Sunday, January 4, 2009

Wanted: A Place To Hang My Hat

So, with the world’s smallest homebuying budget (pre-approved for an amount that is within my terribly realistic and below-poverty-level, but with good credit, means), I began about three weeks ago looking in earnest to purchase a home. After having to shell out what seemed to be millions of dollars in rent in my past life, I felt that I should put my money to work for me by buying instead of renting. I came to this conclusion after having compared the average cost of a single-family home here in Gadsden to Denver. In Denver, a single-family home of approximately 1200 square feet starts at around $275,000. Here in Gadsden, AL, a single-family home of the same size can start at $85,000, or even less. Why would I pay rent if I could build equity?

My first intent was to find something old and bungalow-ish (my favorite type of home), in the downtown area, something near the Catoes, Johnson’s Food and the liberry. I had a bitterly disappointing start with the old Greenwood home on Newton and Turrentine. From the outside, the Greenwood home looks charming and well-built. Once inside, it becomes evident that it is a first-time homebuyer’s nightmare. Too much work, work that would include things like ripping up asbestos tile in the kitchen, taking out an entire house of old wallpaper, replacing the roof that has been leaking so much that the back bathroom’s floor has buckled (meaning some interesting structural damage), replacing what appears to be the very first prototype of a modern central A/C unit, painting the entire inside and out (work that I am not opposed to, as I enjoy painting, but the outside shingles were also made of asbestos), tearing down the barely-standing “garage” that is full of black mold…etc, etc, ad nauseum. My realtor, Judy Hamil of Bone Realty, was very forthcoming when she warned me that I would probably have a difficult time finding something in the downtown area to suit my needs; if I could afford it (did I mention that I have the world’s smallest homebuying budget but pretty high old-school standards?), it would need significant work, which translates to significant money…if I could afford it and it didn’t need work, it would probably not be in a safe area…how sad to hear those words uttered out loud. I had been afraid of that being the case, but hadn’t really wanted to hear that it was, in fact, true.

So, I begged Judy to not knock herself out scouring her listings for me, especially considering my budget, that I would do the research and make a list of homes that I was interested in seeing by myself. With the help of Kansas Slim, we found a couple of places in the downtown area, and one really intriguing foreclosure in Alabama City. Now, Alabama City is my second area choice for living in Gadsden. I love the history of that area and I love the old Mill Village construction of the homes. Looking at the listing of this particular house in Alabama City, I couldn’t determine where it was located. There was not an address, and I didn’t recognize the house (when I first moved back to Gadsden, I was determined to find something in The Village, as I loved the idea of living close to the rodeo grounds, the old Victorian mill supervisor’s homes and, most importantly, Big Lots…so I drove around that area a lot back then). I assumed that the house was in an area that I was not interested in living…you know…Deliverance country...up near Hinds Road (cue banjo music)? But, after putting his super-power reporting skills to work, Eric discovered the address to said home, and we went up to investigate…and am very glad that we did. After first being confused at the orientation of the home (the road runs along the back-side of the homes on that street because the old road ran on the other side of the ravine), we saw enough of the place to know that it was on the list of homes to see with Judy. As a matter of fact, it moved to the top of the list of homes to see with Judy.

Last week, Judy met me at the little craftsman bungalow in the Mill Village. Kansas Slim was there to witness. Sadly, and happily, the Village house ruined me for all other houses. Please see photos on Eric’s and my Flickr sites:

Judy showed me three more places within my price range in the downtown area after having shown me the Village bungalow, and I couldn’t help but compare them and notice that nothing was built as beautifully as the Village bungalow. I made the list of pros and cons…I had Eric, my dad and Kris go through it again with me to make sure that my eyes were seeing what I thought they were seeing…and I made an offer Friday evening. I am now waiting for word. There are lots of things that I’ve left out of this blog about the house, about my homebuying research, about my four mortgage pre-approvals (had to get the best fit for me), about deciding on which home inspector I would use in the event that my offer was eventually accepted, about my lists…lists of pros and cons, room-by-room prioritized lists of things that need to be done, frightening lists of financial things (earnest money, closing costs, pre-paids, on and on)…I wouldn’t want to bore you all. But I’m sure that if I get this house, it will all come out in the end, because I can’t talk about anything else. All I am capable of talking about right now is THE HOUSE. Which makes me impossible to be around. The Catoes have told me that it’s okay, that it’s normal, and that all of my friends have been through something like it before, and that everyone will understand (THEY-the Catoes-are especially understanding…right now the they are redoing their entire kitchen, this after less than a year of living at The Parsonage). My, oh my, but when it rains, it pours.

So, everyone please wish me luck, pray for me, light a candle for me, or do whatever it is you do. I know that it’s gonna be what it will be. It may be my time to own a house, it may not. We’ll see. I’m certainly getting an education in the meantime. I’ll keep you posted. And keep the Catoes in mind during the kitchen redo. I am looking forward to future parties in that new kitchen.

Reading: Amy Sedaris’ Hospitality Under the Influence (because she is my entertaining guru) and Harry Potter’s School Books by J.K. Rowling (a Christmas gift from the Robinsons).
Listening To: My own random thoughts about THE HOUSE.

1 comment:

Cookie said...

I love talking about real estate. Closing costs, concessions, per diems, you name it, sister. I will have an ear ready for you.