Sunday, September 1, 2013

Why Did You Move HERE?

Why Did You Move Here?

It is never good when this is your greeting from locals. Truly though, it is what everyone has said to us. This question tends to get asked of us after Mass, and I struggle to answer in the 3-second window that would be polite in such circumstances. I usually say something like, “Well, we can live anywhere.” That only causes more bewilderment and more awkwardness. So here is the truth, and from now on I will just direct people to my blog. Surely that will go over more smoothly.

The primary reason we bought this house in this location is the affordability. When we lived in California and Little Rock, prices were high and particularly burdensome for a single-income family. It isn’t that we could not afford it, and it isn’t that we were struggling, but it did create an uneasy level of stress about maintaining our income. If we had family in the area, I would have considered the prices worth it, but we didn’t. We decided to quit renting (in Little Rock) and buy a home because with our growing family, rent was getting ridiculously high.

We didn’t go the normal route that HGTV showcases. On HGTV, you go to a mortgage broker, find out how big of a mortgage you qualify for, then look for houses in that range. Inevitably you end up liking the most expensive one because that is how desire works. You make an offer for slightly less than the asking price because of course you want a good deal, but you don’t want to offend or appear unreasonable. Then the seller counters with a higher offer. Then your realtor tells you to make your best and final offer. Then you commit yourselves to pay the max you can afford for 30 years.

Our approach was different. Instead of looking to advice from people whose pay was directly tied to how much money we spent (real estate agents and mortgage brokers), we talked to each other about what we really wanted and what was really important. We decided that more than anything, we wanted freedom. We wanted freedom to work and live as we please and enjoy life. We did not want a mortgage that enslaves us to a high-paying job for 30 years. I think we are finally learning that wealth is not what you make; it is what you don’t spend.

So we started at the bottom. We found the cheapest areas that were reasonable for work that were safe. Beauty of the land was also important to us. Once we narrowed it down to a general area, we drove all over it together. We went to parks, grocery stores, and restaurants. We talked to strangers.  We tried to get a feel for the community. After considering all these things, we narrowed it down to a county.

Once we had a county, we started looking at the bottom again -- at the cheapest houses available. We didn’t use an agent because our price range was the absolute lowest, and we didn’t feel right asking someone to invest a lot of time in us. Also, we liked the freedom of just driving to see a house when it was convenient for us. If we really liked a house, we would call to have the selling agent show it to us. So many agents tried to tell us we needed an agent, and it was sometimes obvious our unusual approach made them uncomfortable. 

We often found that we were more familiar with the low end of housing than the agents were. We mostly used Zillow and Craigslist to get an idea of pricing and to see what was available. We would find a few houses and drive out to see the outside of them and more importantly the neighborhood. We did this for over a year. We put in a few low-ball offers; they didn’t pan out. That didn’t matter to us. We didn’t fall in love with a house. We were not searching for “the one.”  We were just searching for something that would work for us and not against us. Eventually we found it, and it happened to be in this town. That is why we moved here.

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