Taking the Plunge

<img src=”http://farm1.static.flickr.com/222/444895419_12ea4679a2_m.jpg”
alt=”Ruff & Deadly?”>

photo courtesy of IntangibleArts

In the next few months, my wife and I will be wandering (deliberately) into the Virginia housing morass of a market.

We’re no strangers to home ownership. We had a very nice place in Pennsylvania for many years before we relocated down here. However, the cost differential between Western PA and the MD/VA/DC area was quite a staggering shock to my own financial sensibilities. The home we moved from could be found down here – for nearly five times the price.

Needless to say, we went back to renting. That was three years ago.

We’re now desperate for our own piece of land again.

There’s something to be said about owning your own piece of America – much less, the planet – and once you start, it’s hell to take four steps back and rent. I look forward to having our own space again, unrestricted in how we use it, what we paint it, how it’s decorated.

“Buy a house? Now? Are you crazy?”

That’s the common refrain we’ve heard from a lot of friends and relatives – most of whom don’t live in the area, by the way. But to us, it’s a good move.

Our debt is minimal – we don’t owe the evil credit card companies a cent over our Netflix and gym memberships that come monthly – our bills are always paid on time and in full, and the only loan currently out is on my ‘new’ car, bought last summer.

There is a lot of financial info to cover, however. Fixed rates are creeping up again, Freddie Mac had a recent policy change, and Congress has some plans in the works that might shake things up further. Still, for a couple like us, testing the housing waters right now makes the most sense. After all, what do we really have to lose? The worst outcome is re-signing our lease for another year, which isn’t a bad fallback plan anyway.

So after meeting our Realtor last week and doing some preliminary talks – meaning, “what we want, what we’ll settle for, and what we think is absolutely crazy” – we’ll be taking our first real steps in house hunting this coming weekend. We’ve got seven months until our lease is up; I’m sure we can find something.

Stay tuned.

7 Comments so far

  1. Joseph LeBlanc (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 10:08 am

    Good luck on the house hunting. I’ve toyed with the idea of moving *back* to Western PA, but we’ll see.

  2. julia (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 10:56 am

    Sounds like you guys have a clue about how to go about this and not to over extend yourselves. That puts you ahead of the pack before you even leave the starting gate! Good luck on finding that house!

  3. Scott (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 11:29 am

    Actually, if you don’t own right now, it is a wonderful buying opportunity (well, maybe wait 4-6 more months). I’d imagine you could underbid by 10% and still get the place. You have a HUGE advantage by not having to worry about selling right now.

  4. Ben R (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been watching the housing market since last summer; it’s been fortuitous not having a house to sell, either – ours sold quick back in ’05. With the glut of foreclosures and short-sells inhabiting Arlington and Alexandria these days, I’m confident we’ll be able to get something well under market value. Our Realtor told us snagging something even 20% under value isn’t unheard of, but I’m of a mind to really watch for that "As-Is" line in the documentation. No sense in making Home Depot an unofficial third investor here….

  5. Christopher Blunck (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

    Actually this is a great time to buy if you have a historical perspective. Long term conforming loan rates can still be found for less than 6% and we’re at a paused state in the never-ending housing upward sloping cycle. It’s true that housing prices have become excessive in the past years but they have cooled and some decent discounts can be found (or at least settlement concessions from sellers).

  6. Wayan (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

    Got one word for you: Petworth. I took the plunge last April and couldn’t be happier. Remember, a home is a place to live first, an investment second.

  7. Mary De Luca (unregistered) on February 25th, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

    Wayan is absolutely right. A home is a place to live first…..the investment part comes with time.

    If you are looking in Arlington/Alexandria- don’t expect big drop in prices. If you look at the sales data from last year- you will see that prices actually went up in certain parts of the area.
    Good lock

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