why?
  • Second, we saw this house. It was also in a terrible neighborhood with no real redeeming characteristics. The backyard was flooded and the house was filled with poor construction materials and choices. Plus it was under the airport flight path. Yuck
  • Finally, we saw this house. This place was actually kind of cute. It is a single floor, but had plenty of room and was made well. However, the backyard had a fence, but neighbored a car dealership or something ugly. Pretty awful neighborhood.
In the end I was reminded how many undesirable areas there are in Seattle. Also, I learned something about Redfin. The agents who work for Redfin receive a salary and do not receive commission from the sale of a home, but instead receive a bonus only if the buyer gives them a positive review. I think that system is the main reason the guy who showed us the houses was not pushy at all and extremely honest. I like honesty.

I signed us up for a Homebuying 101 class at BECU in Tukwila last Monday. I really enjoyed the class. I learned more about loans, short sales, closing costs, etc. The first speaker represented BECU and I took copious notes because everything she said was interesting. The second speaker was a realtor. I stopped taking notes a minute into her presentation because she was hard to follow, cold and condescending. Ugh I would never sign up to buy a house with her.
I did enjoy the seminar, but I hoped to leave the class filled with knowledge and excited to buy a house next year. Instead, it made me even more worried about costs. It answered a lot of my questions, but brought up a whole bunch of new ones. Justin and I aren't poor, but the idea of buying a house makes me feel like we are and makes me worry about every aspect of the process. Do you think some people just aren't meant to buy a house? Well, unless they can buy it with a majority of the cost paid upfront.
This is not a subject I pretend to know all the answers to, so I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you own a home? What was your experience in home buying and what is home ownership like now? Does the financial aspect of it stress you out or make things easier in the long run? Do you want to buy a house in the next few years?

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