Thursday, March 8, 2007

House Shopping

So far, I've seen about 25 houses through real estate agents and open houses. I've found a few I like, too. My favorite is almost certainly about to be sold. My third favorite is also in the process of the final paperwork. My second favorite, so far, is available, as far as I can tell, but it's not my ideal house right now.

I suppose I should start with the basics. I am looking for a 4-bedroom house for myself and two roommates I have lined up. I would like it to be somewhat close to work, or at least within easy access of the highway (and then preferably against rush-hour traffic). I require a fireplace, but I don't think I've seen a house without one, ever. Wood-burning fireplaces are becoming rare, however. My final hard requirement is a big basement. I'd like to be able to play ping pong (and also pool?) while having a TV area. A wet bar would be an added bonus.

I've recently decided that a finished basement is not needed if it knocks the price of the house down by $30k. I can finish a basement for less than that, plus it would be done exactly how I want it. Of course, that cost to finish the basement is out of pocket, as opposed to financed. I used to also want a large backyard in which to play volleyball at gatherings. My brother brings up a good point, though: you have to mow it.

Now, given all these requirements (4-bedroom being the main one), I am definitely spending over $200,000, and most likely around $300,000. I've run through the numbers a few times, now. If I purchase a $340,000 house, I can make the monthly payments on my own, but money would be very tight. I have a few built-in cushions, though. First, I don't plan on spending the full $340,000. Second, roommates paying rent should help considerably. Third, performance bonuses and raises should happen at least a bit - that is, my income should rise with inflation, while my mortgage payment should not. Finally, if I end up having to dip in to savings just to keep my house, I can always reduce my 401(k) contributions down to the matching percentage.

So, given that I can afford a house, I now just need to pick one out. I am going to see more houses on Saturday with my agent. I sent him a list of houses I found online, and he looked them over for any major problems (such as one that backs to US-69 highway). I have 18 from this list left to see. We'll probably get through 6-10 houses on Saturday, depending on how close together they are. Then I'll hit up the open houses, as usual, unless my agent says we should continue the concentrated search that day. It's just such a long process.

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