Misadventures In Real Estate Part 1: How I Stopped Worrying And Decided To Buy A Home

I’m currently sitting on my floor (because I don’t have a couch at the moment), eating salad out of a Tuppeware container (because I don’t know where my bowls are). I’m surrounded by boxes that are full of what’s probably going to end up as trash once I sort through them. Basically, my home looks like a small tornado happened inside of it. Welcome to home ownership.  It’s exciting. It’s a little terrifying. But mostly, it’s a lot less intimidating than you might think. So how did I get here?

I honestly never thought I’d be here – here being the floor of a one bedroom apartment that I now own. I’ve resisted even thinking about buying something for years, but about six months ago, all of my concerns started to seem less worrying. Below, my commitment issues and how I got past them:

Real estate is for old people. I’ve always had a Liz Lemon-y view of real estate – “That’s something you do when you’re married and you have a family.” In my mind, “home ownership” meant a multiple bedroom house in the suburbs, with a yard for kids and a dog. I realized awhile back that if I waited for that, my first home might indeed be in the floating city of New Chicago. It turns out there are a lot of things you can purchase and live in that don’t involve two kids and a yard.

It’s too expensive. Wanting to wait for marriage to buy a place wasn’t just about being a grownup, it was about having a second person to help foot the bill. Once you get past the down payment part (which I’ll cover at a later date), the monthly cost of owning has the potential to be significantly cheaper than renting. My mortgage payment for a one bedroom place that I have all to myself is actually less than I was paying in rent when I had two roommates.

It’s too much responsibility. Renting is great. If something breaks, you call your landlord, someone gets sent to fix it. Once you own something, you’re suddenly on the hook if your dishwasher starts leaking, you’re the one that has to remember to change your air filters and your smoke detector batteries. Some of this is just a maturity thing – eventually you’ll be ready to say “okay, I have kept myself alive for a few years since college, I can probably take care of some other stuff.” I was always way more intimidated by exterior maintenance (yards, snow removal, whatever one has to do with gutters), but buying a condo means never having to worry about any of that yourself.

I don’t want to commit. Frankly, this was my biggest objection to buying a place. The thought of ‘settling down’ used to give me the heebie-jeebies. I liked that my lease was up once a year and I could switch places and neighborhoods, or not, it was up to me. The idea of staying in a place for years freaked me out. It didn’t help I was living in a part of the country that I knew deep down, I didn’t love. When I moved to the right city and found the right building, it was like something out of a movie. I now live in the first of many, many buildings I looked at, and I remember calling my mom right after I saw the place for the first time and telling her I’d found the place I wanted to live. When you know, you’ll know.

So those were my reasons for not wanting to buy, and how I got past them. Frankly, for me, the biggest obstacle to buying a place was deciding that I wanted to buy a place; the rest was just slogging through a lot of tedious details. In this series, I’ll cover various aspects of the tedium (picking a real estate agent; getting a mortgage; condo vs co-op vs townhouse vs saying “screw it, I’m going to live in a cardboard box in the park!”). If you have questions or suggestions of topics you’d like covered, leave them in the comments! And of course, keep in mind I am a professional in exactly zero home purchasing-related fields, just someone who managed to get through the home buying process mostly unscathed and has learned that it’s not as scary as people think it is.

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