Sunday, December 03, 2006

House Hunters

Back in the days when I had cable and spare time, I loved to watch House Hunters on HGTV. You get to follow someone as they look at house after house for one they like enough and can afford. Then at the end of the show the suspenseful phone call from the real estate agent telling them if their bid was accepted. You know that they are real people and not actors by the way they 'pretend' they are talking on the phone. And I love to see how the agents try to describe a gaping hole in the ceiling as an opportunity to put in skylights.

It's also exciting to see if the house hunters pick the house you like. Ooh, or are they going for the condo? Noooo! Go for the cute bungalow!! It had leaded glass windows and built in bookshelves! What's the matter with you?
How could you pass up that ultra-cool mid century mod architectural gem? Just because it didn't have a pool? Wah?
Oh, no, their offer was rejected!

Well, it's big drama, as you could imagine. So yesterday, after Mark and I went to the laundromat, we passed an open house sign for these new condos that are almost done. We were in just the right adventurous mood, so we thought 'why not?'. Now, we are not planning to buy anything right now. We just bought a couch. That's a big enough investment. We were just curious.

We asked to see the 2 bedroom sample unit. The salesman, nor any of the literature stated the square footage of the units, but they were pretty small. A tiny kitchen, tiny kitchen nook, tiny living room, and 2 tiny bedrooms. Our apartment is bigger. They had it decorated beautifully, with Bette Davis artsy photos, and Old Hollywood 40's themes. Half a million dollars and it could be yours!
It was fun pretending that we had a half a million dollars, and that the place was nice, but 'just too small for our needs'.

So we decided to drive around the neighborhood, and saw another open house. This time it was an actual house. A very cute house on a nice little quiet street. We would have loved this house. It had a lemon tree, orange tree, and a flagstone terrace in the back with a two car garage. A washer and dryer, and something rarely seen in LA, a refrigerator. Ooooohh. Four bedrooms, and a huge living/dining room area. The kitchen needs major updating. (The dishasher had fake wood veneer on the door.) Something must have been structurally wrong with it because it was listed at only $700,000. Or maybe the market is dropping. The agent there asked if we had been pre-aproved and if it was in our price range. We just said,'well, just a smidge over our price range'. Ha-ha!

A little while ago this experience would have made me sad. I would walk around staring longingly at houses, with tears in my eyes, telling myself,'we will never have a house.' But I decided that I think anything is possible. We can have a house. We deserve a house.

Not that I think starting a life and a family in an apartment is so bad. Millions do in New York. I like our apartment, love the neighbors, love the neighborhood. I just hate the idea of giving our weird landlord money every month, and getting no return.

What's your opinion? Is an apartment okay to raise a child? I grew up in apartments and condos, and I turned out pretty well.


saffry said...

There are definate advantages to staying small. It's easier to keep things clean and contained if you're all on one floor. Everyone is within shouting (or crying) distance. It forces you to think about purchases and not end up in a house that's overflowing with toys and gadgets that no one uses.

But: You must have a washer and dryer.
You won't have much "Joy and Mark" space. If you only have one living/family room and no spare bedrooms, then the toys will take up a lot of the shared space.

And it would be nice to not pay rent and build some equity instead. For now, have fun house and condo hunting. I think Dan and I went to open houses for a year before we got serious. And you can meet realtors and decide which one could be your buyer's agent in the future (after the L.A. housing bubble flattens a bit.)

Mark K said...

Sue and I were determined to have a house prior to children. This is right after we got married and moved to FL. We bought a four bed-room house with big family room, bigger living room, pool, two car garage. Okay, now we're ready to have kids, right? Well, no. The mortgage demanded two incomes and we didn't want to put Kaitlyn in daycare, so we decided we should move closer to family and friends. So we sold the house, moved back to CT and Kaitlyn grew up very happily in a two bedroom apartment until we had enough money to buy our current house on one income. So, my advise, if it's being asked, don't get hung up on "must haves" prior to experiencing the pure joy of parenthood. I small baby doesn't need a 2,000 sq ft house and a SUV to get by, that just what society wants us to believe.

ks1k said...

Yes, you turned out pretty well.

Of course I'm not the most objective person when it comes to judging you.